Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

#Flegs unrest, protest and threats are the price we pay for not giving moderates a voice

Fri 14 December 2012, 1:02pm

Good piece from Peter Geogehegan in the Scotsman today

If the secular middle classes exude an air of lethargic resignation, the opposite is the case in impoverished housing estates across Northern Ireland, especially those where kerbstones are painted red, white and blue. Many of the protests sparked by the decision to remove the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall have been small affairs, orchestrated in staunchly loyalist neighbourhoods far from town centres, but the cumulative effect has been striking. For the first time, arguably since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and definitely since Sinn Fein and the DUP agreed to power-sharing in 2007, real questions are being asked about the future direction of Northern Ireland.[emphasis added]

He talks to John McCallister:

“The question now is how do you get back to that moderate unionism and moderate nationalism, that spirit of generosity that would say, ‘that is acceptable to do, that is not?’ ” John McCallister, Ulster Unionist Party Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), said, when I met him in the devolved assembly at Stormont earlier this week. McCallister, a passionate voice for moderation, has publicly advocated the UUP pulling out of the cross-community power-sharing assembly and forming an official opposition.

The problem for McCallister and others like him is that the middle ground in Northern Irish politics is fast disappearing. In the first Assembly elections following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the SDLP topped the poll, followed closely by the Ulster Unionists. Sinn Fein took 17 per cent of the vote. In last year’s elections, the Democratic Unionist easily cemented their position as Northern Ireland’s dominant political force. Sinn Fein finished second. As is often the case in power-sharing consosciational systems, extremist politics pays. Over the last decade and a half, the market for moderate politics in Northern Ireland has shrunk: the cross-community Alliance party commanded under 8 per cent of the vote in 2011, up just over 1 per cent on 1998.

This surfeit of moderation is evident not just on the hardwood benches at Stormont. The recent decision to name a playground in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh has sparked controversy. This summer’s parading season was among the tensest in recent years. “We have had a dreadful five or six months in Northern Ireland,” said Mr McCallister.

And finally:

This week’s Northern Ireland census does suggest some reasons to be cheerful. Over a fifth of respondents said that they felt Northern Irish, rather than British or Irish. The emergence of a definably Northern Irish identity might offer a route out of the Manichean Orange and Green dichotomy. But, once again, the sectarian headcount dominated headlines, with Catholics now within spitting distance of Protestants, at 45 per cent and 48 per cent of the total population respectively.

The silence of David Cameron and the Conservative Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, has been deafening. Cameron is of a generation of Tories that have little time for the “dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone”. That the Prime Minister has not travelled to Northern Ireland after over a week of social unrest speak volumes. First minister Peter Robinson has played his hand badly and fans the flames of sectarianism just weeks after telling the DUP conference that the party can attract Catholic voters.

The question now is what will happen next. More loyalist protests are planned for this week, including a demonstration in George Square, Glasgow, and Fife, if a leaked loyalist timetable is to be believed. With so much “passionate fury” in the air, the prospects for Northern Ireland’s shrinking middle ground look worryingly bleak.

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Comments (94)

  1. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Peter Geoghegan ‏@PeterKGeoghegan 17h
    Sitting on my own in a plush Derry restaurant reading Laurent Binet’s HHhH. Mark Durkan is at the next table. Is this Derry celeb spotting?”

    So there he is in Stormont and in Derry and he can’t find a moderate nationalist voice :)

    Why isn’t he asking SDLP folks why they’ve been lending a hand to militant nationalism in recent times? There have been expressions of this in Newry and Dungannon.

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  2. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    If the census forms were due to be filled in next week the 45/48 result would still be the outcome.

    “Do you feel Irish/British/Northern Irish” is mercurial and I think the figures on that question would differ somewhat in light of the Finucane report and the Flag issue.

    Miliband had a big speech this morning which I caught by accident.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/dec/14/miliband-english-language-integration

    he touches on segregation and integration strategy, in NI segregation is the norm, at 45/48 perhaps it’s time to start asking who should be integrating with who, as asking nationalists to integrate into a British culture would appear to be a short term necessity. Its a more likely longer term necessity for unionists to integrate into an Irish culture.

    Because I get the feeling the ‘Moderates’ you want to see is unionists happy to fly the union flag a little bit and nationalists to accept.

    Maybe the real moderates are the both flags or no flags proposers.

    In which case, are you really looking for moderates or mild mannered unionists and unicorn nationalists

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  3. tacapall (profile) says:

    “The question now is how do you get back to that moderate unionism and moderate nationalism, that spirit of generosity that would say, ‘that is acceptable to do, that is not?’ ”

    When did we ever have “Moderate” Unionists and in the case of the SDLP, were they ever viewed as moderate nationalists by Unionism.

    The direction politics will go is both Nationalism and Unionism battling for the hearts and minds of those Northern Irish designated people. Unfortunately for Unionism and its one track approach to identity and culture that is going to be uphill battle. For Nationalism they are already half way there in accommodating that group.

    Things do indeed look bleak but no worse than the riots during loyalist marches going through interface areas or when loyalists turned their guns on each other resulting in many deaths. The reality is that a game is being played out within Unionism, a call for all shades to unite, the Capital has fallen and the last stand is now Stormont and as usual Unionist politicians are prepared to fight to the last drop of everyone elses blood.

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  4. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    Not forgetting that anything OO related is banned from Scottish schools and their marches in Scotland have been severely curtailed, I imagine his opinion of a moderate unionist differs quite a lot from Sluggers.

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  5. Gopher (profile) says:

    I believe Joe Hendron was considered quite moderate.

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  6. Gopher (profile) says:

    Thank you for explaining the insanity of the SDLP’s present political positioning

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  7. BarneyT (profile) says:

    What does moderate mean? Wanting to remain part of the UK or having aspirations of a reunited Ireland do not necessarily make you an extremist. I suppose it’s how you go about it.

    The mark of moderation is acceptance and not the rejection or dismal of anothers culture.

    When the DUP and SF took up the reins of power, I took the view that both of these parties were in touch with what is regarded as the extremes of their respective societies and therefore would be duly informed by them and would respond to their electorates needs. If they could work together, I felt that anything was possible giving their diametric opposition.

    SF now supports the police, sits on the board, governs in a UK institution and advocates the use of the PSNI to their own communities. Given SFs position 10 years ago, that perhaps rendered SF moderate. Run with me on this.

    DUP…I’m struggling to see what concessions were made over and beyond going into government with SF (which I do not want to lessen) but I struggle to see any degree of moderation.

    The DUP has ousted the UUP and with that the natural source of unionist moderation, however Nesbitt (despite early indications to the contrary) is demonstrating quite an extremist unionist stance. Unionism is currently lost to moderation.

    The SDLP (like the UUP considered generally moderate) has moved towards SF territory recently in the same way that the UUP is crawling up the DUP ass. As far as the SDLP goes for moderation, see UUP

    So, from the four main parties, it seems I am arguing that SF are now perhaps the most moderate of the four, furthered by the actions and direction the republican shinner dissenters are taking and how SF responds to this.

    So, contentiously (I know) I am going to argue that, despite the attacks on the clear contender for the moderate crown, the Alliance Party, we still have moderate representation at the table, via Sinn Fein……discuss ;-)

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  8. Nevin (profile) says:

    “we still have moderate representation at the table, via Sinn Fein”

    Are you trying to persuade me that Martin is a fluffy bunny, BarneyT? ;)

    You seem to have overlooked the Athboy conspiracy that goes back to 1994 or earlier. If 1994 then it’s ‘war by other means’; it’s attrition not the politics of accommodation; it’s a negation of moderation and the concept of a shared society.

    If it’s getting out of hand amongst the rank and file then Martin can step in and put some manners on those who didn’t quite flip far enough post-1994 – or I can have a word with my ‘friends in the South’ ;) Should I receive a cryptic ‘sorted’ and see its impact on the ground I find that reassuring.

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  9. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    One SDLP moderate, Foyle MP Mark Durkan, has won the parliamentary ‘Wit of the Year’ award at Westminster. I see on Facebook, his nephew has been awarded ‘Twit of the Year’ at Stormont.

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  10. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Sure I know I am on dodgy ground, but perhaps we need to cultivate a moderate approach with those that currently have a voice.

    But seriously, how cute is Martin when he gets a good chuckle going :-)

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  11. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Just a word of advice to RegisterForThisSite 2.00 pm: you’re a fool or worse for saying that the UDA helped Joe Hendron win the 1992 West Belfast election. That. mo chara, is criminal libel and nobody could possibly stand it up in a court of law. What happened in 1992 was that former NILP types canvassed for Hendron in the Woodvale area (Lyndhurst and the like), where there had been support for Billy Boyd, a former NILP MP for Woodvale.

    RFST, you’re probably a gullible Sinn Fein young fool who is swallowing the malign myths of your elders. Referring to the Shankill bomb, ask yourself this question: if Joe Hendron was up the Shankill in the aftermath and was “bundled to saferty” to SF workers, what were the latter doing up the Shankill?

    As for Nevin, no snide digs at Mark Durkan, please, He has alreedy disassociated himself from the actions of the five Newry SDLP councillors, on the record in the Commons, as has McDonnell and Attwood.

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  12. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    as iluvni mentioned on another thread, this venue for tonight:

    -Public Toilets, Castledawson at 7.30pm

    Desperate.

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  13. The Raven (profile) says:

    “…we still have moderate representation at the table…”

    Leaving out the last part of your sentence, all I’d add is: so where are the 46% of registered non-voters going? They can’t *all* just not be bothered to turn up?

    Similarly, they can’t all be “moderate”, but I’d be willing to bet that a fair rump of them are former UUP/SDLP voters who no longer have a home to go to.

    There’s a chance for someone to steal here. I’ve maintained before that there are large parts of the P/U/L population for whom the DUP will never be a political home. We’re of long memory too, and ultimately recognise that while the suits may be sharper and the hairstyles a little more coiffured, underneath the veneer is a Unionism that relies on the maintenance of “them and us”, and British at any cost.

    I’m not from the CNR side of the house, so I can’t speak for them – but I’d like to hazard a guess that the issue remains the same: Sinn Fein is a brand that remains beyond the pale, if only because of unresolved aspects of their history, and as with the DUPes – the same old war horses remain at the top.

    Don’t dismiss this – it’s a more important and unexamined issue than many think. The Peters and Gregorys, the Martins and Gerrys…nah. Nothing’s sorted yet.

    The quote in the main thread includes the phrase “shrinking middle ground”.

    The middle ground is potentially huge. It just doesn’t vote.

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  14. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    As Northern Ireland is such a relatively small place, is there no area where non-radicalized people can live without the kerb-painters and flag-wavers and drum beaters or other assorted nutters trying to impress each other with their zealotry?

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  15. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    Go back another few years and you’ll find The Doc and Robo in Raspberry Berets and a wee bit further back you have Trimble and Empy in Ulster Vanguard, Nevin.

    Speaking of Trimble, don’t think nationalists ever considered him moderate (nor a good dancer doing the Tango in Portadown with the Doc) and I don’t think that opinion will change no matter how often the claim is repeated

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  16. RegisterForThisSite (profile) says:

    SDLP supporter, when you get thro suing all the results for ‘joe hendron’ and ‘UDA’ on Google feel free to come a knockin,

    Not really sure what the rest of your post means, but I’m old enough to remember the Graham Bookies footage on the news at the time

    So keep your threats and your man-playing to yerself and engage in the conversation or go away

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  17. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    Sorry, not Shankill Road, Ormeau Road. I worked there further up the Ormeau Road at the time and I don’t even think Joe Hendron was there after the Sean Graham massacre, as it would have been Alasdair McDonnell’s territory.

    Does RFST have any comment on the Balmoral Sinn Fein councillor recently smooching with Jackie McDonald, head of the UDA, at Finaghy crossroads?

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  18. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Barney,

    “contentiously (I know) I am going to argue that we still have moderate representation at the table, via Sinn Fein.”

    Definitely worth discussing, if we have your reasoning?

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  19. keano10 (profile) says:

    So Mick,

    Who are these missing “moderates” at the table? Please dont even attempt to try and include the UUP under that umbrella.

    Mike Nesbitt has been nothing short of an absolute disgrace over the past fortnight. Returning the UUP to a short sighted sectarian vision which his predecessors of decades ago would have been proud of.

    They have become a nasty shambolic rump of a party whose last remaining ‘moderates’ are preparing to abandon ship. And not a bit of wonder…

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  20. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I think it is somewhat of a distraction to get tied into which party is more moderate than others. What we have, under the leaders of the DUP and SF is an immoderate stand off.

    Given these guys have between them contrived to inflict their narrow arguments on the rest of us over a #fleg, I’d say that was indicative enough of immoderate politics?

    Here’s a young fellah in Comment is Free today (http://goo.gl/hjzEL):

    “From our politicians, there is no strategy, no plan, to bring about a true post-conflict society. Arguably, some of our political parties do well off division, and hence no appetite exists.

    “There are far more “peace walls” dividing communities now than there were in 1998. We are still sectarian, and worst of all, sectarian hate has turned out to lend itself easily to other forms of hate, such as homophobia and racism.

    “What was a sophisticated paramilitary infrastructure has, in many areas, swiftly become a sophisticated organised crime infrastructure.”

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  21. keano10 (profile) says:

    The emergence of a crime structure is entirely related to Loyalist Paramilitarism. This is another generalisation which is used to label both “sides” disproportionality” to advance the argument that there is some sort of middle ground utopia which is ready to cure all sins.

    It’s an argument which is total tosh essentially. I still cant believe how many people still misinterpret the Good Friday Agreement. It was a recognition that two previously warring identies Unionism and Nationalism had the right to co-exist peacefully and that their right to hold their respective cultural identies and traditions were protected within the institutions that were created.

    Unionist people by enlarge want to be Unionists and Nationalist want to be Nationalists. The Good Friday Agreement was not about the creation of some new Northern Ireland state with a mutually shared identity. (However much Alliance may have wanted that).

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  22. weidm7 (profile) says:

    “Given these guys have between them contrived to inflict their narrow arguments on the rest of us over a #fleg, I’d say that was indicative enough of immoderate politics?”

    I find that statement hard to justify, SF and the SDLP actually moderated from their position which was the complete removal of the flag. It was the DUP and UUP who refused to moderate and accept a deal (precursor to a future UI?). I understand the desire not to blame everything on one side, but you can’t blame every outbreak of violence on both sides just for the sake of fairness. (Or in some instances, just to blame SF for _everything_)

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  23. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    RFST, so you’ll put your name and address in the public domain so that the libel writ can be served, then?

    Nah, didn’t think so.

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  24. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I hate to censor you Reg, but Joe would be able to come after me first and I would obliged to do what ever he asked in order to find out who you really are.

    Just behave, and stop winding people up?

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  25. The Raven (profile) says:

    Thank goodness for that. The moderate voices were errr getting lost.

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  26. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Public Toilets, Castledawson at 7.30pm tonight….

    Reaching out to the bog-trotters.

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  27. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    For RFST, Sinn Fein Propaganda School, updated lessons. Repeat after me:

    1. Gerry Adams was never in the IRA
    2. Barry McElduff is the greatest wit since Oscar Wilde
    3. Conor Murphy is a sound man
    4. There is a Santa Claus and he robbed the Northern Bank to buy presents for the childer.

    etc. etc

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  28. GEF (profile) says:

    What about Gerry Kelly as “Cool hand Luke” and Conall McDevitt as “The Mouth from the South”

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  29. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Mick…back to my point earlier…

    “contentiously (I know) I am going to argue that we still have moderate representation at the table, via Sinn Fein.”

    I suppose my rational would be based on the journey they have taken to get this far and how increasingly I am hearing far more moderate dialogue from the SF heartlands on a range of subjects which at one time would have been unheard of.

    Perhaps I was driven to submit this “statement for discussion” as opposed to a solid personal view as a result of the intransigence of the Unionists, so again I am perhaps talking relatively. I mean just look at the response to David Trimbles valid observation tonight on the flag issue.

    He said it made him suspect parties had “other motives”.
    He went on… “I cannot avoid looking at the fact that the Alliance Party who provided the majority for this compromise at city hall is the party that defeated the DUP in east Belfast in the parliamentary election …..I wonder if this is something to do with trying to regain support that went to the Alliance Party at that stage……In which case I think it’s a really quite cynical thing for them to be doing.”

    I think even David Trimble would look at SF on this flag issue and concur that they are more rationale and moderate than is old UUP colleagues and certainly the DUP on the basis they went for the compromise.

    I do however compare SFs possible moderation chiefly with the lack of it from mostly, the DUP

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  30. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    RfTS
    Yes, talking of Trimble,I too never saw him as moderate infact I resented that he got the Nobel Prize.. Consequently I am astonished to hear him on the news weighing in to the flags issue with moderate views! he even (splutter) appears to be speaking from APNI hymn sheet.

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  31. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    It was interesting watching the news today about Ed Miliband talking about integration into the UK for recent new arrivals from a far. The discussion was of many identities within the UK but all within a British identity. This seems a sensible way to go for the future with so many people from different countries now living here. Why can’t we accommodate multiple identities within the UK here in Northern Ireland? I think it’s a wrong step to say that no flags or identities should be displayed, just respect all identities. So I think that the Union flag should be restored to its traditional position on city hall where it has been since 1906, and the other buildings it was removed from in Belfast. Then put up something to represent the all-Ireland Irish identity also. Yes of course the Tricolour can never be flown in another country than the ROI in any official way from government buildings, so what is the alternative? I think that the Ulster Hall is the ideal place for something that can represent all people in NI. Why not fly the Union Flag in the middle with the 9 county Ulster flag on one side and the Northern Ireland flag on the other? I don’t have any problems with the 9 county flag. In NI we are2 thirds of the Ulster province anyway.
    Removing symbols that we don’t identify with is obviously going to please no one in the end. Find a way to accept and represent all identities would be by far the better solution.
    Add to, not remove……

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  32. sherdy (profile) says:

    Public toilets Castledawson tonight – a wee protest.

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  33. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    theres no need to take the piss….. da dum… tishhhh… :)

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  34. Johnny Boy (profile) says:

    A moderate in my view understands that a peaceful NI, with both communities respectful and comfortable with each other is both the only hope for the union in the long term, and also the only hope for a smooth transition to a united Ireland.

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  35. ayeYerMa (profile) says:

    The only thing I can say for sure about the word “moderate” is that that it has had so much mis-use that it is now rendered meaningless.

    The biggest laugh being the “moderate SDLP”, being more concerned about the “rights” of terrorist murderers than those the terrorists removed the ultimate right to – the right to life. Now we have SF supporters now pretending that no longer using the bomb and gun, but saying it was all right and glorifying the martyrs (along with the SDLP) is now “moderate”.

    I can’t think of any major country in the world where continually campaigning for overthrowing sovereignty for a country, despite there never being support for it and the tension it causes, would ever be deemed “moderate”.

    Of course, the cyber-nats (who come to dominate most online discussion by virtue of most non-nats already viewing the issue as done-and-dusted) can never let a “moderate” label apply to the DUP for simply standing up to the overthrow of sovereignty (how non-moderate of them!). In the warped world of Northern Ireland political commentary only those who allow the rather un-moderate action of allowing the sovereignty that binds together a vast and diverse society to unravel are allowed the “moderate” label on the Unionist side! Of course most extreme Republicans love Trimble and the Republican Alliance, because appeasement encourages extreme Republicanism and allows non-moderate politics to survive!

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  36. David Crookes (profile) says:

    I hear you, Granni Trixie, but if the notably intelligent Trimble hadn’t got the UUP leadership by cynically playing his part in the ‘Seige’ of Drumcree, John Taylor would probably have become party leader. Here is one of the IFs of history which I prefer not to contemplate.

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  37. Nevin (profile) says:

    “As for Nevin, no snide digs at Mark Durkan, please”

    SDLP supporter, as I made no dig at Mark can I suggest you re-read 1:29 pm post? You’ve ignored the support given by an SDLP councillor to a pro-dissident SF motion on Dungannon and South Tyrone Council in the presence of Cllr Bushe, an IRA victim, and the petition handed over by Alasdair McDonnell to the former SoS.

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  38. Johnny Boy (profile) says:

    Yerma – I think your logic is flawed, if this is an extreme view, I can only apologise.

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  39. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Go back another few years … Nevin.”

    RFTS, it would help if you lifted a quote so that I could see what you’re referring to in my two early posts ;)

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  40. Johnny Boy (profile) says:

    Trimble had to play to the traditional core support PR and Nesbitt feel they have to do the same.

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  41. ayeYerMa (profile) says:

    Also reminds me of the warped Liam Clarke (someone who is successfully leading the Belfast Telegraph to its grave) back-in-the-day frequently referring to the IRA/Sinn Fein as simply “Sinn Fein”, but anyone who opposed appeasing a fully armed terrorist organisation was a “Unionist hard-liner”, despite the fact that this was mainstream Unionist position and something that would be normal around the world.

    When are we going to here talk of the “hard-line SDLP” and Sinn Fein equivalents (vocuabulary describing which I could not express in a polite form)? The answer is that we aren’t, as we have a warped political commenteriat who dominate the media, whereby to them expecting your sovereignty to be maintained is described as some sort of 3rd party political opinion rather than expected of all.

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  42. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Re Trimble
    Tending to be a conspiracy theorist, I have now worked out Trimbles angle and motivation,bearing in mind that he has moved from UUP to gb Conservatives,who now have a ‘branch’ in NI AND that he aspires to have a formal position within GB conservatives ie he owes no loyalty to Uup: could it be that Cameron, who has been called upon to ‘do something’ has whispered in his ear to “show leadership”. Which Trimble is happy to do given his old rival in DUP is showing none. So he can please the leader of His new party and shaft Robinson. I mean it was quite remarkable that on the radio today he said that the motivation behind those leaflets was to do with Robinson wanting to “get” Naomi Long. ( words to that effect). When Trimble was leader of UUP he would never ever have admitted anything which favoured APNI analysis.

    You first heard it here (and watch out for Trimbles pay off in Conservatives).

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  43. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Ayeyerma

    O and as one who is vehemently opposed to physical force republicanism or loyalism, I admire Liam clark for his down to earth analysis and fairness. Far from leading BT astray he is reflective of the new ni of diversity.

    I am old enough to remember when it was a solidly unionist paper , known as Bairds Tele. Even though the Canadian empire of Thompsons took it over in late 60s. (And I worked there in tele ads!).

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  44. Reader (profile) says:

    Granni Trixie: (and watch out for Trimbles pay off in Conservatives)
    Lord Trimble got his payoff ages ago. Now he’s cementing his legacy.

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  45. hfmccloy (profile) says:

    Surly the media are squarely to blame for not allowing the moderate person to have a say in any area of government.

    The media is quick to copy and paste any extremist or political statement without question but a moderate has to jump through editors hoops to be heard.

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  46. Zig70 (profile) says:

    The UK politicians have been fairly silent, as have SF. When the dust has settled it will be the UUP that find they have been strangled by the DUP and left with no brand difference. Nationalist while sitting smug at loyalists damaging their own areas will find a more unified unionist block. DUP underestimated again or just good luck?

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  47. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    You seem to imply that dup have benefited . Rather I see them as in showing their hand they have more to lose. Robinson in particular has showed himself up as a paisleyite and therefore limiting his appeal and that of DUP.

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  48. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Right, Granni Trixie, we heard it here first. If Lord Trimble makes it into the Cabinet, you win a free fish supper.

    Does any really old Sluggerite remember a tale which appeared in the Protestant Telegraph about the young David Trimble having a row with his girlfriend, letting off a legally held firearm, and filling up a bullet-hole in the wall with Polyfilla afterwards?

    Sure we all did wild things in our youth. Winston Churchill once addressed a fascist rally in Italy. Does anyone recall Bill Craig being driven into Ormeau Park, flanked by a team of motorcycle outriders? I remember being a nineteen-year-old steward at a ULA rally in a completely smoke-filled Ballyclare Town Hall. After a chapter of the Bible had been read, a lady barrister by the name of O’Brien made a lot of dreadful puns about James Chichester Clark (‘the major disaster of the Unionist Party’). Harry West, the main speaker, saluted every one of these puns with a peal of operatic laughter.

    Different things were going on at around the same time. The Grand Panjandrums of the Vanguard movement were having solemn meetings whose minutes would make fascinating reading even today. A man came to my house one night and described in detail a plan for the quasi-military annexation of Donegal which I reckon was not all his own idea. The Rev. Ian Paisley arranged for the flags of the four historic provinces of Ireland to be carried in one of his marches. Oh, and a communist leader of the LAW called Billy Hull, who once shared a platform with the young David Burnside, suggested offering Lough Foyle to the Soviet Navy. He was shot shortly afterwards — according to some, by order of the Grown-Up People. Maybe we’ve come further than we think.

    Sorry to weary all you archetypal good boys and well-behaved liberals with my anecdotage. Blame the person who mentioned in an earlier posting the beret once worn by PR. I wish I could find my steward’s armband from that night in Ballyclare. Lord Trimble may have come a long way, but so have many of us.

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  49. Zig70 (profile) says:

    Simply put Grannni, the tribes vote, the moderates or the lovely called silent majority don’t. Alliance won’t get back east Belfast and the UUP have lost their identity. The DUP can have men on roadblocks and the leader calling for it to stop and the mealy mouthed dup ministers can explain it all. You have to love politics.

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  50. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    I’m thinking no UUP candidate in East Belfast, but maybe no DUP candidate in Strangford next Westminster.
    I wonder who that UUP candidate (in Strangford) would be?

    The electorate have short memories.

    Newton for EB and Nesbitt for Strangford.

    That’s the way the stars are aligned so far. But it fits with Nesbitt’s dupliciity.

    As for David Cameron , I suspect he’s lost all interest in us. And why not?

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  51. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    Just to add, I think no UUP candidates in North Belfast ot FST.
    But then those constuencies could go to Alliance!

    That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

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  52. Gopher (profile) says:

    Jim Shannon by all accounts could win that seat as an independant (yes its lost on me too but the locals speak highly of him) and voters in North Down and Strangford arnt the sheep you get in the other constituencys so that plan dont have wings. Nope the UUP are finished

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  53. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Saturn devouring his own children on another thread (very well wrought, by the way! — ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ would have been good as well, except that there are too many people on it) is only part of the tale. Unless my upstairs and downstairs computers are both engaging in logophagy, the Sluggersite is devouring its own postings. Only two out of fifty-one comments are readable on this thread. I’ve noticed the same phenomenon earlier in the week.

    It has been a pretty quiet night, according to Dogberry and Neighbour Verges.

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  54. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    Logophagy- no, Try logging out and logging in again.

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  55. sherdy (profile) says:

    PR – Too much logging, the sawdust affects the brain.

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  56. Alan N/Ards (profile) says:

    Forkhandles

    I was thinking of something similar regarding the flag issue. My choice would be the unionist NI flag and the republican nine county flag flying side by side. Surely this would be a compromise that both tribes could accept. I wonder do these politicians every sit down and talk before reaching for the nuclear button?

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  57. Zig70 (profile) says:

    Alan, I think you vastly underestimate the loathing for the Unionist banner. It’s a fairly toxic symbol to nats. The republican nine county flag as you nicely label it, is the flag of Ulster, flown often at Ravenhill and at Ulster GAA matches.

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  58. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    There’s no reporting of any protests on the news this evening, despite calls for “province wide protests” with lanterns to be released at 19:12, and further calls for “let’s shut the country down” (fat chance). It is now becoming apparent that the “restore the flag” protest now appears to be severely running out of steam. I’m hoping there will be a good turnout for the “peace gathering” tomorrow which should hopefully nail the flag protesting properly. It can only do that if many thousands turn up.

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  59. Neil (profile) says:

    Very early CS for a Sunday. The protestors plan to be at City Hall at the same time (brethern will address the crowd) but given the hour I suspect they’ll be thin on the ground.

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  60. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    I think the peace gathering guys have played it right, organizing their process carefully in consultation with the PSNI, and timing it to be on a Sunday while retail stores are closed so that there is no negative impact on trade. I hope the constructive approach pays off.

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  61. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    Alan, glad to hear you had similar thoughts. I’ve heard a lot of discussion on TV this week, but unfortunately it is all just the same old noise. No one is proposing ideas to represent each tradition in NI fairly in an effort to resolve the flag problem.
    I would like to see a nationalist or republican propose what symbol or flag they want to see represented, then it could all be discussed and agreed. The tricolour is the flag of the ROI and obviously can’t be flown in an official way outside the ROI. The only other flag I know of that nationalists identify with would be the 9 county Ulster flag. I don’t see why this couldn’t be used as an acceptable alternative.
    There is a tradition of flying the Union flag on Belfast city hall for over 100 years. This should be honoured and the flag should be restored as soon as possible. People should be proposing additions to existing traditions, not attacking something they don’t identify with and trying to destroy it.

    On a side note, I saw wee Conall Mcdevitt on Sunday Palitics today, in the discussion about the flags issue. He seems to have a good reputation on this site, so I was disappointed that he started going on about such cringe inducing phrases as “the British Army”, “paramilitaries”, “the past” and a few others I’m sure. It sounded like some news archive from the 80s. Sad to see a youngish guy using ‘oul lads’ words…

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  62. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    there is a tradition of flying the Union flag on Belfast city hall for over 100 years. This should be honoured and the flag should be restored as soon as possible.

    Why ?

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  63. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    CS, generally traditions are important to people and they care quite a bit about them. Since Belfast is NIs capital and historically it was the focal point of unionist feeling at the formation of NI, it should be obvious that people would care that the Union flag would stay where it has historically been. It does not make sense to remove something that one tradition here values, and then for the other tradition to still have nothing. Then everyone loses.
    Everyone knows that the shinner’s agenda is not about a shared future or anything like that. They are not about being constructive; they have an agenda to attack anything at all they think is British or even related to Northern Ireland. They are still in a mind-set of war and ‘destroy the other side’ and so on. It is unlikely that they will ever find a way to ‘be republican’ without that expression being some sort of attack on something they see as British. Every progressive and right thinking party should be aware of and opposed to this agenda. The only way to build a shared future is to find a way to recognise each tradition. This means adding to the mainly unionist tradition that we have in NI. That way we keep both traditions happy, no one is losing anything. I don’t think this is really rocket science, do you?
    I don’t really want to live in a bland country where no symbol or colour or whatever can be displayed for fear it ‘offends’ someone. It’s totally abnormal and would be considered as pretty weird in any other country. We all know that when people say something offends them, they actually mean that they hate it and want to attack it in some way and destroy it. Someone correct me here, but we all know this don’t we?
    Why don’t you folks in Alliance take a walk on the wild side and come up with a proposal that will keep both traditions happy in NI? :) I think that the 9 county Ulster flag could be flown from government buildings alongside the NI and Union flag. Then flags can be taken down a week or so before important occasions and then the relevant flag put up for commemorating the relevant occasion.
    Queen’s birthday = Union Flag
    Easter rising = 9 County Flag
    Most of the time both traditions would be recognised, and on important days for each tradition they would sort of have main focus.
    At the minute the political leaders are not able to think of alternate ideas. Their current thinking is about as intelligent as
    “we want that…”
    “na, you’re nat havin that….”
    “ggrrrrrr”
    “ggrrrrr”

    What is needed is a number of varied ideas on possible solutions to flag flying. These can then be made public and the public can have their say. I think that an idea of what the public would accept would become known fairly soon.

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  64. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    I think that the 9 county Ulster flag could be flown from government buildings alongside the NI and Union flag.

    There’s no point you coming up with a compromise: the Alliance Party already did that. As they are in possession of a valuable seat coveted by Peter Robinson and his party, this can be used as an excuse for persecuting them, even though they’re only implementing the DUP’s policy in Lisburn and Stormont.

    Aesop’s fable of the wolf and the lamb comes to mind.

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  65. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    Paddy, I think that Alliance has shot themselves in the foot with a patriot missile by agreeing to the removal motion in Belfast. They could possibly redeem themselves by being the ones to propose an alternate solution that pleased both traditions. A both tradition pleaser would be a real win for alliance.
    I think you are a nationalist minded person? How does the 9 county flag feel to you? What would it mean to you if all councils flew it alongside the others? Castlereagh, Carrick and so on? Surely it’s a bit empty just to see something removed you don’t identify with and not gain something that you do?

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  66. DC (profile) says:

    I remain convinced that the reason why this backfired is down to the atmosphere generated as a result of the full removal motion, after that the political environment soured making it impossible for anyone within unionism to touch or modify.

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  67. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    ForkHandles

    Your disingenuous approach is the very reason why a young police officer was almost murdered by Union Flag flying terrorists last week. The vey reason why a nine mile journey in Belfast the last week, has taken three hours. The Alliance Party didn’t agree to remove the Union Flag, they proposed a compromise. That side of your argument is plain stupid. Either you are stupid, or you’re smart enough to know the truth. Either way, you and people like you are fooling no one but yourselves.

    N.Ireland is almost 100 years old. It has taken nationalism 100 years to grow to the capacity, where our elected representatives can stir the loyalist pot by default, by removing British symbols of terrorism and oppression. If the N.Ireland government had have played ball 100 years ago, we’d all be living comfortably – side by side. Unfortunately that is not the case, and we find ourselves in today’s quagmire. That is how History students will be summarising the one time N.Ireland in 100 years time.

    No matter how many attempts you make at revisionism, it will not stand up to the test of time. Unionism in Ireland has failed; nationalism in Ireland will prevail.

    Accept it and move on.

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  68. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    ForkHandles

    You asked how nationalists would feel about the Ulster flag flying alongside the Union flag. I think we should look at Derry, where very few flags of any sort are flown. We as Irish and/or British people don’t need a flag to reinforce our nationality: we are comfortable with, and should be comfortable with who we are. Billy Hutchinson and others in his camp, need to realise that, as he was told today on the BBC, while N.Ireland is in UK jurisdiction, not everyone here is British.

    That is unionisms’ problem: they need to wrap their flag around them, in case the Japanese tourists’ think they’re fenians. The only people not laughing at you are yourselves.

    Wise up…

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  69. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    forkhandles,

    I appreciate you taking the time to explain that.

    The problem is that it was a tradition during the past 100 years to decorate this place as an outdoor Orange theme park, among many other rather dubious traditions that are now thankfully long gone. I do not agree with a wholesale squashing of Britishness or the people who feel they are British above everything else. But I do not see why we can’t, as a compromise, be British just like Finchley is, where the union flag is generally flown in a respectful manner on certain days of the year.

    Mention has been made of Billy Hutchinson. Hutch was perfectly happy to support a designated days policy on the council just over ten years ago. You have to ask what changed. On Sunday Politics yesterday, when that question was put to him, Hutchinson seemed to suggest that the only difference for the change in his perspective is because Sinn Féin proposed it. I think we really do need to get past the idea that a good policy becomes a bad one depending on who is cheerleading it.

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  70. CoisteBodhar (profile) says:

    A real compromise would be the flags of the Irish and British government flying beside each other. People talk about the possibility of joint authority in the future and this would symbolise it.
    People’s feeling of distaste for the other community’s flag might wane ever so slightly if it were flown beside the flag they hold so dear.

    If I were calling the shots I wouldn’t consider the union flag on any day unless the tricolour was considered in equal measure.

    Talk of the 9 county flag is a pathetic attempt at appeasement in my opinion and it feels like scraps from the table of unionism. A high percentage of people here see the tricolour as their national flag so fly both or none.

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  71. Neil (profile) says:

    Hope the cops are well appraised of the 80 or so protests planned for this evening. The old ‘we knew nothing about it’ excuse has had it’s day already, and the plans have been widely circulated for days. Any traders in Belfast City Centre will be doing well to not lose money tonight (ditto the George’s Market which opens at 4 today).

    Obviously we wouldn’t expect them to act as they do in Ardoyne, after all what is lost trade, bankruptcy and people being denied use of their own city centre when compared to Ardoyne. After all, there are Orange men due any minute, break out the AEPs and get these fenians off the road.

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  72. Neil (profile) says:

    Ah well, just as expected then.

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  73. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Going by the reports on Twitter the roadblocks are in place. The statement from OFMDFM, and from the police warning against blocking roads, appear to have had no effect.

    This is now a direct challenge to the authority of the state. The state must respond and at the moment that means picking a couple of specific protests and lifting everyone in sight. Otherwise this shit will never stop.

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  74. Neil (profile) says:

    The footage on BBC showed a group of about half a dozen spide teenagers turning cars back somewhere, and the cops sit by and watch. Seriously starting to get a very, very one sided impression of ‘justice’ PSNI style. Utterly ridiculous that PSNI should stand by and watch crime being committed while businesses go under.

    When the Ardoyne Rd is blocked by all means, clear it. Now how about some even handedness in the face of a bunch of spotty smicks in dirty baseball caps. Get them off the road.

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  75. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    The news had reported earlier that the PSNI had instructed their area commanders to keep roads open. I think the public have every right to expect the PSNI to follow through on that and the joint statement from OFMDFM is surely the political mandate that is needed.

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  76. Neil (profile) says:

    Tweets suggesting that Loyalist ‘protestors’ have taken to attacking the cops and attempting to hijack vehicles.

    Peacefully obviously.

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  77. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Since the beginning of this was thinking along the lines of “did they think they could easily put the genie back into the bottle?”.

    Was also comparing current unrest to the civil rights protests. I remember living beside Lenadoon,hearing about protests in Derry and. As ‘everybody’ said ‘It’ was coming here’ we stocked up I with cans of food etc. My neighbours and I seemed to see the unrest as criminal behaviour and were waiting on the police to put it to an end to it.

    with hindsight and education I see th seriousness and legitimacy of the CR grievance,I see that Unionists would not back the Oneill reforms so I appreciate the argument that civil disobedience was called for. I cannot however see that a grievance over the flying of flags warrants current actions …they are other ways of dealing with it other than disrupting life in the province. Robinson has totally mishandled this especially if he thought that people would not see the motive behind the leaflets and his ambiguity as a green light to the protestors.

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  78. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    I cannot however see that a grievance over the flying of flags warrants current actions

    The grievance is not the reduced flying of a flag. The grievance is the increased numbers of Fenians and Lundies in the most important centre of Unionism which has caused that reduced flying.

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  79. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Comrade Stalin, you say, ‘…..the state must respond.’ And Neil, you say, ‘Get them off the road.’

    Amen to both of you. We need at least a hundred snatch arrests tonight, court appearances in the morning, no bail, severe sentences, and more of the same over and over again until fascist thugs are afraid to torment decent ordinary people.

    The thugs who are tormenting us know as much about patriotism as Jud Fry from ‘Oklahoma’ knew about healthy marital relationships.

    You can say what you like about Hitler, but he neutered the Sturm Abteilung.

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  80. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Police coming under attack in various parts of town.

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  81. Submariner (profile) says:

    Maybe the PSNI should call in rentokill if they arnt up to the job.

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  82. Submariner (profile) says:

    http://sphotos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/532506_441994205855960_395675223_n.jpg

    I think this about sums these people up, not only are they illiterate they cant even fly the butchers apron the right way up.

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  83. Jack2 (profile) says:

    6pm “protests”. Late enough to be out of bed, early enough to permit the evenings drinking.

    If it was really about protesting why not 6am?
    I know a trouble-shooter who when he wants make an impression arrives at a crazy time.
    Not unheard of for him to be drumming his fingers from 6-30am onwards when the rest of the staff filter in around 9am.
    The rumours then start (from security) he’s been here for hours – its a mind game.

    Yet we know why its not 6am, cos these inbreds only know of one 6 o’clock and its when the Simpsons are on telly.

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  84. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    The breaking news at the moment is that “protestors” (read: rioters and anti-social louts) forced their way into the council chambers where a meeting was taking place and made threats to Alliance councillors who were present.

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  85. Neil (profile) says:

    I heard this. A number of different ‘protestors’ have been rammed, one cop injured so far. Other stuff here:

    http://www.belfastdaily.co.uk/2012/12/17/rioting-in-belfast-carrick-councillors-threatened-protestors-injured-in-hit-and-runs-during-operation-shutdown/

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  86. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    It’s now been released that Seán Neeson was the one targetted and required a PSNI escort home.

    Séan has served the entire community in Carrick and East Antrim for decades and commands respect across the community.

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  87. There should not be any problem in flying the National flag on a civic building. Although I am not a nation state advocate or a flag waver myself, I have no problem when my wife raises our national flag on our Nation’s Day (July 1) and keeping it up until Thanksgiving. The “problem” in N.I. is that one section of the community has used (misused) it as a tool to denigrate another section of the community. I think that designated days is a good compromise and we should thank the Alliance Party for it.

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  88. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    You should probably thank the unionists for designated days. They came up with it originally.

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  89. Neil (profile) says:

    Absolutely unreal. Ok, so Ruth Patterson seemed to be having fun on BBC Newsline cheering with ‘protesters’ on Sandy Row. Incidentally thanks to the beeb for yet again underling: Loyalists rioting are protesters. Not rioters. Rioters are fenians.

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  90. Comrade,

    Which unionists? If DUP or UUP, why so much angst right now and the hate campaign against Alliance?

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  91. Anton Graf von Arco Valley (profile) says:

    I’m hearing the Queen is to make a statement.

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  92. FuturePhysicist (profile) says:

    There might be no moderates in Northern Ireland.

    You have those in power accused of the most corrupt extremism, and the intolerant jealous extremists who aren’t in power but make accusations by their own corrupt desire for power.

    No one talks about the radical concept of earning power do they?

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  93. streetlegal (profile) says:

    The Belfast Convoy

    ‘Pig Pen this here’s Rubber Duck -
    I ain’t gonna wait no more!
    Then he crashed the line
    Doin’ twenty-nine – and said
    Let them truckers roll – ten-four!’

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  94. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    If 25% and 21% identified themselves respectively as generically Irish (ie Irish and/or Northern Irish only) and 40% as British only, does that not indicate a 6% majority in favour of either departition and/or secession? And should flags of respective national identities not be flow for equivalent percentage (days) of the year: Ulster/NI 77 (94) – Irish tricolour 91 (108) – union jack 146 (163). (Figures in parentheses represent redistributed 14% (51) other/none nationality categories.

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