DUP conference: dogmas, Mexican bandits, turkeys, opposition, outreach #dup12

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The DUP is undeniably changing.

  • Ten years ago who would have thought that purveyors of the trade organisation representing sellers of the devil’s buttermilk – Pubs of Ulster – would be sponsoring a drinks reception at the DUP conference?
  • Who would have predicted that a Irish government minister would be welcomed to the DUP conference and that delegates would speak highly of his understanding of the minutiae of CAP reform?
  • Could you imagine a Conservative Secretary of State being willing to attend a DUP conference and speaking about their shared vision on various policy issues?
  • Would the party’s previous leader have openly suggested “abandoning out-dated dogmas” or recommended adjusting the party to become more attractive to disenfranchised Catholic voters?

Slowly but surely Peter Robinson is putting his stamp on the DUP’s direction of travel. While careful avoid losing too many loyal supporters, he’s weaving a deft path between those who parade and those who don’t, as well as between the conservative evangelicals and the more liberal unionists.

The party’s challenge is to find ways for all its elected representatives to own parts of Peter Robinson’s vision and language. That’s the only way it will transform from nice rhetoric to real leadership on the ground. Otherwise, Peter Robinson’s words will be judged cynically and their depth questioned. After two years of similar DUP leader conference speeches, it is time for words to be replaced with action. Voters will get a chance to give their opinion in 18 months time.

Of course, in the meantime, Robinson’s challenge is to stay statesman-like and rise above the temptation to give in to whataboutery and sniping at other parties. And maybe it’s about time he gave the Irish News an interview if Catholic voters are really going to be fêted?

[Audio recordings from the main sessions throughout the day are embedded throughout the post and also available in one long list here.]

– – –

While there were just over 100 in the conference hall to hear the opening devotions (a reading of John 1 and a prayer), numbers swelled to around 700 by the time Peter Robinson took to the stage at noon.

The morning started with a series of upbeat presentations on health – including a video of a telemedicine robot tootling around a hospital seemingly unaided – followed by a speech by Minister of Health Edwin Poots.

I intend to launch a draft cross-departmental autism strategy and action plan within the next ten days.

In part of his speech, Poots focussed on increasing accountability, announcing a “series of Ministerial accountability meetings … [that] will be conducted in public”. Each year, senior officials from some of the seventeen arms-length bodies will take part in public discussions with the minister addressing “areas such as corporate governance, quality and performance”.

Poots also made brief comments about the Marie Stopes clinic and his stance on abortion within Northern Ireland

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds began his speech by quoting Franklin Roosevelt – “There are many ways in which to move forward, but only one way to stand still” – before stating that the DUP was “a party moving forward”.

Given the removal of John McCallister from the role of deputy leader (and the abolishment of the deputy post) and Delores Kelly’s solo run on opposition at the recent SDLP conference, Dodds said that he “might have to be careful about what I say this morning”.

He name-checked successful local Olympians and Paralympians, but seemed to omit mentioning the Team Ireland boxers from Belfast.

In Westminster out influence is growing and being felt. The attendance of the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers MP and the Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker MP here at our conference only serves to highlight out ever growing status in Parliament. We are no bit part players being pushed around. We play a key and pivotal role.

He called on Sinn Fein to “make up their mind” between being “part of the new future in Northern Ireland” or “simply the voice of opposition and protest”.

Sinn Fein need to decide if they are going to stop looking over one shoulder at the SDLP and over the other shoulder at dissidents and start to change their focus and look ahead …

North Belfast proves that it the will exists transformation can be made … progress was made on the Girdwood site when we all worked together. Girdwood stands as a beacon to what can be achieved in the future. But Girdwood cannot simply be a one off, it must be the norm.

Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster was up next with a speech that the current state of NI businesses, schemes to reduce costs and red tape and to encourage investment, and highlighting Invest NI activity.

The leaders of the world will be enjoying good old Ulster hospitality when the G8 summit is held in the Lough Erne golf resort in County Fermanagh. What a wonderful shop window on the world. Northern Ireland will be strutting its stuff on the global stage. We will show what our wee country has to offer for tourists, for businesses and for investors.

Foster announced a review of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board “to ensure that there is a greater alignment between what this organisation does and the work of Invest NI”. While making no mention of The Gathering, Foster’s remarks turned south of the border:

It is also vital that Tourism Ireland starts to promote Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom on the island of Ireland. For too long officialdom has been afraid to promote Northern Ireland as a country with all its rich cultures and traditions.

MEP Diane Dodds was the warm-up act just before the leader’s speech. Compared to hustings and studio appearances during the last European elections, her performance this morning oozed confidence and passion.

Peter Robinson entered the hall to the same music as last year – The Call, Let the Day Begin – and his oration touched on many of the same points he spoke about twelve months ago on the same stage in the same hotel room. (BBC Two NI’s coverage of his speech is available to watch on iPlayer until next weekend.)

No unionist leader could avoid referencing the 1912 Ulster Covenant in a speech this year:

A century ago this autumn our forefathers overcame the greatest crisis which ever faced unionism, and in this decade, I believe that we have been presented with unionism’s greatest opportunity.

And this time our purpose is not to defeat, but by words and deeds to persuade.

Having failed to convince people back here of the value of a United Ireland Gerry Adams – like the undead from a “B” movie – roams around the globe lecturing people about creating a united Ireland. But I want us to use our powers of persuasion here at home, where it matters, to expound the benefits of belonging to the Union.

That means challenging ourselves as well as challenging others and it means building a society where everyone feels equally valued.

I’m sure Gerry Adams feels valued after that example of respect and veneration.

This autumn other parties have used their conferences to debate opposition, to criticise their political opponents – and sometimes their so-called friends – and to decry what Northern Ireland has achieved.

Today, I want to take a different approach. I want to talk about the Union, about jobs, about programme delivery and about reconciliation. I want to focus as much as possible on a vision of hope, of progress, of optimism and accomplishment – a future built on advancement, on prosperity and on positive politics.

And if Robinson had stuck to being positive – instead of letting the negativity and criticism of others creep in – it would have been a better speech.

We in this party are the custodians of unionism. My goal as leader is to lay the groundwork that will cement our place within the Union.

If that means taking tough decisions or abandoning out-dated dogmas, then I’ll do it. Because the essence of our success has been, and will be, that of remaining true to our enduring values, but doing so in a way relevant to this modern world.

Which begs the question what some of the out-dated dogmas that could be abandoned include?

This month during one of the saddest weeks of my term as First Minister I attended the funerals of Channing Day and of David Black.

Lives lost in the service of others. Words cannot ease the pain that their families and friends will be feeling now, but we are humbled by their sacrifice.

Both at home and half way around the world these people chose to serve their country. Nothing can bring them back, but no one can erase the lives they lived nor the service they have given.

Just as we remember those who died serving us all, let us also remember those who continue to serve whether it is here or abroad. Their extraordinary work allows each of us to live normal lives.

Dungannon Councillor Sammy Brush – sitting in the front row – had already been mentioned from the platform earlier in the day. Robinson singled him out again:

As a party it is also right that we spend a moment this afternoon in solidarity with one of our own. One who terrorists tried to murder but due to his courage and adeptness – he survived. In spite of facing a hail of bullets and being shot several times, he managed, though injured to shoot one of his would-be assassins before struggling to his vehicle and driving to the local police station from where he was transferred to hospital.

Not content with their failure to murder him, his home continues to be attacked and he and his family face on-going abuse. This recently reached a new low when councillors in the same council of which he is a valued member – in his presence – voted to have one of his would-be murderers released from jail. Conference, I ask you to rise and show support and solidarity with our colleague – our friend – Dungannon Councillor Sammy Brush.

Robinson warned against the party becoming “smug or complacent”:

The DUP has triumphed because it is united and strong; because it looks to the future and not just to the past and because it does not just say things to court a popular tide but rather it says what it believes and believes what it says.

And although we have been very successful we must not be smug or complacent.

Just recall how quickly other parties have fallen from power. I don’t need to warn anyone in this hall what division does to a party’s prospects. I don’t need to warn anyone in this hall because the DUP has always been as much a family as it is a political party.

Belfast Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson was asked to stand at one point. Robinson offered to buy the razor that would shave off his charity moustache at the end of November, saying “you can’t win seats in East Belfast looking like a Mexican bandit” – a reference to Gavin Robinson (no relation but his former special adviser) running in East Belfast at the next Westminster election.

Unlike two years ago when she was removed from the final draft of the speech, MEP Diane Dodds was praised by the leader today:

In Europe Diane has been tremendous, not just for what she has achieved in the Parliament but what she has delivered for so many individuals and groups up and down the Province.

And her husband and deputy leader Nigel Dodds was commended too:

And when it comes to friendship and loyalty I suspect Mike Nesbitt and Alastair McDonnell could only dream of the level of support that I can rely on from Nigel.

Sinn Fein’s keenness for a border poll delivered one of Robinson’s few sound bites in the 45 minute long speech.

Defeatism and despair were common-place, but today we have the confidence of knowing that a majority of Protestants and Catholics alike support our constitutional position within the United Kingdom. They know they are better off with Britain.

The one party that seems oblivious to the shifting sands of opinion is Sinn Fein. One of the most bizarre developments in recent times has been the Sinn Fein call for a Border Poll.

Now, I know opinion polls are not a perfect gauge of public opinion, but when the last one showed that fewer than 10% want a United Ireland now, republicans really should take the hint.

Republicans asking for a border poll makes turkeys voting for Christmas look like a carefully considered strategy.

More than a page of the speech was devoted to Robinson’s musings on the state of the Stormont’s “scaffolding”.

Power sharing is not something that many unionists would place as their first preference, but the reality is that cross community government has increased support for the constitutional status quo in Northern Ireland.

Understanding the significance of that trade-off is important as we plan for the future. It doesn’t mean that every aspect of the present arrangements should be sacrosanct. It means that any new structures have to be able to command support across the community.

That’s not just my view. It is accepted by virtually every unionist politician. I get frustrated, when every time I suggest changes that could make Stormont work better, nationalist and republican politicians accuse me of wanting a return to majority rule.

It’s as if they believe I am hatching a cunning plan to return to the 1930s. I’ve been around politics long enough to know that if any significant part of this community is disaffected then none of us wins.

So I call on nationalists and republicans who are fearful of change to look afresh at our political structures and ask themselves the question: what will best deliver for the people we all represent?

The DUP would “facilitate” any party wanting to take on an “opposition role”

I say to them, “Even if you don’t yet feel ready to create a voluntary coalition government, surely there can’t be any reason not to provide for a credible voluntary opposition.”

I don’t fear facing an opposition. Why should I? The DUP has by far the best and most able Ministers and there are no better ideas coming from any other party or member in the Assembly. In truth, I would prefer the UUP to work alongside us in harmony and in partnership but I am prepared to facilitate them or indeed any other party if they feel they cannot make a positive contribution in the Executive and wish to opt for an opposition role.

Let’s be open and honest, being in the Executive has not prevented some from positioning themselves in opposition when it suited them. I forced myself to listen to Alasdair McDonald speak to his party faithful – and some not so faithful. He attacked the Executive for what it had done and he attacked the Executive what it hadn’t done. He criticised the Executive for its ideas and he criticised the Executive for having no ideas. What bemused me most was not just the nonsense he was uttering but that he appeared to be completely unaware that his party was in the Executive.

In the SDLP’s world – and not theirs alone – they are in the Executive when positive announcements are to be made but they are found heading the opposition charge when hard decisions have to be taken.

But let me be clear – as the party that has consistently sought to improve the Assembly structures – the DUP remains willing to support additional resources and speaking time for a genuine opposition as a modest first step towards normalisation of our democratic structures.

Having articulated the party’s confidence, Robinson went on to look at wider society. As someone commented, he was in “growth mindset” rather than “fixed mindset”.

After all, we are not just the largest party within unionism; we are the party for Northern Ireland. So as unionists we cannot afford to push a narrow agenda. We must embrace the whole community. Because it is our responsibility to make Northern Ireland work.

That means winning the battle of ideas and it means making hard choices – not just the popular ones. It means being able to compromise when we need to reach agreements and it means standing firm when matters of principle are at stake.

Above all, it means representing the whole community, not just one section of it. In a society that is as politically divided as ours that’s not always easy. However, I would argue, that failing isn’t the real crime when striving for a worthwhile goal; the real crime is not having the guts to try in the first place.

He applauded Sinn Fein’s reaction to dissident murders, but wouldn’t forget the IRA’s role in the Troubles.

Working together doesn’t mean agreeing on everything, it’s about working through issues and finding the maximum degree of consensus possible. But while politics has made huge strides forward in Northern Ireland, every so often we are confronted with the horror of what was once an everyday occurrence.

I welcome calls from the leadership of Sinn Fein to bring dissident murderers to justice even if some of their members are still stuck in the past. I see it as real progress, but I reject absolutely the notion that there is any moral difference between those murdered by dissidents and those murdered during the Troubles. There’s never been the slightest justification for the forty years of terrorism that blighted our Province and divided our people. None of the problems in our society required a single life to be taken.

We will not permit Sinn Fein to erase those parts of history that are inconvenient. We will not allow them to engage in revisionism. Recently Declan Kearney under a banner of “reconciliation” sought to blame all the sins in Christendom on everyone other that republicans. You would have thought that the IRA had never existed. His personal and bitter unionist-hating rant exposed his intention to use the worthy goal of reconciliation to airbrush the evil acts of republican terrorists from the history books. It would be a betrayal of the legacy of all who have suffered if history were to be rewritten to salve the consciences of the perpetrators.

Declan Kearney was never going to get a vote of thanks from the DUP:

I seek true and genuine reconciliation, but it will not happen by trying to spin a false or sanitised version of the past. Though we all arrived at this point by very different routes, we all have a part to play in building better relationships.

I am increasingly impatient to publish our “good relations” strategy which is all but ready to go to Party Leaders. It doesn’t contain everything that either I or any other leader would want – but it is a hugely positive step. I must say I take a dim view of any political party that seeks to use a sensitive issue like this to cause division in order to garner votes.

Consensus government means we have to move forward with the highest level of agreement possible. Nobody gets everything they want, but even so, let us be clear about one thing, ultimately, reconciliation will not be brought about by the words of a document, but by changes in people’s attitudes.

Outreach to Catholic voters was a topic in Robinson’s speech again this year.

The reality today is that the ‘left’ and ‘far left’ policies of both of the nationalist parties leave many Catholics effectively disenfranchised. As the leader of a party that seeks to represent the whole community I’m not prepared to write off over 40% of our population as being out of reach.

And I know that building this new constituency will require as much of an adjustment from us as it will require a leap of faith from those whose votes we seek.

The exact same disconnect also applies to our rapidly-emerging new communities from Eastern Europe and farther afield. These are people who have come to Northern Ireland in search of a better life and greater opportunity. Our policies are perfectly tailored to their hard working culture of aspiration for themselves and their families.

Like every other elected representative who graced the platform at today’s DUP conference, Robinson took a swipe at the media.

Despite what you might see or hear in the media, it isn’t all arguing and bickering.

No one knows better than I do how frustrating operating a multi-party coalition government can be. But that’s the price we pay for an Executive that commands such widespread support.

As First Minister it frustrates me to hear some commentators and politicians take every chance they get to talk Northern Ireland down. To listen to them you would think that nothing good had happened over the last five years or that devolution hadn’t made a difference to ordinary people’s lives.

And because that diet of defeatism is all that people hear about the Executive and politics it’s hardly surprising that they are cynical about Stormont. So let me take a few minutes to highlight just some of our achievements that have made a real difference.

Robinson went on to celebrate Executive decisions:

  • deferring water charges, freezing regional rate and providing 20% rates discount for over 70s living alone
  • retaining industrial de-rating and extending small business rates relief scheme
  • more generous free travel policy than anywhere in GB
  • £225 million rescue package for Presbyterian Mutual Society savers
  • £20 million gratuity package for Part-Time Reserve Police Officers and ended 50-50 police recruitment policy
  • freezing Student Fees (in real terms) for Northern Ireland universities
  • ensuring the survival of grammar schools by retaining the option of academic selection

Later in the speech Robinson made many claims about Belfast’s business success and attractiveness, but omitted to mention the period of time in which these observations were accurate (last month, last year, least decade):

Belfast is now among the world’s top 10 cities for financial technology investments ahead of Dublin, Glasgow, Toronto and even Bangalore.

Outside of London, Belfast is now the UK’s most attractive city for foreign direct investment.

There were honourable mentions for HBO, Titanic Belfast, the Giant’s Causewayt visitor centre, Irish Open Golf tournament, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (described as “for many of us the absolute high point of the year”) and the Olympics as well as looking to future events like “Londonderry” UK City of Culture, World Police and Fire Games and the G8 summit. Despite telling a Mo Farah story Robinson avoided telling “the sash Mo Farah wore” joke.

And none of this progress would have occurred if republican paramilitary dissidents or unionist political dissidents had got their way.

Jim Allister – not mentioned by name in Robinson’s speech – will not be pleased at being included in a list of dissidents.

The speech ended with a quote from H G Wells:

Let giving of our best be the goal that motivates us in all that we do in the months that lie ahead. It was H G Wells who said, “The past is but the beginning of a beginning and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.”

We have the opportunity to make tomorrow a better day.

There was no progress report about the success of the Registered Party Members scheme in this year’s speech. Last year Robinson outlined the scheme for people “who for a variety of reasons can’t or don’t want to join a political party” but “support what [the DUP] are doing”.

[November 2011:] As an initial target, I want us to sign-up 5,000 Registered Party Supporters before the conference next year and 5,000 more the year after. And yes, I admit it. I hope that Registered Party Supporters will, in their own time, ease themselves into membership of the party itself.

Many someone from the party will enlighten Slugger readers about whether Peter Robinson’s target was met?

After lunch, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers made a flying visit to conference, and spoke about security, economics, genuine shared futures as well as the future of the union. Her physical presence at the conference was more of note than the contents of her speech.

A panel discussion titled Working Together: What is a Shared Future included contributions from Jeffrey Donaldson, Tony Gallagher and Peter Sheridan.

Social Development minister Nelson McCausland also addressed the conference about his department’s work.

One of the major challenges I face is that of having, and I stress that word ‘having, to take ‘welfare reform’ through the Assembly. Let me be clear about it, this is a real challenge. Some other parties prefer to engage in sham fights and make a pretence of ‘standing up to Westminster’ but such posturing will achieve nothing.

I am committed to making sure that we maximise on the positive elements of welfare reform and at the same time take appropriate measures, wherever possible, to mitigate against the negative cost-cutting elements that the Tories are pushing through.

I have been consistent in my approach and I have been diligent in taking my concerns, where they exist, to London and arguing for change. Already we have achieved some vital concessions for Northern Ireland, against all the predictions of the nay-sayers – concessions that Scotland, Wales and England would love to have. The approach I am taking is the approach that is working.

There is still more to be done and I am focused on delivering the best possible outcome for the people of Northern Ireland but getting that outcome is only part of what we have been doing.

While I wasn’t around to hear Friday’s opening day of the conference – and missed Sammy Wilson’s comedy routine (reported in the News Letter) which was moved away from its normal Saturday slot, perhaps after last year’s notoriety – I heard no mention today from any of the elected representatives on the platform of dealing with the past, changing attitudes to allow ‘peace’ walls to disappear, educational reform, or significant mention of working class issues.

Update – the post on Open Unionism dissecting Robinson’s speech is worth a read.

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  • galloglaigh

    Irish republicans will continue to force a united Ireland. They haven’t failed yet. In fact they have gained more in 10 years, than unionism has gained in 212. Unionism is about to lose the lot, in favour of Irish republicans. Can’t you see that? You can’t be that stupid?

    Well you are an Orangeman!

  • Covenanter

    “Again I think that if you read up on it, and think about it really really hard, you will find that partition was not actually a republican ambition, but in the end they settled for 26 and not 32. That means unionism in Ireland lost 26. The word lost is lost on you it would appear.”

    Ulster unionists did not want the 26 counties. Are you incapable of grasping that? I suggest that you put a bit of thought into investigating when Ulster unionism broke away from southern unionism. You will find that it predates partition by quite a few years. The only people who were disappointed by partition were southern unionists and er, northern nationalists. If you regard it as a great success then you are an extremely strange sort of Irish republican.

  • Covenanter

    “Irish republicans will continue to force a united Ireland.”

    Irish republicans will force nothing. They have been neutered and sucked into the British state, and they seem to be very comfortable there.

  • galloglaigh

    By changing from Unionists to Ulster unionists, you’re attempting to move the goalposts. Yes they did want the 26 counties originally. They abandoned southern Protestants, so that they could hold on to some form of power on the island. Only after they realised Ireland under the Union was a busted flush.
    Can you not grasp that?

    You’re a fool. If your aim is to drag me into an argument, you’re a bigger fool. You’ve lost the argument. Your comments are based on Orange camp-fire myths and half-truths. You should educate yourself before making yourself look stupid. It’s better to be seen a fool, than to start typing and remove all doubt…

  • galloglaigh

    Keep telling yourself that son if it makes you feel better. Orange camp-fire tales don’t reflect the reality. I note you never back your points up. And even when you do, they’re ripped apart.

    I often wonder, why when banned so many times, people like you come back for more. Lambs to the slaughter springs to mind.

    You are attempting to drag me to your depths so that I get carded. It won’t work!

  • derrydave

    “I defer to your expert knowledge on what you can claim on both sides of the border”

    Thank you Covenantor – a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Have never claimed a cent in benefits in my life, but just like to make a point of knowing what I’m talking about ! That might be an alien concept to you as you seem to prefer talking shite and then walking away from it when it’s proven that you’re talking shite :-)

    FYI also, yes you do need to ‘prove’ you are looking for work in the South to be able to claim jobseekers allowance – exactly the same requirement in the North of course. In reality this is impossible to enforce and only a token effort is made to do so.

    So, anyway, back to your point about how all those pesky unemployed fenians are going to vote to stay in the UK so that they can take advantage of the wonderful British Welfare State :-)

  • galloglaigh

    derrydave

    He’s a twice banned user. That says it all.

  • Covenanter

    I’m not trying to drag you into anything. Ulster unionism started as a distinct entity in the 1880s. The Ulster Unionist party came into existence in 1905. Those are simply the facts. If you can’t grasp them then I cannot be blamed for that.

    How can I lose an argument with someone who doesn’t grasp the simple facts of the situation?

    The south of Ireland is and was overwhelmingly Catholic. What became Northern Ireland was and remains majority Protestant. The northern Protestants did not want home rule because they knew that it would lead to independence and that in that independence they would be dominated by a Priest run government. (No one today will seriously try to argue that they were wrong).

    In order to prevent themselves from being subsumed into a Roman catholic run state they agitated for the formation of Northern Ireland. After WW1, which they contributed to magnificently and the 1916 Rising ( a huge wartime stab in the back to the British) the IRA embarked on a widespread murder campaign. Britain would have looked very bad indeed if it had abandoned a million of its loyal citizens to an IRA led government.

    Therefore Collins and co contributed hugely to the unionist cause. Had there been no rising and no subsequent murder campaign it would have been extremely hard for unionists to complain that they would have faced discrimination and murder in a united home rule Ireland.

    The modern IRA led troubles succeeded in onvincing even Irish Americans that partition was acceptable and indeed desireable. Especially after 9/11 robbed them of their misty eyed view of terrorists.

    To summarise. Irish republicans were consistently unlucky in that all of their efforts greatly aided unionism. That generally dawns on them all at some stage and they then turn against the latest incarnation of murdering idiots. It even dawned on Collins before republicans killed him.

  • Covenanter

    “So, anyway, back to your point about how all those pesky unemployed fenians are going to vote to stay in the UK so that they can take advantage of the wonderful British Welfare State”

    Derrydave,

    The wondeful and sustainable British welfare state.

  • galloglaigh

    Your last comment is utter tripe. You’re dragging this off topic. You lost the argument of the thread and want to start your own. It’s not going to work. Your view of history is bizarre. You see failure and loss of political power as a success. That’s the problem with unionism, it can’t see its own demise. Not then… Not not… Not in the future!

    Give up the ghost lodger, or who ever you were before that, and before that, and before that?

  • derrydave

    Yeah Covenanter – am sure yer average dole-ite in the north will consider the economic sustainability of the relative benefits systems rather than just opting for one which pays over double that of the other :-)

  • Covenanter

    “You see failure and loss of political power as a success.”

    The objective of unionism is to keep Northern Ireland within the union. This was achieved for fifty years by a unionist run local government. It was maintained for a further forty or so years under direct rule from Westminster. Today it is maintained by a combination of direct rule from Westminster and a locally administered Assembly at Stormont which includes people who spent decades trying to destroy NI.

    That is a huge success in anyones terms. My summary doesn’t even include the defeat and disarming of PIRA. If you want to know what failure looks like then look to them.

  • Covenanter

    “Yeah Covenanter – am sure yer average dole-ite in the north will consider the economic sustainability of the relative benefits systems rather than just opting for one which pays over double that of the other”

    Derrydave,

    My point is that by the time he would be offered the choice (if indeed he ever was) it is unlikely that the ROI would still be paying out quite such a generous dole.

  • galloglaigh

    Keep telling yourself, that the loss of political power, as well as the loss of colonial territory, is a huge success. It’ll make it all better son…

    You’re argument has no relevance to anything other than Orange camp-fire myths…

  • galloglaigh

    p.s. the PIRA now rule you and me. That eats you up. Suck it up!

  • Covenanter

    The maintaining of the union with Great Britain is indeed a great success. It is what unionists set out to ensure in 1912.

    PIRA have been defeated, disarmed and converted to the cause of unionism.

    That has to hurt. :-)

  • galloglaigh

    Like I said before, It actually doesn’t. That hurts you. The Union pre-dates 1912, and every time we gain, you lose. And lose you have.

    You lost direct rule.

    You lost the RUC.

    You lost the UDR.

    You lost the B-Specials.

    You lost one party gerrymandered rule.

    You lost the 26 counties.

    You lost the Home Rule argument.

    You lost the Emancipation argument.

    Everything you lost, we gained. And how we’ve gained.

  • SK

    “Ulster unionists did not want the 26 counties.”

    _______

    So a sectarian dismemberment of Ireland was unionism’s ultimate goal. No surprises there.

    I wonder what Carson- the leader of those Ulster Unionists who “didn’t want the 26 counties”- would have made of such a statement. .

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: p.s. the PIRA now rule you and me.
    They must like the status-quo then, as they haven’t changed anything since they got into power.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was hoping to have a decent conversation about the DUP conference but the entire thread has been hijacked by the same small set of nationalist and unionist sockpuppets screwing it up with their stupid off-topic whataboutery.

    Mick, can you please sort this out otherwise the site is going to be overrun by this crap.

  • Submariner

    SK,Derrydave,Galloglaigh do not converse with Covenanter he is the BANNED poster Lodger. He also posts on a number of other sites including debate central revisited using the name Blairmayne. He has an almost pathological hatred of Catholics and Nationalists have a Google for yourself. Do not feed the troll

  • Submariner

    Mick Fealty (profile) 26 November 2012 at 9:02 am
    Sub, he’s banned as Limerick too…

    Mick if that is the case then why do you continue to permit a banned poster to post comments on this board. What is the point of the black card system?

  • Alias

    “Are you a Professor? Everything you’ve argued above is your own opinion. It means nothing. Your opinion means nothing. Accept that we only have to be lucky once, and you have to be lucky all the time. You can’t seem to grasp that. It says more about you, than it does the research done by the Professor.”

    I’m not calling you completely and utterly thick, you understand, but you could have at least tried to read the opinion of O’Leary (a political go-between who failed to declare his interest) when you quoted said opinion:

    “The Agreement is a treaty between states and is based on Irish national-self-determination as well as British constitutional convention. The UK officially acknowledges in the Agreement that Northern Ireland has the right to secede into the Republic, on the basis of a local referendum, and it recognises, in a treaty, the authority of Irish national self-determination throughout the island of Ireland, and the Agreement’s institutions have been brought into being by the will of the people of Ireland, North and South. In international law I therefore maintain that the UK’s relationship to Northern Ireland is federal: Westminster cannot, except through breaking its treaty obligations, and except through denying Irish national self-determination, exercise power in any manner in Northern Ireland that is inconsistent with the Agreement.

    This federalising possibility will, of course, be enhanced if the UK and Northern Irish courts come to treat Northern Ireland’s relationships to Westminster as akin to those of the former Dominions – which had a federal character – as they did in the period of the Stormont Parliament (1 92 1 – 1972). Moreover, the nature of devolution or federation is not closed: the UK has, crucially, created an open-ended mechanism for Northern Ireland to expand its autonomy from the rest of the UK, albeit with the consent of the Secretary of State, and the approval of Westminster. Maximum feasible autonomy while remaining within the Union is feasible provided there is agreement to that within the Northern Assembly. Of course, legalist Diceyians will insist that Westminster’s ultimate sovereignty in Northern Ireland remains intact. But if the Agreement beds down the political development of a federal relationship between the UK and Northern Ireland is assured for the medium-term whatever might be said in the dry recesses of the Constitution’s ancient regime.”

    I won’t bother trying to explain the difference between research and opinion to you as such an effort if way beyond my ability to teach and your ability to learn. Now I don’t expect you to be able to grasp any of the foregoing either, but I’ll post in the hope that an adult may be available to assist you at some future point.

    O’Leary’s opinion, expressed in 1998, that the “UK’s relationship to Northern Ireland is federal” has already been proven to be utterly false. In a federation, as opposed to a unitary state, the self-governing powers cannot be unilaterally altered. Yet that is exactly what occurred when the British government suspended Stormont against the will of the Irish government and in direct violation of the terms of the Treaty. Were it a federal arrangement for the reasons he gives then that suspension could not have occurred. O’Leary then makes the assumption that the non-existent “federalising possibility will, of course, be enhanced if the UK and Northern Irish courts”. Again he has been proven wrong.

    He has attached so many qualifications, equivocations to his opinion and based it on so many wild and frankly absurd assumptions (not least the utter tosh about parliamentary sovereignty being stealthily overturned) that one might suspect that O’Leary has yet again failed to declare a non-academic political role…

    Still, if a little propaganda courtesy of academia comforts the Shinner sheep while they are led away, what harm can it do?

  • galloglaigh

    Yep, I’m thick, you’re a professor, and the GFA is only a piece of worthless paper. Just like Arabs in Palestine aren’t Palestinians.

    I’m not saying you’re thick but it’s hard to educate pork!

  • RegisterForThisSite

    galloglaigh, Alias is correct, however in a very selective manner, suspensions of the Assembly occurred to protect trimble and the UUP who eventually got unionism over the finishing line and then finally to get the DUP to the same place. Did everyone complain, hell yes, but only for political reasons, the DUP complained the loudest as it prevented them from wrecking the GFA.

    Its a bit like saying someone kicked your front door in and neglecting to say it was to rescue a baby from a burning building.

    At the stretch you could even agree that the GFA allows for the repartition of Ireland at a time after reunification. However as the GFA states that the SoS for NI is responsible for calling a border poll and after reunification neither the position of SoS, nor the border, nor NI will exist it would be a tad difficult.

    However, the comment about not been able to rule non-citizens I’ll *ahem* leave well alone, esp as there are over 500,000 non-citizens in Ireland already who seem to be getting ruled over fairly well. Also there are over 200,000 people who were born in England and Wales living in Ireland and we ain’t her from her Maj yet.

  • Alias

    “I’m not saying you’re thick but it’s hard to educate pork!” – galloglaigh

    I’m not offended by that blatant anti-Semitic slur even though it lowers the tone of Slugger considerably.

    However, I can now clearly see that you are a low-rent racist scumbag and so I will simply ignore your posts in future.

  • galloglaigh

    anti-Semitic slur

    low-rent racist scumbag

    Surely that’s man playing? I’ve had a red card for less. Your idiot friend has been given a black card for less…

    If you can’t take your oil, don’t talk out your arse!

  • PaddyReilly

    I would like to say something about Alias’s view of treaties, which is obviously based on a lot of reading, but fundamentally misses the point.

    It is usually remarked in the first chapter of the text book that International Law is not law, because there is no-one to enforce it. However, it does resemble a certain kind of contract and property law, for which we should remember the dictum that possession is nine tenths of the law.

    Take for example the 1921 treaty. Northern Ireland immediately began to break it, by refusing to appoint a representative to the Boundary Commission. When the British government appointed one for them, they then mobilised the RUC in all the disputed areas and showed that they were very much in command, and thus managed to intimidate the British Government into not holding a plebiscite or making any significant changes.

    The poor foolish Irish had signed a treaty which was insufficiently specific. This enabled the Unionists to stymie it. Possession is nine tenths of the law. However they were learning: once De Valera managed to take over from the now discredited Treaty Party in 1932, he set about removing all the monarchistic and undemocratic elements, oaths, etc, even those it would have cost little to maintain, such as the Trinity representative in the Senate. It made him one of the most hated men in Conservative Britain in the 1930s, but what could they do, short of invading Ireland again, which would have made trouble with the Canadians and Australians and possibly brought the Empire to a close.

    Compared to the 1921 treaty, the GFA has endured very well. A week is a long time in politics: 14 years is wonderful old age for a treaty.

    The core of the GFA derives its power from a referendum of the people of Northern Ireland. This is authoritative, but it is not eternal. Another referendum, held in 2016, would trump it. The dead cannot bind the living: we work on democratic, not necrocratic principles.

  • Alias

    It’s not based on that much reading actually…

    However, I agree with your point about the enforceability of treaties (and no one to interpret it if there is dispute) and don’t think I missed it at all – in fact, I made it twice.

    “What did Ireland do? Send in the tanks?”

    And

    “…there no measure of what is “consistent” and no one to judge.”

    That related to the red herring introduced by another poster who was attempting to claim that the UK’s relationship with NI was federal and therefore – by some odd logic of his which connected the two – that the British Irish Agreement could not be unilaterally altered or abrogated.

    Of course, the actual claims made by me were that the British Irish Agreement didn’t need to be altered to rule out the poster’s fantasy:

    “..absolutely nowhere is it either stated or implied in the British Irish Agreement that a united Ireland would be a unitary state. The opposite is the case: the relationships in the treaty are supranational, con-federal and federal.

    The Treaty recognises that the people of NI have a separate right to self-determination, and does not place any expiry date on it. It is most likely to be the case that they may vote themselves back out of a united Ireland and that Ireland can also vote NI back out of it.

    It also mandates that parity of esteem must be given to both British nationalism and Irish nationalism within any unified entity and that the government shall act with “rigorous impartiality” between the two nationalisms, so that implicitly excludes the possibility of an Irish nation state. In practice it also excludes a unitary state.

    Furthermore, the Treaty recognises the right of the people of NI to self-define as “Irish or British, or both” so that will mean that the unified state will not have the right to force its citizenship on them. Since a state cannot rule those who are not its citizens, the reality will be a federal arrangement of some sort or else a state where the Queen is head of state and all citizens, Irish or British, or both, can agree to that.

    Lastly, the required majority is not specified in the Treaty so it will be whatever figure the British government sets it at.”

    It’s correct to say that the “dead cannot bind the living” and that is an exact paraphrase of Dicey’s Doctrine that the last session of parliament cannot bind the next. However, Dicey’s Doctrine doesn’t apply in the Irish Supreme Court who will take an exact view of the meaning of the wording of the British Irish Agreement which was duly ratified by referendum and annexed to the Irish Constitution in the 19th Amendment.

    All subsequent Supreme Court justices are thereby bound by the Constitution to enforce the terms of the Treaty. Hence, the Treaty it is not enforceable by the Irish if the British abrogate it or enforceable by the British if the Irish abrogate it, but it is enforceable on the Irish by their own courts if they attempt to abrogate it.

    In order for the Irish to seek to set aside the provisions of the Treaty which rule out the formation of a unified nation-state they would have to amend their own Constitution to amend the binding terms on which they have agreed to negotiate a unified state. Good luck pulling that stunt with the unionists – who would, of course, call bad faith and refuse to proceed on the basis of unilateral changes made to the agreed Treaty.

    Hence, the British state has converted reunification into an anti-nationalist agenda. You can have unity but only if you give up your claim to statehood and agree to be subject to an internalised veto invested in the British nation who will thereafter have parity of esteem with the Irish nation.

    In short, you won’t be getting your nation-state because you are locked into a legal process that has excluded that outcome. That’s what folks signed up to, and there is no way out of it.

  • galloglaigh

    Utter bullshit again. If a referendum ever favours the will of nationalism, then nationalism is in a majority. Don’t forget, possession is nine tenths of the law. And watch republicans stand ‘idly’ by and let the will of the Irish people be trampled on for a second time. Your fantasy island views won’t cut the butter with reality, should nationalism ever gain a majority in a referendum.

  • Alias

    “Don’t forget, possession is nine tenths of the law.”

    So you’re arguing that the UK – which has sovereignty over NI – has a 90% chance of retaining sovereignty over NI should you decide, presumably, to pop off down to your local Circuit Court and lodge a claim in the letterbox marked “Dogs, Tools, and Other Miscellaneous” disputes.

    Yeah, might as well squeal that maxim too, Dorothy, as you click your ruby red slippers together and make a wish…

  • galloglaigh

    You can keep pulling the quilt over your head. Keep telling yourself the aliens aren’t coming, and remember the tinfoil hat for when you need a piss…

  • PaddyReilly

    Alias: you started well enough, but then you seemed to get diverted into a side alley about what the Irish Supreme Court would do. Should there be reunification there would need to be another referendum to enable it, and that referendum would take precedence over any previous one.

    A man I know owned an Indian Restaurant. He sold it, and in the deeds he placed a clause that the new owner should give him, and his family, a free meal every week. The purchasers agreed, but after a few weeks began to find this covenant burdensome. So they took to dosing the free meals with near lethal doses of chilli powder. The free meals had to be dropped. Another way of unburdening oneself of unwanted covenants is to make a further sale, possible to a limited company. However chilli powder is much cheaper.

    Now, as to the question of the imagined covenants placed on a reunited Ireland, on the one hand we have the Alias inspired, rather doom laden view of what would happen after reunification: –

    to get a political class of unionists who are stupid enough not to set in the stone the terms by which they (a) enter a united Ireland, (b) reside in a united Ireland, and (c) can exit a united Ireland.

    On the other, we have a recurring delusion among the Unionist population, that after having rejected every attempt to negotiate a reunification, and finally having lost a referendum on the topic, they are still going to be dictating the shape of the New Ireland. It doesn’t matter how many covenants they impose on the entity (though it could only be by the stupidity of the All-Irish party, since a minority has very limited powers to dictate to a majority) they will all be whittled away by succeeding governments.

    For the last 90 years there has been a golden opportunity for Unionists to negotiate for themselves a favourable settlement in a reunited Ireland, but they have always rejected it. If they choose to wait till they are no longer a majority in NI, then that opportunity has been lost. 6 Counties, Nationalist majority, 26 Counties, Nationalist majority: what room for manoeuvre does that leave them with?