Sunday 6 December 2009

Selfish strategic interest

In 1990 Peter Brooke declared that Britain had "no selfish strategic interest" in Northern Ireland. Mere words, one might think – designed to lure Sinn Féin into the political process, despite its shocking effect on unionist thinking.

But Brooke was actually reflecting something more basic. Because Britain does indeed have no strategic investment in Northern Ireland whatsoever.

British national interest, as reflected in the location of the key institutions of the British state, does not include Northern Ireland. The British state has placed none of its institutions in Northern Ireland. The six counties could be detached from the UK without any discomfort.

The devolved institutions are, of course, in Northern Ireland – but they have responsibility only for affairs in Northern Ireland. Of the bodies, institutions and agencies that have a UK-wide remit none are located in Northern Ireland.

The monarchy; the parliament; the cabinet office’s agencies, units and offices; the headquarters of the BBC; the British army, navy and air force, the agencies, offices and organisations of the military establishment; the Met Office; the UK Hydrographic Office; GCHQ; the Medicines Control Agency; the Home Office bodies with a UK-wide remit, including the Passport Agency; the UK Atomic Energy Agency; the Patent Office; the National Weights and Measures Laboratory; the British National Space Centre; the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; the Civil Aviation Authority; the Royal Mint; the Bank of England; the British Standards Institution; the HMSO; the British Film Institute; the National Lottery Charities Board; the Film Council; the Crafts Council; the Millennium Commission; the list goes on and on. But one thing is constant – they are not headquartered in Northern Ireland.

The UK has not placed anything that is essential to its existence or its functioning in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is marginal to British existence. Administration of Northern Ireland is increasingly being transferred to Belfast – but nothing ‘British’ is moving to Belfast, apart from a secondary ‘fall back’ office of MI5. Clearly in the eyes of the British establishment, Northern Ireland is not really a fully integrated part of their country. It is detachable, it is optional, it is inessential.

So Peter Brooke in 1990 was merely stating the obvious. Britain has no strategic interest in Northern Ireland. It is merely a passenger in British affairs, never the driver. The vehicle – the British state – can and will carry on without interruption when Northern Ireland no longer forms part of that state. In fact, for most people and decision makers in Britain, the detachment of Northern Ireland will barely be noticed, because it was always a place apart, never really part of ‘their’ country. Even since 1990, that has not changed. Since then Northern Ireland, if anything, has been groomed for separation rather than integration.

31 comments:

Watcher said...

You could say the same for many parts of The Republic. Perhaps they're about to be hived off...

Anonymous said...

This may be the best post you have ever written sir. It is very insightful and thought provoking. It will probably also be emotion provoking too, - for the unionists. I read two things into this. First the British elites have already written off N.I. They regard the unionists as lost sheep, - party guests who don't know its time to go home. They are preparing for the time when N.I. is gone from the union. Two, it seems that slowly, step by step, N.I. is moving towards separation from Britain whether it realizes it or not. Symbolic and other measures like this gradually cause a drift between N.I. and the U.K. Much the same has been written here in Canada about Quebec. The separatists take every chance they can to move Quebec in some way, substantive or symbolic, towards independence. It is kind of like separatism by stealth. The Canadian government is induced to declaring Quebec a "nation" within Canada. The province creates its own pension plan, (one less thing it will need to create from scratch when or if it becomes independent. It also gives the Quebecois a sense of exclusiveness from other Canadians, etc). Gradually one acquires the substance of independence without even knowing it. Eventually when/if Quebec becomes independent it will be more apparent then real since most of the functions it needs to operate with as an independent country it already has. Symbolism matters.

Anonymous said...

The guy above knows absolutely nothing about Ulster. I don't remember the streets of Quebec being littered with dead bodies at any point.

Watcher said...

Northern Ireland's population is less than 3% of The UK total, so you wouldn't expect many HQs to be located there. In any case, most organisations in The UK tend to base their HQ in London - it's not called the country's capital for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, it is a place apart, so far. With whom did, and do, the Brits in Brussels go for a jar after a hard day's work? Why, their friends from Dublin of course.

London Dublin relations, at government and personal levels, are good. So is cooperation on security and many other matters of mutual interest.

No doubt there have many rueful jokes about the likes of Paisley and the bowler-hatted sash-wearing orangemen who ardently proclaim their Britishness ... in ways that send a shudder of incomprehension down the spine of any mainland Brit.

One thing the Irish and British can agree on is that the unionists are ... other.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious material. Well done...

Anonymous said...

A lot of The English I know would like to connect their right boot with a mick's scull.

LOL

pagasp said...

"the detachment of Northern Ireland will barely be noticed" i disagree horseman they'll be dancing in the streets, finally getting rid of the irish bother.

all good for us lad.

Anonymous said...

I never said there were bodies in the streets in Quebec. Thank god that's not so. I merely meant to show how various forces and processes are at work in Quebec to push it away from Canada. Those same measures seem to be at work pushing N.I. from Britain. The processes are very generally similar but different too. In Quebec it is the separatists who are the driving force. In the U.K. it seems to be the British Government that is preparing itself for divestiture of N.I.

Anonymous said...

'but nothing ‘British’ is moving to Belfast, apart from a secondary ‘fall back’ office of MI5'.

...which would be responsible for the entire coordination of national security in the event of an attack on the London HQ.

'A permanent garrison' of 5,000 troops is also stationed in 22 bases in Ulster (more than exists here in Yorkshire with three times the population).

This article is pathetic, even by the woeful standards we Unionists have come to expect from this blog.

paul said...

Anonymous said......which would be responsible for the entire coordination of national security in the event of an attack on the London HQ......

i think you may well be watching to much spooks and 24 old lad

hoboroad said...

If you think the British Government is going to keep 5,000 soldiers in the North forever as some sort of comfort blanket for Unionists the only person you are kidding is yourself. And British soldiers in England can at least walk around off-duty in their uniforms unlike in the North.

Anonymous said...

'i think you may well be watching to much spooks and 24 old lad'

I think you're drinking from the cup of delusion. That is the intended function of the MI5 building according to the organisation's own website.

Anonymous said...

"That is the intended function of the MI5 building according to the organisation's own website."

Haha, it must be true then. Intelligence agencies are well known for broadcasting honest details of their operational details to the world.

Anonymous said...

You nationalists are living in a dream world. As Andrew McCann says,

"Unionists have a far better knowledge of their nationalist underlings than is ever reciprocated."

http://atangledweb.typepad.com/weblog/2006/08/gay_its_still_n.html

Underlings... Priceless. This is the man that thinks Catholics will be voting for Unionists in their droves within a generation, calling someone else delusional. I love him.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of The English I know would like to connect their right boot with a mick's scull."

This may be true of the company you keep but these people also wouldn't differentiate between you and a so-called Mick. They see you as irish too.

Also spell skull right - you numbskull!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha...I love that last comment. What does Watcher say to that?

paul said...

Anonymous said...

"That is the intended function of the MI5 building according to the organisation's own website."

Haha, it must be true then. Intelligence agencies are well known for broadcasting honest details of their operational details to the world. ................took the words out of my mouth lad

Anonymous said...

When the Unionists go to Britain do the British tend to see them as "Irish" or as "British"? Just curious? Can they tell the difference between the two N.I. groups?

hoboroad said...

Most people from England tend to see people who come from the North as Irish. A lot of them cannot tell you the difference between a man from Kerry or Derry. England must be a culture shock for some Loyalists as every lamp-post does not have a Union Flag hanging from it.

Watcher said...

hoboroad doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. It's true that people in England sometimes call people from NI Irish, but they're just as likely (if not more so)to describe them as Northern Irish or as Ulstermen. The vast majority of those in England can tell the difference between a Northern Irish and Southern Irish accent - probably because Northern Irish accents were on British TV every night for thirty years.

England must be a real culture shock for those from The Republic, as they don't eat potatoes every night.

hoboroad said...

The only people who refer to people from the Six Counties as Ulstermen are BNP/NF types. And there are just as many people from the Republic of Ireland on British Television as from the North. And Watcher please learn how to spell you are an Englishman and seem to have problems communicating in your own native language.

Watcher said...

You're a real laugh hoboroad. I've heard countless references to Ulstermen by UK mainlanders on the TV, let alone face to face. The BNP must have an enormous membership. You've really got to raise your game, at the moment you're just talking straight out of your backside - but that tends to be The Irish way doesn't it? And no, you retard, there weren't as many Oirish voices on TV as Ulster voices during the troubles, probably because 'the troubles' happened in Ulster, not The Republic. The people in The Republic tended to sit there shitting themselves in case Dublin '74 was repeated, as you well know, being bog Irish yourself.

bangordub said...

Typical Watcher.
Insults
Racist comments
Stereotyping
Bad spelling

As for facts? no chance.

hoboroad said...

Yes exactly Bangordub how is the new Blog coming along?

Watcher said...

Yes bangordub, what are you going to call it? May I suggest:

"I loved Ireland so much I moved to a staunchly Unionist part of The UK"

or:

"All Ulster Protestants want a United Ireland, they told me whilst we shared a bottle of claret"

or:

"I despised Irish Catholics like myself so much I married a Calvinist"

bangordub said...

Haha,
Once again Watcher proves my point with his reply!!!
Thanks for the enquiry Hoboroad,
Still putting it together but I'll let you know when it's launched.
Incidentally, Bangor is, in fact, a very mixed town with an open and friendly population.

Watcher said...

I wouldn't call 10% RC mixed. But it's good to see you've got the correct impression of Ulster's Unionist people. You're learning now that all the horse shit people in The Republic say about them is just that - horse shit. As long as you don't try and push Irish unity on them, you'll be safe enough.

bangordub said...

LOL
Gets better and better !!!

Anonymous said...

Horseman,
I like your hypothesis, but as a counter were things really ever any different?

What items of consequence were of any strategic importance to the British? The shipyards perhaps?

I'm not sure strategic importance ever played much in the mix.

Watcher said...

Which means it must be something else. Care to define?