When is an Agreement Not an Agreement? by  Jessica Mc Grann 

 

Ulster PM Blair/Ahern sign

The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. But we can best honour them through a fresh start, in which we firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust, and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all.

 

Noble words, but what does it really mean?

Of course a clear majority on this island voted for it, but did we ever really understand what exactly it was we were voting for?

 

If so, then why is Northern Ireland still seemingly ungovernable?  Why are legacy issues still not being dealt with?  Has the national identity question really been resolved?

 

After all, the agreement clearly sets out it will recognise the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.

 

But what does that mean?

 

Clearly it recognises the birth right of the people of Northern Ireland to be accepted as Irish or British, or even both.

 

Yet, Unionists read it as yes, you might entitled to be Irish but this place is British and only the flag of the union and the British identity can be officially recognised.

In light that over 500,000 northern Ireland citizens carry Irish passports and identify themselves as Irish and see the Irish flag as representing their nation, that is hardly representative of this society and how does it recognise the birth right of those with an Irish identity?

 

Not only that, but even a democratic compromise to fly only the union flag but on designated days only, still was not acceptable to the majority of unionists judging by the protests and graduated response that ensued.

 

When it comes down to it, the GFA is simply a framework for how to achieve agreement in a divided society, and an agreement that agreement must be agreed upon using the arrangements agreed, before anything can be said be have been agreed.

 

Confusing, yes?  Is it any wonder it is so difficult to achieve agreement?

 

So why is agreement so difficult?

 

Let’s start with the legacy issues.

 

“We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. But we can best honour them through a fresh start, in which we firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust, and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all.”

 

South Africa offered a potential solution with a truth and reconciliation forum being reasonably successful there but that could not be agreed as republicans would get an amnesty and that was not acceptable to unionists who see the conflict as one sided with the British state perceived to have done nothing illegal or committed any wrongs whatsoever

 

So we go down the slow and costly route with police led investigations.  As successful as could be expected with so much time having passed but with gradually more and more evidence being dug up as the investigations touch on the handiwork of British state agents that perception is gradually changing.

 

Yes, we have since had apologies from prime ministers but has the true extent of the state’s involvement here really been uncovered?  Is the British state simply hiding behind national security on top of already destroying and denying access to evidence and is this living up to the governments side of the agreement, bearing in mind the two states are meant to be guarantors of the agreement?

 

Is it fair for a society that has suffered so much to be denied being able to move on just so the state can save face or is there really a risk to national security from putting the whole truth in the public domain?

 

Is it even possible to satisfactorily deal with legacy issues without the state removing restrictions on the remaining evidence and coming clean?

 

I have to believe the truth will come out eventually.

 

So what the GFA really equates to, is unionism being tolerated in the interests of reconciliation in return for safeguards that they can never again abuse the position of power that has led to so much conflict and suffering in the past and that there is a peaceful route to reunification that both governments have signed up to so there can no longer be any justification for resorting to violence to achieve Irish independence.

 

So where do we go from here?

 

What is the future for Northern Ireland?

 

References

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-belfast-agreement

 

 

43 Responses to   When is an Agreement Not an Agreement? by  Jessica Mc Grann 

  1. billy December 7, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    so what the g.f.a. really equates to.
    seen graffiti on the walls describing it got.fxxk.all.

  2. Séamus Ó Néill December 7, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    In theory , Jessica , the eloquent words contained in The Belfast Agreement appear to contain the solutions to our problems but do they ? Fine in principle if everyone was an honest broker.In 1990 Peter Brooke said Britain had no “selfish strategic or economic interest” in Northern Ireland and would accept unification, if the people wished it ,but was he talking out of the side of his mouth? At that particular moment British agents were up to their oxters in murder most foul principally against those seeking that re-unification ( and had been for decades. ) They ,being extremely perfidious , will never disclose the barbarous extent of their murderous brutality here….hardly the actions of an impartial observer ….and anyhow i don’t accept that it’s within Britain’s remit to grant us the re-unification of our own country. Unionists, whom we’re forced to share this space with ,will never accept equality , it is an anathema to them……something as innocuous as a few words of Irish ,or the removal of a flag drives them into a convulsive frenzy. We are obliged to endure a yearly hatefest of racist sectarianism under the guise of ” their culture ” and I don’t expect a ” road to Damascus conversion any time soon .The nearer we approach that magic 50/50 the more we will experience their bitter intolerance….I am not naturally pessimistic but I see a rough road ahead because one thing Unionism doesn’t understand is the concept of democracy !

    • neill December 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

      Which is a bit rich coming from somebody who supports *********!

      • Jude Collins December 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

        Neill – I’m putting up your (redacted) comment only to point out to you – and others – that (i) Name-calling is simply not on; (ii) I have no intention of standing beside you in a libel suit. Think before you post

        • neill December 7, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

          Then how come on previous posts on your blog I was accused of letting my mask slip and supporting loyalist terrorism and you did nothing about it?

          • Jude Collins December 7, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

            I repeat – if you are verbally abused, or anyone else is, and I notice it, I will take it down. You know that. If you feel you’ve been simply abused, draw my attention to it. Meanwhile, watch what you yourself say.

          • jessica December 7, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

            “Then how come on previous posts on your blog I was accused of letting my mask slip and supporting loyalist terrorism and you did nothing about it?”

            Neill, you are being childish. Everyone posting here are decent human beings. We are allowed to have different opinions and our points of view come from our own life experiences so we are not always seeing things from the same perspective.
            We should not be judging one another.

            You sound like a reasonable person to me. We may have polar views on conflict, national identity and lets face it most things, but I can tell you, this blog site would be the worse off without your participation.

            I don’t feel that I am any better a person than you are, but neither do I feel you are any better than me.

            If you feel republicans should have less rights than unionists and are not fit to share power with, then explain why?

            Otherwise it just sounds like unionists are using the fact they were on the British state side to try and keep superiority and gain some additional bargaining power with London to turn things back in their favour.

            Sinn Fein believe peace and stability will have one logical outcome, unification. No timeframe, no deadlines, just get on with it.
            I tend to agree.

            Unionists say the union is safer than ever, but I don’t see how other than removing the safeguards within the GFA and relying on something unexpected.

            Your bluff is being called.

      • jessica December 7, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

        “Which is a bit rich coming from somebody who supports *********!”

        Is that on applying the Cameron principal, if your not wish us then you’re against us?

        Do you have any opinions or logical arguments of your own neill, or are insults all you’ve got?

      • Mary Jo December 7, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

        The trouble with unionists is that they have never admitted any wrongdoing during their period of rule between 1921 – 1972.when they engaged in overt discrimination, sectarian murder and shameful misrule. The Unionist government was finally prorogued in 1972 by a UK Conservative government headed by Edward Heath. Even Heath, no Taig lover, could see that Unionist rule in NI was a disgrace to the UK.
        I have yet to hear any unionist politician, apart from David Irvine and some of his PUP colleagues, admit to unionist wrongdoing over those 50 years, much less apologise for it.
        However much the nationalist community acknowledges it wrongdoing against against the Unionist community, however much as they currently seek peace and reconciliation, they cannot succeed without unionist acknowledgement of unionist wrongdoing.
        Forgiveness and reconciliation are a two way street. There can be no progress without unionist consent and engagement. That starts with admitting the wrongs of the past and sincerely seeking reconciliation.
        We thought the GFA was the start of that process but unfortunately it wasn’t. We’re still waiting.

        • jessica December 7, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

          “There can be no progress without unionist consent and engagement.”

          That is a very good point Mary Jo and I believe is their thoughts exactly.

    • jessica December 7, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      Like you Seamus, I don’t think it contains any solutions other than to offer a veto to prevent one side abusing power over the other (which is turn has been abused) and to provide an internationally recognised agreement to not stand in the way of reunification should a 50%+1 majority wish it.

      It would be difficult for them to deny it in such circumstances would it not?

      “Unionists, whom we’re forced to share this space with ,will never accept equality”

      They don’t really have much choice.

      I don’t see any more parades being forced down garvaghy road. The flag protests are not achieving much. Their latest protests about syrian refugees is going to split those who are less supportive of equality from the zealots of which we have a few in our own community also.

      Is it not just that Sinn Fein has been more positive in its backing of the peace process and facing down the dissidents whereas unionism has not really made any effort to stop extremist opinions in their own community and appear to be still waiting for somehow unionist control to be restored so they can wake up from a bad dream?

      It has to be sinking in though.

      “At that particular moment British agents were up to their oxters in murder most foul.”

      In particular in the 70s, decisions to murder went all the way to the PM office.
      The south has to do more in this regard. It is my own opinion that they have been bought off.

      “The nearer we approach that magic 50/50 the more we will experience their bitter intolerance….I am not naturally pessimistic but I see a rough road ahead because one thing Unionism doesn’t understand is the concept of democracy !”

      That will be the turning point and it will be as important how nationalists deal with that as it will be unionism.

      The worst thing could happen is if we abused a majority control in the same fashion.

  3. Iolar December 7, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Excellent questions about Fresh Start? The nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland allowed Ireland to sign the Good Friday Agreement and enabled the establishment of shared political institutions. In the north of Ireland, voters were asked whether they supported the multi-party agreement. Voters in the Republic were asked a different question. They were asked whether they would allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes to facilitate it. The people of both jurisdictions needed to approve the Agreement in order to give effect to it. The Good Friday Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999.The (DUP) was the only major political group in the north of Ireland to oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

    Fresh Start? Mr Cameron is hiding behind the fig leaf of National Security. To date we do not have a definition for the term, National Security.

    Fresh Start? The PSNI appealed for a peaceful day on Saturday 5 November. Lundy was drowned and there were two bomb scares in the city.

    Fresh Start? Paramilitary and KKK flags are acceptable in Belfast.

    Fresh Start? Objections were raised about posters in Belfast concerning suicide awareness.

    Fresh Start? 15 posters in South Belfast alerting local people to a rise in break-ins in the area and advising them to increase their home security have drawn the ire of Transport NI. Within 48 hours of erecting posters in the Ormeau Road area the councillor who engaged in the initiative was was ordered to take them down by Transport NI, the branch of the Department for Regional Development responsible for roads and street lighting.

    Transport NI warned the councillor that under Article 87 of the Roads Order he had acted unlawfully. The councillor was ordered to take down the posters immediately or have them removed by officials at a cost of £50 each.

    Excellent penultimate question. It might be as well not to start from here, use the A5, the single lane approach from the M2 to Toome or the fast train from Belfast to Derry.

    • jessica December 7, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      “They were asked whether they would allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes to facilitate it. The people of both jurisdictions needed to approve the Agreement in order to give effect to it.”

      The constitutional changes were why I could never bring myself to vote for it, but I could not vote against peace either so just didn’t bother voting.

      What responsibility do you feel this puts on the southern state for its Irish citizens in the north?

      Same parties who will claim to hold republican principals at the rising commemorations next year yet feel they have no responsibility for Irish citizens in the north.

      If we had a right to vote in the southern elections, they would dance to a different tune.

      Why should we not have a say in who runs our own country?

      • Iolar December 7, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

        “Why should we not have a say in who runs our own country?”

        A thought provoking question. I will think it over as I await the outcome of the banking inquiry which as yet has no executive summary and two TDs have declined to endorse the outcome to date. I suspect that more legal hurdles will delay proceedings.

        Loewenstein’s book ‘Disaster Capitalism – Making a killing out of catastrophe’ may provide an answer to your question. Loewenstein’s re­porting is a history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity.

    • ben madigan December 9, 2015 at 12:14 am #

      iolar – is pass the buck over?

      “Transport NI warned the councillor that under Article 87 of the Roads Order he had acted unlawfully.”

      Do we finally know who is responsible for removing flegs etc from lamposts?

      if so, will 2016 be different from 1921-2015?

  4. paddykool December 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    Great article Jessica. There are some excellent questions posed whi ch require a lot more than than some squeaky little one-liner that explains nothing to anyone.These one-liner answers are common responses to very convoluted questions and don’t really help any of us to understand what is going on inside the respondants head. Some assume that we already know what they are thinking, like some old friend you might meet in the pub regularly.So we get a line from say, Neill or Billy and we might not even know what they mean or what context they are coming from. They never stop to explain themselves fully.
    What has to be considered here is not the “Agreement ” itself. Some can’t even agree on a name for the thing .Is it “the Good Friday Agreement” or something else. ?Well there are a few who can’t agree on that alone. If memory serves, the idea of “agreement” did not appeal across the board to everyone, especially in the unionist community. They had to be steered….corralled …and trapped , if you like, into a corner of international herdsmanship that left them no other choice but to make some sort of “compromise” that would otherwise be anathama to their “Not an Inch and No Surrender” credo. Agreement has never been the default setting for the likes of Paisley and company which is why he surprised everyone in the end.They always smelled the air for the stink of compromise, the surrender or losing of their position of conceived power. They were never likely to just hand over the bounty they’d been handed freely by the Plantation and had fought to keep from the Irish for centuries. They wanted to maintain that division by any means and an agreement might mean that they’d have to give something up in exchange for a more peaceful society .They had to finally learn to share it with the perceived enemy …..nationalism and certainly republicanism .That’s what agreement meant to them in the end.Why would they want that? They still don’t want it and would prefer to forget it ever happened way back then when Clinton and Blair ganged up on them.Both Clinton and Blair might have many faults, but the “Agreement ” was one of their success stories. It might not have been perfect but it laid down a foundation of what just might be possible , politically in future times ,if the violence could somehow be held in check.
    We’re all still grappling with the details.There’s a rump of unionism who’ll never want compromise and a rump of nationalism without the patience to allow our situation to gradually evolve into something wholly new. Something that might take a couple of generations of education to create right across Ireland and …even the UK. Something is happening in Scotland that was unforeseen a generation ago …who’s to say something new can’t happen across Ireland ? Look what happened with the churches…with homosexuality.Look what’s happening with ISIS across the world .We are going to be reading an entirely different story in another thirty years. The ageement was only or starting line. All that stuff about flying flags is only so much nonsense in real terms and the only ones getting themselves into an uproar about it are those who are pedants or none too bright in any case . They are the ones needed as cannon-fodder by those who enjoy manipulating them.

    • neill December 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

      Paddy no offence but you do waffle on to a large degree. You simply could have said Unionists bad Nationalists good it would have saved time and effort.

      Do you have any real idea why the average Unionist loathes violent republicanism and then having to share power with them?

      • jessica December 7, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

        “Do you have any real idea why the average Unionist loathes violent republicanism and then having to share power with them?”

        No neill, but it sounds very much like republicans bad, unionists good.

        Do you feel it easier for republicans to share power in an assembly overseen by the British state, having to walk under the union flag in a building stuffed with unionist symbols knowing your own identity is considered less important.

        Do you really believe the suffering and wrongs committed were all down to republicans?

        Do you feel the unionist community had any role to play in the events leading to conflict?

        Do you deny the British forces committed murder and ununiformed acts of terrorism as you call it?

        Why do you feel it is easier for republicans to share power with unionists?

        Is it not simply, that unionists did not have to share power in the past and don’t very much like the idea today?

    • billy December 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

      that one liner on the wall explained it perfectly for me and thousands of others.instead of some windbag mp creating a job for himself and his cronies telling us different.only half the population voting must tell us something,awk well sure we have a fresh start agreement now to look forward to.

      • jessica December 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

        “that one liner on the wall explained it perfectly for me and thousands of others.instead of some windbag mp creating a job for himself and his cronies telling us different.only half the population voting must tell us something,awk well sure we have a fresh start agreement now to look forward to.”

        It did allow an end to the conflict billy, but I agree, nothing else.

        The wall was right, if we want anything else, we will still have to fight for it. But at least this time without the violence and without rotting in jails.

    • jessica December 7, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

      Thank you PK.

      “They wanted to maintain that division by any means and an agreement might mean that they’d have to give something up in exchange for a more peaceful society.
      They had to finally learn to share it with the perceived enemy …..nationalism and certainly republicanism.”

      I believe they still do.
      They got the southern state to drop its constitutional claim over the north.

      Children born in the north after 1998 are not entitled to Irish citizenship unless their parents hold an irish passport.

      Does that mean the Irish state has washed its hands off us, or does it simply not matter as reunification will require a new constitution anyway?

      “It might not have been perfect but it laid down a foundation of what just might be possible , politically in future times ,if the violence could somehow be held in check. We’re all still grappling with the details.There’s a rump of unionism who’ll never want compromise and a rump of nationalism without the patience to allow our situation to gradually evolve into something wholly new.”

      What foundation? All I see is a unionist / nationalist veto and joint state agreement to fulfil unification when a majority want it.

      To me that makes it a one way street to unification, unless the veto can be removed.

      By removing the veto, could a joint unionist / sdlp / alliance pro british partnership prevent a referendum?

      Is that why the UUP are leaving the executive to go into opposition do you think?

      • paddykool December 7, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

        “Children born in the north after 1998 are not entitled to Irish citizenship unless their parents hold an Irish passport.”….that is interesting , Jessica .I must admit I hadn’t realised that if mum or dad didn’t bother getting an Irish passport, that would be the end of the line for any future children or grandchildren forever more, so to speak.If they didn’t register quickly enough they would be forevermore stamped “British” right through like a stick of seaside rock… Is that true? can that really be true that an identity can be just parcelled away ..even though the child or grandchild might be born in Tyrone or Antrim or wherevever on that same little island of Ireland … Did I miss that one or was that really slipped in? I don’t know , but i sort of assumed that the way was open for all of us consigned to birth in the six little counties that we could choose being Irish and /or British too if we were feeling flush or over-burdened with surplus cash for a couple of passports. Am i wrong ? I have had both types in the past after all although i currently hold an Irish one. I suppose if there was a “world” passport , I might even buy one of those .

        • jessica December 7, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

          “I must admit I hadn’t realised that if mum or dad didn’t bother getting an Irish passport, that would be the end of the line for any future children or grandchildren forever more, so to speak. Is that true? ”

          Oh its true PK, all 32 counties were recognised in the constitution of the Irish state until 1998 when 6 counties were removed from it.
          That is what the removal of articles 2 and 3 means and why I could never bring myself to vote for it.

  5. fiosrach December 7, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    Neill, the unionists don’t have to share power with loathesome smelly republicans. There is an alternative, isn’t there? Or is it too horrible to contemplate? Two stark choices. Shared power or no power.

  6. paddykool December 7, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Well Neill and Billy I’m glad we squeezed a few more words out. no it’s not nationalists equal “good” and unionists equal “bad”. .each are equally capable of acting like right old arseholes and have done in the past.I have no problem with either mationalists or unionists loathing either violent republicanism or violent unionism. I loathe them both myself and have watched and experienced both groups performing abysmally over the years..I’ve a problem when unionism or republicanism doesn;t see the motes in their own eyes. They both need to forgive each other but I understand that unionists …in government , yet , haven’t begun to understand that yet.As for “Got Fuck All”…you might as well call a spade , a spade , Billy , but what exactly did the graffiti writer think they were ever going to get in the first place , except maybe an end to living in a day by day war zone as we di for some thirty years? did he expect to get a special grant and a pension too? The Good friday agreement was only an agreement to try and have a bit of sense for a change , rather than acting like eegits forever.As for politicians …well you already know what I think of most of them except for a few very small exceptions.

  7. Gearoid December 7, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    This is a great summation, Jessica, of the outstanding issues which still have to be resolved within the framework of the GMA and they are fundamental to any chance of a shared future in the north of Ireland. It seems that elements within political unionism/loyalism will fight tooth and nail to resist what they see as concessions to nationalists/republicans and a true sharing of the cultural space in the north. But in the end, demographic and social change will dictate otherwise and in the short to medium term, they will have to face up to the demands of these challenges or else they will slide ever more into irrelevancy as nationalists gain strength electorally and socially.

    • Gearoid December 7, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

      Excuse the wrong acronym in my previous commentary as it should have read GFA (Good Friday Agreement) and not GMA.

    • jessica December 7, 2015 at 11:31 pm #

      “But in the end, demographic and social change will dictate otherwise”

      Thank you Gearoid
      The GFA affirms the birth right of the Irish Citizens in the North.
      I don’t think we should expect so much from unionists, but I do expect more from Dáil Éireann.

      At least 500,000 Irish citizens each with Irish passports born an hours drive from Dublin.

      Imagine we started demanding a vote for our representation in Dáil Éireann.

      That is a substantial number of people and would put the wind right up their arses.

      Would any other state on the planet abandon so many of its own people right on their doorstep?

      At least Germany had a big wall.

    • Mitchel December 8, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Gearoid, “as nationalists gain strength electorally”, In a era of increased Nationalist voter apathy? Some of the worst Nationalist turnouts in recent elections with loss of seats to Unionism and decline in support. You are not making sense here.

      • Gearoid December 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

        I do agree, Mitchell, that the most recent Stormont elections revealed low nationalist turnouts as voters remain unimpressed by parties who take their vote for granted. My point is that the numerical strength of nationalist voters is very much on the rise, even if this has not been maximized to anywhere near full effect in recent elections. The vast majority of children(some 70%) in school these days come from a Catholic/Nationalist background and thus this will have a potential dramatic effect on the outcome of swing constituencies in the near future. Catholic voters by a vast majority vote for Irish nationalist/republican parties. I feel uncomfortable using the crude yardstick of religion to gauge voter intentions but in the north of Ireland it is usually pretty accurate. The key to nationalist electoral gains is for Sinn Fein and the SDLP to re-enthuse the grassroots and thus will act as a spur to get them to the voting booths in ever increasing numbers.

        • jessica December 8, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

          “The key to nationalist electoral gains is for Sinn Fein and the SDLP to re-enthuse the grassroots and thus will act as a spur to get them to the voting booths in ever increasing numbers.”

          Hard to get enthused about voting for Stormont Gearoid.

          I would like to have a say in who gets elected in the dail. If we are not going to get a referendum, then surely there is some means of giving half a million Irish citizens a say in who is elected to lead their own national government?

          • Gearoid December 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

            Great point, Jessica. I would rather have elections which would allow us as Irish people to send our representatives to the national parliament in Dail Eireannn but in the meantime we have to work the narrow ground which characterizes northern politics. Overall I just see the GFA as a staging post on the road to the reintegration of Ireland’s national territory when we can express ourselves as a nation without foreign interference. Robert Emmet’s epitaph has still to be written but it will be hopefully in the not too distant future.

          • jessica December 10, 2015 at 8:35 am #

            “in the meantime we have to work the narrow ground which characterizes northern politics. ”

            Dail Eireannn has a responsibility for Irish citizens everywhere and in light of the lack of progress in the recognising of the interests of irish citizens in the north, it is a dereliction of duty on the part of Dail Eireannn not to do more in the interests of reunification which is becoming more and more apparent is the only way equality can be achieved. What means do we have of letting them know the enormity of this failure?

  8. BaldyBapTheBarber December 7, 2015 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Jessica,

    Great article, thought provoking questions, maith thú.

    If reunification is one of the goals for republicanism; then the old saying “Long runs the fox!!”is apt in my opinion. And I think republicans copped onto this sometime ago, that’s why I believe SF have been so patient in the face of Unionist intransigence – We’ll get there in the end.

    I do also like the way SF make noises about bringing our fellow Unionist countrymen & women with us on this Journey, this is a very important concept for republicans to embrace and essential to a New Ireland. The GFA is a stepping stone, the struggle for Irish freedom continues and it continues through and with the GFA.

    50%+1 that’s how close it is and always will be – don’t ya just love democracy? Roll on freedom!!!

    • jessica December 7, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

      “I do also like the way SF make noises about bringing our fellow Unionist countrymen & women with us on this Journey.”

      I agree, but we need to start talking to one another and that wont happen without the encouragement and support of both states.

      And we have a warmonger PM in London and a jackass for Taoiseach in Dublin.

    • Mitchel December 8, 2015 at 10:18 am #

      Baldybap, What a load of tripe. “Roll on freedom” – What do you mean by freedom? What will freedom mean to you? How will freedom change your life?

      “SF have been so patient in the face of Unionist intransigence.” Patient! Unionist intransigence, you may say, but for now and the foreseeable future, Unionists have secured their place in the Union – and the GFA and Sinn Fein’s endorsement allows for this. Explain what you mean by Sinn Fein being patient? Do they have a choice otherwise as a United Ireland is not going to happen anytime soon? If anything, Sinn Fein have accepted everything and anything to get power and move dramatically from their traditional republican base – And yet people trust them in their United Ireland goal?

      “We’ll get their in the end.” Get where? A United Ireland? How far away is the end?How will “we” get there? Where is the road map? Where is the blueprint? Do Sinn Fein know what a United Ireland will look like? How it will be structured?

      “I do also like the way SF make noises about bringing our fellow Unionist countrymen & women with us on this Journey.” Gerry Adams isn’t too sincere in bringing Unionists “on this journey” with his “The point is to actually break these bastards” and “Trojan horse” analogy. I have not seen many Unionists who have been boarded the Sinn Fein bandwagon on this journey, or maybe you know otherwise?

      Sinn Fein’s illusion of a United Ireland keeps people voting for them – Are Sinn Fein even sincere about a United Ireland? Where’s the proof? Their inaccurate timescale is coming near, yet their utopia is even further away.

      • jessica December 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

        “What do you mean by freedom?”

        Independence I presume. The US celebrate independence from English rule every 4th July. It will be great when Ireland can finally do the same.

        “Unionists have secured their place in the Union”

        That is interesting. With the unionist majority in the over 65 age group and over 50% nationalist majority in the lower age groups according to demographic surveys. Unless we are being lied to, the unionist majority has already past its peak and the next elections should show decline. It will be interesting to see what happens but by statistics, we have already crossed that line and even with voter apathy, it should be obvious next time out.

        “I have not seen many Unionists who have been boarded the Sinn Fein bandwagon on this journey, or maybe you know otherwise?”

        I would not expect a unionist to support a united Ireland, but perhaps not everyone from traditionally unionist areas would be against unification if they new what it would look like and not swayed by the scare stories from its opponents.

        “How will “we” get there? Where is the road map? Where is the blueprint? Do Sinn Fein know what a United Ireland will look like? How it will be structured? ”

        It would require a referendum similar to that in Scotland with hopefully the same economic arguments. The GFA has provided this option. Is it not time we started discussing it and filling in the blanks you quite rightly refer to? Perhaps we would be better off with a single economy, there is certainly a lot of wasted money in duplication and Northern Ireland is stony broke and relying on vast sums of English tax payers money. Where have they agreed to continue this for the foreseeable future? How are we going to make Northern Ireland economically viable without unification?

        Would you be supportive of honest debate and a referendum. It will be the people who unite Ireland or not. Perhaps a majority would be in favour of remaining in the UK if debate shows it we would be worse off financially. We wont know until we put it to the test and surely that is going to have to happen sooner rather than later.

        • Mitchel December 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

          Jessica. Your argument is based on many ifs, buts and maybes, nothing concrete.

          So demographic predictions are what you are replying upon? How accurate are they as an indicator into political thinking when the majority of people in Northern Ireland do not vote? Regardless of demographics, the Union will be maintained until the majority of people state otherwise. Do you agree? Will this ever happen? No one knows. A majority Catholic population means nothing. This was a misconception of Sinn Fein and Nationalism in general for a long time that Catholic = United Ireland. “Obvious next time out.” One rule of politics is that nothing is obvious. Nationalist voter apathy has been increasing. Will this decline suddenly stop?

          “I would not expect a Unionist to support a United Ireland.” So, how can Unionists be enticed into supporting a United Ireland? Sending out ambiguous gestures? “If they (k)new what it would look like” – what would it look like? Can you explain to Unionists what they are missing out on? “not swayed by the scare stories” so this United Ireland is going to be the perfect society? Without knowing what a United Ireland would look like, assumingly, you can predict this perfect society? Can you not see the validity in their reservations?

          “It would require a referendum similar to that in Scotland” Does the appetite exist for this? Do Sinn Fein fear the consequences of a border poll that isn’t in favour of a United Ireland? What would be their rationale then?

          “Duplication,” yes I see that one, but one single economy, would that not mean job losses? Hardly a selling point.

          Is honest debate ever going to be possible on this issue?

          • jessica December 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

            “Jessica. Your argument is based on many ifs, buts and maybes, nothing concrete.”

            Mitchel, I am not making any argument for any predetermined outcome

            But the entitlement to a referendum is very much concrete, lest the GFA be scrapped and articles 2 and 3 restored as their replacement was based on the condition of full implementation.

            I have no problem with anything you just said by the way.

            I do believe Sinn Fein have already called for a border poll but I don’t think anyone has anything to fear from the truth whatever that may be.

            What is there to fear from an honest debate and discussion of all of the options available to us?

  9. fiosrach December 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    How do you think a re-run of the GFA would turn out, Harry. We got a breathing space and what did we do with it? In any conflict you can have two losers but you can’t have two winners. This was the grand trop that the Brits pulled on both sides here. Blair, Clinton, the Free State all pulled the wool over our eyes. I would opine that sectarianism now is worse than twenty years ago. And it would take very little to start it up again. This time nobody will care.

  10. fiosrach December 7, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    Sorry trompe not trop

    • paddykool December 8, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      That’d maybe be “trump” as in cards and not “trump” as in fart, although both might be appropriate there fiosrach , eh?!! Ach I know what you mean . We all throw this stuff out there and hope that a wee bit of it makes some sense. if you looked at the twenty-odd years since the agreement with hindsight , you could rightly say that we’ve pissed away opportunities and a lot of time . We have and that’s mostly down to the DUP dragging their feet on every wee bit of social progress. On the plus side we haven’t got helicoptors hammering through the skies and all the other paraphenalia of a warzone that we tripped over for thirty years .Just to get away from that alone was refreshing. If you looked at it dispassionately it’s a fact that this would be a bloody awful place to continue living in if all that day and daily killing hadn’t been stopped somehow.That’s no way to live anywhere …should it be Norneverland or Syria.It’s also true that the crazies are all still out there waiting for another demagoue to stir them up again. Clinton and Blair were very cute to use us to build their reputations on , but where would we be now had the thing rolled on these last twenty years?
      i would agree that sectarianism is every bit as bad, but that’s mostly down to personal education. There are still free-thinkers out there .

  11. TheHist December 8, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Good article, Jessica. Since 1998 we have went into Agreement overload – GFA, Hillsborough Agreement, St Andrews Agreement, Stormont House Agreement, Fresh Start Agreement – yet most of these agreements have precipitated major disagreements and failed to allow society to move forward at a quicker pace.

    Think the big issue with the GFA is, today we have the DUP as the majority Unionist party, yet they were totally against the agreement, have never endorsed or supported it and used it as a weapon to destroy the UUP. Where does this leave the GFA if a major party has not endorsed it? A failed agreement? The argument might be that St Andrews was the GFA dressed up and the DUP endorsed this, but the GFA is seen as the “deal breaker”, as the major agreement!