Yesterday and two Féile tales

I was at two Feile an Phobail events yesterday, both hugely interesting and raising some important questions which we either don’t think of or try to duck.

The first, as I said in yesterday’s blog, was in St Mary’s University College. It was Trócaire’s annual human rights discussion for the Feile. There were two main speakers – Eoin Hamill of Trocaire, who works in the occupied Palestinian territory; and Tania Hary, who holds dual US and Israeli citizenship.

The title of Tania’s talk was ‘Gaza on the brink’ but it might have been “Gaza in a cruel balance’. She touched on a wide range of matters relating to Gaza, but the title of her talk related to the fact that the Israeli government do a kind of calorie count: they see to it that the two-million Palestinians go hungry, so that they’ll want to leave the area, but not so hungry that they are driven to major violence. Electricity is a luxury not always available for the two million Palestinians held in Gaza. Youth unemployment is at over 60%. Movement is severely restricted.

There is no doubt that Israeli citizens such as Tania work hard to ameliorate the harshest injustices associated with Gaza, as do Trócaire. But when both Eoin and Tania were asked about the boycott of Israeli goods, as a means of pressuring Israel into treating the Palestinians of the Gaza strip with something approaching humanity, she pointed out that as an Israeli citizen, she could be imprisoned for advocating a boycott.

I came away full of admiration for young people like Eoin and Tania, whose life work is dedicated to easing the major injustices in places like Gaza. But I couldn’t help feeling that major political changes are needed, starting with an end to the open-air imprisonment of two million people trying to live in their own country.

The second event was the Féile jewel in the crown, West Belfast Talks Back. As usual it was crammed with people in St Louise’s College; but crowding in this instance was happy gathering debate good-natured. The item that got the headlines was Michelle O’Neill’s statement that the Irish constitution should be changed to accommodate the British identity of northern unionists in any future reunited Ireland. Former Irish diplomat Ray Bassett, another panelist, seems a nice man but I had to remind him that there are too many southern pundits and commentators who talk about the country of Ireland, when they mean the state consisting of 26 counties which constitute the Republic of Ireland.  Otherwise those of us north of the border don’t live in Ireland. To his credit , Bassett accepted my gentle correction.

Brexit was of course one of the topics discussed and I reminded Alex Kane, another of the panelists, that he had once said 99% of unionists and the same percentage of nationalists would vote in a border referendum by following the dictates of their hearts not their heads. Which would make discussion of Brexit pointless. Alex appears to have evolved in his opinions, suggesting that there’s a soft unionist vote of some 15-20% who could be persuaded to look at a reunited Ireland.

I think his more recent position makes more sense. Unionists have been known to talk of eating grass before they’d agree to a united Ireland, which of course is rubbish. They wouldn’t eat grass; they would vote with their hearts, certainly, as would nationalists, but an economic calculation would always be part of their decision-making. Would nationalists vote for a united Ireland if they thought it would result in their salaries being halved? Not a chance. Likewise, if unionists believed their salary would be doubled, they’d be falling over themselves to join a united Ireland.

Our hearts are massive organisms, capable of driving us to act or not act in all sorts of circumstances. But in a referendum on a reunited Ireland, a major component in decision-making would also be the money.

Which is one more reaons why the south of Ireland should work to develop a healthy economy AND a health service that is at least the equal of that available in the north. When the south’s standard of living and its provision of public services is developed to match and even surpass those in the north, you’d be amazed how many heart-plus-head unionists would see a united Ireland an attractive prospect.

So an interesting night, raising so many domestic and foreign questions, the two having the common denominator of borders and injustice.

25 Responses to Yesterday and two Féile tales

  1. Ann Fitzpatrick August 10, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Always great events and sorry to have missed both thank you for the report and perspective.

  2. giordanobruno August 10, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    I am fairly sure it is enshrined in the GFA that people can continue to hold British and Irish citizenship in the event of a United Ireland.
    So it sounds like Michelle is only stating something which would be expected anyhow.
    Also just to be pedantic I guess you are considering the heart to be an organ rather than an organism?

    • moser August 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

      Gee, your a smarty pants gio.

      • giordanobruno August 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

        I choose to take that as a compliment. Thanks!

        • moser August 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

          It was gio.

          • moser August 10, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

            You’re *

    • Tam August 10, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      Yes gio you’re right about the GFA .

  3. Anne Cadwallader August 10, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    I’ve lived (and live) in both jurisdictions and it seems to me that southerners are already better-off than northerners when everything is taken into account/quality of life.

    • Colmán August 10, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      You are probably right however the health system needs to improve.

    • Tam August 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      Why would they want to risk that by supporting a ‘united Ireland’?

  4. Oriel27 August 10, 2017 at 11:06 am #

    Ah here Jude, good article, im a follower of your articles on a daily basis and i agree with probably most things you say but – the following is clearly wrong:

    ‘The south’s standard of living and its provision of public services is developed to match and even surpass those in the north’

    The standard of living in the South is far better than the ‘poor’ North.

    Ok i live in the border region, i lived and have property both sides. I work in the North. So i have a fair idea were is better.

    The South by far for living. The Health System in the North, isn’t great. Ever been to Newry hospital? – a kip.Im currently on a 5 week waiting list to see the doctor in the North (not a serious thing). I pay a substantial National Insurance contribution to the north so im entitled to use the Health Service. I work in the north because it geographically suits me.

    Ok, one pays for the doctor in the South, but you get seen to that day.

    Look jude, please clarify it – the North is miles behind the South in everyway.

    Employment opportunities, the education system, roads, transport, etc are far superior in the South.
    Its as if there hasn’t been any investment in the North in 20 years.

    And now Brexit !, what a mess. Almac and all other companies looking south.

    If i was a Unionist, i would be talking to Irish government on a serious level.

    • Colmán August 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

      I think that if you do a town for town comparison for night life, restaurants, public services, transport, roads the picture becomes clear Oriel, compare:

      Monaghan town with Armagh
      Dundalk with Newry
      Strabane and Derry with Letterkenny
      Belfast with Dublin
      Enniskillen and Sligo

      The similar sized towns in the south are leaps and bounds ahead, complete with their own councils, hospitals, buzzing night life, fancy hotels, third level education. The north’s economy is being systematically cut. Small towns are plaqued with depopulation and empty high streets due to huge rates forcing small companys out of business. We have these weird UK style out of town shopping centres which kills high-street trading. And even the councils are being cut. Hospitals ERs being shut down. The place is a mess.

      • Oriel27 August 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

        Colman, yes thats a great way to compare things.

        In my own case it would be Monaghan Town with Armagh Town. Although Armagh town population is about 5K more, its no were near as good.

        Armagh is a dead, boring dull town compared to Monaghan. There is a vaste amount of poverty in Armagh town, especially the protestant end.
        One would never for a minute consider even going out socialising in Armagh (even with the currency changes).

        On the other hand, we would do our food shopping North though.

  5. moser August 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    Not to be dismissive of the importance of the New Ireland debate: we are discussing ideology and pros and cons. We sit around with fat bellies: in comfort. And take part in debates that are – part intertainment, while people in Gaza suffering in horrendous conditions day and daily kinda puts things into perspective. Well done trocaire.

  6. Tam August 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

    One wonders what changing the constitution to accommodate the British identity of northern unionists actually means?

  7. Tam August 10, 2017 at 4:59 pm #


  8. Freddiemallins August 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm #

    Surely there’s more to life than money. I would personally vote for a reunited Ireland tomorrow if it reduced my income to zero. Life is short and to die in my unified land would be a dream.

    • Tam August 10, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      How would you survive?

    • Gearoíd August 10, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

      Freddie,………me too

      • Tam August 10, 2017 at 10:32 pm #

        That’s madness. An irrational and extreme obsession with a ‘united Ireland’.

  9. Stephen Kelly August 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    Moser I’m with you I’m with you but there’s always a but. I used to sail around the world on oil tankers to start with I was permanent eastern ocean then I went western ocean the middle east up the Persian gulf on to India four months’ on the Indian coast once waiting for dry dock in Greenock the miners no power. India a country I never want to see again in my life. Round to Pakistan oh boy no way. Onto Africa South America poverty man sights I want to forget ,billions of people now on earth billions more coming and automation talk about sixty percent unemployment in Gaza it will never change not in India nor Gaza nor Africa it will come here .Automation one man controlling machines that turn out thirty million biscuits for instance. The ANC destroyed Mandela’s south African dream through the Zuptas looted billions upon billions from the country. State capture they call it the oldest revolutionary party in Africa corrupted and just like bob in Zimbabwe it’s on the slippery road to being feked Unbelievable poverty apartheid ended in 1994 and boy are the revolutionaries busy looting . I go round the world everyday now on Google news because I cannot travel anymore to old but I can still remember and think…Now Gaza ok fek the Israeli’s fekem lets hate them. But why the fek are hundreds of tons of concrete being poured into tunnels to invade Israel that should be building apartments for the poor and destitute. Hundreds of millions spent on arms rockets whatever while the people go without. I will tell you why no democracy no freedom of speech no freedom of choice no vote to say where the money should be spent. Millions stolen by the well groomed men in their two thousand pound suits in Quater in their big flashy motors and very best of food flying first class. Then Hamas told to leave Quater fek of . Even the UN recognise them as terrorists they have slaughtered thousands of innocents in Gaza. They have no chance of ever beating the Israeli’s none they will probably no certainly in the future to keep the money rolling in get thousands of innocent Gazan’s killed in some silly war. The Israelis have a large number of nukes aimed at all major points in the middle east they make no secret that never again will they be slaughtered they will bring on Armageddon no one will be able to stop them. So the literally billions of pounds poured into Gaza where the fek (well we know Arafat’s widow and daughter has one) did it all go. And why are infants taught in primary by looking at little cards how to hate and kill Jews and Christians…Why don’t we do what we done here and say ok that’s it time to really talk the rockets will never work. Like I say fek the Israelis what about the two million poor in Gaza spend the money on them or it will be like this in fifty years time. I am sorry but I always think what about the poor first. Ah fek it I’m going to press submit and wait for the hate I am no Israeli apologist but it’s just all so fekking futile and enriching a small number of Hamas people who do not for a minute share the daily grind or poverty of the poor people of Gaza they are always overweight and expensively groomed and dressed very expensively.

  10. Gearoíd August 10, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

    Stephen, when were the Israelis slaughtered? Are you for real man? I have a feeling your comment is a bit ‘troll’ like in its depiction of the poor Israelis. I smell a rat. Have you been in Gaza recently?

    • Stephen Kelly August 11, 2017 at 5:18 am #

      Sorry but look up google a lot of Israelis were and are being slaughtered. the Gazans Fatah Palestinians were also slaughtered (by each other) and are still being killed by each other if they are not very careful just to clear that up. And no i am no troll i just think that the Israelis are like the unionists here they are going nowhere EVER and will have to be accommodated just like we did here with the good Friday agreement we changed our constitution and i think they must change theirs also. I really just think for the poor people of Gaza its just going to be groundhog day for pick a figure the next fifty years. Some serious talking needs to be done. why is it that Anyone who thinks of the underprivileged in Gaza is a troll a rat a Zionist a Jew lover. No i have never been to Gaza the worst place i have ever been to is India and that type of poverty and so called democracy i don,t want anyone to ever experience and i think from you tube and reading, real democracy doesn’t exist in Gaza. Go to you tube look up Hamas Fatah war drugs executions for Mickie mouse crimes that you wouldn’t tolerate here but people overlook and find tolerable under Hamas go figure. Call me what ever you want i wasn’t talking for Israel i was thinking about the totally underprivileged of the Gaza strip. I know its against the flow but fek it take of the two thousand pound suits get rid of the rockets use the concrete for apartments, don’t start another useless war getting thousands of innocents killed go out into the desert and fight the fekking isrialie’s stay away from the general population. And hang on i didn’t say poor Isrialie’s but i am a parent and a grandparent and i know what i would want the money spent on for my family and it wouldn’t be more rockets and tunnels. I will finish i think the end for me was when the brave terrorist fighters sent a young young children including a mentally handicapped boy to Israel as a suicide bomber (His brother Hosni described Abdo as mentally slow. “He doesn’t know anything, and he has the intelligence of a 12-year-old,” he said.) Just look up for instance on google search (Hamas teach young children in school to hate and kill Jews) no way not in my name. By the way lots of people young and old in the Gaza strip do not like the terrorist organisations that operate their they will never let us know the numbers and if i lived their i would be telling my children to shut up some way to live what. Anyway i have also fallen out with the South African ANC and Maduro’s Venezuelan dictatorship. But thank god i live in Ireland and none of the above. So me and my children and grandchildren are safe when they exercise free speech and more so are allowed their own thoughts and feelings thank you.

      • moser August 11, 2017 at 9:18 am #

        Well said Stephen.

  11. Stephen Kelly August 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    Thank you moser.