Tag Archives: Martin McGuinness

Scotland votes ‘no’ as political waves hit Irish shores

The nationalist effort in Scotland was defeated 45 percent to 55 percent, but now a new debate begins over increasing devolved power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has wasted no time in reiterating republican calls for a border poll, while DUP First Minister Peter Robinson has rejected the idea. The Belfast Telegraph reports:

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers can call a border poll at any time, according to the 1998 Good Friday agreement that brought about peace. It also specifies that the cabinet minister shall order a referendum if it appears likely that a majority of those voting would seek to form part of a united Ireland. The proportion of Protestants has fallen to 48% from 53% 10 years ago, census data showed, while the proportion of Catholics increased to 45% from 44%.

Of course, not all Catholics would want a united Ireland, and surely some Protestants would quietly vote to break from the U.K., especially if the Irish economy continues to rebound, as discussed in my previous post.

Here’s another thought piece about some of the calculations in Northern Ireland, written before the vote, including whether London wants to keep its bond with Ulster. How strongly does Dublin want the six counties?

At the very least there is going to be a lot of discussion about devolving more power to Belfast, especially corporate tax rates. The Irish Times reports:

The big focus initially will be on whether the British government now allows the Northern Executive to bring corporation tax here in line with the general 12.5 per cent rate that applies in the South. David Cameron has already promised that he would make a decision on corporation tax soon after the completion of the referendum.

Many economists and most politicians believe that reducing the level of corporation tax from its current general figure of 21 per cent would be a “game changer” for Northern Ireland: it would boost international investment and create thousands more jobs.

McGuinness to attend state banquet in Britian

Former IRA commander and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has accepted an invitation to attend a British state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.

The Irish Times and other media outlets report that McGuinness will attend the 8 April banquet, which honors Irish President Michael D. Higgins. It is the first official visit by an Irish head of state since the modern political separation of the two islands began in 1922.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012.

McGuinness and the Queen shake hands in Belfast, July 2012.

The Wall Street Journal said the visit “is designed to underscore Ireland’s evolving acceptance that, before independence in 1922, its people weren’t always unwilling participants in the U.K. and the global empire it led, and the shared history of the two nations is less deeply antagonistic than once claimed by Irish nation builders.”

The Journal‘s story continues:

The exchange of official visits is the latest in a series of steps that have taken place over the last three decades and have marked a gradual but steady mending of fences between the two nations, once bitterly divided over the fate of the six Irish counties that remain a part of the U.K. … The formal process of reconciliation has lagged behind deepening links between British and Irish people. A quarter of British people have some recent Irish forbears, while 50,000 directors of current British companies were born in Ireland.

Of the Northern Ireland republican, the BBC says:

As a youth, Martin McGuinness wore the uniform of an IRA volunteer – secretly, illegally and defiantly. Now, decades later, he will don a white tie and tails and publicly, cheerfully and – perhaps -still defiantly, attend the Queen’s banquet at Windsor Castle. We should not be too surprised. His journey has already seen him shake the hand of the Queen. Not to attend the first state visit of an Irish president would undermine all his promises, made as an Irish presidential candidate, that he would work for peace.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams noted that McGuinness’s attendance might be a bridge too far for some republicans. “I would appeal to them to view this positively in the context of republican and democratic objectives and the interests of unity and peace on this island,” he said.

Another first in cross-border relations

It was not the same attention-grabber as the July handshake between Martin McGuinness and the Queen, or Herself visiting the Republic in May 2011 and laying a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance.

But Enda Kenny has become the Republic’s first taoiseach to attend Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Northern Ireland. As the Guardian reported, he did so at an event in Enniskillen, where 25 years ago 11 Protestant civilians where killed in an IRA bomb. Eamon Gilmore, Kenny’s deputy, attended an event in Belfast.

Gilmore said people of all traditions on the island of Ireland would be “remembering together” in a “decade of commemorations” that include the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the end of the first world war in 1918 and the foundation of the two states in Ireland in 1921.

Their presence is seen as another gesture of reconciliation between the two political traditions on the island, as well as official recognition in Dublin of the thousands of Irish men who served in the British armed forces, particularly during the two world wars.