Hello to you. I hope you are all well folks. I’m hoping you’ve read Cleenish’s previous post, otherwise here’s a link to it. What I liked about the post aside from dealing with someone who has clearly thought about the nuts and bolts of unity and how we can bring this about is some of the practical solutions that Cleenish has come up with. Of course, if you have any practical solutions yourself please let me know here otherwise we’ll hear from it during the course of the piece…
If we constantly think and promote an Irish national approach there is then an impact on public services; their plans, strategies and operational arrangements. Any outcome that is organised and deliver services on a national basis must be presented and promoted within the context of the nation, in this way a sense of Irish nationhood is imparted, underpinning & promoting a wholly Irish perspective. A change from the status quo to a UI is therefore a easier proposal to sell.
If you consider the following you will see how a national perspective changes outcomes, please do not be tempted to quibble on the detail or obstacles of any particular aspect (I know detail counts and can/will alter things), however it is the broad principle that is being demonstrated. If we are to promote the Irish nation we need to actively think in the Irish terms and to constantly seek opportunities for an expression of Irishness and a national Irish outlook.
The narrative being one of…..
Irish Solutions to Irish problems; We are better together; stronger, fairer and ultimately richer.
Fully using the talents of the Irish nation for the benefit of all.
Futile, groundhog debates that trap us all in political amber to become a thing of the past.
The DRD recently published a Strategy that will chart the development of NI Railways over the next 20-30 years. http://www.drdni.gov.uk/index/publications/publications-details.htm?docid=8604
How many of will look at the plans and think immediately and what is planned for the Derry to Belfast line and the cross-border Belfast –Dublin Enterprise service?
The paper is structured in a series of packages and carefully prepared by the officials to sway the reader towards to what they have previously decided, classic civil service approach! The focus is primarily on the Belfast commuter belt with some options on aspects of interest to Irish nats ie services on the Derry line and the Enterprise.
The Strategy is largely confined to internal NI consideration, which will be the default setting for any NICS official (irrespective of their personal background) as that is the organisational culture and the remit given to the team. In this case such an approach is reinforced by a UUP Minister.
For comparison purposes here’s the link to the Irish Rail http://www.irishrail.ie/index.jsp?p=124&n=264
If we step back and view from a national perspective then a number of developmental objectives & priorities come to the fore;
· Belfast to Dublin – hourly service, line electrified
· Belfast to Cork service – hourly or 2 hourly server depending on demand
· Cross Dublin rail interconnector (Heuston – Connelly)
· Derry to Dublin – hourly service
· (requiring increase in capacity on Derry line, Derry station and re-commissioning of Lisburn to Antrim track)
· Commuter Service Dublin to Newry
· Derry Commuter services
Due to lack of interest from NIR the Derry to Dublin could be established as a franchise run by Irish Rail with the Antrim-Lisburn connector being maintained by Irish Rail.
As Irish Nationalists these are the services we should be demanding and tactically planning for. Just as importantly the presentation and marketing needs to reflect a national perspective with the Rail map of Ireland (and ticketing arrangements) changing accordingly http://www.irishrail.ie/index.jsp?p=115&n=126
Isn’t it strange that the ‘cross-border’, infrastructure projects with an Irish flavour have run into problems and seem to have been stymied? I am talking of course of the A5 and Narrowwater Bridge. The history of the A5 http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/roads/a5omaghstrabane.html is certainly troubled and there SF seems to has faced opposition from their partners in government. The is UUP well known to oppose the road http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/its-time-to-scale-back-844m-road-urges-uup-leader-28571097.html Isn’t it strange how things work out. Incidentally this scheme may very well become a test of the GFA and SF on their ability to deliver for Irish nationalists. It currently bears the hallmarks of a historic wrong in the making.
From a national viewpoint there are number of issues that come to mind regarding Ireland’s road network.
The Atlantic Road Corridor http://www.nra.ie/AboutUs/NDP2007-2013/ stretches from Letterkenny – Sligo –Galway – Limerick etc. The road from Sligo to Letterkenny goes Bundoran/Donegal Town. From an national perspective the road would’ve been planned to go through Sligo –Enniskillen – Omagh –Derry and then Letterkenny.
This road would link in nicely with the A5 and make more sense from an economic and developmental perspective than the current plans for the corridor.
The road networks in both parts of Ireland are at times mismatched in grade of road at the border e.g the Enniskillen to Dublin road with the Fermanagh stretch being of a lower standard. Nor do the road identifiers match – for example we have two M1’s going in different directions.
Ironically we need a strategy for reconnecting the road network in Ireland on (as far as possible) a common framework of civil engineering standards, terminology, as well as forward planning of schemes.
Why is it we have not planned and acted in a national fashion – can we really blame the unionist community?
Rural Development /Emigration
Across Ireland we have a common problem of emigration of an entire generation, particularly from rural communities whether it’s Tyrone, Carlow, Fermanagh or Kerry. It’s a common Irish problem requiring a common Irish response. http://www.southernstar.ie/News/Pat-Spillane-calls-on-locals-to-help-develop-rural-jobs-strategy-08022013.htm
Should this commission not be on a national basis? All it takes is for like minded people motivated to find common cause to make it happen. “Nation before county before party – to coin a certain phrase”.
Could the commission be extended to cover all of Ireland’s rural communities?
The recent response to the blight of the hill/sheep farmers during the snow storm was interesting The initial response of MSM and perhaps no doubt by DARD officials was to call for the RAF, with the Irish Army Air Corps being subsequently used (and was well presented/handled by SF in making it public that Irish Army helicopters cost nothing compared to the charges required by the RAF). However, was the initial response a default setting by DARD senior officials or was their pressure from the nat grassroots involved, perhaps I’m being unfair to Michelle O’Neill? Was there not a certain pride in seeing Irish Army helicopters helping in this way? The episode also illustrates the difficulties we face as Irish nats in a NI British orientated set-up – requiring national thinking to be at the forefront and where possible pro-active planning.
The bus services provided by Ulster and Bus Eireann enjoy a significant level of co-operation that is reflected in the routes& timetables of both and the mutual support services at each other’s depots. Within this context there is scope to look afresh at what a national inter-city bus service should look like.
A small example being the Sligo-Derry service which whilst going through Enniskillen it then goes via Donegal Town/Letterkeny – not exactly of use to Fermanagh. There is no Goldine server from Ekn to Derry, Bus Eireann could double each service with express buses then going through Omagh/Strabane.
From April next year Bus services in NI will be partially de-regulated http://www.drdni.gov.uk/public_transport_reform_-_pdf_version_of_the_final_consultation_report_-_may_2010.pdf
This provides the ability for Bus Eireann to provide service in a complimentary manner to the existing Ulsterbus services. In doing so, the needs of our citizens can be met whilst also providing a national service with a very visible expression of an Irish national identity in NI.
The opportunities for Bus Eireann include additional services on main routes e.g. Belfast-Ekn where there is a shortage of space at peak periods and on additional local routes. One or two buses located at a number of border depot’s, providing enhance local services, would have an impact out of proportion to the cost.
If the will existed the opportunity will be there. Are our politicians prepared to take that step, to campaign and to exploit the opportunity?
The changes to the regulatory framework for the Royal Mail also now offer the possibility of An Post offering services in NI, and thereby on national scale.
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/e2e-guidance/statement/ Note that TNT have provided a trial end to end service in London. An Post could commence with an end to end trial in Derry or South Down areas.
The opportunity is now being provided for a truly national service, as Irish nats should this not be an objective and a priority, unconstrained by a Unionist perspective and cage.
3rd Level Education
As a Irish nationalist in this part of our country when 3rd level university education is raised our immediate demand and desire, and rightly so, is for Derry to have its university, correcting a historic wrong. That tends to be the limit of our expectations.
As a nation we should expect each of our major cities with a University serving the needs of our young men & women and helping to develop our industries.
Currently however the system is based on a UK model and students are ‘steered’ to UK universities, with the elite universities in GB benefiting from our most able young people. We as a nation are poorer as these students tend to settle in GB and we lose their talents. Although I know of some politicians that did return to Ireland who perhaps we might have wished faraway places were better!
To help our young people make an informed choice they need to be clear as to the rankings of the Irish universities, per subject, and to be clear as to what are the ‘elite’ universities in Ireland.
Should it not be just as easy to consider and to apply to an Irish institution as a GB one, and to have clarity on funding and the arrangements in obtaining loans etc.
Should we not create a third level university tier based on an Irish basis, with research, study and academic links between all Irish universities the norm rather than the exception?
The Irish CoastGuard is presented as a national service http://www.transport.ie/marine/IRCG/About_Us.asp?loc=2417 Is it really? There are 4 stations (Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo) http://www.transport.ie/marine/IRCG/CGinformation/index.asp?lang=ENG&loc=2076
What would a truly national service look like? Would it not have a station in Derry or Coleraine?
What is to stop the Irish government establishing a station in Derry for instance, could it be organised through the Irish Ministerial Council (aka officially as North South Ministerial council – language matters ;))
Since the creation of Northern Ireland Irish Nationalists within its confines have had our lives; with its hopes, expressions of identity and rights as members of the Irish nation expressed through a Unionist construct & prism. It is up to us to break free of that prism and the restrictions placed on our own thinking.
The present Sinn Fein strategy of National Reconciliation/Unionist outreach is a political step, despite my own cynical doubts as to its ultimate success, is rooted and expressed in national terms. It’s outworking and engagements would need to be on a national basis, rather than code for Irish nationalists talking to the unionist community. The presence of SF as a national party is also a step in underscoring a national perspective and provides an opportunity to encourage that mindset.
I think we need to complement the political strategy with a practical-based strategy for national re-awakening and reconnection.
A twin-track approach which whilst reconciling the nation on a political level with all sections of the Irish nation, particularly the British/Unionist community, I think we as Irish nationalists need to pursue a strategy aimed at emphasising and encouraging an emotional identification, sense of pride and of belonging to the Irish nation, and underpinning this with practical and very visible expressions of a being part of a wider Irish family.
In doing so we begin to correct the warping that partition has brought to the development of the Irish nation. The first step has to be to change our way of thinking and to change the language and concepts that shape debate and discussion, and that has to start with ourselves.
It is a primary responsibility of all of our political parties to act in a broad common purpose to realise the Irish nation. There is a tendency to react with anger, disdain even, with interventions from FF purely as electioneering point scoring. FF are exploiting a current weakness in SF’s strategy, however to react in kind is to miss an opportunity to open the debate and to challenge a common purpose along the lines above.
My father lived most his life within a Unionist inspired cage that manifested itself in a visible expression of control and discrimination on a large scale. The C/N community knew it’s place. For myself or for my children I would hope our lives are not lived out within a Unionist/British cage that is partly constructed by our mode of thought, engaging in solely NI based discussions/debates and with low expectations on our national expressions. To accept we are a place and a people apart.
If we and our children are to live as free Irishman and women we have to start by removing the Unionist cage from our own thoughts. We need to first and foremost, to think and demand to have our place as part of the Irish nation, and wherever possible to have this expressed and represented in everyday life.
Waiting for the eventual United Ireland, currently being a vague notion, hidden in the mists of the future, only provides the British free to promote an alternative narrative of a shared and peaceful Northern Ireland, as a country within a wider British context.
If we are to A Nation Once Again, should we not be thinking and acting in that way, demanding that our political parties have a clear strategy on creating a new Irish nation, to exploit opportunities wherever possible, irrespective of Unionist opposition, in the here and now.