A Nation Once Again…?? Part 1 of a Guest Post from Cleenish

Hello all, I trust you’re keeping well. I am pleased to announce my first ever guest blogger, Cleenish, a native of the west of Ulster! Both he and I have been in contact in relation to a number of matters of mutual interest on Twitter of all places where he drew my attention to the fact that one of the problems we have been facing as Nationalists is the seeming and real lack of cross border cooperation in trying to make the border in effect melt away, to stop thinking of ourselves as a people apart from the Irish nation if you will and to try and start thinking of solving very real problems we have on this island in an all-Ireland manner. Rather than my blabbering here is the first part, the next part with some details and proposals to chew on will be posted later in the week…

moherIn writing this entry/op (if that is right term?) I very much feel out of my comfort zone, as it’s an entirely new and uncomfortable experience, I am much happier reading other people’s thoughts and either nodding my head in sage agreement or stifling an odd snort or two. Airing your views to a wider audience is very strange and unsettling experience. Although if on reading the piece below is it gives you some pause for thought then great, as that is the main motivation. All in all I welcome FC’s invitation for a slot on his blog, or that he may regret it!

The reason I agreed to write this is due to a growing realisation and conviction that as a Northern Irish nationalists I/we have become conditioned to think in a certain ways and to impose upon ourselves limitations on our expectations and perhaps more disturbingly to see outcomes on services & policy largely within an essentially Unionist prism, where NI the ‘country/nation’ is the predominate concept and perhaps increasingly imbedded in the C/N community?

Before my father died we had time to talk over some of his experiences as a youngster and as a young man growing up in Fermanagh, a nationalist majority county nestled amongst other majority nationalist counties. Yet he (and his friends etc) felt that they were hemmed in on all sides by the Unionist authorities; physically by border customs/checkpoints and within the county by the local Unionist militia/police. It was visibly and physiologically a Unionist construct, a cage for their Irish nationalist neighbours and friends, with their sense of nationhood submerged and ignored, cut off from the wider Irish nation.

Although we have, thankfully, progressed from the cage my father lived in and has now become a matter of history, have we been seduced into creating a unionist/British cage of our own thinking, in essentially thinking in unionist/British terms and unwittingly placing limitations on our expectations as members of the Irish nation? Perhaps I am wrong but I get the sense that we have or are travelling down that road.

Northern Ireland has been in existence for nearly 100 years, all of us has been born and have grown up in a NI and British context. During that time we created a community within with the trinity of church, school and Irish sports/culture (GAA, music, language etc) being our haven for our expression of Irishness and of difference. During that time we have been subjected to a constant stream of expressions of Unionist identify & terminology from politicians, MSM etc, whereby NI is promoted as a country, a province off the mainland and as a place apart from the rest of the Irish nation. The troubles themselves ironically have had an impact in impressing on people’s minds that we are a place apart, admittedly from both Britain/UK and Ireland. How often have you heard that each side is as bad as each other, that we are not wanted by both the British or the South? Has the original Irish Question been replaced by the NI Troubles? We need to be honest about this, if we aim to change this type of thinking, acceptance is the first step on for any change programme.

Does this matter? Does it affect how you think and react? To me at least coming from the west of Ulster to live in Belfast, it seems to my prejudiced eyes and ears that it does matter and more so the further east you are (that will certainly get me trouble with the in-laws!). Although the epicentre of that effect would appear to be Holywood & South Belfast 😉 The centre for the centre ground of ‘letsgetalongerist’ – a great term created by FJH.

We have all heard the term; “a divided society”. What do you think of when you hear that term, is that we are divided in NI or that the Irish nation is divided. The former implicitly recognises NI as a place apart. Think again of the most prevalent and misused term at the moment; “a shared future”, it’s a vague term am I not only one who struggles to comprehend what it really means (emperor has no clothes? or am I just being stupid?), either way this term is essentially based on a NI & British premise. Consequently, it is an easy vehicle for “letsgetalongerists” to use for their own ends. Shared future has to date been equated to integrated education which has become an effective mantra underpinned by supportive ‘polls’.  Why are unionists, and so called liberal unionists in particular, so entranced by the promotion of a ‘shared future’? before I get side-tracked too far…. a very common failing of mine unfortunately , just think through how that concept could and is being used.

We grudgingly accept the current arrangements and by extension the plans for services, development and infrastructure essentially organised on a NI basis Any services of an ‘Irish’ nature are exclusively expressed in cross-border speak & terminology (and are constantly minimised at every opportunity by Unionists and largely ignored by the MSM). Does any of this matter? Why worry about it? Surely any cross-border initiative is a means of softening the border? Once the C/N are in the majority a UI is inevitable and the orange state is already gone?

It matters because nothing is guaranteed, it matters because our nationhood is still submerged, it matters because there is a campaign / opposing strategy to subvert enough of the C/N community to think & feel not as fully part of the Irish nation. To accept we are a people and place apart. Such a future will result in NI residing comfortably within the British framework.

In this I think language is all important, it can either create an expression of an Irish nation working together for the good of all, or of two separate countries working together whenever there is mutual benefit for both countries to do so.

Have you noticed that there is a tendency to not ‘fully’ think or express ourselves in Irish national terms?

In the political world the language used by politicians is very important in getting your message across. The language and phrases employed is a subtle tool in helping to shape debate & arguments and in shaping social & tribal attitudes and expectations. Language and the repeating of terms is a well known marketing tool.

The terminology of unionists and the loose rainbow alliance of “letsgetalongerists” have a common purpose in retaining the status quo, their motivations may vary from ensuring stability for NI to ensuring that we forever remain British, the outcome however is the same. The constant use of Northern Ireland/Northern Irish by the BBC (NIO’s PR arm?), in referring to NI as a country, a shared future, great events – Titanic, G8 and even the centenaries are all couched in NI and British terms. North-South, cross border are all based on the assumption of difference and of division in Ireland, of two separate entities. They create and deepen a sense of separateness, of a place apart.

Have you ever wondered where North-South ministerial council and the myriad of meetings etc have gone? do they even exist anymore? They receive no or at best scant MSM attention, are they too ’Irish’. Strand two of the GFA has had little or no impact or recognition with the public? Can we be led to believe that this is an accident, or is the message being manipulated?

We have become used to that in even framing the nature of the ‘problem’ the common currency as one of the two warring communities in NI rather than the original and more accurate ‘Irish Question’. This paints us as a separate tribe from the rest of the Irish people.

The administration of government in Ireland north of the border is of course predicated on services being organised on a NI basis, with issues and problems expressed in a NI or UK framework. We have all been lulled into using the terminology and then in thinking within the confines of NI. How many of us think initially of public services or societal issues on a national Irish basis.

For me at least it takes a conscious effort to pause and then to think along the lines of what a national approach and solution would like and should be. In this part of Ireland the default position of public bodies; from MSM, NICS departments, agencies and arms length bodies will be on a NI and UK context, with the Irish context being reduced to cross-border initiatives. It will always be a struggle to counteract this de-facto unionist outlook. The first step is our own thinking and to prepare for tactical planning and strategies to achieve national outcomes on an Irish, national basis.

I believe it is time that we realise that we have been conditioned and that we need to consciously change the terminology we use, change our own thinking and our own expectations of what to expect from our politicians and services that we use.

The language used in framing debate and discussions is the key tool in shifting a wider public perception as to how any issue is regarded. This requires all of us, but particularly our politicians, to think through the language they use. All issues, where ever possible, should initially be represented in national Irish terms, if relation to NI we shouldn’t be frightened to use but should be used sparingly. We need to avoid using strangled terms such as; ‘this place’, ‘in this jurisdiction’, ‘on this island’. Alternatively if we mean Ireland say Ireland, use every opportunity to set things in an Irish context, some would tend to use ‘in this part of Ireland’ but should be qualified first within an Irish context.

Does this mean anything in practice; firstly we cannot and should not take for granted the attitude and votes of the C/N community. The concept (and vote for) of a UI will be encouraged and underpinned by a communal sense of Irish nationhood. The language we use helps frame an emotional response, repeated enough I would hope it will have an impact. The British(NIO/BBC) and rainbow letsgetalongerist know this only too well and credit is due to FJH for highlighting that have been in a midst of a NI/status quo marketing campaign (albeit derailed somewhat by the excesses of Unionism & by overreaching themselves), the 12th is a day for everyone – any takers there 😉

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27 responses to “A Nation Once Again…?? Part 1 of a Guest Post from Cleenish

  1. Great post which echoes many of my own thoughts. The widescale availability of British electronic and print media in Ireland has done enormous damage to the psychology of Irish nationhood and the language we express it in. The BBC, ITV and Ch4 have been more effective in countering and changing Irish national identity during 30 years of broadcasting in Ireland than a hundred infantry battalions of the British Army.

    That is why in my own online (and off-line) writing I deliberately tackle the terminology of partition and appeasement by replacing it with specifically Irish terms and concepts. It is always the “nation” or “island-nation” of Ireland and never the “Republic of Ireland”. It is the “British Occupied North of Ireland”, the “Occupied North of Ireland” or the “Occupied North” if I’m being deliberately pointed or taking a particular angle on some issue (and these are terms purposely analogous to “Occupied Europe, “Occupied France” or the “Occupied Territories”). Otherwise it is the “North”, or preferably the “north-east of Ireland”, the “north-east of the country”, etc.

    The Unionist community I prefer to describe as the “British minority in Ireland” or the “British minority community in the north-east of Ireland/the country”. Again it challenges the terminology of partition by placing Unionism in an All-Ireland context not a “Northern Ireland” or “British” one. I have also used the term “British separatist minority in the north-east of Ireland” which someone pointed out to me immediately altered their view of how one can look at the North. No ones thinks of some in the Unionist community as “ethnic separatists” until someone puts it out there.

    In a similar vein I try to describe the Nationalist community as simply “Irish citizens” or “citizens of Ireland” and repeatedly so with different variations of wording.

    Again, it is using language to challenge preconceptions. And as a mechanism to change perceptions.

    • I think Cleenish’s and your own notions of us having to change our terminology are valid points and also practical ones. I try my best to use nationalist terminology, to make the border into something that doesn’t exist in many parts of my life, until we ridicule the border and make it as much of an irrelevance as possible we’ll remain defeated.

  2. I’m not sure you need to over-stress the minority status of the “British” minority Séamas. Are you making the point for their benefit or your own? Why not be a bit more welcoming – how about the “the British-Irish”. If people want to further self-define as Scots-Irish or Anglo-Irish why not welcome that too.

    I was at a dinner once where Garett Fitzgerald came to talk. What I remember, apart from how well he was received in Bangor, was;

    1. He said Irish education system was designed after a good look at the Scottish one and Garrett described the northern one as “proletarian”.

    2. Garrett’s closest Irish family were Bangor prods (his Dad was English I think)

    3. The way Garrett saw it Unionists had always had more of an all-Ireland perspective than most or many southern catholics, Unionists were well aware of the existence of the south – resisting its pull and the potential loss of identity / self-determination defined them. Southern catholics were more likely to be guilty partitionists, either in denial about the north or just not giving it much thought.

    Can’t remember much else. Everyone wanted to slap his back. I think he might have read Dale Carnegie sometime in his life. He was all charm, empathy and gentle persuasion.

    Cleenish. Great post, well written. Thanks. There are so many places this could be practically applied that it’s more a manifesto just an attitude of mind.

    • From my post A Green And Orange Puzzle:

      “Out of respect I always try to refer to the British minority on the island of Ireland as the “British Unionist” or “British” community (or more rarely, simply the “Unionist” community). However that is just the most general of terms and a (too?) convenient catch-all to describe a population with quite diverse origins. Indigenous Irish, Scandinavian-Irish, Norman-Irish, Anglo-Irish, Scots-Irish, Anglo-Scots-Irish, the list of hyphenated names goes on and on, and all contributed to the population group (if we can term it so) that is politically ”Unionist” in the north-east of the country.

      Yet many reject the label of “British”. They regard themselves as Irish but with a distinct form of Irishness. Some prefer the term “Scots-Irish” as a means of describing their identity, though that could hardly apply in every case. Others simply use the word ”Protestant”. Yet that is hardly satisfactory either. A distant branch of my own Ó Sionnaigh family converted to the Protestant faith in the 1700s in order to retain their property and titles: and they like me are of the line of the Uí Néill!

      Perhaps we need to start separating out the wheat from the chaff, if you’ll excuse the phrase? Is there a distinct community-within-a-community, a sort of Irish community within the British Unionist community, that Republicans and Nationalists are failing to recognise – let alone address?”

      Hope that clarifies my views a little in relation to the British minority.

      • “Is there a distinct community-within-a-community, a sort of Irish community within the British Unionist community, that Republicans and Nationalists are failing to recognise – let alone address?””

        That’s a great clarification and for what it’s worth I very much believe there is Séamas. It isn’t totally apparent as it isn’t necessarily party political and no political party seems really worried about trying to represent it. But with only half the general population voting who’d know? I was raised in the protestant “tradition” (I’ve Catholic family but they’re in England) and I’m as mild mannered and average as you can get and I’d certainly vote to put the NI institutions out of their misery tomorrow. It’s not a community thing – it’s just common sense and long range planning. I’ve Trinity graduates from protestant families in both my neighbours houses and friends who’ve attended Trinity and married southern girls. I’m pretty sure they’d all be open to a sensible argument. The more the border melts the more people will forget the “unthinkable” idea of a prod supporting Irish unity ever even was unthinkable. And converting prods will get you to 50% + 1 just as fast as keeping Catholics faithful to the cause.

        I happen to think one vehicle for helping progressive or lefty prods out of the stifling unionist cul-de-sac without losing any Catholic support is an all-Ireland openly pro-unity Irish Labour Party that includes (obviously) the Irish Labour Party, alongside the nationalist and/or left leaning membership of the Alliance Party, the SDLP and maybe even some random bits of unionist parties – offering a bridge through the wider Labour movement to British and Irish reservoirs of principle, tradition and new thinking like the GB Labour Party’s Irish Society, the Fabian Society, the Christian Socialist movement and also, of course, the Unions. That’s the party I’d like to be part of anyway.

        I really think that’s the next stage for the SDLP but it will have to have a think about whether it might be suffering a bit of what Cleenish identifies as a disabling “Northern” orientation and whether that orientation leads it to be a bit communal at times – more a protector of community rights within the North than an active all-Ireland integrator.

        That’s my narrow and selfish East of Belfast perspective. It doesn’t make me a “letsgetalongerist” does it? 😯

      • SIB,

        Great name/moniker btw. Apologies for the delay in coming to your points. I liked your notion and points concerning the SDLP especially as it is a party I have been thinking about quite a bit (a possible post for next week perhaps). I do wonder about their efficacy especially as a nationalist party seeing as they deliberately confine themselves to the North. Personally, I think that if you are a nationalist party and looking to drive matters towards a UI then you need to start to organise across the island and not be parochial. I do not wish to over egg things but IF a UI were to ever come about we would not want a situation say like in Vietnam (I know, extreme example) where all the main government jobs and positions of power in one part of the country (the South) is run by people from another part of the country (you guessed it, the North) due to pre unity politics.

        SF have organised in the South. Now,we can discuss and disagree with their politics or style of politics (I often do) but they are practicing what they preach. FF are probably going to be the next nat party to organise on a all island basis. Some would say that the SDLP have a chapter in the South, it’s the Labour party and as part of the Socialist International you can only have one chapter per jurisdiction, but if someone was to tell you that they would be laughing at the same time as we know it’s blatantly ridiculous, right?

        The SDLP is a broad church of everything from decent nat pols (Patsy McGlone for instance) to nonsensical career pols who are very Nu Labour and light on actual ideas that are not soundbites (Conall McDevitt for instance) but personally I feel that while it may have arrested its decline, I cannot see where they go from here, how they challenge SF and how they become a vehicle from driving change. I could go on but I’ll leave that for next week.

  3. Excellent post, lets have more. This is a vitally important element in the struggle for minds but it seems that much damage has been done in terms of identity of late. The peace process itself is contributing to the problem I feel because of the absence of struggle for civil rights etc and less need to be on the defensive (not violence).
    The question is- how can this process be reversed?
    Church/School/Sport-Culture etc are vital and have kept alive the “Irishness” that continues to exist in the northern part of my country but something in a modern context needs to be developed or happen perhaps naturally. I wish I knew what it could be! Any ideas? The younger generations will be harder to reach and may escape these influences (C/S/S-C) but ironically this generation are Ireland’s new exports and they gather around the world with their compatriots from the south and mix seamlessly. If they did not feel Irish at home they soon discover and embrace it abroad. I hope they all come home eventually.
    Roll on part 2.

    • Thanks for dropping by MPG.

      I agree, we need to do something to change the nationalist construct in the North. Abroad, northern and southern Irish mingle quite easily and well, the border is not an issue (I can attest to that) but I’m well aware of the line someone once said ‘when a northerner looks south he sees his country, when a southerner looks north all he sees is a boarder’ rings especially true back home. We need to practically think about melting the border away.

      • ‘We need to practically think about melting the border away’

        I was thinking about this only yesterday, as we were driving home to Rathfriland having taken the kids to Dublin Zoo. As we were driving out past Dublin Airport on of the children asked ‘Are we still in Dublin?’ to which I answered ‘Yes’. This was followed with a series of questions – ‘What comes after Dublin?’ to which I replied ‘County Meath’ – ‘What comes after County Meath?’ – ‘County Louth’ – ‘What comes after after County Louth?’ – ‘County Down’

        This idea of ‘no border’ is pleasingly evident in Newry, although once you get towards Banbridge and the flegs start to be seen it becomes clear that you are now in Northern Ireland. I don’t know how close we are to ridding the place of tatty flags hanging from lamposts but once that day comes I feel we will be significantly closer to destigmatising the North in the eyes of the rest of Ireland.

      • Indeed RJC, the border is pretty non existent in places like Newry, South Armagh and even Doire or Strabane. I believe I have stated previously that if we cannot drive change and cross border cooperation with the assistance of Stormont due to obstructionism then we have to go down to the council level and see what areas of cooperation we can drive between say border area councils. Could we pool resources in relation to waste management, roads service, provision of leisure facilities etc?

        It’s all fairly dry stuff but I think we need to start making all island cooperation a workable reality, less of the grand sweeping narratives and more of the nitty gritty.

  4. If the Church, the Schools and the GAA are the Holy Trinity protecting Irish culture then one of them doesn’t seem able to completely fulfill its mission.

    Making the leaving cert available in NI might be a bridge between the younger generation North and South and even amongst young people across the North. The Leaving cert was added to the UCAS tariff in 2004. One would think that a reorganised and comprehensive Catholic sector could move en bloc to the Irish curriculum/system and still fit within the UK and Ireland university access system. The wider choice at senior level might be very attractive to the non-catholic population as well which would give us a choice led way to mix people up at the same time as making the system more Irish. If St Columba’s in Dublin can teach the A level for young people planning on attending a GB university you’d think this could work.

    I’m happy to take correction if there’s some legal, technical or political reason this can’t work 🙂

    • Legal? I don’t believe there is. Technical, please see the earlier point. Political? Plenty of reasons. I can hear the cries from certain sections of the establishment now and not just the usual ones but I suspect the APNI as they would see it as some form of pernicious segregation on the part of Nationalist pols and RC schools, an area of educational governance that they clearly do not like but have no convincing way of attacking outside of the normal cries of breeding of hate, something that any sensible human being would say is a load.

      Practical problems you would face would be the costs involved, whether with books that need to be of the same standard and curriculum as all others in the rest of Ireland. Then there is the increase in the hours for the teaching staff and managing this. It has been a while since I or any of my family have had any dealings with the Leaving Cert but you’re doing 6 or 7 subjects while AS Levels are 5 (again, I am open to correction) so you will face a strain on teaching hours in a section that will have to cut its cloth to suit.

      Then there is the elephant in the room of a democratic deficit and a lack of accountability that you may have. Would Northern pols and teaching reps have the ear of Southern civil servants in the Department of Education? What would happen if you had a FG or Labour government in and they decide to completely ignore Northern representations where a change to the curriculum is especially onerous for Northern students due to political considerations (trying to screw over SF for instance)? Then you would also have Southern electorate cries of Northerners who do not have the franchise or pay taxes in the South getting a say in the workings of the Dept. of Education, how is this paid etc?

      It is a good idea but it is a fraught one and you would need to have something in place where Northern politicians, schools or education boards have a say and representation that will be considered by the Dept. of Education, however, the flip side is that you need to have that paid for and funded, ye olde ‘no taxation without representation’.

  5. Just noodling a bit on the same tune a North-South education and training council would be a great way to advance the SF comprehensivisation agenda with a proven model and to give Mr Farry of the Alliance Party a way to prove his North-South credentials building North-South HE and FE cooperation. Does such a thing exist?

  6. I’ve long thought that extending the vote for the president to the North would assist in this re-imagining of the Irish nation. That and having parties like FF set up in all counties would introduce a much needed northern voice directly into those party structures.

    • Agreed Derek on both scores re the Presidential franchise and Southern parties organising up North. I have noted over on FJH’s page that the party I would like to see organise here in the North the most is not FF but FG. Whilst I’m no fan of theirs I believe that FF would be occupying the same space as SDLP and that space is taken, no one is in the conservative space proper in nationalism and I believe they’d also act as a bridge that SIB was talking about, though a very different one.

  7. I agree with a lot of the views of “Sir Ike Broflovski” (South Park Abú!)

    I think one of the greatest difficulties, and one that causes endless offence, is the inability of Republicans/Nationalists to agree on a term that defines a community that was largely colonial (“Planter”) in origin but which has been resident on this island-nation for centuries. While many of that community are ideologically Unionist and British some are agnostic on the constitutional question or feel themselves to be Irish – but differently Irish. How to define that section of the ostensibly “Unionist” community in order to reach out to them is something every Republican should be working at.

    The one-time Nationalist assumption that Unionists are simply “misguided” or deluded Irishmen (and women!) and that if only they came to their senses they would realise their true nationality must be consigned to the dustbin of history. It is simply a reverse of the old British view that the Irish are misguided British souls and if only they can be persuaded to see sense they would become good little English men and women.

    We live in a Europe of identity politics – and resurgent ethnicities, from Catalonia to Flanders. The ethnic “Planter” community in Ireland can only be accommodated if we give formal recognition to their existence and their identity. We must somehow divorce “Ulster Protestantism” from Unionism while allowing it to retain its distinctive traits of religion, language and culture. And ethnicity. If the term “Scots-Irish” does the job then we should seize upon it.

    If there are people from a Unionist background who wish to be Irish and part of an All-Ireland nation while retaining their Scots-Irish/British-Irish identity then the onus is on us meet them halfway. One is reminded of Roger Casement and his keen sense of being both an Irishman and an Ulsterman.

    Of course that wouldn’t apply to everyone. Many from a Unionist background may rather express themselves in straightforwardly socio-economic terms, the politics of Left or Right. However if a distinct Ulster Protestant/Scots-Irish party or association favouring an All-Ireland settlement emerged I wonder would it flourish or founder?

  8. Thanks you for the positive feedback and for taking the time to read, think and of course for your comments. It would appear that we are all thinking in similar lines. FC will tell you I was more than a bit dubious about the post itself.

    The feedback at home was somewhat mixed; my darling daughter opined, ” aren’t you’re so cute” but then told me that she didn’t finish as it was too long and the English mistakes were annoying her too much. She is normally honest to the point of rudeness, so not really sure what to make of that?

    I’ve found the comments more than interesting and have to admit I’m the one who’s been pondering things over.

    SIB’s points about the education system are exactly along the lines I think we should be devoting our minds to. They are valid points, and although I am no expert I don’t think there are any legal obstacles for schools in this part of the country to pursue junior/leaving cert examinations. It may however not be not feasible at the minute. What would be needed to make it more feasible is for the examination systems to be more cohesive, similar and to have supporting materials in place, here’s an example of what I’m thinking in term of support http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/our-services/subject-specific/step/about-step/ .
    The SF education minister should have the powers to alter/guide the examination system as currently is the case with the review of the GSCE examinations. Additionally I would imagine there is plenty of scope for collaboration across Ireland in the Education sector. All of this is a two way street and may require changes in the southern part of the country to make this a reality.

    Whilst both my posts are premised on developing a framework and loose strategy to cover the short to medium term, there is a separate topic to cover a medium to long term strategy.

    The discussion on the British Unionist community and SFionn’s points are certainly thought provoking and worthy of further exploration in its own right. To me, it also raises, and is allied to, the medium to long term strategy for ‘Irish Unity’. However, here are some brief points/thoughts which I hope you find challenging 😉 :-
    • Change within the Unionist community towards a settlement with their Irish neighbours can only really come from within.
    • It’s very likely that a unionist champion for that change would founder in party political terms as it would be attacked as a Lundy sell-out party. That is an emotionally charged point.
    • A unionist based pressure group(s) initiating discussions, changing the culture of debate within the British Unionist community, influencing key groups at a local level would be the best bet.
    • The Irish question has never been solved, we’ve never had a settlement, only agreements aimed at stopping violence.
    • The British Unionist community have never acknowledged or come to terms with their Irish neighbours or the national Irish identity. They have sought instead control over their own affairs.
    • The Irish Nationalist community has never come to terms with the British Unionist community in Ireland. Perhaps we have defined the British as code for the imperial English?
    • The Irish unity we seek is vague, ill-defined, any discussions or thought on it are primarily centred on idolised notions of government structures and emblems.
    • Little consideration of the practical or the required detailed proposals on IU have been produced, really after 100 years…..
    • Any settlement will be required to acknowledge the identity and history of both communities. It may not be what we blithely assume.
    • I believe the biggest selling point of an agreement is that it would herald the beginning of real democracy across the country.

    As Irish nationalists we are essentially arguing for change; either short/med-term to reflect our national identity and the shape of the nation state we live in, or a longer term strategy for IU. Any effective change programme involves a number of steps; recognition of the current position and the use of language to prepare the ground and to set the agenda are key first steps.

    I believe, maybe foolishly, that the current position (not ‘situation’ isn’t that’s a Belfast thing)is far from hopeless, the demographic changes has for the first time off mean there is there a debate to be had (much like Spurs now). The British Unionist community can no longer rely on numbers alone. There is a game to be played and with the right strategy, tactical planning and attention to detail, minds can be changed.

    The challenge for nationalists in the short-term is to counter-act the NI letsgetalongerist messages/marketing being deployed whilst developing our own strategies.

    Repetition and constant re-use of terms, language and concepts are key marketing tools needed to prepare the ground and to set the agenda on which issues can be discussed and thought about. It is a slow.. drip.. drip.. approach.
    Surely to get a common nationalist currency of language would need common action that should be recognised or impressed upon our politicians?

    My thinking may or may not be flawed; that the use of language to shape perceptions and to alter our thinking on a national basis are but only enablers for a more strategic and detailed tactical planning covering the practical and emotional aspects of acting/feeling as a single Irish nation. As FC as said we need to melt the border away in people’s minds as much as in practical terms. I see it as a challenge and as an opportunity.

    • Cleenish,

      GRMA a chara for providing a great piece. It has definitely started a conversation here that has gotten people really thinking I hope and the suggestions above from the contributors have been excellent to say the least. A part of your comment that struck me the most was this:

      ‘The challenge for nationalists in the short-term is to counter-act the NI letsgetalongerist messages/marketing being deployed whilst developing our own strategies.’

      Indeed, and we need to be holding our elected reps in SF and the SDLP to task on this; what are you doing to drive this change? I am not saying we become some kind of Concerned Citizens group and have a Mrs. Lovejoy character constantly saying ‘THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!’ but we should be asking our councillors and MLAs what are you thinking in relation to specific areas and what is holding us back from achieving it? Is it political, technical or legal (as SIB above has noted specifically in relation to education for instance).?

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