Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Andy Burnham says ‘let’s organise in Northern Ireland…”

Mon 23 July 2012, 11:43am

Hmmm… Haven’t we seen this before? It seems that after meeting Mark Durkan the UK Labour MP and former Minister has said:

“The NEC are currently speaking to the Northern Ireland Labour organisation and to our sister party the SDLP. They agreed a process of discussion and they will bring back a recommendation later this year. A decision is coming in the near future and I think it will be linked to the 2014 council elections.”

Liam Clarke notes that the SDLP leader Alisdair McDonnell has cleared the way for Labour to fight council and Assembly seats but remains nervous of any attempt to run for Westminster.

A Labour candidate that did any way well in what’s currently the SDLP leader’s south Belfast seat would almost certainly be seen to prejudice the outcome of any future elections. The boundary changes may already have deprived him of a Westminster anyway.

Brave talk, but Burnham has clearly learned from the rash promises of the UCU-NF deal [Or no deal? - Ed] in talking up the bottom up approach.

If anything Labour could have a tougher sell than the Tories, since many radical Catholic voters already plump for Sinn Fein. It could hope, perhaps, to carve out some kind of niche where Dawn Purvis was amongst working class Protestants.

Indeed, Labour’s advantage could lie the fact that it could connect middle class and working class votes, much in the way that Irish Labour does in the Republic. Dawn’s failure to expand her East Belfast base into the leafy heartland is one reason why the Assembly lost one of its best individual lawmakers last year.

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Comments (164)

  1. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulster
    You know nothing about my attitude to my neighbours. All I will say is that my teeth grind in a similar fashion when I hear Provos refer contemptuously to the “Free State”, an entity which has not existed for well over seventy years. Referring to “the mainland” is just indicative of a cap-doffing, defential mentality and, in geographical terms, it’s quite inaccurate.

    As for Andrew, he’ll find no argument for me on the Ineffectiveness of the SDLP in large areas. The point is that we’re here, on the ground in a lot of areas and we recognise our imperfections. Andrew isn’t going to build a nirvana living abroad.

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  2. SDLP,

    I do find it amusing that a self-declared irish nationalist should refer to Galway as “abroad” ;-)

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  3. “If anything Labour could have a tougher sell than the Tories, since many radical Catholic voters already plump for Sinn Fein.”

    I dont agree. The Conservative Party has two categories of baggage that the Labour Party does not suffer from. One is the fact that the Northern Ireland economy has too many people (many of them middle class) dependant on the State for their employment. Conservative plans to re-balance the economy are seen as a threat to the jobs of those people. The other is that the Conservatives are too closely identified with unionism with the result that they have been factionalised and remain a party unfriendly to Conservative Nationalists.

    The SDLP has the words “Social” and “Labour” in is name but you would not think it when you look at the make up of that party. It keeps its socialist side quiet while persisting in allowing Nationalism to be its dominant ideology. Thus it is totally unattractive to socialist Unionists.

    The Conservative initiative in Northern Ireland failed but at least the party can be credited for attempting to bring new politics to Northern Ireland.

    If it does enter Northern Ireland Politics, the Labour Party will fail too if it allows itself to become factional. Labour is currently committed to Scotland remaining in the Union. Therefore instead of campaigning directly in Northern Ireland, It should promote a new independent Northern Ireland Labour Party which would campaign on its socialist agenda but otherwise be agnostic on Northern Ireland’s future within the Union. This is not a formula for overnight success and would still not work without a well thought out strategy for enlisting activists and building up grass roots support. However, if such a plan was properly prepared and well managed, I think you would see a very significant change in the face of Northern Ireland politics within 12 years or so.

    Will Labour do that? I dont think so. Burnham aside, their senior politicians are too cowardly and selfish to take that kind of risk.

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  4. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    … so which cause did the SDLP give up and which did it prioritise? I got lambasted above for making exactly the same point, and now you’re admitting it of your own free will.

    Did Alliance give up being a unionist party, not really they accepted many unionists who didn’t “give up” anything, it accepted Catholics, perhaps those who may see themselves as nationalists and perhaps swayed between
    Did the Worker’s Party ever give up the stigma of being a nationalist party. Labour UK has English, Scottish and Welsh based “Irish nationalists” and “Irish republicians”, despite being constitutionally a Unionist party. Labour Ireland just recently accused another party of “economic treason” … an Irish nationalist rather than a fellow comrades position harking back to the James Connelly origins of the party.

    Parties are broad churches, the Nationalist Party members in the SDLP would never have got the constitutional reforms without the Labourites and Labour Party members would not have got the Social reforms without the Nationalists.

    There were many like Devlin, who though left the SDLP over this argument started their path in the Nationalist Party before it joined the SDLP, who choose to be both as much as possible.

    The main problems the alternative lefts to Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the PUP and let’s be fair to them the Green Party etc. is that they don’t work, and they don’t socialise (i.e. canvass) as hard as their competitors. If Labour NI follow in the footsteps of the Conservatives they’ll be guilty of the same mistakes others on the left here have made, underestimating the challenge of getting democratic support and mandate.

    Another point worth mentioning, in the analysis of a lot of political compasses … Sinn Féin, SDLP, SNP and Plaid Cymru are seen as being more left of centre than either Labour Party.

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  5. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:


    The SDLP has the words “Social” and “Labour” in is name but you would not think it when you look at the make up of that party. It keeps its socialist side quiet while persisting in allowing Nationalism to be its dominant ideology. Thus it is totally unattractive to socialist Unionists.

    Some would accuse the Labour Party (take your pick) of keeping their “Socialist side” quiet these days. I can assure you that radical left wing thinking is present particularly amongst many of the younger members of the party.

    The Conservative initiative in Northern Ireland failed but at least the party can be credited for attempting to bring new politics to Northern Ireland.

    The Conservatives played old style politics by its deal in Fermanagh-South Tyrone and it is as Unionist as the DUP and the UUP for that. How can a non-Orange party who wants to move beyond Orange and Green make a deal with two unionist parties in an Orange Order lodge?

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

    Is it a case of what happens in England, Scotland and Wales stays in England, Scotland and Wales and what happens in Ireland stays silent?

    If it does enter Northern Ireland Politics, the Labour Party will fail too if it allows itself to become factional. Labour is currently committed to Scotland remaining in the Union. Therefore instead of campaigning directly in Northern Ireland, It should promote a new independent Northern Ireland Labour Party which would campaign on its socialist agenda but otherwise be agnostic on Northern Ireland’s future within the Union.

    The party has entered Northern Ireland politics, in fact many Labour parties have as you may know. Indeed the Labour Coalition were a signatory to the GFA. The big issue for Labour will not be dealing simply with the SDLP but differentiating its “socialist agenda” from the People before Profits, the Worker’s Party, the IRSP, the Socialist party, the Green Party, independents and all those other groups.

    This is not a formula for overnight success and would still not work without a well thought out strategy for enlisting activists and building up grass roots support. However, if such a plan was properly prepared and well managed, I think you would see a very significant change in the face of Northern Ireland politics within 12 years or so.

    The key is to find like minded people who are not firmly tied to other groups, particularly trade union activists. With massive youth unemployment, some unemployed people have been told me about their anger at the unions for keeping many people in jobs for life when they can barely get on a rung. These people are far more likely to join a “socialist” party than a “labour” party.

    There are many untied but remain highly cynical of local politics even alternative politics or what politics can do. It will take Hard work not a mere strategy or an idea or pointless risk-taking for the sake of it to win these people over, to convince them things can change.

    Northern Ireland is a very different place to Great Britain and that’s why the politics will be different.

    Will Labour do that? I dont think so. Burnham aside, their senior politicians are too cowardly and selfish to take that kind of risk.

    Well that’s not really up to senior politicians but the local ones here. The Conservative Party in Northern Ireland were very much an independent organisation to the point that its fights with the senior Conservative Party became very notable. For one the senior Tories supported GFA while the locals out-rightly opposed it.

    Labour NI needs to be a faction within itself, but it would take a ridiculous amount of hard work, a fundamental effort to make any sort of impact here.

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  6. FP,

    You seem to have some difficulty drawing a distinction between party policy and individual conscience.

    Did Alliance give up being a unionist party

    Yes. They gave up being a Unionist party a long time ago. That does not mean that everyone in it gave up being a unionist – they just agreed to disagree and got on with more important things. It is no coincidence that those parties in NI which have the most balanced support (in cross-community terms) are also those which have buried the constitutional issue. Very few people in NI are going to change their minds, so there’s no point trying to persuade them. It will be another generation at least before we can have a rational conversation about it. In the meantime, the mechanism is clear, unambiguous and most importantly uncontentious. So parties should just shut up about it and direct their efforts elsewhere.

    In particular, if you want to be a “Labour” party, i.e. a party of a united working class, you need to get both working-class Protestant and working-class Catholic support. You think you’re making it easy for yourselves if Labourism and Irish Nationalism come as a package? You have to choose. The SDLP made a choice early in its history to sideline Labourism and prioritise nationalism. This was an understandable choice at the time and I’m not throwing around blame for it.

    But times have changed and equality for nationalists and nationalism has been won. If you want to win the new battle, you have to stop fighting the last one.

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  7. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Andrew g, try not to be silly. I had picked up that you didn’t live in NI and had inferred (erroneously, I admit) that you live in GB.i apologise for that error. Galway is a place I know very well and it’s as much home to me as Belfast is, as is any part of the island of Ireland.

    FP is ably making other points in refutation of yours. SDLP never prioritised nationalism nor sidelined social democracy. It was simply trying to come up with a solution to the issue of competing national allegiances, de-toxifying it and persuading others that it wasn’t worth killing over it. Ineffective as it has been in many areas, the SDLP succeeded spectacularly on the de-toxification issue.

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  8. SDLP never prioritised nationalism nor sidelined social democracy.

    The SDLP currently has six slogans on rotation on its front page. Number 1 is:

    The SDLP’s vision is a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland

    It’s front and centre in black and white.

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  9. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    God, Andrew, you are like a whingeing child. What words do you object to in the ‘vision’ aim and would you care to draft a revised one from your POV? How can you bear to live in Galway? It must be a penance for you living in such alien territory! I suspect you have never engaged in political activism in your life. You need to get out more and get away from that computer.

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  10. I love Galway. Most Galway people don’t give a shit about the constitutional question. In that regard, I have more in common with them than most people on Slugger.

    Do you not see the words “united Ireland” on the SDLP front page? Do you not see how they mark you out as a party from one side of the communal divide? Do you not see that you have a duck on your head?

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  11. DC (profile) says:

    That Andy Burnham one talks a lot of sense!

    Never mind duck on head, this is more appropriate for you guys.

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  12. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Andrew, I see you flunked my challenge to devise a vision statement for the SDLP which would incorporate your own POV. There is nothing wrong with seeking to change economic and social relationships in society for the better (which is the essence of social democracy) and wishing to aspire to a united Ireland and Europe, as long as I pursue both aspirations peacefully. And, as John Hume said so often, the land of Ireland is already united, it’s the people of Ireland which need to be united.

    Those are honourable aspirations, Andrew, in my opinion you are a sorehead who would fight with his own shadow and our conversation is over.

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  13. The first step to overcoming a problem consists of admitting that you have one. I see I’m talking to the wall again.

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  14. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    In particular, if you want to be a “Labour” party, i.e. a party of a united working class,

    Andrew, name one REAL Labour party that fits this description. And by the way, you don’t have to choose … I am not a fascist, you can do what you want.

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  15. Tomas Gorman (profile) says:

    @andrew Gallagher. If you don’t see the deficiencies in the constitutional setup then your demented.

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  16. Future Physicist,

    I would agree that no Labour Party represents a “united working class” but let’s not get bogged down with strict definition. Instead, let’s just refer to the part of the left-right political spectrum that the Labour Party in Britain tends to occupy.

    Let me ask you a few questions about the SDLP’s vision of a shared future.

    (a) In the SDLP’s vision of a shared future, does that include a political system whereby voters vote on the basis of the “bread and butter” policies of a party, rather than voting for a party firmly identified with their community?
    (b) Would the SDLP favour policies directed towards achieving an integrated primary and secondary education system?
    (c) If the SDLP’s vision of a shared future includes neither of the above, what exactly does it mean by a shared future?

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  17. Reader (profile) says:

    Andrew Galagher: The first step to overcoming a problem consists of admitting that you have one. I see I’m talking to the wall again.
    While the SDLP may have problems, being a nationalist party that still hates or distrusts the Shinners isn’t one of them. It’s a perfectly valid base.
    However, the existence of the SDLP in its current form is an obstacle to the creation of a cross-community labour movement. But there’s absolutely no reason why they should care about that, because they are only pretending to be interested in SD/L principles, and their vision of a shared future puts tribal politics ahead of bread and butter issues.
    The struggle will be to find a bit of electoral space for a party that doesn’t put things that way round. Best for labour to pin their hopes on scooping up the independents and hoping not to collect too many Prods before they can drain the reds out of the SDLP and balance things up a bit.

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  18. After days of to-ing and fro-ing, and all the cross- and intra-sect sniping [Boring! Boring!], Reader @ 9:35 am brings us back to the one basic need: the creation of a cross-community labour movement.

    Before the rightist nebbies come honking in: think about it.

    We can’t have a left-centre inclusive operation without a balancing one on the other flank — or vice-versa.

    The other corollary is such realignments imply a regional base. A “Labour Party” (and not for a moment would anyone in their proper mind used such a name) in Northern Ireland cannot be merely an adjunct to the Westminster or Dáil equivalent. Nor, if it needs spelling out, can a franchise from the London Tories or the Dublin blue shirts.

    Either a political evolution (some hopes, but I sense the odd enlightened DUPper might be getting there) or a new creation must be free-standing, and primarily concerned with regional affairs. Across the narrow waters, devolution max or whatever, the Scottish Labour Party needs to go the same way (that they haven’t awoken to the smell of Java is why that little lot have had chronic problems). At least in Wales the Alun Michael lesson was salutary.

    And Reader @ 9:35 am is correct, too, in using the term “movement”. Not in the overworked Annual Conference nods to TIGMOO (“This great movement of ours …”) but in the sense of having roots in the society (note how I cannot use the other term “community”?). How that would work in the post-industrial wasteland our current lords and masters are willing on us is another question.

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  19. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    I think many of those talking out of their asses or just sitting on their’s here have to accept why so many of the working class go into nationalist/republican and loyalist/unionist lines in the first place. The political parties in the North have the chance to work together, the civic communities are not always that fortunate.

    It’s utterly naive to believe that joining a Labour group in Derry for instance, bound to be majority Catholic identity anyway somehow makes a big step towards integration simply because said group is “non-tribal”, similarly in West Belfast, East Belfast or anywhere these “non-tribal” workers have been divided into tribes.

    Many of the “we’re not tribal” tribe has utterly failed them, they have lied to them and they have lied to themselves. They attack divisions and diversities but somehow believe that the road to uniting people is to be found in the continued failure of their own actions on integration.

    The sad reality is this tribe is more addicted to tribal politics than the actual tribes these days. Nationalists and Unionists are working together out of necessity, the “we’re not tribal” tribe remains addicted to snark and cynicism while sabotaging integrated politics through inaction, denial and talking out of its own backside.

    Even when Republicans and Loyalists do find a diplomatic basis on what they can agree on, and how to work cohesively, and actually do show some working class unity someone from the “we’re not a tribe” tribe say that they’re too tribal simply because they feel left out of the benefits.

    Given their failure to provide an alternative to what they see as tribal politics, they are the real obstacles to the politics they want, because deep down they feel they’re a tribe of one.

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  20. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Seymour Major (profile) 31 July 2012 at 8:04 am
    Future Physicist,

    I would agree that no Labour Party represents a “united working class” but let’s not get bogged down with strict definition. Instead, let’s just refer to the part of the left-right political spectrum that the Labour Party in Britain tends to occupy.

    Let me ask you a few questions about the SDLP’s vision of a shared future.

    (a) In the SDLP’s vision of a shared future, does that include a political system whereby voters vote on the basis of the “bread and butter” policies of a party, rather than voting for a party firmly identified with their community?

    The big problem I think people need to understand is that the voters dictate the politics. Many vote for the SDLP on “bread and butter” issues, as they do for Sinn Féin, the DUP, UUP or TUV and the Alliance and the Green’s etc.

    This isn’t about one place on a spectrum, this is about the combination of people’s votes representing a party mandate.
    And in a democracy we have to respect the fact that it’s the people that give the mandate, it’s the people that make the parties and never the other way about.

    The voters will vote for their bottom line and yes they will vote for a representative for their community, which is actually the idea behind having constituencies … perhaps getting rid of constituencies all together and having a president who represents the masses would rid the community cliques and could claim to have universal mandate, that would be harmful because many communities wouldn’t be represented, wouldn’t be spoken for, and we would have a tyranny of the majority.

    The purpose of constituency politics is community based, not “society” based, because it recognises that a society is formed by a collection of communities not simply a collection of people and I know unionists, nationalist and others who do community representation well.

    Secondly the Lib Dems fought a campaign all most entirely on “constitutional reform” … something you dismiss as not being a bread and butter issue, People voted Tory because they weren’t Labour and vice versa, and People voted Lib Dem because they were neither of the above … all totally impulsive. Perhaps only swing voters want to be informed, and swing voters are usually a powerful minority in any democracy and can call the agenda. If the swing voters choose not to vote then they simply aren’t too bothered about the status quo at the end of the day.

    Voter behaviour can be both impulsive and informed, but ultimately its the voter’s choice. The SDLP don’t deny the voter a choice, they band their ideas together and give them a choice.

    (b) Would the SDLP favour policies directed towards achieving an integrated primary and secondary education system?

    Yes I welcome integrated education, but integration that simply tries to rid the Catholic sector entirely is no more integrated than the Catholic sector is. Integration means making combinations, getting the best from combining worlds rather than a one world fits all scenario. Having networks between schools is just as important, perhaps more important because networks not conformity is the key to integration. Similarly we need networks between grammar schools and secondary schools.

    Catholic schools do have a good track record of getting results and that experience should be shared by networks and communications with schools. They exist in the UK and they exist in the ROI and they are not attacked for being tribal entities because people don’t see unity coming from “attacking the disagreeables” all the time.

    I have the identity of being a scientist, do I need others to be scientists simply for unity’s sake… no. Science requires people to be different, to study different disciplines, and to work as individuals. We need people to be different in order to reap the benefits of unity, we do not need a Borg collective telling people to find unity we need to sacrifice our differences and individuality.

    (c) If the SDLP’s vision of a shared future includes neither of the above, what exactly does it mean by a shared future?

    Let me put it to you like this, what have you done to achieve integration … does going to an integrated school and being concerned about bread and butter politics somehow mean you’ve achieved a unity of status with some different outside grouping. I put it to you that it does not, Integrated education has been attacked by being called a clique to itself, and not one mention of a “bread and butter” issue has been mentioned by you on this forum as the priority has switched to trying to redefine the constitution of a political organisation, you probably have no desire to be a member of.

    Civic Society will lead the shared future agenda, in a way that does not target one’s individuality or aspirations but finds a common purpose, and will not be formed by forced marriages but by the normal process of natural compromise and communication. Initially that does mean communities, but only networks between communities create a society and a shared future.

    The SDLP has to work with the other parties to achieve a shared future, as other parties will probably have to work with the SDLP it means bringing their voter’s and their constituents concerns to the table but also their talents too.

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  21. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    We fought hard to end the democratic deficit, it’s a shame that a collectivist mentality believes that we should bring it back, simply because they don’t like what people vote for.

    I’m not too keen on the DUP and Sinn Féin running the show, but at least I believe the party I belong to in the SDLP can make differences in this area, such as the rent back scheme to public buildings which provided revenue to public services, such as the Autistic Spectrum Disorder bill, and at times even working with the main two parties to ensure things like Altnagelvin radiotherapy centre, the avoidance of a tuition fee hike etc. were pushed through. How anyone believes such things are anti-Unionist, anti-Protestant, anti-British, anti-Integrationist or even anti-Socialist is beyond me, and sometimes making oppositional stands particularly against the unregulated social development fund formed by the harvesting of public sector assets and jobs to provide a revenue stream for special projects. The SDLP were doing this for the people when the people, particularly those so well off they don’t need to care about such issues were more concerned with the nature of the SDLP.

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  22. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    It’s the sheer laziness and shallowness of people like Seymour Major, who probably fancies himself as being politically informed, that drives me to despair. I googled the words ‘, ‘SDLP support for integrated education’ and got thousands of references (35,900 hits to be precise). Why in God’s name didn’t he do the same?

    Yes, the SDLP has supported integrated education, as being fully consistent with the principle of parental choice, as far back as its second Conference in 1972 and has repeatedly passed motions in support of IE, and this has been acknowledged by NICIE (Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education).

    In other words, SM has gone round, possibly for decades, with wee sweetie mice scurrying around in his head reinforcing some pre-conception that he had from God-knows-where that ‘the SDLP oppose integrated education’ instead of getting up off his backside and checking the true situation.

    I have every SDLP Conference agenda right back to the beginning setting out literally thousands of motions supporting progressive economic and social policies and these are encapsulated on the SDLP website for SM to read.

    In fact, for years in the 70s and 80s correspondents of London papers would note that SDLP was the only NI party that had anything recognisable as a normal party Conference where motions were debated and policies decided democratically. The other parties (with the honourable exception of Alliance) had rallies and flaunted national colours and it is also noteworthy that Alliance and SDLP, alone among the parties here, never at any time supported violence.

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  23. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Reader (profile) 31 July 2012 at 9:35 am

    Andrew Galagher: The first step to overcoming a problem consists of admitting that you have one. I see I’m talking to the wall again.

    While the SDLP may have problems, being a nationalist party that still hates or distrusts the Shinners isn’t one of them. It’s a perfectly valid base.

    However, the existence of the SDLP in its current form is an obstacle to the creation of a cross-community labour movement.

    But there’s absolutely no reason why they should care about that, because they are only pretending to be interested in SD/L principles, and their vision of a shared future puts tribal politics ahead of bread and butter issues.

    The struggle will be to find a bit of electoral space for a party that doesn’t put things that way round. Best for labour to pin their hopes on scooping up the independents and hoping not to collect too many Prods before they can drain the reds out of the SDLP and balance things up a bit.

    Thanks for accepting the validity of the base, and by no means is a base set in stone. It’s rubbish to say that social democracy doesn’t matter more to an Irish nationalist than some other grouping because at the end of the day we’re all individuals.

    The Labour Party achieving status here would be like the Respect Party usurping The Labour Party in the UK, like UKIP usurping The Tories or The Green’s usurping The Liberal Democrats. It could take 50 or 100 years.

    They as much as the SDLP and any other party are prostate and humbled over individual choice when it comes to membership.

    If all Labour Party promises is that it will manipulate social democrats and labour activists from different backgrounds into working together, that it can impose a common leadership to the strands of left-wingers from various backgrounds, republican, nationalist, loyalist etc. than I’m afraid it is doomed to failure and could even prove itself to be as unwanted and unnecessary as the local Conservatives have.

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  24. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Sorry … republican, nationalist, loyalist, unionists AND non-aligned.

    As I’ve said before it’s hard enough to unite the non-aligned lefties here, we have six or seven different groups, never-mind different communities.

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  25. It’s the defensiveness of the SDLP contingent on this thread that is disappointing. The SDLP’s record is not in question, but I’m sure even they will admit that its future is. There are those of us here who are not SDLP supporters but who would be sorry to see them chewed up and spat out by SF. The SDLP needs new voters – I have suggested one place that new voters could come from, but they will come at a price. It seems that this price is too high, and that is a shame because the SDLP deserves better.

    You will never out-nationalist Sinn Fein – they eat, sleep and breathe Irish Nationalism. They don’t have economic policies, and their social policies are paper thin. SF are single-minded and focused and they are successful. The old, obvious distinction between the nationalist parties is gone – today’s electorate have shown that they don’t give two hoots about SF’s violent past. Political parties need a USP and SF has (rightly or wrongly) beaten the SDLP on its chosen specialist subject. Adapt or perish.

    If you want to be a Labour party then you need to focus on Labour policies. If you want to be a Liberal party then you need to focus on Liberal policies. If you try to be both a Labour party and an Irish Nationalist party then you will put off those voters who are Labour but non-nationalist and so halve your potential vote. This is mathematics. Yes, you will get a few Protestant Nationalists and a few Protestant Unionists who are willing to overlook the Nationalism angle but you will not convert the broad mass of the Protestant working class to Irish Nationalism in the short to medium term.

    The SDLP seems unwilling to make the difficult choices required to start fighting back. I have tried to exhort you to better things but all I have got in return is ill-informed ad hominem attacks (my record as a party activist is not on trial here BTW, and neither is anyone else’s). You could double your potential vote at a stroke by making one (admittedly painful) decision. It does not require you to give up any of your principles, but it does require you to leave the comfort of the past behind.

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  26. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    No, I welcome that the party does need to branch out and find new members, and at the end of the day new members make the change. It’s obvious, and each new member is a new challenge to accommodate. Being a member gives you a say in how that party is run, but no matter what your ideas are you need to bring the rest of the party along side you.

    McDonnell has shown by allowing the Labour party to compete with the SDLP, Seymor Major’s accusation that the SDLP, have somehow been an obstacle to social democracy and labour values is ridiculous.

    The SDLP is not standing in the way of their recruitment, their own energy levels and their ability to gain talent is, and that is FAR from a given in a society like ours.

    SDLP is a different kind of Labour party to the Labour party, and has established roots that won’t budge just because someone waves a red flag. It is also a different kind of Nationalist party acknowledging a 3-stranded approach and they are not simply going to jump ship to Sinn Féin because they wave a green flag in peace time.

    The distinctions between the SDLP and Sinn Féin remain, as do the distinctions between the SDLP and other Labour groups. Clearly Sinn Féin have made changes and the SDLP do have to respond. At the same time the SDLP has adapted to the regional politics a lot better than rival usurpers have.

    I’ll leave it up to the SDLP what it wants or needs to be in order to win back or more voters, and there is always the chance those outside the SDLP can join and change the SDLP.

    In the Republic Sinn Féin show they can be just as good at attacking a left-wing party (Labour and sometimes the United Left Alliance) as they can a nationalist/republican one (Fianna Fáil), doesn’t matter if those parties have Protestants, Asians, Black People, Atheists, Jews, Working Class, Scientists, Homosexuals, Women, Disabled people, Irish or non-Irish (nor should it)… they are an opportunistic populist party regardless of the demographic make-up of their opposition.

    They are even some voices within Fianna Fáil talking about forming a combined party with the Irish Labour Party (as they tried with the SDLP) based on their common opposition to the extremities of Fine Gael and Sinn Féin, forming a sort of “SDLP of the South” some would argue. I don’t see the SDLP as an FF-Labour amalgamation but rather that the party people up north have created their own identity.

    It will take more than one leader making a risk to compete with that, the SDLP have historically taken a lot of risks to stay ahead of Sinn Féin, and as for the comfort of the past … well haven’t you noticed, that’s been gone already.

    Why? Sinn Féin excel at grass roots and community based politics in the places they are successful in … It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some in Sinn Féin who aren’t even really into Irish Republicianism but tag along simply because of their momentum or because they can work their way up to an elite position within party ranks. Don’t get me wrong though they have lost a few members on the way.

    Ideologues are not going to beat activists and campaigners on the ground, anyone who thinks otherwise is in La La Land, certainly not here in Northern Ireland. There is no substitute for hard work, engagement and policy and debate.

    The SDLP are still winning battles against Sinn Féin, as are the Labour Party and as are Fianna Fáil, those with alternative political strategies haven’t really had the will to even stand up to the plate as yet. Even in strongly Unionist areas Sinn Féin out-polls most non-aligned left-wing groups.

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  27. FP,

    I’ll take on board most of your points. But it’s one thing to say “nobody is stopping Protestants from signing up to the SDLP” (which is self-evidently true), and another thing to ask “what are the SDLP actively doing to encourage Protestant participation?”. It is here where it falls short.

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  28. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    My argument is that Sinn Fein didn’t gain their success through eating, sleep and breathing Irish Nationalism, they did it by eating, sleep and breathing POLITICS.

    Let that disturb your comfort.

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  29. There are two kinds of politics – the one that leads from behind and the one that leads from in front.

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  30. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    FP,

    I’ll take on board most of your points. But it’s one thing to say “nobody is stopping Protestants from signing up to the SDLP” (which is self-evidently true), and another thing to ask “what are the SDLP actively doing to encourage Protestant participation?”. It is here where it falls short.

    The reality is Young Protestants 20-30 have been highlighted as the most disillusioned group (main grouping) in the North, I know that, the Unionists know that, Sinn Féin and the Alliance know that and so do everyone else. Perhaps all have let them down. Personally I think they need to show us what they want us to do, but yes we need to get out there and speak to them. They’re individuals just like everybody else, that’s not to imply they’re somehow anti-social either.

    The SDLP does go into Protestant areas and canvass at the doorsteps. You then have to form a policy with the resources the Assembly gives you and make priorities based on that. It does cause some in the party to believe they should be more cross community, it does come down to the skills and wills of the party and the individuals involved when it comes to the ability to accommodate them.

    The SDLP did push the 3-Strand approach that helped create networks, North-South, East-West and within and I think the more we can use those networks to our advantage the better we’ll be. In fact I believe that 3-Strand approach has helped the DUP and Sinn Féin become a lot more moderate than they could’ve been, without it. Perhaps a worthwhile purpose even if it did effect party success.

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  31. True, you can canvass Protestant areas now more easily than you could in the past. You may even get friendly responses on the doorstep. And young Protestants are disillusioned. So why aren’t they beating down your door? Are you trying hard enough to offer them an attractive product? You can’t argue that explicit nationalism is doing you any favours.

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  32. SDLP supporter at 31 July 2012 at 12:48 pm. Firstly, please play the ball.

    What you have said about integrated education is not quite the same as Future Physicist (“FP”) at 31 July 2012 at 11:12 am. FP makes the following qualification

    “….but integration that simply tries to rid the Catholic sector entirely is no more integrated than the Catholic sector is”

    The upshot is that SDLP says that it wants integrated education but it is not prepared to adopt the policies which would actually succeed in bringing it about.

    My second question to FP was not sufficiently clearly worded because FP managed to evade it. I was asking whether the SDLP’s vision of a shared future included a political system where voters voted on a cross-community basis. I don’t think I got a completely straight answer. However, FP does say this:

    “The big problem I think people need to understand is that the voters dictate the politics.”

    I think that is a roundabout way of saying that the SDLP would not do anything pro-active to bring about cross-community politics.

    I agree with Reader at 9.35 a.m. that the existence of the SDLP in its current form is an obstacle to the creation of a cross-community labour movement. Given that the SDLP is not prepared to change itself, we must hope that a new initiative will come from somewhere else along the lines suggested by Malcolm Redfellow at 10.17 am.

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  33. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?

    People in Britain can vote SNP, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, UKIP, BNP, English Democrat and not be discriminated against yet people voting and joining SDLP in Northern Ireland pushes your buttons.

    Maybe the problem is Hell is other people, and you just don’t like Hell.

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  34. Allow me to admit that I lost any real interest in this thread a long way back, about when it became verbal badminton.

    However, can I venture an opinion on: People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?

    I’ve read that three times. Somehow it doesn’t quite come out the way it was intended. I thought, wherever one is in the UK, we had laws to prevent any right to discriminate against …

    Hell, by the way, is a neat little village of about 350 “other people”, not far from Trondheim Airport. The Norwegian “Miss Universe” for 1990 was Mona Grudt from Hell (she went on to be Ensign Graham in Star Trek: the Next Generation. She now edits Ditt Bryllup (which you all recognise as “”Your Wedding”). “Hell”, by the way, is derived from a good Germanic word, and seems cognate with “hill”.

    Well, at least it’s all a bit more amusing and even instructive than what’s been going on here for an age or two.

    OK, I’ll collect my coat on the way out.

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  35. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Let me elaborate …

    You clearly want to rant at the SDLP at your own frustration with the electorate here, yet I struggle to see how you’re reaching out to the 500,000 – 600,000 voters to change it, and criticise the parties who actually do reach out but don’t do so on your behalf. Perhaps people here are too multicultural to agree with you.

    You have freedom of association, you have freedom of movement, freedom of religious conscience, freedom to work, freedom to form and join political organisations, assemblies and movements, freedom to strike, form unions, own property, freedom of speech and freedom of self determination, freedom of nationality and identity, freedom to choose your lover, get married or have children … none of which the SDLP will ever deny you.

    You don’t have the right to decide who others can or cannot vote for, or determine why others should abandon their self-interests for yours. People are free, they’re not cheap.

    If you think you can do a better job than the SDLP here, for ****’s sake do it! Maybe our friends in the UUP had the right idea all along, free anti-depressants for everyone!

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  36. Reader (profile) says:

    FuturePyhsicist: People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?
    Should the state maintain Free Presbyterian schools on the same basis as the Catholic Maintained sector? Does the SDLP have a policy on this equal rights issue?

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  37. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Malcolm Redfellow (profile) 31 July 2012 at 6:35 pm
    Allow me to admit that I lost any real interest in this thread a long way back, about when it became verbal badminton.

    However, can I venture an opinion on: People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?

    I’ve read that three times. Somehow it doesn’t quite come out the way it was intended. I thought, wherever one is in the UK, we had laws to prevent any right to discriminate against …

    Very nice, the right to send children to a Catholic school, not that it interests you.

    Hell, by the way, is a neat little village of about 350 “other people”, not far from Trondheim Airport. The Norwegian “Miss Universe” for 1990 was Mona Grudt from Hell (she went on to be Ensign Graham in Star Trek: the Next Generation. She now edits Ditt Bryllup (which you all recognise as “”Your Wedding”). “Hell”, by the way, is derived from a good Germanic word, and seems cognate with “hill”.

    Well, at least it’s all a bit more amusing and even instructive than what’s been going on here for an age or two.

    OK, I’ll collect my coat on the way out.

    Yeah I’m aware there are various forms of Hell, amusingly enough but as far as I’m aware there was nothing whatsoever instructive about anything you said. Are you sure that was the right word you meant to say?

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  38. FP,

    People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?

    People in Britain can vote SNP, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, UKIP, BNP, English Democrat and not be discriminated against yet people voting and joining SDLP in Northern Ireland pushes your buttons.

    Straw man. Nobody accused the SDLP of discrimination, just shortsightedness.

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  39. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Reader (profile) 31 July 2012 at 6:38 pm
    FuturePyhsicist: (I assume that is a typo) People in Britain can go to a Catholic school and not be discriminated against, yet people in Northern Ireland should be denied the right?

    Should the state maintain Free Presbyterian schools on the same basis as the Catholic Maintained sector? Does the SDLP have a policy on this equal rights issue?

    I think it is interesting that Unionists including Herman or the Alliance Party don’t push the issue in Britain at Westminster first, perhaps offending allies in the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to ensure equality of status/ equality of non-status for faith schools is even on the agenda there. So why are the Catholic neighbours here different from the Catholic compatriots in Britain?

    It’s very narrow minded to preserve a double standard.

    In the Republic there is increasing state ownership of former Catholic schools but it is driven by the demands of parents particularly in reaction to what is happening with the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Indeed in some places the Catholic Church couldn’t maintain them and just gave them back to the state. Perhaps in Britain, Catholic schools are accepted in regions of high Catholic populous too … no such mechanism is being suggested here.

    Indeed we’ve had one leader suggest a post-code lottery system where most Catholics in Derry would pay twice for their educational system, unless the Catholic Church surrenders their schools to the state or they all send their children to Foyle and Londonderry, Oakgrove, Gaelscoil na Daróige and possibly the special schools Foyleview or Belmont House who combined simply don’t have the coping capacity, do the same thing in across Northern Ireland you would create one plethora that would simply whitewash the academic selection issue. Indeed instead of uniting communities along religious divides you end up strengthening the divide between social economic and class divides. Does it make economic sense for the rest of the North to do that given the impact it would have on employment, welfare and health?

    Now the argument is quite valid that this does happen to Free Presbyterian schools which pay twice, and there is historical reasons for this and there is political reasons for this. The question then becomes are Catholics in large Catholic areas, and other faith schools such as Methodist College Belfast just as acceptable to marginalise as the Free Presbyterians or do we bring Free Presbyterians into the fold, or give them a rebate.

    I think Catholic Maintained Schools are a matter for political discussion as are Free Presbyterian ones, and indeed other faith schools, Irish language, special schools whatever and they are made on the economic and demand based case.

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  40. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    … and yes integrated schools too, though I don’t find it acceptible to resort to tithes and recusancy to get it.

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  41. FP,

    I think it is interesting that Unionists including Herman or the Alliance Party don’t push the issue in Britain at Westminster first

    Why should they? Education is a devolved matter.

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  42. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Andrew Gallagher (profile) 31 July 2012 at 11:20 pm
    FP,

    I think it is interesting that Unionists including Herman or the Alliance Party don’t push the issue in Britain at Westminster first

    Why should they? Education is a devolved matter.

    Well so much for promises of standing up for so-called non-tribalist politics. Westminster doesn’t butt out of Northern Ireland’s affairs simply due to devolution (neither does the Dáil by the way) My point also remains that it remains on none of the other parties’s agendas there either Andrew.

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  43. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Indeed why doesn’t LABOUR (re-railing the thread) not back the full abolition of state funding for Catholic Schools in any of its guises in Ireland or in Britain?

    Why doesn’t it offend them the way it does some of the posters here?

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  44. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    the SDLP in its current form is an obstacle to the creation of a cross-community labour movement

    Read the above no such thing exists in these isles.

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  45. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19077650

    “Whilst we understand your wish to ensure that there are high quality qualifications in England, your announcements on proposed changes to what are jointly owned qualifications highlight the interdependencies between our respective jurisdictions and the importance of continuous communication,”

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  46. FP,

    Indeed why doesn’t LABOUR (re-railing the thread) not back the full abolition of state funding for Catholic Schools in any of its guises in Ireland or in Britain?

    I don’t know. I did have a letter published in the Times complaining about Blair’s faith schools policy, but he didn’t pay any heed. Anyway, isn’t this whataboutery?

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  47. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Andrew Gallagher (profile) 1 August 2012 at 6:47 pm
    FP,

    Indeed why doesn’t LABOUR (re-railing the thread) not back the full abolition of state funding for Catholic Schools in any of its guises in Ireland or in Britain?

    I don’t know. I did have a letter published in the Times complaining about Blair’s faith schools policy, but he didn’t pay any heed. Anyway, isn’t this whataboutery?

    Perhaps I’ll concede that …what I think that there are three key problems with regards to the politics of integrated schools.

    a) There is no integrated (i.e. joined up thinking) on the issue, we have 5 different strategies and even Alliance have been inconsistent on there … along faith lines I may add.

    b) The creation of integrated schools and phasing out of some Catholic schools has been driven by political rather than social demand but has been used for point scoring. So long as this is the standard the strategies will become unpopular and disruptive as the problems from a) become even more apparent.

    c) Given the role of Education Minister like other parties is partisan-lead and not collective, the role in the Educational Committee is the primary discussion point for cross community dialogue on the issue, yet is only a scrutiny mechanism. A scrutiny mechanism while useful does not provide a full regional and contributory planning system capable of dealing with the issues in a) and b).

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  48. FP,

    Considering this is a thread about left-wing politics in NI, we need to do a little more re-railing.

    a) 5 different parties have 5 different stratigies? Fancy that.
    b) Integrated education that phases out only some Catholic schools isn’t integrated education. All CofI schools, all Presbyterian schools and all Methodist schools were phased out nearly a century ago. Time the Catholic church caught up.
    c) Yes, the Education Minister has great potential to wreak religiously-partisan harm. But so long as the Education Minister is appointed by a religiously-partisan party that will remain the case.

    Which neatly brings us back to the topic and the question that you have been avoiding.

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  49. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Future Physicist,
    “… if more people here ground their teeth at the things they didn’t like rather than a lot of the alternatives that are seen to be more natural here, we’d have a far more tolerant society.”

    Well, in that case I count myself lucky SDLP supporter hasn’t physically attacked me yet. I really should be grateful for just being disliked for my ethnicity. [Note to self: must hide family background in case it annoys people].

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  50. Zig70 (profile) says:

    AG, I would say the time is right to phase out Catholic schools whenever the Irish/Catholic culture is given a place within the state system. Also works both ways in my view as schools west of the bann are seeing. Many state schools, I’ve seen in Belfast are fairly British in culture. I haven’t figured out how it should work in my head except that it is probably too complicated to expect a school to cater for both tribes and none. So I’ve no guilt sending my kid to a Catholic school where he will learn Irish (could have chosen Spanish) and play basketball, football (both types) and hurling in PE.
    MU – on hiding your ethnicity, my kids have taken to removing there gaa tops before going in the local shop. I never asked them to or encouraged it. Sad state of affairs, they are still primary level.
    Back to the main point – the SDLP is a nationalist party. It represents the Irish in Ulster with a peaceful leftish (in their head) outlook. The alliance party at times come out with statements, policies that are British in culture, I’m not criticizing them for that but it doesn’t reflect my attitudes. You’d have to forever run it by the other tribe seeing if you crossed the line and they are dull enough without that. So I don’t see that at the present it would be feasible for the SDLP to be an all NI labour party. I’d hope that a NI labour party emerges on the unionist side and they can stand side by side with theSDLP on matters except the constitutional one which let’s face it rarely surfaces except with the tin pot generals on here. What does surface and cause issues are the cultural differences and a lack of mutual respect. If you don’t think that the SDLP shows a level of respect to unionists then we are on a hiding to nothing.

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  51. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    Andrew Gallagher (profile) 2 August 2012 at 8:42 pm
    FP,

    Considering this is a thread about left-wing politics in NI, we need to do a little more re-railing.

    a) 5 different parties have 5 different stratigies? Fancy that.

    b) Integrated education that phases out only some Catholic schools isn’t integrated education. All CofI schools, all Presbyterian schools and all Methodist schools were phased out nearly a century ago. Time the Catholic church caught up.

    c) Yes, the Education Minister has great potential to wreak religiously-partisan harm. But so long as the Education Minister is appointed by a religiously-partisan party that will remain the case.

    a) Avoided the issue – No combination of parties has a majority mandate of proposals on this matter or even a pragmatic compromise. Therefore there cannot be a social consensus on integration either. Since I don’t think you even vote here, your voice doesn’t count either. Fancy that.

    b) Avoided the issue – Integrated schools are oxymoronic in Northern Ireland, Protestant dominated, Catholic schools have already caught up by similar oxymoronic policies such as letting in more Protestants than some integrated schools do Catholics.

    Also Church of Ireland/Anglican Communion schools were the established state schools from the beginning of the Union. In Northern Ireland the Catholic church and indeed other faith schools have had to step in when no other sector would.

    c) Avoided the issue – Both the current Irish Labour party and the previous British Labour party have had non-religious ministers both have been social democratic and pragmatic enough to accept faith schools where demand and supply justified it and state/integrated schools where it did not.

    They didn’t put sectarian anti-Catholicism before Reason!

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  52. Framer (profile) says:

    A late response Malcolm, consisting of the material facts that elude you:
    According to the y/e 31 March 2010 accounts of the England and Wales Teachers’ Pension Scheme, contributions totalled £4.728 billion and pension payment costs were £5.021 billion, so even on a current revenue v. costs basis, forgetting future liabilities, the scheme is in deficit.
    Note well that the contribution rate paid by members is 6.4% but by employers (us) 15.5%, an amount nearly three times as big and utterly impossible to find in the private sector, or sustain. And you still seriously argue that the labour aristocrats of the public sector should not pay considerably more for their pensions?

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  53. Framer @ 4:20 pm:

    My, my: that took a while.

    The only teachers paying at 6.4% are those earning £14,999 or less. Good to know you feel part-timers (and not necessarily so by choice) should be screwed.

    The “median” is something like 8.8% and the scale goes up to those 600 “super-Heads” coughing 11.2%. All increases were, of course, imposed on frozen salaries. That amounts to £1.12 billion per annum of the intended public-sector pensions squeeze already. Nearly a quarter of the UK annual expenditure on the Afghan war.

    For the record, the employer’s contribution is 14.1%. Even the official government numbers recognised that your 15.5% for 2010-112 as an historical “one-off”: “a combination of unexpectedly low receipts from contributions and an unusually high level of expenditure due to the number of teachers retiring”. [Apologies for the solecism there: official grammar is no better than official explanation.]

    Then English and Welsh teacher’s gross pay (which is “performance related” and increasingly not open to “free negotiation”) is less — and year-on-year more so — than that in (surprise!) Spanish public (and I don’t mean private) schools, and far below that in the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany … and Finland. Remember how we are supposed to admire the outcomes of Finnish education?

    Now do something instructive: go away and study the Hutton Report. Even the press release.

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  54. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Zig70,
    It is sad about the GAA tops, that shouldn’t happen. I also avoid wearing my Rangers shirt when in NI, though I can wear it happily over here in England. People shouldn’t react to these shirts by assuming they are something sectarian – they are only as sectarian as the person wearing them – but in NI they can react to it, so I make the choice not to wear it. Sad though.

    Both the GAA and Rangers FC, to be honest, have to work harder to live up to the non-sectarian image most of their supporters want. Both can do MUCH more.

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  55. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    SDLP Supporter,
    “You know nothing about my attitude to my neighbours.”
    Well, I know you said a reference to the British mainland made your teeth grind. The neighbours I referred to are the British people in NI who see N Ireland in their own way, as they are entitled to and they are also entitled to be accepted for that. What is not acceptable is people thinking it’s OK to be irritated by someone describing the NI relationship with the rest of the country in British terms. It’s my language as a Brit, I’m not trying to force it on non-Brits. No need to be so threatened by it and it’s no excuse for the kind of knee-jerk anti-British nonsense that was supposed to have been consigned to the dustbin in 1998.

    “Referring to ‘the mainland’ is just indicative of a cap-doffing, defential mentality and, in geographical terms, it’s quite inaccurate.”
    There’s nothing deferential about it – it just recognises that most of the land mass and population is on the main island of the UK. ‘Mainland’ is a relative term, so not inaccurate at all. We’re part of a bigger whole and I’m comfortable with that; we’re all connected ultimately, it’s just one of many units of identity.

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  56. FP,

    I will ignore your man-playing and name-calling.

    a) Yes, there is currently no political consensus. I’ll give you that many of those speaking on the issue are not exactly trustworthy.

    b) oxymoronic? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. I appreciate there will be difficulties, but there is nothing wrong in principle with a secular integrated education system in NI, any more than in the US or France.

    And yes, I know how and why the Catholic school system developed. Times have thankfully changed.

    c) Neither the Labour party in England nor the Republic is a religiously partisan party. And the religious divide in NI has cultural-national overtones that don’t apply in those places. A non-religious Labour education minister is not as divisive as, say, a Sinn Fein education minister (whatever his personal religious views).

    Zig70,

    I would say the time is right to phase out Catholic schools whenever the Irish/Catholic culture is given a place within the state system.

    Exactly. What the naysayers forget is that an integrated state sector would not be the same as the one we have now – that would be politically impossible, and rightly so.

    The alliance party at times come out with statements, policies that are British in culture, I’m not criticizing them for that but it doesn’t reflect my attitudes.

    Can you give some examples? (I’m not here to defend the Alliance party BTW)

    What does surface and cause issues are the cultural differences and a lack of mutual respect. If you don’t think that the SDLP shows a level of respect to unionists then we are on a hiding to nothing.

    It’s not that they don’t show respect, but that they display a gulf of understanding.

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  57. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Mainland Ulsterman, you need to get out more, stop your foot-stamping and certainly do not need to try to make a federal case that I am anti-British’!

    I was merely pointing out that you using the phrase. ‘the mainland’, is geographically inaccurate according to the definition of offshore islands of England, Scotland and Wales (Royal Geographical Society). You are, of course, within your rights to use the phrase and, no, I don’t hate you for it but it just (very) mildly irritates me in the same way as people-an awful lot of them here-saying ‘I seen’ or ‘I done’ or referring to ‘the Province’ or ‘the Free State’.

    I’m by no means anti-British, merely adhering to the Queen’s English and following Fowler’s ‘Modern English Usage’.

    I do not believe you will get any reputable authority to confirm that your usage of the phrase ‘the mainland’ is accurate. If you described NI’s relationship with GB as ‘the rest of the United Kingdom’ then I would agree with you.

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  58. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    SDLP supporter,
    “I do not believe you will get any reputable authority to confirm that your usage of the phrase ‘the mainland’ is accurate.”
    You seem to subscribe to the Academie Francaise model of top-down linguistics, which is defunkt these days. Try Prof Steven Pinker’s ‘The Language Extinct’: if you hear a term in usage and you know what it means, it’s kind of absurd to say it’s “wrong”. At best it maybe ‘non-standard’ but that’s another question. Unless you’re seriously suggesting this is the first time you’ve heard it …

    You cite something the RGS said and I haven’t seen the context but I’d be surprised if it was intended as an evaluation of Northern Irish language usage. The relevant question here, for the term ‘British mainland’ to be acceptable in this context, is not “What is the *usual* meaning of ‘British mainland’?”, but “What are all the terms you *can* use for that area, writing from a Northern Ireland perspective and is ‘British mainland’ one of them?” And the answer would be yes.

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  59. Now here’s an interesting thing: a surprising number of the early usages of “mainland” refer to … Scotland.

    Instance: Na man was left all this many land [i.e. Scotland] within. [Actis & Deidis Schir William Wallace, 1478 or 1488].

    Instance: And then he thocht, but mar delay, Into the manland till arywe. [John Barbour: Bruce, 1487].

    Instance: William Stewart, doing a metrical version of Boethius, 1535:
    Befoir wes medow and mane land,
    Quhair now is nocht bot salt water and sand.

    The use of “mainland” for Britain as seen from Northern Ireland seems to originate from the military. The earliest citation in the OED is from Kennedy Lindsay’s 1980 study, British Intelligence Services in Action.

    What was Mainland Ulsterman saying about a “model of top-down linguistics”?

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  60. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    MR,
    Not sure I’m convinced by that assertion on a military root for the term. I can definitely cite (non-military) usage of “mainland” in our family from well before 1980 …

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  61. Mainland Ulsterman @ 4:34 pm:

    I’m sure you’re correct. If you have a definite (which means, for their purposes, written source), I’m sure the other John Simpson would be glad to hear from you.

    There are numerous usages in my family circle not recorded for posterity by the OED. Probably just as well.

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  62. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    MR,
    Found a reference to the “mainland” of Britain in Brewster’s The Edinburgh Encyclopædia, 1832. Not from an NI perspective of course, but I’ll see what else I can come up with.

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  63. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    MR,
    Here’s one, from 1968:
    “In Northern Ireland, the nine railway companies of the Province emerged from the first world war … The combination of this with the railways’ powers brought about a situation similar to that on the mainland …”
    It’s from John Hibbs’ ‘The History of British Bus Services’. Don’t tell me you haven’t read it …
    Not sure if I can be bothered telling John Simpson but it’s all available on Google.

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  64. Mainland Ulsterman @ 10.29 pm:

    You should. Worlds turn on this discovery.

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