A Discovery of Gaslighting
A Letter from Ireland
This letter might give away my age. It will certainly betray my generation. I had often heard commentators talk about “gaslighting”. I knew that it was when someone said something untrue and cast doubt about the truth. In my day we called it a lie. But I didn’t truly understand it until this week.
My gaslighting epiphany came courtesy of the Democratic Unionist Party. In the British parliament, one of their MPs introduced a bill that any constitutional change would require a “super-majority” in a referendum.
It was my "Wait...what!?" moment. Had I been misreading the Good Friday Agreement after all these years? I actually went back to check. The Agreement is clear that both governments:
“(ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”
The argument put forward by unionism was that the agreement does not qualify what constitutes, “a majority”. Off course, everyone knows and accepts that a majority is anything from a simple majority of 50%+1 to unanimity. To redefine this to a super-majority would run contrary to the agreement as it would rule out a simple majority and represent an “external impediment”.
The issue is going nowhere, and the definition remains that the baseline is a simple majority. Cured of the effects of “gaslighting”, it is obvious that the DUP knows change is coming. They would rather try and change the rules and undermine the fundamental democratic pillar of the agreement than face the future. Maybe they thought they would gain the support of Westminister parties which want to stop a second Scottish referendum.
Unfortunately, we are dealing with a British Government that changes the rules and breaks laws to suit itself. This government has introduced legislation to unilaterally override their agreements with the EU. On November 23rd they will push forward a Bill in the House of Lords that will deny bereaved families the right to judicial investigations, inquests, and access to the courts concerning the killings of their loved ones.
This week the British Government stopped elections in the North in breach of previous agreements and the law. But they can change the law. They claim this is the politically expedient thing to do. The DUP refused to respect the outcome of the May election and blocked the establishment of a government. The British Government has now ended the caretaker government that was in place, refused an election, and has no plan. All in the name of political expediency for a crisis they have created and sustained.
Next week, all being well, I will be in Washington and Albany. In New York and Chicago, I will be with the incredible Mairéad Farrell Sinn Féin TD for Galway. I hope to see you along the way, we have lots to talk about and more to do.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.