Northern Ireland?


Let us not launch the boat ...
Valued Senior Member
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was landing at Heathrow Airport on July 4. We made a T-shirt just for the occasion, that read, "222 years and counting, you right bastards!" Just a little Yankee joke, but we liked it.

The reason I mention this is that 2/11 saw the English government suspend the Northern Irish authority.

As an American, my sympathies are (naturally, in my opinion) behind anyone wishing to shake off British colonial rule. Be that as it may, the situation in Belfast is a sticky one. A couple of issues I'd like to ask about:

* Being that this is a "peace process", what do we call the state of conflict?

* The British assert that the IRA will not accommodate positive terms to eliminate their armed campaign. The IRA says the British have refused "reasonable" offers. Furthermore, if the goal of the "peace process" is to eliminate the IRA's armed campaign, what motivates the recent (1995-98) British demand that the IRA "cease its armed campaign and decommission its weapons" before being invited to join the "process"? Did they really think they could negotiate a peace without including one of the primary players?

* Why does the continuation of the "process" seem to rest on whether or not the IRA will decommission its weapons and thus render the process itself unnecessary?

* Do Americans, or any other former British subjects that separated on combative terms, owe any sentiment toward the revolution (I use that word in a loose sense; I expect revolutions to be swifter and more organized)?

These questions really make it hard to accept what's taking place. I don't care that they're originally killing each other over God and money--I'm more curious about what separates this situation from others which have preceded it, and others which have come since.

After all, the United States has supported other uprisings ... started them, even ... over less. If I asked these questions in the 19th century, I would wonder how the US could sit by and watch its former tyrant-mistress whip all of Ireland into desperation. But that's past, now, and we seem to have a model for a phenomenon that has wracked American culture throughout its post-Columbian age: If they're revolting, they're expressing their concerns wrong; if they're not revolting, it's obviously not important enough to make any changes.

So I'm wondering ... Regardless of where one's political affiliations lie in this conflict, doesn't the whole thing just seem wrong?

It's hard ... I can't morally agree with a terror campaign. Then again, that's already my objection to British activity in the province.

But nobody, there or throughout the world, really wants this thing to blow up again. And, being American, my philosophical sympathies often fall with the revolutionaries (see note above on terror campaigns). But I'd prefer it done without bombs, and I'm curious why it seems this siutation can't be resolved without the major players pushing one another to the breaking point. After all, isn't the war about victory, and the negotiations about compromise and settlement?

Wow. Look at me ramble on. Thanx for puttin' up with it. :D

Tiassa :cool:

The whole business with the fossilized dinosaur eggs was a joke the paleontologists haven't seen yet. (Good Omens, Gaiman & Pratchett)
"222 years and counting..." Damn right. But a lot has happened in 222 years. Why do we not side with Northern Ireland? Money. We are economically tied to our former tyrant mistress. Shortly after the War of 1812, England saw that she would never have us back again. Why did she want us in the first place? Resources. We had craploads of them, and she both wanted and needed them. It made far better sense to befriend us and gain through friendship what she could not get through war. As the years passed, we became genuine allies, even allowing the unthinkable a few years back when Her Majesty the Queen addressed congress inside the Capitol. No foreign Head of State or representative of any other foreign government has ever been allowed to stand where she stood or even pass through. Yet there she stood with armed British guard standing alongside our own guards and the British flag proudly displayed where it had not flown for over two centuries. It was a historic event to say the least (for those of us interested in such matters), and Her Majesty handled it with with dignity and humor, well aware that she was the first British monarch to set foot in the Capitol. (Prime Ministers have visited countless times, but never a monarch.) Her opening words as she addressed both the House and the Senate were real ice breakers. She remarked that she was grateful that we allowed the British back into the Capitol building again, since they burned it to the ground the last time they were there.

Well, before this turns into a history lecture, I'll summarize by saying that the US is more closely related to England by finance and economy, as well as the odd military favor (the Lend-Lease Act, the Falkland Islands news broadcasts that the British picked up to pinpoint enemy movement, etc.), than to Northern Ireland. Times change and our former tyrant mistress is now a jolly good chum... and we tend to side with our chums.

P.S.: Being of Scots descent, I'm not exactly an anglophile, but I can appreciate the intricacies of international diplomacy and relations.
I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight, kill, and die for your right to say it.

[This message has been edited by Oxygen (edited February 16, 2000).]
I tend to view things panoramically, by hovering rather high above them.
Therefore, I may not be so good on facts and details but I seem to get the general gist of things.
And if there's one thing I have understood from these type of negotiations, where both sides have a lot to gain or lose, is that nobody ever wants to make the process easy.
They will hang on to whatever advantages they have by the skin of their teeth if they have to, hence setback after setback.

But I believe that once a process of serious negotiation has begun and the will is there to succeed, then eventually it probably will.It's almost inevitable.

Let's not forget, that peace doesn't happen because people suddenly get nicer, but because of very real needs. And as the needs become more pressing, then so does the need to compromise and reach a final conclusion.

I live on the small island of Cyprus, 45% of which has been under Turkish military occupation since 1974.
Even though the Turks ethnically cleansed the Greek Cypriots and stole their property from the part they control. And even though the UN passed resolutions against the regime, calling the occupation illegal and even though no country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes the illegal regime.
Nobody has lifted a finger to help the situation.
Britain, Greece and Turkey have been the guarantor powers for the freedom and peaceful wellbeing of the Island, since its 'independence' from British rule in 1961!

'Negotiations', have been taking place between the legitimate Greek Cypriot governments of Cyprus and the (unchanging) leader of the 'Turkish Cypriots', through the auspices of the UN since 1974!
The negatively intransigent stance of their leader Rauf Denktash and Turkey (unwaveringly backed by the US with arms and financial aid) has been dashing all hopes of a just solution to the problem since.

Until now, we hope. Because now there's a very real need (for Turkey)to change its stance and all because it wants to join the EU.
And the EU has made it clear, that Turkey cannot join the EU if it is occupying another member state by force.
Cyprus is due to become a member in 2003.

Already Turkey has resumed friendly ties with Greece and there is big talk of cooperation and future economic potential for both countries as they embrace peace.
The US has begun to take an active initiative in beginning new serious negotiations between the two Cypriot sides, Rauf Denktash's popularity is seriously wavering in the north and Turkey has begun to distance itself from him.
We remain hopeful.

"The crows are already stoned", he said.
With a look of dispassion on his sad face.

re: Cyprus

* "....even though no country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes the illegal regime."

I'm going to guess you're familiar with three points of colonial logic: 1--Revolt is an inappropriate expression of social angst; 2--If there is no revolt, then everyone's happy; 3--So they're revolting because their children are starving to death in their streets ... their own lousy fault, the silly colonial subjects.

I can only apologize for American lack of concern regarding certain world affairs. The only justifications I can offer are the geographical magnitude of our nation, and an educational bark that far outweighs its bite.

Most of the world would have better luck grabbing American cultural attention if they made a music video out of the conflict. Because hey, if Brittany Spears is worried about Cyprus, then the nation is worried about Cyprus. (I'm sorry, I'm not being sarcastic in that. What American gave a rat's behind about Tibet until a series of Tibet Freedom Concerts? There's We Are the World, Farm Aid, Net Aid, and otherwise to throw into that category as well. We can only worry about our destitute by laughing at them--"Comic Relief")

But do hold on. Pretty soon the world will get tired of the American spectacle. Hopefully, we can manage to withdraw gracefully from the stage long enough for more important things to get some attention.

On behalf of the sleeping American conscience ... keep hoping. We're not actually idiots, we're just too jazzed up on coffee, cel-phones, and fake boobs to notice. But eventually we do. And, well, as much as I hate to admit or assert this, it seems little happens on the world stage until the United States has had a chance to undermine any attempt by the UN to alleviate the pressure.

In other words, I can't find a polite way to say "Keep smiling while they stomp your toes." I actually feel guilty that I've never heard of this in my life. :eek:


The whole business with the fossilized dinosaur eggs was a joke the paleontologists haven't seen yet. (Good Omens, Gaiman & Pratchett)
A big part of American ignorance concerning foreign affairs is not because of arrogance or superficial personalities, but is actually based off of more practical affairs. Well, at least they used to be practical.

Shortly after the Revolution, we were eager to prove that we were capable of standing on our own. As the Manifest Destiny took shape, we discovered that we were far richer in resources than we ever imagined. Negotiations with Spain and an all out fight with Mexico, as well as a subconscious lesson taught by the indigenous peoples about what can happen to your land if you don't protect it properly, left the impression that everybody wanted what we had. This would have been marvelous in economic circles, but as we were still spreading our wings, we weren't going to let anybody in too close. Besides, as Tiassa said, our geographical magnitude was more than enough to satisfy our wanderlust. "Why bother with other countries? We haven't seen everything in THIS one yet." There was also that nasty business with the Civil War to keep us from wandering too far from home.

As World War One began brewing, feelings of Isolationism began spreading throughout the US. Up until then, all the wars we fought were for the defense of our country or the maintenance of our territories. World War One, the Great War, the War To End All Wars, was essentially a foreign war, and one we didn't belong in. While President Woodrow Wilson promised the American public that he wasn't going to send our boys into any foreign wars, he knew that we had vested interest in keeping the European market free. Had the Kaiser gotten his way, our trade with Europe would have been determined by the whims of Germany. Closing off international economic diversity is suicide for any market (and this is why I am against the globalization of the economy, but that's another story). So Wilson does what he can, packing weaponry and armaments aboard luxury liners, hoping to sneak them over to Europe, where supplies and equipment were dwindling. The Germans got wind of this, identified a liner loaded with munitions, and sank it according to the rules of naval engagement. "Remember the Lusitania" became the rallying cry to stifle Isolationism for the duration of the war. Now, America was free to fulfill some international obligations without worrying about the opinions of her people.

After the "First Unpleasantness", we came home to our farms and factories and returned to our Isolationist stance. Sure, we helped set up the League of Nations, but we did not join. Nor did we keep abreast of developments as the League disintegrated. Aside from helping draft it, the Versailles Treaty was of little interest to us, as were the consequences of that treaty. We had a lot of people in our own country to feed, and as the Great Depression loomed on, we had too much to deal with to worry about the German people, starving under the Weimar Republic. When the second "War To End All Wars" came around, we had to face the same internal problem, the Isolationists.

Whether or not we knew about Pearl Harbor in advance is inconsequential to this post. Suffice to say that it the "Lusitania" of World War Two. Our rule of thumb is to never throw the first punch. We just deliver every one after that. (Pardon my cockiness... :)) Since our boys had now been attacked, we could justify increasing the Lend-Lease Act (a compromise that satisfied both the Isolationists and the Interventionists) to include troops.

After the "Second Unpleasantness", the cry for Isolationism arose again. This time, however, we knew that to just walk away would mean that if it happened again we would have to sit and wait while our allies suffered, hoping and not hoping that some of that war would come our way so we could satisfy our obligations to help our allies as well as our policy of not getting involved in foreign wars. When the UN was formed, we joined. We could no longer run back to our rooms when the fighting was over.

55 years is a long time to a person, but a mere blink of an eye to a people. We are new to this whole "It's a Small World After All" business. As we begin to do more and more international business, the affairs of foreign countries become more and more important. Of course, we still prefer to keep from becoming dependent on another country for anything, but the world market is a very old game, and We the Americans have pretty much just gotten here. Give us time.

(You can tell I'm more of a "Big Picture" person...)

(Sorry about the edits. Too many misspellings.)

I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight, kill, and die for your right to say it.

[This message has been edited by Oxygen (edited February 17, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Oxygen (edited February 17, 2000).]
Originally posted by tiassa:

re: Cyprus

Most of the world would have better luck grabbing American cultural attention if they made a music video out of the conflict. Because hey, if Brittany Spears is worried about Cyprus, then the nation is worried about Cyprus. (I'm sorry, I'm not being sarcastic in that.

Sad but true. Hey, this is the modern world and there's a whole new language to learn.
But unfortunately this new language 'is all Greek' to our ancient government leaders.


"The crows are already stoned", he said.
With a look of dispassion on his sad face.
Originally posted by tiassa:

re: Cyprus

" I actually feel guilty that I've never heard of this in my life. :

Cyprus has a unique and fascinating history, due to its strategic position between East and West, North and South, she has always been desired by the contemporary super powers
of its day.
It may interest you to know that the US has built to its benefit, one of the largest aerodromes in the world, in Northern (occupied) Cyprus. Unofficially of course, officially it was built by and for the Turks.
Also, there are more stockpiled arms and missiles per sq mile in Northern Cyprus, than anywhere else on the planet!

This site may help in giving you a brief introduction to Cyprus, if you're interested.

"The crows are already stoned", he said.
With a look of dispassion on his sad face.
Well, actually "protest songs" have been used to express desires for political or social change, especially here in the US. The Irish band "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem" had a number of such songs about Northern Ireland. There's a newer group "The Cranberries" who have also sung similar songs about the "troubles." The whole peace process has indeed gotten a bit hung up on the issue of disarming the IRA. Not too surprising is that a number of their weapons and the means of obtaining them can be tied to their many sympathetic friends here in the states. Being of Eng., Scot., and Irish blood myself, I can sympathize with the Irish wanting those six counties of Northern Ireland back in the fold so to speak, but realistically it wouldn't be in the long term interest of Ireland to sever the Anglo-Irish relationship completely; there's a big economic interest at stake, that is if Ireland wants to stop the outward migration of so many of its citizens to far flung places like the US.

[This message has been edited by Peter Dolan (edited February 19, 2000).]
I think you all have strayed off the point a little. Being from Northern Ireland I have realised how acutely naive you all seem to be.

Northern Ireland is a part of the world wwhich has been at the heart of over 700 years conflict. To think that the conflict is over something nearly as romanticised and superficial as 'God and money' is a gross miscalculation. Ireland was forcefully seized by England. For over 600 of those 700 years the Irish have been oppressed... brutally. In 1921 after a notable 'revolution' in 1916 during WW1 the momentum for independence gathered. However at the time the system of proportional representation was in widespread use, doled out with limited foresight by countries like the USA (Yugoslavia quite an obvious effect). By suimply drawing a boundary across Ireland the wishes of Unionism and Protestnats in Northern Ireland were met by the British. We Catholics in the North have suffered ever since. In 1969 'the Troubles' as they are coined began. Approximately 3,500 lives have been lost over this strip of earth. Yet it is not merely the matter of territory that drives both sides. Its hundreds of years of entrenched hatred and bigotry, oppression vs priviledge, poverty vs wealth and opportunity. The list goes on. I am trying to be objective but it is not easy. Only in the last 10-20 years have Catholics begun to assert the rightfully equality in all facets of life. Previously violence seemed to be the only answer to those who were frustrated by the opacity and shamelessly blatant inequality. What has happened is that we in Northern Ireland have progressed, but there are still those skeletons in the closet. Unionists and Loyalists have everything to lose, Nationalists and Republicans (and there is an all too forgotten difference) have everything to gain. Until Feb11 compromise had been made by both sides, but to Unionists, their contributuion to the process was greater, they believed they had given up too much in comparison with the IRA.

BUT what is all too often forgotten by the Protestants is that there are more Nationalists and Republicans than just the IRA. To my knowledge Loyalist decommissioning has not happened. They, primarily David Trimble unilaterally decreed that the IRA should decommission.

In getting to your question, what is different about this process is that Unionism can set their own parameters stubbornly, they ineviteably will have the support of any British government. Yet the foil to this is a strong, influential Irish government and a band of Nationalist and Republican politicians who rival those anywhere in the world. We have met a deadlock but I believe we will surge forward again. The Northern Irish people have tasted too much of violence and recently of peace to turn back. Mindsets are changing, if painfully slowly. Revolutions, in the traditional sense of the word, I believe are a thing of the past in the western world.

Ptere, in reference to your belief that there is an 'outward migration' of Irish citizens to countries like the USA, wwith all due respect wake up. With the fastest growing economy in the world and a workforce shortage in all aspects of industry, agriculture and especially IT I don't think Ireland is too worried about the loss of citizens. Anglo-Irish relations are too strong to be broken anyway. Realistically I don't think there is a question of reunification. I believe it is foolish too think of everything purely in economic terms. The situation here is permeated with idealism, identity and history. Economics are not an issue. Anglo-Irish relations in an economic sense are no longer of quite so much inportance to Ireland anymore. Europe is fusing. Northern Irwland I don't believe will be a problem in anything up to 100 years. t is likely that something like the United States of Europe will evolve, a superpower to supersede all others in terms of economics and technology. Where will our strife over partition and inequality be then. Ancient mindset will have to change rapidly for a very different reason.

Sorry about any grammatical errors or any historical inaccuracies.... too tired to correct them.

Tiassa...... now that was a ramble. Hope I clarified the problem a little for you! :)
Dido, It was economic problems that brought many an Irish family to the States to settle. That's partly what my reference was to. My paternal ancestors left Ireland for that reason and the fact that the potatoes weren't doing too good, I needn't tell you about the blight. You do bring up good points that many a person does miss i.e. the very long historical/cultural conflict between Anglo and Irish. I guess the closest thing for someone here in the States to equate it to, would be something like if the American War Between the States had gone diferently and there was a Northern Union of States and a Southern Confederacy of States. If this had happened, many "future generations" probably wouldn't want to hear any talk of possible unification into these "United States." It's the only equation that I could see as having some semblance; we are too culturally diversed to have any specific confict between two different cultures per se although some see the conflict between Blacks and Whites in this country that way and we our too historically young as a country to have any embedded conflict carrying over from generations before. Probably, for these reasons many here in the States view the conflict in Northern Ireland as something which can be broken down into simple religious and economic differences, which would indeed be missing much of the picture as you have pointed out.