Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Why are Sinn Fein’s ratings in political game higher than the Unionists’?

Fri 11 January 2013, 9:05am

The perception filling the airwaves that Sinn Fein do a better job of representing the people than the unionist parties needs examination. On the one hand everybody seems to believe it or explain it by claiming SF had the easier task – “Catholics had it all to gain;  the Prods could only lose.”  The most fervent believers  in SF superiority are of course the loyalists, following the old rule of political behaviour that alienated people believe their opponents  more than their own side.

Are these perceptions of SF’s superiority deserved? The nationalist vote is similarly split between a dominant party and a declining one. True, voting seems to be declining faster on the unionist side than among nationalists but given the appalling state of the electoral  register that may mean little.

Nationalism reluctantly harbours an arguably more dangerous vestigial rump in the shape of the dissidents and their political voices.

How well has Sinn Fein delivered?   In a post last October Chris Donnelly usefully undermines the myth of greater loyalist deprivation and records some comparative concentrations of poverty. Even the claim of generally superior Catholic achievement in education is questionable.  None of this downplays the existence of the Protestant deprived who have always been politically volatile.

So why is Sinn Fein’s political image so much better?  Are they still living on an ancient narrative that it was all the fault of the Brits and unionist discrimination and that a freedom struggle was necessary to achieve equality?  Nearly fifteen years after the GFA, are there any signs that they’re now being held equally accountable for failure? Or that the old zero sum game is starting to run out of steam on both sides?

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Comments (66)

  1. ‘Catholics had it all to gain, Prods could only lose’

    There’s a lot to recommend that assessment as the census shows catholics have only to sit tight and wait for the next westminster election to get an udate on their voting strength. There will inevitably be more catholics having an incentive to go to the polls than Protestants, and since it’s easier to get out the DUP and TUV voters as they’re more likely to be bigots than to get the more moderate ones out as seen in the decline of the UUP. I think Robinson could be in for a shock in the event of a border poll on his assumption about how catholic/nationalists would vote, as there’s a safety lock on the majority YES outcome with the Republic electorate having final refusal poll, so even those who would be happy enough with the status quo for now may feel they can flex their electoral muscles just to check out the lie of the land and put Robbo’s nose out of joint. It must be tempting.

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  2. Framer (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein’s deepest problem, despite winning hands down in most argumentation in unhistorically minded England is the dearth of intellectual and literary underpinning for its war of 1970-1995.
    Winning the argument in England seems fine except it doesn’t translate into active sympathy for a one-nation Ireland solution – the English just can’t see the Irish as being that different from them, for example they speak English.
    Where the period 1910-1925 is exceptionally well represented in literature and art, often by ‘combatants’, the dirty little Ulster war isn’t and probably never will be, as there was nothing noble involved, or nothing that can be passed off as noble.
    Perhaps most importantly there are no chronic differences or tensions within SF/IRA/INLA and the SDLP as there were between the socialist, Gaelic, Protestant, secular, separatist, feminist, and progressive that gave us O’Casey, Yeats, O’Connor, O Faolain, Keating even Joyce.
    We have only Hibernianism dressed up as Republicanism (and sectarianism) and today’s best writers, particularly journalists from a southern Catholic background, have ended up empathising with Ulster’s unionists at great cost to Sinn Fein.

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  3. Ní Dhuibhir (profile) says:

    It is odd. Perhaps it was such a new development to see any Irish nationalists with any institutional power within NI that the lack of progress for a sizable chunk of the population those few individuals represent has been easier to overlook?

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  4. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Responding to your opening line, the flag dispute has demonstrated that there is a gulf between the main unionist parties and the sections of the community they purport to represent. The Unionist Forum is a knee jerk reaction and a late one at that and cannot claim to serve the entire community….something very much lost on the Chair of the Policing Board.

    SF has most definitely engaged with those they have attracted (at the SDLP expense) and with those that they can traditionally rely upon (due to community engagement).

    There is a lot of truth in the fact that the “campaign for justice and freedom” or the “cause” has perhaps galvanised the republican and nationalists as their goal and ambition is more readily identifiable. Nationalists and Republicans also have the luxury of opting out (certainly at a psychological level) and can claim that the culture and society of Northern Ireland is non representative. This offers empowerment, whereas Unionists must make do with “their” system or risk rejecting it. As a consequence there are those that are lost without a definable campaign or raison d’être.

    It’s easier to carve out a vision and keep your support engaged if you can dismiss the system you find yourself in as not relevant or appropriate, so nationalists and republicans and their political representation are constantly oxygenated by the prospect of “the new”. Those happy with the status quo or are intent on returning to a Northern Ireland of 50 years ago, have little scope to nourish their support with “change” as the past is not for returning (I was almost Thatchillian there!). Change for unionism equates to “ring in the old” and is identified by well trodden and stale rhetoric. Unionism will take some time to recover from this highly irrational flag episode.

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  5. OneNI (profile) says:

    Truth is the Sinn Feiners have lost the War but can still win the odd skirmish

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  6. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    Unionists are losing only because they believe they are losing and they believe they are losing is because this is what their leaders have been telling them since 1690 in order to galvanise them to fight the next battle. However, instead of fighting strategically on winnable issues (you could argue they won strategically and didnt / dont realise it) they fight small tactical battles from which defeat or pyhric victories follow, leading to a reinforcement of the losing narrative and drawing another line in the sand which only a lundy would cross and so the cycle continues. Some day unionists will be worn down by a combination of these defeats, english disinterest, secularisation and modernism and decide that joining a pluralist Ireland is better than having to live under a SInn Fein with the whip hand and an historical agenda of rebalancing.

    To the point regarding image, Sinn Fein dont have to be good, they just need to be seen to be better.

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  7. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    I would like to contrast the two sentences below.

    On the one hand republicans have been accusing the Unionists of not giving good leadership and not bring their electorate along, and I will agree at times they have not.

    Then when Unionist parties are shaken out of their slumber by the fact that the Unionist grass roots has wakened up to the fact that Unionist politicians have been sleeping on the job They react as only the shinners and republican can with the spewing out their usual bile. Knee jerk, to late and wont serve the entire community???

    Are the shinners and republicans saying that Unionists should not engage with their electorate???

    Republicans need to give us all a clear understanding of what they want. They ether want the Unionist parties to engage with their electorate as republicans do “(due to community engagement” as is mentioned in the second statement below), and bring them along, or they don’t???

    I know republicans like to have it both ways but you can’t.

    Do republicans want to leave a large section the the Protestant Unionist Loyalist community behind and we will be going over the same old, same old, some time in the future and that is not going to serve ether community well???

    Or are the better late than never meetings between the various sections of Unionism and Loyalism, to be discounted because they aren’t discussing issues set by the shinners or republican agenda???

    After the meetings we will have a more inclusive Unionist view that can only benefit the whole community. When they inevitably move this into the political arena and off the streets up to Stormont where the shinners have been saying it should be???

    After all the republican view is so eloquently put by the shinners “due to community engagement”??? Well almost as there is the republican network for unity who have their view on things!!!

    But I suppose you can’t please all of the people all of the time and the shinners none of the time.

    “the flag dispute has demonstrated that there is a gulf between the main unionist parties and the sections of the community they purport to represent. The Unionist Forum is a knee jerk reaction and a late one at that and cannot claim to serve the entire community”.

    “SF has most definitely engaged with those they have attracted (at the SDLP expense) and with those that they can traditionally rely upon (due to community engagement)”.

    I suppose there is shinner logic in there some where but I can’t find it???

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  8. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Why are Sinn Fein’s ratings in political game higher than the Unionists’?”

    Are they higher, Brian? SF is the political wing of the PRM; it’s managed by the Army Council so it’s likely to be treated differently by London and Dublin than the other political parties at Stormont.

    Any time the SDLP settled for something, such as endorsing the new policing arrangements, the British would make further concessions to Sinn Fein. Why vote for a party that could only obtain less? Indeed, Mark Durkan recalls Tony Blair telling the SDLP on the occasion of President Clinton’s visit in December 2000, ‘You guys ‘ your problem is, you don’t have guns.’ source

    In more recent times, in places like east Tyrone, we’ve seen SF representatives running after dissident republicans with SDLP ones following in the slip-stream. What’s that all about? Is SF losing its sway in those areas that were reluctant embracers of the peace process? Even in an apparently tranquil spot like Moyle almost half of the republican first preference vote in 2011 went to independent republicans.

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  9. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    Sinn Fein’s position against the union has been taken as being for a 32 county republic. Unionists’ position for the union has been taken as being against a 32 county republic.
    Sinn Fein is aspirational. Unionists are negative.
    Easier to engage people in a vision than to engage them in a fight for the status quo. Propaganda war won.

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  10. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Propaganda war won SO FAR. But if unionists begin to articulate the terms for a UI in which they would be happy, appealing directly to the population of the present RoI, nationalists and republicans in NI may be anything but warm and cuddly in reply.

    What I say now will offend people who regard John Hume as a presiding deity. When a UI comes, it will have to accommodate three different blocks. The block consisting of the present NI’s nationalists and republicans will be the least important block.

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  11. Nevin (profile) says:

    Eric, the unionist desire is that NI remains within the UK; the nationalist one that NI becomes part of a UI. The political difficulty lies in accommodating, in so far as that is possible, these strongly held but opposing desires.

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  12. Cric (profile) says:

    I’ve been out of the country for the great part of the last decade so I’m not sure how much of this is still true – but growing up in a working class Nationalist area of Belfast Sinn Fein were always very visible on the ground. I’d be having a pint in my local in the build up to elections and SF would be in the pub with Electoral Commission forms, pushing for you to register to vote – then on election day itself they’d have the minibus around scooping everyone from their stools and pushing them towards the polling stations.

    To be clear this was not coercion, the same individuals who were pushing electoral forms were the people we’d have a friendly pint with outside of election time. In that regard I suppose there certainly was a connect between SF and the people they represent (although again I’m not sure how much this is still true).

    I guess the working class Unionist populace haven’t really got allies in the DUP or UUP who both represent a middle class right-wing agenda (both of them pro Grammar schools and 11plus testing etc).

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  13. Nevin (profile) says:

    “appealing directly to the population of the present RoI”

    David, ‘the people’ have very little say. Irish ministers facilitated the Athboy conspiracy and they were part of the Stepping Stones agenda. Both of these are anti-unionist and little more than the old ‘Brits out’ rallying cry. Your language sounds a little bit like that of those in Ulster who opposed the 1912 Covenant, the residue of the old Liberal party that supported Gladstone.

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  14. Nevin (profile) says:

    Cric, SF and the DUP both provide strong constituency support for folks suffocated by government red-tape and incompetence; it’s hardly surprising then that they’ve reaped the reward at the ballot box.

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  15. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    David,

    I would agree with that, but I cant ever remember unionist making a logical decision and following through. They go from being dragged kicking and screaming from one throwback to the next.

    I also think the a UI will come about when unionists to a deal to secure a share of power than their 15% population share would warrant. I think they’ll settle for a 1/3 with agreement that Sinn Fein will be excluded from all future governments. But this will only happen when Sinn Fein start ‘dismantling’ unionist symbols in the north and talks of repartition have been reluctantly dismissed.

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  16. BarneyT (profile) says:

    ArdonneUnionist….I’m still not sure if you are calling me a Shinner (feels like you are), but if so, it will be the first time sine about 1984 when a bunch of hoolims elected to brand me with that, along with Fenian B@stard and the like in the corridors of Newry High School. But that was balanced when I travelled home to bandit country with taunts of “There’s the proddy, Black B@stard…”

    Anyhow, let me explain my logic

    “The flag dispute has demonstrated that there is a gulf between the main unionist parties and the sections of the community they purport to represent. The Unionist Forum is a knee jerk reaction and a late one at that and cannot claim to serve the entire community”.

    I dont think the Unionist Forum is a pan community operation as some have claimed as by definition it cant be. thats my point there. I am also pointing out that I do not believe the DUP or UUP has best servered east Belfast in relation to the flag issue and the underlying concerns. The DUP are distant. Most have observed that East Belfast protestants and their wants are not politcally represented.

    “SF has most definitely engaged with those they have attracted (at the SDLP expense) and with those that they can traditionally rely upon (due to community engagement)”.

    On this point I am arguing that SF have been the most proactive (particularly in relation to those they compete against for the nationalist
    epublican vote). If you compare them with DUP, they are miles ahead in their of engaging with their traditional base. They also seem to deliver at community level….and I am saying this from an observer perspective, not a congratulatory one.

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  17. Count Eric Bisto von Granules (profile) says:

    It will take another census and 17 years of Sinn Fein policy outworkings from now, then negotiations 32 county republic lasting more that 2 years with the resulting solution being implemented 7th December 2022.

    £5 bet – anyone? ;0)

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  18. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    No BarneyT I am not calling you a shinner, that is why I did not put your name on the reply or reference you in it.
    The post was a general question using your quotes as they so eloquently set out the contradiction in the shinner and republican position on Unionist and Loyalists.
    In essence the shinners and republicans want Unionists to bring their community with them, but for heaves sake don’t talk to them in case they bring up issues that will highlight our failure to deliver for our own side.

    Equality and mutual respect shinner style don’t you just love it.

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  19. ArdoyneUnionist (profile) says:

    Sorry forgot the link:

    “Adams has been the West Belfast MP for 20 years.
    If a week is a long time in politics, then 20 years is the Upper Paleolithic Age. It is in that same 20-year period that the slow, steady decline into chaos in certain parts of West Belfast began, and it was on his watch that it has gathered pace to become the runaway train that it is today.

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2008/03/20/gerry-must-go/

    I know it’s about the sainted pious Adams but seeing as Gerry is the party, it’s a good reflection on the shinners non achievement for their electorate.
    That is not to say that the shinner/IRA prisoners are not doing very well thank you very much.

    That will be £12.50 Mr Adams.

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  20. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Makes me an old Home Ruler, Nevin! Thanks. But a UI when it comes will have to be an expression of popular imagination. A St Trinian’s Agreement cobbled together by politicians and civil servants won’t work.

    In answering my comital interlocutor, I’ll go for popular imagination again. Instead of waiting for the inevitable, unionists need to develop what George Bush Sr disparagingly called ‘the vision thing’.

    When the time comes, we shall need politicians who can genuinely represent the different popular wills. Unionists-in-transition like me detest the idea of some ghastly conference that will include representatives of the four main churches, the Orange Order, the trade unions, and the self-important ragbag of do-goodery.

    Let us all begin to think unaccustomed thoughts. The ossified state of our present unionist parties warns us that we need something new.

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  21. Nevin (profile) says:

    David, why don’t you use the nationalist label?

    I’m not hearing anything new from either unionism or nationalism. It appears to have been the socialist desire in the late 50s and early 60s for a 32-county socialist republic using rights issues as a smokescreen and using violence at a later stage to sweep away the political and religious establishments in Belfast and Dublin that caused the stack of cards to crumble.

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  22. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Nevin, that was me being unwontedly sensitive. Some SDLP supporters dislike it when I include them in the word ‘republicans’, and some SF supporters feel excluded if I don’t use that word. Never mind! From now on I’ll say ‘nationalist’. Thanks.

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  23. Framer (profile) says:

    David – if the south becomes more of an neighbour than a territorial claimant, as it is becoming, a united Ireland for them becomes pointless which is why it won’t happen.
    And while England subsidises the north to the tune of £5 billion p.a. nationalists won’t be voting to leave the UK, so it won’t happen.
    Lastly, if leaving the UK became a political and hostile reality – despite the money and southern friendship – re-partition would be the result, so it also won’t happen.
    You should stop transitioning before you end up yourself.

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  24. Nevin (profile) says:

    Sensitivity is good, David, and labels will always be problematic. You seem to have a problem with the ‘self-important ragbag of do-goodery’ :)

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  25. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Framer. I have in mind a stable nation in which tense summers and riots on demand will be unknown. It strikes me now (as a lifelong bitter oul Protestant) that a unified Ireland with its own new monarchy might be such a nation. If I can get enough people to dream the same dream, something may happen. If not — well, it’s better to dream happily than to accept misery.

    Nevin, thanks for the yellow smile, and I’ll try to behave better in future.

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  26. Angry Planner (profile) says:

    There is a positive vision for Unionism to be set out, the problem is Unionism has never had anyone capable of articulating it, the nearest was probably Terence O’Neill but he lacked the skills to confront Paisley, Craig and the other hardliners who opposed him, Faulkner and Trimble both tried as well but failed. The problem is that Unionism seems to value unity above any other political values so what you get is lowest common denominator politics based on parades and flags that over time has proved increasingly unattractive to large sections of the Unionist community. Instead when faced with a challenge they keep trying to run back to what they think worked in the past and are surprised when the electoral turnout drops.

    The Flymo Men actually aren’t a new phenomenon, in Stormont in Crisis Ken Bloomfield told of how Unionists MP’s of the time had remarkably little political talent, the brightest and best never got into politics as their Nationalist equivalents did because they were motivated by a determination to achieve equality and further their communities, Nationalism also is part of a wider family, the Irish in RoI and the wider diaspora so in general it has a more outlook looking focus, in contrast Unionism has tended to be much more parochial and insular and since the abolition of Stormont has tended to regard Britain with hostility, losing itself potential allies and failing to play a bigger part in the political life of Britain. The Flags issue really shows up all that is wrong with Unionist thinking, they went for what looked like an easy win but its going to be counter-productive in the long run, just like those other Pyrrhic victories at Drumcree and elsewhere.

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  27. SK (profile) says:

    “Lastly, if leaving the UK became a political and hostile reality – despite the money and southern friendship – re-partition would be the result”

    ____

    A purely hypothetical point being made there of course, but it’s always refreshing when a unionist comes out and openly admits that democracy is more a matter of convenience rather than principal for his community.

    Such casual admissions go some way in terms of explaining why it is that nationalists pay little heed to demands to simply accept their minority status and “get on with it”. They are well aware that democracy would count for nothing if the shoe were on the other foot- the goalposts would simply be moved yet again.

    And it doesn’t just concern hypothetical, down-the-road possibilities like a vote for unity either. Mike Nesbitt seems to have his heart set on re-writing the rules of the Assembly, on the off chance that a nationalist gets within farting distance of the First Minister’s chair.

    The reason that Sinn Fein is more successful is that because, unlike unionists, they are more honest to themselves about their status as fair-weather democrats.

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  28. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    “Angry Planner

    There is a positive vision for Unionism to be set out”

    I honestly don’t see one. People being British is not something people get work up about or for that matter having a talking shop in Belfast.

    The fundamental problem for Unionism is from a European (or even “British”) context “what is the point of “Northern Ireland””? In a world were the British Government will increasing look to all Island solutions to problems you need to explain which things are better done on a “Northern Ireland” only basis.

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  29. David Crookes (profile) says:

    “There is a positive vision for Unionism to be set out, the problem is Unionism has never had anyone capable of articulating it, the nearest was probably Terence O’Neill but he lacked the skills to confront Paisley, Craig and the other hardliners who opposed him, Faulkner and Trimble both tried as well but failed.”

    Thanks, Angry Planner. You give us a lot to think about. Terence O’Neill was shot down over the Netherlands while fighting in World War Two. In spite of his taste for private armies Ian Paisley never actually fought in the War, although there were several years during which he might have done so.

    While the real warrior O’Neill was too urbane a man to engage in a vulgar debate, Paisley the civilian-by-choice used words like ‘traitor’ and ‘Lundy’ and ‘Judas’ with reckless abandon. If you want to appeal to the barbarous section of the unionist electorate, it helps if you use barbarous language.

    A fear of barbarity has kept many intelligent persons from engaging in unionist politics. For its own part a substantial section of the unionist electorate is uncomfortable with leaders who display intelligence, culture, urbanity, and too much geniality.

    (The merest act of courtesy or common humanity, like attending a funeral in a particular church, may be construed as a token of weakness, or even treachery.)

    Some things take a long time to die. Formal links between the Orange Order and the Ulster Unionist Party existed UNTIL EIGHT YEARS AGO.

    In the old days unionists used the word ‘democracy’ when they felt obliged to justify a system of perpetual majority rule. Now that the idea of a unionist majority is coming to be questioned, some unionists are openly abandoning the word ‘democracy’. These unionists mean to have their own way, even if they lose a referendum. Whenever they feel the need to use lawless violence, they will use it without compunction.

    I am hopeful that a weariness with lawless violence, and perhaps a warning from HMG that Britain’s patience is not infinite, will lead many ‘visceral’ unionists to think with their heads instead of their guts. An outbreak of completely new thinking in loyalist areas will in time express itself in a call for a completely new kind of leader.

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  30. Angry Planner (profile) says:

    Obviously I disagree on your second point, I don’t believe that having a British identity and wanting to work to resolve problems on an all Ireland basis are mutually exclusive. Unionism has traditionally had a mental hang up about ” North-Southery” that’s very short sighted as there is much that can be achieved through working together and resource sharing.

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  31. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Angry Planner

    I know people in Donegal who have a “British identity” and no one objects to it except the “British government” passport office.

    The question for Unionism in a Europe of “Multi-level governance” is one of relevance. What can/should be done on a Northern Ireland only basis?

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  32. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Whenever they feel the need to use lawless violence, they will use it without compunction.”

    David, they would appear to apply to both unionists and nationalists; each has their ‘do-badders’. You’ll find some of the details in Lost Lives.

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  33. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Nevin, and yes, you’re right, but in the post-GFA world all that nationalists have to do to get their way is win a referendum. I’m not gubbing my own folk I merely want them to act wisely.

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  34. Gopher (profile) says:

    So basically the premise of the OP is their trained monkies are better than our trained monkies. None of them unionist or nationalist make a decision on merit. Take the recent opening of the LEGAL abortion clinic, it was like trained monkies on ice.Seriously you give these guys too much credit and too many votes.

    Every single one of them is for nothing they just make a career on being anti everything. Please dont say they are for the Union or for a United Ireland a divided Northern Ireland can never exist in either dream and they certainly dont come out of the comfort zone to fix that.

    The John Lewis decision today for instance was incredible. Somebody wants to invest PRIVATE money in here and they have to jump through hoops. Its not as if they want to put it in the Mournes.

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  35. Seamuscamp (profile) says:

    David,

    There is no way a referendum would be a proper answer to the problem of community integration – with either UK or RoI – any time in the foreseeable future. The Unionist Forum obviously isn’t a community durbar; but it might actually help to resolve the uncertainties about what Unionism aspiration means, and how (or if) it differs from Loyalist aspiration.

    As a long-time exile, I can see that things have changed to the benefit of the Nationalist part of the NI community – only maintenance of the discriminatory regime of my youth could have stoppped that. That is not to say that it couldn’t be improved. However, what is missing from any debate is a clear statement of what the Unionist majority requires to give them a feeling that things are improving for them.

    The Unionist parties have failed to articulate much that is positive. At best, pessimism is paramount – “Look at what they’ve got, take it away from them” rather than “What we need is ….”. The reality is that the old days of discrimination are gone; but, unless the Unionist side become constructive, the danger will be discrimination in the other direction. Not discrimination generated by SF, SDLP or the insipid Alliance – rather by a futile pursuit of irrelevant symbols and a hankering after totalitarian domination.

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  36. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Nevin @ 11 January 2013 at 3:20 pm

    ‘to sweep away the political and religious establishments in Belfast and Dublin that caused the stack of cards to crumble.’

    With all due respect Nevin the packs of cards in Belfast and Dublin needed to crumble .All the more so when we read now of the corruption by both Church & State and the political parties and latterly the financial institutions . It would have taken a political Houdini of the stature of a Mandela or De Klerk to have accomplished both crumblings without the waste of lives and property . But neither part of Ireland had anybody of that ilk -the closest would have been John Hume whom I understand is not in your politically favoured column. If one recalls Hume was in his time along with Austin Currie and others considered ‘unfit ‘ to share power and when Brian Faulkner did the right thing in the face of the mob he was ousted as being a Lundy ? Apparently even back then Unionists believed that the Reps/Nats would somehow go away if they were just ignored long enough . Now Unionists share power with SF ?

    This is proof positive to me that whoever in Unionist politics be they DUP or UUP or TUV is trying to reach out or get a more balanced view of NI’s nationalists and republicans has been reading the chicken’s rear end instead of it’s entrails and always after the horse has bolted :(

    . There is a long list of stupid , woeful and counterproductive decisions , policies , statements , which when added up just make ‘unionism ‘ sound like what Shakespeare called ‘a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury ‘etc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsSWJCM3Wxw

    Still it could have been a lot worse -think Syria , Bosnia , Croatia , Serbia or 50 other world hotspots in the last 40 years .The DRC has chalked up an estimated 5 million deaths due to uncivil tribal wars over the past 15 years . The people of Northern Ireland should give thanks to both Jupiter and their geographic location and their neighbours which in retrospect helped to keep the body count much lower than it otherwise might have been .

    In any event it will if it ( a UI ) happens be perfectly easy for British people to live in a UI . Many do so even now without any fuss or bother . Ditto for Polish , Lithuanians , Chinese etc etc . Those who can’t or won’t adapt will be free to leave to wherever will take them -Britain in any event and also elsewhere .

    By the time any UI happens the Republic will have moved on from where it is now and so will the EU. Hopefully the UK will still be a member .

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  37. Reader (profile) says:

    Mc Slaggart: The fundamental problem for Unionism is from a European (or even “British”) context “what is the point of “Northern Ireland””? In a world were the British Government will increasing look to all Island solutions to problems you need to explain which things are better done on a “Northern Ireland” only basis.
    That’s not an argument against the Union. It’s an argument against devolution.

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  38. Greenflag (profile) says:

    David Crookes 11 January 2013 at 9:22 pm

    ‘I’m not gubbing my own folk I merely want them to act wisely.’

    So do we .So do we

    ‘And I shall have some peace there (Innisfree-WB Yeats ) , for peace comes dropping slow, ‘

    And wisdom alas even slower or so I’ve noticed .

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  39. Nevin (profile) says:

    David, groups will act it what they perceive or believe to be their best interests. Governments seem quite keen to to protect their institutions, right or wrong.

    I’ve already pointed out the tug-of-war flaw in the 1998 Agreement but this should have been fairly obvious to those who signed-up to the deal.

    PS What does gubbing one’s own folk mean? We probably use a different term in The Route :)

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  40. Nevin (profile) says:

    Greenflag, Hume was a very able politician but his analysis didn’t reflect the opposing constitutional aspirations in NI. His book “Personal Views” is an exercise in bad-mouthing and ‘power-sharing’ as practised in local councils is a sham.

    As I’ve noted previously, it was the shortcomings in Ireland’s political governance that led me to lift a few stones here. What I’ve found hasn’t been edifying and there’s probably little to choose between unionists and nationalists here when it comes to cronyism.

    A weakness of your comments lies in the context, the island of Ireland; John made the same blunder.

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  41. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Reader

    “It’s an argument against devolution”

    I am not making an “argument” ? I am giving my view on were Unionism has taken its supporters.

    Unionism has traditionally worried over being intergrationalist or being devolved.

    In the end the GFA and economics has left “Northern Ireland” being politically devolved from the uk and intergrationalist with most things increasingly done on an all Island basis.

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  42. Nevin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart, NI is politically devolved within the UK, not from it.

    Dublin civil servants have a say in day-to-day decision making here in matters such as policing and other aspects of justice. Such activity is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny nor to oversight by the Policing Board.

    A few things are done on an all-island basis by agreement between Dublin and Belfast. Even though tourism beyond these shores is promoted by a private company with joint government finance the recent ‘we ourselves’ approach by Dublin to The Gathering 2013 shows that Dublin and Belfast are more like competitors than co-operators; the needs and desires of visitors don’t really get much of a look-in.

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  43. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Gopher: yes, the John Lewis decision is very hard for a simple soul like me to fathom.

    Agreed, Seamuscamp, but if the SoS ever gets the idea that there is enough support for a UI, a referendum will be called, and whatever mess follows will have to be dealt with by UN troops. One word makes any kind of repartition impossible: Belfast. Whatever happens, unionists need to stop hankering after any kind of totalitarian domination, as you say.

    Greenflag, three cheers for Inisfree. I agree with you about the fantastical attempts of unionist politicians to ‘get a more balanced view of NI’s nationalists and republicans’. A lot of them seem never to learn. They’re like a horse that I used to ride in Ballyclare. All the brute ever wanted to do was gallop back to its stable. If you relaxed your control for as much as two seconds, it would turn round and bolt for old familiar home. It never learned. Ever.

    Nevin, there were elements of bribery and blackmail about the GFA and the SAA, but the worst thing about them both was the fact that two governments were acting like grown-ups in charge of several recalcitrant children. Any lasting settlement must involve those ‘children’ as grown-up players. For that to happen, the children will need to grow up.

    Now to a linguistic matter. While in English you ‘gobsmack’ someone, in Ulster Scots you ‘gub’ him. I remember coming out of a church meeting at which the preacher had taken the feet from under the exponents of some silly Canadian doctrine. An elderly friend addressed me with grim delight at the church door. ‘Gubbed’, he said

    Years ago I read a dreadful clerihew about the passing of a nasty cantankerous old man who regularly insulted his well-meaning visitors. It ran more or less as follows.

    When callers came, with dying breath
    He snubbed them:
    Now the grisly monster Death
    Has gubbed him.

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  44. Nevin (profile) says:

    “the fact that two governments were acting like grown-ups in charge of several recalcitrant children”

    That’s not been my impression, David, either in relation to the deliberations that led to the Agreement or in subsequent events. It was fairly clear that London and Dublin would do whatever it took to confine our ‘anti-social’ behaviour to here. We’ve had the very unedifying business of the then President Mary McAleese endorsing a joint paramilitary project at Finaghy. Many communities have been left to the tender mercies of paramilitaries as part of this appeasement process. Actions that are officially sanctioned here would get short shrift elsewhere in these islands.

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  45. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    ” Nevin (profile) 11 January 2013 at 11:17 pm

    McSlaggart, NI is politically devolved within the UK, not from it.”

    If that is the case why is the only “Mainland” party at the Unionist Forum (1) the UKIP? The UKip party???? Do you DUP understand their position on devolution!

    1
    “Those attending the meeting (The Unionist Forum) included:

    DUP – Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Arlene Foster, Sammy Wilson

    UUP – Mike Nesbitt, Danny Kennedy, Tom Elliott, Sandra Overend

    TUV – two party officers

    Orange Order – Rev Mervyn Gibson and Drew Nelson

    PUP – Dr John Kyle and Winston Irvine

    UKIP – David McNarry and Henry Reilly

    Independent unionist David McClarty plus researcher

    Representing loyalists in east Belfast – Jim Wilson

    UPRG – Jackie McDonald and Jimmy Birch”

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  46. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Nevin, you have played a notable part in the refinement of my own thinking over recent days. Thanks! I’m going to engage in frivolous filmography now, but before I go here’s a new line from the #flegs site.

    Having run out of plastic bullets, police start firing copies of the BT ‘Jobfinder’, and protesters flee in terror to their ma’s house.

    Talk to youse the marra.

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  47. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Mc Slaggart. Wonder why the two TUV representatives aren’t identified.

    Maybe they were wearing balaclavas.

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  48. Nevin (profile) says:

    McSlaggart, “Devolution [within the UK] is the transfer of Whitehall powers in areas like education and health – but not, for example, defence – to the UK’s nations and regions.” In NI, these powers are exercised by unionists, nationalists and others.

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  49. Occasional Commentator (profile) says:

    “Thanks, Mc Slaggart. Wonder why the two TUV representatives aren’t identified.

    Maybe they were wearing balaclavas.”

    @ David Crookes – I don’t think either Jim Allister or David Vance would find that comment amusing…

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  50. Decspur (profile) says:

    ArdoyneUnionist

    Sorry but your long drawn out comment at 1258 reads like you expect SF to help out the DUP in their game plan (or have I drunk too much)? I couldn’t see labour over here guiding the conservatives through a difficult spell. It’s up to the DUP so sort out their own electorate/community.

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  51. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    @Framer,

    You don’t seem to see any differences on the nationalist side? How about for starters the fact that the SDLP believes in democracy and the Shinners and other republicans don’t? How about the fact that the SDLP believe in attaining their objectives only by strictly constitutional non-violent means and the Shinners and other republicans will use any means that they can get away with?

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  52. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    “David Crookes (profile) 11 January 2013 at 11:52 pm

    Thanks, Mc Slaggart. Wonder why the two TUV representatives aren’t identified.

    Maybe they were wearing balaclavas.”

    The TUV website does not identify them either so they must be in Balaclavas all the time. He/TUV (1) does give the impression that Unionist Forum could be little more than a “face saver for politicians”.

    “TUV will wait with interest to see if the Unionist Forum delivers anything of substance. Any outreach to the unionist community through a task force or other means must not be about the futile business of being a face saver for politicians, eager to pretend great achievements for unionism – for if such were true there would be no need for such outreach – rather, it must be about actually listening to concerns, no matter how uncomfortable, including the concerns which flow from the complicity of unionist leaders as the enabling partners of IRA/Sinn Fein in government.”

    http://www.tuv.org.uk/press-releases/view/1731/tuv-comments-on-unionist-forum-meeting

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  53. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Nevin @ 11 January 2013 at 10:20 pm

    ‘ Hume was a very able politician ‘

    So was Paisley but it took the Doc 40 years to accept power sharing . It took Hume minutes.

    ‘A weakness of your comments lies in the context, the island of Ireland’

    ? I don’t believe I used that phrase in my post. Not sure I understand that comment anyway but I assure you that Ireland is an island . Blaming Ireland for being an island could be tantamount to blaming a falling kerbstone or petrol bomb for gravity .

    It seems that for some loyalists the GFA never happened . It is sadly true that while the GFA was accepted by over 90% of northern nationalists -it only won the support of a bare majority of northern unionists . That fact has’nt gone away as we see from the TV screens and youtubes etc.

    Learning to be a minority was never going to be easy for loyalists . Now that the shoe is on the other foot on Belfast City Council it seems that all the talk about upholding democracy and democratic values by the political leaders of unionism and loyalism over the past 40 years was at least in respect of the words and actions of the current street protesters what Paisley in his prime would have called ‘weasel ‘words .

    The anti democratic strain in unionism and loyalism is alive and well -burning and throwing kerbstones in loyalist Carrickfergus .

    What can be done to persuade these people that they are shooting their cause in foot — again ?

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  54. Greenflag (profile) says:

    David Crookes @ 11 January 2013 at 8:34 pm

    ‘In the old days unionists used the word ‘democracy’ when they felt obliged to justify a system of perpetual majority rule. Now that the idea of a unionist majority is coming to be questioned, some unionists are openly abandoning the word ‘democracy’.

    Well said DC – more particularly some Unionist leaders who are ‘fence sitting ‘ in what may be described as ‘barbed wire ‘ constituencies .

    ‘These unionists mean to have their own way, even if they lose a referendum. Whenever they feel the need to use lawless violence, they will use it without compunction.’

    Indeed and eventually Newton’s Third law of motion is brought into play .

    ‘To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: (and in NI given past performance ‘a greater opposite reaction ‘

    Which is probably what the current street protesters are looking for . We can only hope that the majority of Belfast’s citizens ‘don’t rise to the bait and that the PSNI will continue to get the resources they need to restore order with army back up if necessary.

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  55. Nevin (profile) says:

    “The people of Northern Ireland should give thanks to both Jupiter and their geographic location and their neighbours which in retrospect helped to keep the body count much lower than it otherwise might have been.”

    GF, the body count was dramatically lower in the earlier IRA campaign – 1956-1962 – when Dublin acted with a measure of responsibility. However, when its institutions were under threat from a socialist led IRA, it did a runner. Dublin’s later support for the Athboy conspiracy exposed all minorities here to a much greater risk.

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  56. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks a lot, Greenflag. UnBritish thinking pervades unionism at every level. Even the high priests of righteousness, who would leap to complain about an overuse of paperclips by SF ministers, stand revealed as unprincipled weaklings.

    Constructive persons should be glad. If we ever get the sort of UI that I’m hoping for, it will be infinitely more ‘British’ than a Sturmabteilung state created by rioters AND POLITICIANS WHO AGREE WITH THE RIOTERS IN THEIR HEARTS.

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  57. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Nevin @ 12 January 2013 at 1:49 pm

    With respect it’s 2013 not 1956 /57 nor 69 nor 1912 . Had political ‘unionism ‘ had any kind of ‘credibility with the Northern Irish nationalist /republican population the Dublin ‘authorities ‘ might have acted differently during the 1969 -1970′s troubles . If you want your neighbours to help you in your time of need -you don’t spit over the garden fence and beat up the neighbour’s relatives and burn their houses down during the ‘marching season’for decades and hope that somehow ‘all will be forgiven and forgotten ‘ when push comes to shove . During the run up to the GFA I believe that without the efforts of both the sovereign governments and the USA ‘s George Mitchell the NI politicians and their supporters would long since have ‘eaten ‘ each other in an inevitable and wished for downward spiral into the abyss .

    Old Chinese proverb says ‘If you want to open a shop learn how to smile ‘

    Politics is the art of the possible and the practical and ultimately of compromise . The problem for political unionism in it’s 90 year history approx is that it never had to learn ‘real ‘politics which is probably why political unionism has’nt a political friend in the world and is even spurned by the main British political parties -outside of the fascist BNP and the quasi fascist and UKIP that is . Unionist parties have little or no leverage at Westminster , Dublin , Washington or Brussels or Frankfurt . Sadly they have brought this upon themselves and show no signs imo of ever doing anything differently so that perceptions of ‘unionism ‘ might improve in the wider world.

    While my sympathies lie with the majority of Belfast residents of both sectarian backgrounds who will pay for this bout of destruction in their local taxes -I have none for the flag wavers . The designated days compromise should have been seen as a ‘win’ for unionists in a City Council where Unionists are in the minority .

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  58. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Unlike the macabre ‘sport ‘ of Russian roulette where there are 6 chambers but only one bullet -political unionism/loyalism seems taken with the variation of 6 chambers and 6 bullets and in terms of shooting themselves where it hurts themselves the most they are undoubtedly without a near rival in the western world .

    If there were a Gold Medal for political ineptitude these lads would win it every time :(

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  59. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Yes. If they were playing Harriers on an old-fashioned computer, they’d manage to bomb their own aircraft carrier. And congratulate themselves on their irreproachably high principles as they did so.

    Permanent majority rule is very bad for you in the long term, even if your own side remains numerically strong. You get out of the way of doing real politics. If you don’t ever use your intellectual muscles, you lose them. After a while, people who have real intellectual muscle decide that they don’t want to know you.

    Sorry if all that sounds like an obituary.

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  60. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Had political ‘unionism ‘ had any kind of ‘credibility with the Northern Irish nationalist /republican population the Dublin ‘authorities ‘ might have acted differently during the 1969 -1970′s troubles.”

    Gf, I doubt if nationalists in NI were any more or less nationalist in the 60s than they were in the 50s. The Dublin flip on militant nationalism in the 60s appears to have been mainly down to the threat to Dublin institutions from the socialist quarter.

    15 February 1966: Lenihan: ” …They are asking that Parliament should declare that people may organise to overthrow the Constitution by force and may get up on a public platform and incite their listeners to defy the law and use violence to attain their ends. .. To suggest that we should allow this is to say that we want an end to law and order and that we want anarchy to prevail.”

    The Dublin flip more or less contained the expected anarchy to Northern Ireland.

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  61. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Permanent minority rule is what the democratic ‘revolutions ‘ of the past two to three centuries struggled to overcome -staring with the American and French Revolutions and eventually leading to the 1832 Reform Act in Great Britain which set the stage for universal suffrage and modern ‘democratic ‘ politics .

    Part of the reason for political unionism’s travails was the almost 25 years ‘wandering in the desert ‘ wasted years 1974 to 1998 when there was virtually no engagement with political nationalism or republicanism as the Unionist leadership under James Molyneaux pursued the ‘Finchley’ full UK integration policy .-having given up on power sharing following the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement . The British under both PM’s Callaghan and Thatcher were not to be persuaded . For a brief period Thatcher seriously considered a ‘partial ‘ repartition of some overwhelmingly with nationalist areas such as Derry , South Armagh and South Down being ceded to the Republic .

    In their efforts to secure ‘minority ‘ rule in the Ireland context the leaders of Unionism in 1920 carved out the greatest possible area which would -assuming all unionists remained of the same mindset give political unionism a permanent voting majority . In the here and now 2013 -only North Down and South Antrim can be said to have strong unionist political majorities Both of NI’s largest cities -Belfast and Derry/Londonderry have nationalist/republican majorities .

    Political unionism left to itself and indeed political republicanism/nationalism would probably have been unable ( not the same thing as unwilling I might add ) to devise an interim solution without the cooperation and direct political intervention of HMG , Dublin and Washington .

    One of the fair criticisms made by some commentators today against the GFA is that it ‘denies ‘ democracy in that there is no ‘official ‘ opposition as in normal democratic societies . But what is forgotten is that in it’s history 1920 -1974 -NI never really had a political opposition that could have ‘ousted ‘ the old UUP . Thus the Unionist ‘monolithic ‘ covered all classes and interests within the ‘unionist ‘ family. The others /themuns could be ignored or wished away .

    And now in 2013 the street loyalists finally ‘discover ‘ again for the umpteenth time that old establishment unionism (UUP) and neo establishment unionism ‘ (DUP) are sharing power with those who previously had always been earmarked as the ‘enemies ‘ of Ulster’s protestants and NI’s place in the UK .

    The above ‘facts ‘ are not going away . It’s up to NI’s political leaders Unionist and Republican/Nationalist to make the GFA solution work if they can and if they cannot then to find another .

    As of now and given the times we are living in -I for one can’t see any other .

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  62. Nevin (profile) says:

    “The above ‘facts ‘ are not going away . It’s up to NI’s political leaders Unionist and Republican/Nationalist to make the GFA solution work”

    Gf, as you can see from my previous post, your ‘facts’ are lacking in completeness. They also ignore Dublin’s partisan intervention and the decision by nationalists in Northern Ireland to adopt a form of self-imposed apartheid. It’s not evident from your analysis or from that of John Hume that discrimination was practised by unionists, nationalists and socialists wherever the opportunity existed; allegedly there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between them in the Newry district about the allocation of housing.

    How can the 1998 Agreement work when the constitutional arrangement is a tug-of-war one?

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  63. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Nevin ,

    Dublin’s ‘partisan ‘ intervention also resulted in internment camps in Portlaoise where hundreds of IRA activists were imprisoned during the troubles .

    Any self imposed apartheid by NI nationalists was a direct result of the self imposed ‘gerrymandered ‘ NI State carved out by unionism in 1920 .

    They say two things are inevitable in life . Death and taxes . But there may be a third contender and I’d nominate your ‘latter point i.e ‘the constitutional arrangement is a tug of war’ ‘

    IAs to what you and others may see as the contradiction between the inevitable constitutional tug and making the 1998 GFA Agreement work ?

    There’s no alternative in the short to medium term other than the disestablishment of the NI State and /or a return to Direct Rule . Is that your suggestion ?

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  64. Nevin (profile) says:

    Gf, the intervention you refer to came too late; it came after Dublin had done a runner to protect its own institutions. London, Dublin and Belfast agreed to the border in 1925 so your little whinge doesn’t really hold water.

    My suggestion was detailed in Northern Ireland – Simple As ABC? about twenty years ago: devolution to regional and local level under shared sovereignty. It does its best to recognise, so far as that is possible, the two aspirations so that our elected representatives can work together in the best interests of the people.

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  65. BarneyT (profile) says:

    folks

    with regard to political games, has anyone given thought to the UDA response, namely that of Jimmy Birch?

    “Sinn are playing us – they’re like our band captain – they’re calling the tunes and we are playing them..”

    That may be true and from a loyalist perspective, he talks some sense with regard to the protests, particularly in relation to making eejits of themselves on the streets, rioting in their own front yard.

    I would however worry for loyalism if they forged closer links with the DUP. Surely they need to deliver their own leadership rather than cosy up to a party like the DUP. My impression of the DUP is that they are polluted with creationists, and other mid-west style religious zealots, so I fail to see how relevant this is to loyalism and their current plight. Loyalism needs education and jobs, not God and certainly not the DUP flavour.

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  66. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks a lot, Occasional Commentator (12 January, 12.16 am), and sorry that I missed your posting at the time. Can you or anyone else account for the namelessness of the two TUV representatives on the unionist forum? Until I learn their real names I’m going to call them Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.

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