The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Victory 2016 Plus 40 - Remember To Read The Small Print

What a difference a day makes

Anthony McIntyre • 19/12/2002

The release of the census results today will come as a disappointment only to those in the nationalist community who have managed to drown out the sound of reason with the thud of the tribal bodhran. The message pounding out from it alongside the smoke signals from nationalist discourse combined to tell the unionists ‘we are breathing down your neck’. Jude Collins was conjuring up tidal waves of Catholic majorities coming out of the schools, while Mitchel McLaughlin as lately as a couple of days ago was assuring us that ‘the census will confirm the pro-union population is shrinking to the extent that for the first time it will represent less than 50%.’ Consequently, unionists should take the bull by the horns and engage in ‘discussion and debate on how a united Ireland would guarantee equality and human rights for all traditions.’ On the basis of such expectations Gearoid O Caireallain was calling for a referendum to be held next May. In the wake of today’s results he will still be making the same demand in 2032. Given the view of Professor Bob Osborne that ‘in the future, as fertility rates become similar, the main determinate of population changes will probably be decided by migrants’, Gearoid O Caireallain and myself will both live out our years in a British run Northern Ireland.

I refuse to delude myself on the matter nor am I enamoured to the idea of swapping my critical faculties - limited as they may be they are my own - for a cult-like intellect which will induce me into chanting loudly along with the rest of them so that I too may fall victim to the comfortable but anaesthetising nonsense that has come to characterise republican discourse since the emergence of the peace process. For quite some time I have learned to put up with the fact that no matter how long I manage to live I will never see a united Ireland or a British withdrawal. I told the Guardian as much in the days after the 1994 ceasefire was called, contradicting the view of Martin McGuinness expressed in the Sunday Business Post of the same year that Ireland would most likely see the back of the British in seven years time.

Nationalist number crunchers have been frustrated on two major counts. Firstly, the share of the nationalists fell considerably short of the anticipated 46%. Secondly, the unionists were more than 3% over the predicted minus-50%. Their psychological doomsday simply failed to approach the green horizon. The big mistake of the nationalist hopefuls may have lain in paying too much attention to those writers who predicted the end of a unionist majority as a mere means of creating a comfortable discursive environment for Sinn Fein once the party had surrendered on the question of the consent principle.

Sinn Fein of course will hear none of it. Just as they would hear none of it when some of us stated there would be a return to Stormont, a Sunningdale type arrangement, decommissioning, acceptance of the consent principle and embracing the RUC. The party leaders know that so long as they continue to lie about their strategy taking us inevitably to a united Ireland, and as long as we pretend to believe them, then they will always have a role to play in our lives and we will continue to think we still need them. The result - their political careers will remain secure.

The pre-census nationalist hype demonstrates that the one success of the Sinn Fein strategy lies in being able to unnerve and panic the unionists on the strength of mere penumbra and absolutely no substance. And such unease has led to some Unionist politicians like Jeffrey Donaldson looking unsteady on their feet and making ridiculous demands that the unionists should have some new veto over unity even if they were to become a minority in the North. The post-census reality has produced a different response. Gone is the triumphalism of Mitchel McLaughlin. And in a rare display of unity The DUP's Sammy Wilson and Jeffrey Donaldson of the UUP said the figures would be a “devastating" blow to republicans. The latter claimed; ‘a united Ireland is not even a remote possibility and it's time for republicans to accept that’. How a couple of days works wonders for the confidence.

Ultimately, republicans will have to face up to the nonsense of demographics as a strategy. Last year the Sinn Fein president in a rare moment of candour stated that out breeding the unionists, while an enjoyable pastime for those who have the energy, hardly amounts to a strategy.

Yet the lie of the peace process must continue. There are no circumstances in which Sinn Fein is prepared to say that the present strategy is not a continuation of the republican struggle but is in fact the confirmation of its defeat. The Sinn Fein leadership will continue to disguise the defeat inflicted on republicanism - and which they helped secure in their acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement - by riding the crest of a demographic wave (which they will infer they, rather than nature created) in the hope that their followers will be mesmerised to the point of not asking questions as to what the war was about in the first place if demographics was the way to go. The unpalatable intellectual morsel to be chewed upon and digested by those who think about the matter is that the very purpose of the IRA’s armed struggle and its stated goal of a British declaration of intent to withdraw was to bypass and repudiate the demographic argument - the latter being a British term for withdrawal. From long war to long wait, we may be excused for musing that with better leadership the war may have been bypassed as far back as 1974.





Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

Index: Current Articles

19 December 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Take It With A Pinch Of Salt
Tom Luby


Victory 2016 plus 40 - Remember to Read the Small Print

Anthony McIntyre


The Men of No Property
Liam O Ruairc


Relatives of Republican Prisoners
Orlaith Dillion


Dirty Politics
Carrie Twomey


Henry McDonald, “Irish Anti-Semitism” and the Zionist Roadshow
Brian Kelly


Arrests in London of Turkish Hunger Strike supporters


15 December 2002


Arrests in London of Turkish Hunger Strike supporters


The Beast is Back
Henry McDonald


Christmas in the "Holy Land"
Margaret Quinn


The Theocractic Threat to Secular Freedom

Anthony McIntyre




The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices