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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: July, 2019
By: Editorial

State Of Play


The Good Friday Agreement is working well. Neither community is being governed by the other community, and that is the essential thing. And if this essential thing takes the form of there being no Northern Ireland Government, that is fine.

The noxious thing about the Northern Ireland system set up by Westminster in 1921 is that it was not a system of party government but a system of communal government. Under it one community governed the other in local affairs, while the party-politics by which the state was governed had no presence in it. That was a caricature of democracy. And it was the thing that caused the war that led to its abolition.
The Unionist and Nationalist Parties were not parties at all. they were organised communities. Each was a comprehensive merging of all classes and social interests and political ideals in its community.
The authentic parties were the parties that governed the state, the Tory Party and the Labour Party. These Parties boycotted the Northern Ireland system which they created, thereby making Northern Ireland into a caricature not only of British democracy but of any conceivable form of democracy. But it was only within the British state, with its great depth of political experience, and its immense skill at the kind of ingenuity that is often called Jesuitry, that this caricature could have been created, and passed off on a credulous world as authentic democracy.

Much of the world is credulous about Britain. This is because Britain conquered half of it, and imposed four or five World Wars on it. Before 1914, the "Great War" was the name of the war against Republican and Napoleonic France from 1793 to 1815. A century earlier there were the Wars Of The Grand Alliance. Between those two there was the Seven Years' War, about which one could argue about whether it was a Great War or just a Big War. And then there were the two World Wars on Germany.
Forceful action of this kind on the world, sustained over such a long period, produces conditioned reflexes which inhibit critical thought—it induces credulity. And, in the actual conduct of international affairs, what passes for morality is closely allied with credulity.

The Northern Ireland War of 1970-1998 ended the caricature-democracy which caused it by giving each community an effective veto on the conduct of devolved government. The present state of play is that there is no devolved government. Anybody whose recollection stretches back to the 1960s can only say that that is a good thing.
Six County devolved government is now being demonstrated by the will of the peoples not to be necessary. It was never necessary.
It was not a production of Partition. It was devised by the Lloyd George Government as a perverse means of implementing Partition. Until the publication of the 1920 Bill the assumption was that Partition would take the form of excluding Six counties from the Irish system and leaving them directly within the British system.
When the separate Six county system was proposed it was opposed in Parliament by the Ulster Unionist leader, who said they had no wish to have the task of governing Catholics. But the Ulster Unionists were then persuaded/intimidated to operate a Northern Ireland system in order to help the Government in its conflict with the Sinn Fein Government set up in Dublin.

Exclusion of Northern Ireland from the party-political life of the state was not done by legislation. Party-politics, on which the state was founded, had no official recognition in law at that time. Party affiliations did not appear on ballot sheets. Exclusion of Northern Ireland was done informally by the leaders of the Tory and Labour Parties, and of the Liberal Party remnant.
Lord Londonderry, a leading Tory, assumed in the first instance that the Tory Party would function in the Northern Ireland it had created and he took part in the first Northern Ireland Government. He was ridiculed by his cousin, Winston Churchill, for wasting his time and talent in the make-believe Northern Ireland Government when there was a place for him in the Government of the state. He got the message, and he soon returned to party-politics proper in Britain, becoming influential in Ramsay MacDonald's National government in the 1930s.

The Labour Party made a virtue of washing its hands of Northern Ireland and leaving it to stew in the juices created for it by the Tory Party. In 1969-70 the Labour Home secretary, James Callaghan, had to deal with the crisis resulting from the Loyalist pogroms of August 1969. He was obliged to take a close look at Northern Ireland. He saw that it was a caricature of British democracy because of its exclusion from British party-politics. He considered remedying the situation by bringing the Six Counties within British politics, but under strong lobbying from Dublin he backed off and let things be as they were.
The only possible politics in Northern Ireland is the grating of the two communities against each other, each seeking to erode the other. The great merit of the Good Friday Agreement is that it equalised the terms on which the practical politics of communal attrition was conducted. And that practical politics goes on whether or not the two communities are drawn up in battle away at Stormont.
The Alliance Party—a kind of in-between party of extremely polite middle class moderates who find the reality of the Northern Ireland system distasteful and try to conjure it away by refusing to accept that it is the reality of what Britain set up in 1921—it did unusually well in the EU Election. This has led to media hype about Northern Ireland realities beginning to melt away. But the EU Election was an exotic event which had no discernible bearing on Northern Ireland affairs. It was about Brexit, and yet it had no practical bearing on Brexit.
Amongst those who switched to Alliance were Unionists opposing Brexit who had no formally Unionist anti-Brexit party to vote for, and Catholics who sensed an opportunity to take the second Unionist seat off the other community. (Alliance is a de facto Unionist party, while espousing 'non-sectarian' politics.)

The Alliance, as far as we can recall, grew out of an intellectual group in the early 1970s, with Reform in its name, which wanted British-style politics in Northern Ireland. We pointed out that the only way to have British-style politics was to have actual British politics. They opted instead for in-betweenist political idealism in which handfuls of middle-class Protestants and Catholics got together and were extremely polite to each other.
Anything less like actual British politics would be hard to imagine.
An unusually robust Alliance leader, John Cushnahan, once hinted about chastising us by means of a libel action but thought better of it. He then went on to make a political career in the Republic.

CONTENTS

State Of Play. Editorial
The Spectre Haunting Europe. Jack Lane
June Brexit Summary. Dave Alvey
Plus Ca Change In Northern Ireland? Brendan Clifford
Readers' Letters: The Arms Trial Jury. Dave Alvey
Polish Snapshot. Wilson John Haire
Mixed Reaction In Ireland To Versailles Peace Treaty. Report
LEST WE FORGET (4). Extracts from Irish Bulletin. This issue lists British Acts Of Aggression, 2nd May - 7 June 1919 (ed. Jack Lane)
Es Ahora. A Matter Of Inquiry. Julianne Herlihy . (Part 2: Martin Mansergh; Fergal Keane)
John Morgan: A Stalwart Seeker For Truth And Fighter For Justice. Obituary
A Scotsman, an Englishman, an Irishman, and Casement Diary Discretion. Tim O'Sullivan (Part 1)
Banks And Money Creation. Martin Dolphin 18
Fergal Keane. Donal Kennedy
Lemass: Some Economic Assessments. Manus O’Riordan (Lemass, Part 6)
Poverty In The UK. Michael Robinson
British Troops In Carryduff. Wilson John Haire
Blackshirts, Hitler Shirts, Blue Shirts, And The Enigma Of Fine Gael. Donal Kennedy
Two Poems. Wilson John Haire (LIB-FIB-LEFT-BEREFT; DRILL MUSIC)
Biteback: Arrogance And Alan Shatter—Two Views. Manus O’Riordan
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (Environment Protection; More Geology; Government Legislation; Have you lost a cat recently….?; Precious Metals
Labour Comment, Election And Poll Results