Editorial from Irish Political Review, September 2009

Northern Ireland: Identity And Crisis

Denis Bradley is one of the couple of political commentators who have anything to say about the Northern situation that is worth reading. His Irish News article on July 3rd was headed Unity Argument Should Be Sinn Fein's Only Argument. He argues that Sinn Fein is greatly mistaken in presenting itself as a socialist party in the Free State and condemning Fianna Fail on socialist grounds for its handling of the economic crisis:

"Instead of putting its energy into reminding and challenging each southern party to live up to and work for their own stated aim of a united Ireland, Sinn Fein behaves like any other political party and fights elections on local bread-and-butter issues. Sinn Fein is attempting to be the primary champion of a united Ireland and a normal political party at one and the same time. It can be a champion or it can be a normal political party. It cannot be both. Every time I heard a Sinn Fein spokesman they were attacking Fianna Fail for destroying the economy of the state… This is the same Fianna Fail that is a senior republican body and without whose cooperation and support a united Ireland is impossible. Sinn Fein calls it bad names by day and then snuggles up to it in cross-border committees…

"Gerry Adams… was arguing not just for a united Ireland but for a socialist republic. I was arguing that any reference to socialism was a big mistake. It was complicating and obscuring the focus on a united country… Nothing wrong with socialist arguments but the south already has a Labour Part and those arguments distract from the one really strong argument that Sinn Fein has. A united country would be good for both economies…"

It is said that Sinn Fein has an "identity crisis". Of course it has. Northern Ireland is an identity crisis. It is a structural abnormality in state terms and no party which participates in its sub-government can behave in accordance with what it otherwise takes to be its identity. The Protestants cannot be British and the Nationalists cannot be Irish. To be British or Irish in governmental terms is to take part in the political life of the British or Irish states. Northern Ireland political parties can do neither. But they are required by the systematically abnormal structures within which they must function to go through the motions of being normal political parties.

Professor Keogh of Cork (following Lord Professor Bew of Queen's and Whitehall) says there is a Northern Irish state. His proteges write books with 'Northern Irish State' in their titles, but they never get around to describing it. Professor Keogh himself is academic cock of the walk in the Free State at the moment, and he dominates History Ireland's 30 year commemorative issue on the Arms Crisis. But the actual conduct of politics in the North is determined by the fact that Northern Ireland is not a state.

One can see the point in Bradley's suggestion that Sinn Fein should not behave as a normal political party in the part of Ireland where normal political parties operate, but should be a single issue United Ireland lobby group. The difficulty with that is that the way the Southern political system behaved towards the North for 20 years after Lynch's betrayal of the Northern Catholic constitutionalists in 1970 brought the present Sinn Fein into being as a substantial political party in the South.

Sinn Fein cannot be silent on political issues within the Free State. But it has difficulty in finding a role for itself—as indeed has the Labour Party, which does not cover the socialist ground, as Bradley supposes. Under Stickie leadership it was busily remaking itself into a middle-class business party when the financial crisis struck.

Fianna Fail as "the senior republican party" takes a lot of believing. Cowen has behaved atrociously on the North, and has come close to treating it as Keogh's Northern Irish state which is none of his concern. It is as the competent managerial party of the Free State that it has credibility. It has dealt with the financial crisis rather well, but it makes excessive demands on belief (or nostalgia) to be able to think of Brian Lenihan and Micheál Martin as republicans.

The Great War—Britain's bid for Imperial dominance—has now been officially embraced by Fianna Fail as Our War. A postage stamp is to be issued celebrating the great ethnic cleansing, and would-be genocide, called the Plantation of Ulster.

Gaelic Ireland was willing to settle down under the Stuart Monarchy, with which it felt a sense of genealogical affinity. The Stuart Monarchy was overthrown by the English Puritan rebellion in the 1640s and Ireland was punished for supporting it. The Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660 when the Cromwellian regime collapsed in on itself due to incompetence. Traditional Ireland became loyal once again. When the Stuart Monarchy introduced freedom of religion in the 1680s. Puritan England rebelled once more, in alliance with an invasion by William of Orange. Another conquest of Ireland followed. Bertie Ahern set the precedent of celebrating the subjugation of Ireland symbolised by the Battle of the Boyne.

The subordinate Parliament of the English colony in Ireland introduced the Penal Law system on the foundation of the Williamite conquest. We must now be close to the tercentenary of the introduction of some of the major Penal Laws. Another celebratory stamp is called for.

Fianna Fail is making rubbish of the history out of which it emerged. No doubt it is part of a cunning plan of the Baldrick kind. If nationalist Ireland makes complete rubbish of itself the Ulster Unionists will see that it has been born again and there will be unity.

Meanwhile the Supreme Court has availed of the financial crisis to slip through an over-ruling of the High Court judgement against the Editor of the Irish Times for being in contempt of Court by refusing to disclose the source of confidential documents from the Mahon Tribunal which it published.

At the same time another Tribunal is accusing Denis O'Brien and the Sunday Times of a breach of law by revealing other confidential documents.

O'Brien is a major finance capitalist. He won the bidding for a mobile phone licence some years ago. An accusation of corruption was made against Michael Lowry, the Fine Gael Minister in charge at the time. A Tribunal was set up to investigate. Lowry insisted that he acted on the advice of his civil servants and no evidence was produced that he didn't. The charge of corruption then slid towards the civil servants who made the recommendation about the winning bid but there was no evidence against them either. O'Brien discovered that the Tribunal had commissioned a secret report on the affair. He compelled it to make it available. He received a draft copy of the Tribunal findings in which opinion based on hearsay took the place of conclusions based on proofs and he launched a campaign against it.

The Irish Times over the years has given free rein to the corruption allegations of its suburban Savanarola, Fintan O'Toole. But recently it has been carrying comment by Sarah Carey, who has obviously lived at the heart of the business world. And she has been drawing out some of the implications for business and for Government of the slipshod conduct of Tribunals.

If the Moriarty Tribunal runs off at the mouth on the mobile phone licence issue in its recommendations—as was done in another Tribunal in a different connection some years ago—the company which did not win the contract is poised to sue the State for astronomical losses due to alleged malpractice. And the fine reputation of Ireland's civil servants will be impugned worldwide on the basis of hearsay and 'evidence' which would be inadmissible in a court of law. It has also been remarked that one of the counsel acting for the Tribunal has acted for a losing company in the mobile phone tender process.

A noticeable change took place in Sunday Independent comment on NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) in late August. Earlier Brendan O'Connor said he had done the sums and they showed that NAMA did not work. One Sunday there were half a dozen articles to the same effect. Then there was silence, followed a week later by an article by O'Connor saying that NAMA would work after all because you can't put the shit back in the bull, and you must do something with it.

Is it that Tony O'Reilly, after letting the paper go to pot, decided to bring it back to a modicum of financial sense about the actual economic predicament of the country. Or is it that Denis O'Brien has been buying heavily into the share ownership of the Independent Group?

Are we hinting that the fearless journalists have been subjected to undue influence by men with money! Are we hinting at corruption? Surely not! On the other hand——

We have often pointed out that the system of functional liberalism in England was got going by a century of competent and purposeful corruption by people with the power to exercise influence. And if something like that is beginning to happen in the Free State, it can only be a good thing.

Remember Castlereagh! Castlereagh high security Barracks, near Belfast, were broken into in broad daylight by men without guns and not wearing masks, at a moment when the cameras happened to be switched off and security files were stolen. It was said that the Provos did it, and they were punished for it politically. Among those capable of believing that the Provos did it were Fianna Fail and Lord Bew. Only one person was ever charged with the offence, Larry Zaitschek, a cook working in Castlereagh, who was living in America when the charge was laid. He returned and placed himself within the Northern Ireland jurisdiction last year and demanded to be arrested and tried.

The charge has now been dropped on the pretext that evidence of his guilt would damage security if presented in Court.


Northern Ireland: Identity And Crisis.

Democracy And Justice.

Editorial Digest (Siege Of Derry; Breidge Gadd; Matt Baggot; Orange Order; Sectarianism; BNP in NI; Rantzen; Afghanistan; Militarism; Mountbatten; McGurk's Bar; Claudy).

Nationalise The Banks.

NAMA—The Views Of Brendan O'Connor & Anthony Cronin.

Note On The Cromwellian Massacres In Drogheda And Wexford.
John Minahane

Palestine: Three Sonnets.
Wilson John Haire

Shorts from the Long Fellow (Value Disappears; Theoretical Objections 1 and 2; Practical Objection; More Critics; Sheila Cloney; Sarah Carey; Fintan O'Toole's Memory; Jéan Paul Sartre).

Famine Figures.
Jack Lane

Facts On The Famine.
Celtic League

Famine Attitudes And The Times.
Philip O'Connor

Putting Manners On Mespot.
Seán McGouran

Sweet-Voiced-Eoghan:—Report On Ó'Súilleabháin Launch.
Anastasia Lombard

Es Ahora (Society In Crisis; Neal Ascherson; Censorship)
Julianne Herlihy

The Taboo Of Racism.
John Martin

Some Perspectives On The 'N' Word.
Manus O'Riordan

The Bad Lands Of Afghanistan.
Dr. Pat Walsh

Reply To Desmond Fennell And Joe Keenan.
John Martin

Coolacrease: Replies To Eoghan Harris.
Jack Lane, Philip O'Connor

'Civil War' Time Again.
Brendan Clifford

Does It Stack Up? (The Netherlands; War Impossible? Shell & Village; Halligan & Village; Mary Robinson)
Michael Stack


Labour Comment
Edited by Pat Maloney

No Statues For Bill.

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