Thursday, March 6, 2008

If in doubt...

...why not set up yet another "consultation":
CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron yesterday announced a review of the party’s position on devolution as it prepares for a referendum on full law-making powers.
Mr Cameron told the party’s Welsh conference in Llandudno that a consultation on "ways to make devolution work better" would be headed by former Wales Minister Lord Wyn Roberts.

So, devolution has now given us one sovereign parliament, three devolved Assemblies and how many Commissions/Consultations/Conversations discussing their past and future?

Hold on...there’s the:

1. The Democracy Taskforce
2.The Scottish Constitutional Commission
3. TheAll Wales convention
4. The National Conversation

...and on its way, throw in a "Citizens’ Summit" on a "British Statement of Values", which won't be specifically about The Devolution Experiment but will, no doubt, include more than a few chinwags touching on British-English-Irish-Scottish-Welsh national identity and the UK's governance.

Why so many commissions/consultations/conversations?

Dave or Gordon would probably say something along the lines of:
"However, this is an urgent problem and we therefore propose setting up a Commission."

Translation?
This problem is a bloody nuisance, but we hope that by the time a Commission reports, four years from now, everyone will have forgotten about it or we can find someone else to blame.*


Politics is the art of being seen to "do something" whilst making sure you don't actually do anything.

*Slightly adapted from an episode of "Yes Minister".

5 comments:

Fakey said...

'...British-English-Irish-Scottish-Welsh national identity and the UK's governance.'

Naturally you mean Northern Irish.

O'Neill said...

There's people living in mainland Britain who have an Irish national identity, so they'll be part of the wider debate of how that identity fits in with Brown's and Straw's definition of Britishness via the "Citizens' Summit".

Northern Ireland has more such commissions, consultations and general all-round quangoery than you can shake a stick at discussing such matters, so I don't think N.irish identity will play too big a part in this particular discussion.

Fakey said...

'Mainland Britain'?

How quaint.

'There'll be no boats of the island today'!

You can't have an Irish 'national' identity and really have a say in the concept of 'Britishness'. It's like saying when I lived in Sweden, despite being a different 'nationality' and 'national identity' I could engage in a debate on Swedish identity.

Of course if you have dual citizenship of Ireland and the UK you naturally can plug into such a debate as is your right... but an Irish 'national identity' - ergo identifying with Ireland, the Irish state and nation etc. - means having a different, exclusive national identity to someone who is British and has a 'British National Identity'.

We sorted this out in 1922/1947 - Irish 'nationality' and national identity are separate from that of another. Otherwise, I could neatly claim I'm Swedish!

Ah well, moving past the usual semantic mine field to the issue at hand: do you feel Northern Irish identity will not play a big part in this discussion on the UK's future because:

a) 'The Mainland' don't really see NI/ the Ulster British as part of the Mothership...

b) is it a reflection that the constitutional question regarding NI has been, how should we say, decommissioned and put beyond use - and the present half way house is to the 'mainland's' (seriously smiling typing that!) liking?

c) That Northern Ireland's future (at least economically) rests on the Island of Ireland rather engaging is the slow unraveling of the UK and it's structures - and that your leaders in NI, while being emotionally and culturally unionist and British, are emerging as pragmatic all-islanders, and view the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland as the defining social and economic driver for the future?

Just interested.

Congrats on the Irish Blog Award nom. I cheered for you!

O'Neill said...

“'Mainland Britain'?
How quaint.”


I talk about Mainland Europe as well sometimes, ever quainter!

Re national identity, I take a more personal approach; it’s up to the individual to decide which combination of ingredients comprise their own specific identity. More and more Unionists in NI are taking a pride in their Irishness, that doesn’t diminish in any way their sense of Britishness, I believe it’s perfectly possible to combine both.
The John Hewitt quote I think have mentioned before covers this concept:

I am a Belfast man,I am an Ulster man,I am British and I am Irish,And those last two are interchangeable,And I am European and anyone who demeans,Any one part of me demeans me as a person.

As did David Trimble:
“we add to the glory of being British, the distinction of being Irish”.

“Britishness” to me is like a patchwork quilt made up of different ethnicities, religions and even nationalities not one monocultural/ethnic/etheistic (spelling?) entity and so, for me, Tebbit was wrong when he said:
"A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?"
, it’s perfectly possible and right to feel a loyalty to both the country of your forefathers and your own birthplace.

Move on twenty years, when you have a whole second-generation of Irish-Poles, Irish-Chinese etc….you’ll let them celebrate both parts of their identity. Surely?

Ah well, moving past the usual semantic mine field to the issue at hand: do you feel Northern Irish identity will not play a big part in this discussion on the UK's future because:
They don’t want to upset the present delicate apple-cart? (although it should be stressed that everyone in NI will be theoretically able to take part in the debate, whether they do so and whether the govt listens to them is another question, but there again it isn’t just the NI electorate’s opinion that Brown and Co ignore)

a) 'The Mainland' don't really see NI/ the Ulster British as part of the Mothership...

I really don’t think the vast of the population care one way or the other; put it this way, if a poll were to be taken in London, I’d guess a high % also wouldn’t regard Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea or even Aberdeen as a part of their own particular“mothership”

b) is it a reflection that the constitutional question regarding NI has been, how should we say, decommissioned and put beyond use - and the present half way house is to the 'mainland's' (seriously smiling typing that!) liking?

The Westminster establishment seem quite happy to keep pumping in the ten billion or whatever a year, the ROI’s government keep making the right noises, but in reality are also happy with the present situation. A continuing Union, a peaceful NI with mutually benefical economic links with the ROI- I’d say a big majority in NI would be reasonably content with that state of affairs.

c) That Northern Ireland's future (at least economically) rests on the Island of Ireland rather engaging is the slow unraveling of the UK and it's structures - and that your leaders in NI, while being emotionally and culturally unionist and British, are emerging as pragmatic all-islanders, and view the relationship between Ireland and Northern Ireland as the defining social and economic driver for the future?

I ripped apart Brian Feeney’s economic assessment earlier this week, according to him an all-Ireland economy would prevent a US recession and put us on a level-playing field with low-income countries like Slovakia, so, like him, when you say our economic future rests with the island of Ireland you need to be more specific. We live in a high-tech age where geographical location is not that important anymore, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit is. It’s important to build more mutually benefical economic links with the ROI certainly, but that will not solve our underlying problems, over-dependance on the public-sector and a high % of economically inactive. Regarding the Unionist leadership, they would be fools to ignore the potential of the ROI and to learn lessons from its recent history, but just because Paisley in his dottage welcomes AerLingus to Belfast, I’m not sure that there is such a sea-change in their thinking as you’ve outlined.

”Congrats on the Irish Blog Award nom. I cheered for you!”
Thanks!

Fakey said...

I'd agree with alot of that.

As for the indentity issue - I think we need to make the distinction between 'Irish' as a national identity and Northern Irish/British-Irish if you will as a regional varient.

I think a person with a variety of national identity options ultimately decides on their national identity - this of course shouldn't exclude regional/ethnic variables as with Irish-Americans who may identify culturally with 'Ireland' but who politically define themselves as American.

If unionists want to assume an Irish national identity it ultimately means identifying with an Irish nation/State as the manifestations of this national identity rather than those of a British nation - that's the essence of the UK's debate right now?

I'm delighted that NI Unionists are seeing the value of an Irish aspect to their identity, as I written before, the success of an Independent Irish state has been a physic blow to unionism while I wouldn't say the scramble for passports, I'm glad to see the Hibernophobia is being replaced with something else - perhaps a curiosity.

Perhaps