Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Do Unionist councils need to learn the ‘trick’ of using nationalist mayors as a majoritarian cover?

Fri 18 January 2013, 11:51am

Watching Nolan on Wednesday night was a fascinating experience (of which more later). A couple of our regular bloggers were in the audience. Of all the moments, this from Chris probably took the lion’s share of positive comment on Twitter:

He makes an important point, when he recounts the number of unionist councils which refuse to rotate the chair in council. Simply put, it is an open goal waiting to scored anytime power sharing comes up.

What unionists miss, and it suggests to me that they’re not talking to their colleagues out west, is that a nationalist chair in a majority unionist council has absolutely no power whatsoever.

There have been unionist chairs in Omagh and Newry Councils both places where siting of memorials that might considered offensive to minority unionist populations were given official council recognition.

Indeed, regular commenter Nevin noted on Facebook this morning that Moyle Council’s meeting on Monday night was punctuated with some pretty foul language and accusations regarding the flag protest in Belfast.

So Jeffrey Donaldson was right to point out that rotating figure head chairs is little more than a cover for majoritarian nationalist rule which has a penchant for binning Equality Impact Assessments when it suits them.

But he didn’t get much of hearing since Chris had him bang to rights, in the view of the wider audience, on the semiotics of the thing.

The problem for unionists is that they often win the argument by going through the due process laid down by law (think Ardoyne, think the Flag issue), but then lose the battle for public opinion.

The problem for the rest of us is that such stratagems draw us all further and further into cynical manipulation and further and further away from functional politics.

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Comments (48)

  1. Poor Jeffrey not bright enough to answer CD’s point loses the battle of hearts and minds. Could the end be near for DUP as main unionist bloc? Robinson at least, seems to have lost support among unionists as well as loyalists since december.

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  2. Alias (profile) says:

    “What unionists miss, and it suggests to me that they’re not talking to their colleagues out west, is that a nationalist chair in a majority unionist council has absolutely no power whatsoever.”

    It begs the question: would a majority nationalist on a council elect a unionist mayor if the role had any actual power and was therefore more than just an attempt to create a misleading impression of practicing non-sectarian politics?

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  3. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “Could the end be near for DUP as main unionist bloc?”

    Its comments like this that have me shaking my head

    The DUP (sadly or otherwise) will continue to erode the UUP as SF will continue to eclipse SDLP.

    The main loser as a result of recent events will be Alliance especially in majority Prod areas.

    The polarisation of the two communities will continue.

    The DUPERS will find a “payback” item as retaliation for the flags issue .

    Depressing

    (If I were a Belfast trader I would play down the economic effect of the riots a little don`t want to give the buggers any ideas)

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  4. JR (profile) says:

    Remind me again, what special powers the flag flying over the council posesses.

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  5. Dec (profile) says:

    Jeffrey was complaining about the evils of ‘majoritarianism’ and Chris was rightfully pulling him up on his sheer hypocrisy. How about this from 2006:

    Lisburn City Council has failed to comply with its own policy over flying the union flag, the Equality Commission has found.
    Council policy meant the flag could be only flown on 19 designated days at its civic headquarters and other buildings.

    In response to a complaint by Sinn Fein councillor Paul Butler, the commission found the council began to fly the flag permanently at six properties in 2005.

    Commissioner Bob Collins said they had failed to implement their own rules.
    “By adopting an equality scheme, Lisburn City Council has made a public commitment to promote equality and good relations in carrying out all of its functions,” he said.
    “If, having carried out an equality impact assessment into a policy, they find that there is an adverse impact on any group, they are committed to consider how they might reduce that impact and to look at alternative policies.
    In this case, the commission’s investigation has found that the council did not fulfil those commitments, and we have made recommendations to put that right. ”

    The commission has recommended the council confines the display of the union flag to its civic headquarters, and only on designated days.
    DUP councillor Jeffrey Donaldson, the local MP, said it had been part of his party’s election mandate to change the policy on flags in May 2005.
    “The council voted by a majority to reinstate the former policy,
    – an equality impact assessment was carried out and it was found that only 8% of staff at the civic centre had a concern about this,” he said.

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Quite so Dec. But can you name me a council in Northern Ireland that does not do exactly the same?

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  7. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    I think that due credit must be given to the SDLP. which party initiated the principle of power-sharing at Council level.

    Leaving aside the pathetic contributions from some members of the audience, what struck me was the sheer dishonesty of Jeffrey Donaldson’s contribution. “We accepted the Good Friday Agreement”; you didn’t Jeffrey, you walked out of the talks at Castle Buildings in 1998 when you were a member of the UUP.

    It is the sheer lack of generosity of some unionists that depresses me. They oppose every advance by nationalists tooth and nail, like the election of Alban Maginness as Lord Mayor in 1997, and then by some process of double-think convince themselves that they actually facilitated the process.

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  8. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    “It begs the question: would a majority nationalist on a council elect a unionist mayor if the role had any actual power and was therefore more than just an attempt to create a misleading impression of practicing non-sectarian politics?” asks Alias (demonstrating at least that he had read the original post).

    And the answer is, “I should bloody well hope not !”.

    The point of voting for the candidate/party of one’s choice is that that party might attain the power to implement policies with which the voter broadly agrees and to deny power to those parties with whose programme he disagrees.

    But it’s all a bit of a moot point really since the mayoral offfice in local is a purely symbolic role. If it were to be made an office of administrative authority as in London or the USA and France then the office would no longer be the gift of the council but would be appointed by elective process as elsewhere.

    Given, however, that the role is symbolic, it seems all the more of a gesture of outreach by nationalist dominated councils to offer that role periodically to council members from an opposing political group that sets os much store in symbols.

    It would be nice if the gesture were to be reciprocated but I suppose, as in the school playground, where the nice kids who share their sweets with their fellows, also offer a share to the fat bully in the folorn hope of transformation through example only to find that Buster continues, not only to refuse to share in return but continues to duff up the smaller children and take their sweets for his own.

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  9. Dec (profile) says:

    Mick

    I’ve no idea but I think we can safely agree Jeffrey is a nauseating hypocrite.

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  10. ayeYerMa (profile) says:

    What do all these twattering shinnerbots (“public opinion” my arse) do with their time that as part of their ongoing “cultural war” they can invest so much effort in spreading such continual hatred with a zeal that is simply not possible to match? There doesn’t seem to be any form of comment these days in any form of online media that these drones don’t dominate, to such an extent that they come across as a bit of a running joke.

    Why should Unionists be expected to play these endless silly childish games? Why can we not have a media who will call a spade a spade?

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  11. Obelisk (profile) says:

    “Why can we not have a media who will call a spade a spade?”

    By which you mean, a media that completely agrees with your point of view and in doing so will be rendered fair.

    Maybe a Unionist version of America’s Fox News?

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  12. Henry94 (profile) says:

    If the position is just symbolic (and what else could it be?) then Unionists could either do the same themselves in councils they control or refuse these symbolic positions in areas where they don’t. Whinging about trickery while taking the meaningless and symbolic positions is having your cake and eating it too.

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  13. Nevin (profile) says:

    Here’s my contribution from around about mid-night, last night:

    “1. Chris is a member of the Slugger team but the more relevant point is that he was an unsuccessful single time SF candidate for Lisburn council.

    There’s much nonsense talked about power-sharing; the mainly nationalist Moyle council rotates the chair and vice-chair posts but, on contentious issues, it’s majority rule OK.

    I attend council meetings from time to time; I work with
    councillors from across the party spectrum; sometimes these councillors seek my assistance; but, thanks to party politicking in Belfast council, the atmosphere in Moyle council was by far the worst I’ve witnessed.

    2. I sat through two and a half-hours of this nonsense on Monday night, punctuated by foul language and references to the flag protest. They then went into committee for the item I’d gone to observe – so I headed home, contemplating how I might get revenge :)

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  14. IJP (profile) says:

    I think Chris‘ point was specific to Lisburn and was well made, particularly after the DUP took over – after all, this is the Council which was trying to give Freedom of the City to the Orange Order late last year!

    On the other hand, the DUP has been more generous elsewhere – notably this year in Ballymena when it elected an SDLP Mayor; and last year in Ballymoney when its own Mayor followed a hurling team to Croke Park.

    What this shows is something I’ve commented on elsewhere – the DUP is an increasingly divided party. Even more interestingly, it seems less extreme now in the “Paisley Heartland” than elsewhere.

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  15. sherdy (profile) says:

    Maybe somewhat off-point, but has anyone considered the make-up of Nolan’s audience?
    He did apologise and explained that due to the protests/riots there was not the usual balanced audience, but why did he fill the studio with loyalist protesters?
    Is it not in the BBC’s charter that there should be a balance of opinions, and even though Nolan did try to bring in the few non-loyalists, the programme was heavily skewed towards loyalism.
    Surely the heads of the BBC should be investigating this situation, or does it not matter to them as this was only a NI programme.

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  16. Yellowford (profile) says:

    I think it was interesting that Jeffrey said, when speaking in favour of consensus politics, that he didn’t want a return to majority rule. “The bad old days with one side dominating the other”. Was this an admission that unionism has by and large denied until now?

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  17. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Mick,

    it’s a shame – and I think inaccurate – to see you scoff at rotating mayoral position gestures as cynical “tricks”; a cover merely to engage in old-UUP style exclusion.

    Such political gestures are worthwhile and welcome and should be commended.

    PG McAvov getting the position via DUP support in Ballymena was a moment of genuine improvement in community relations. It simply wouldn’t have happened only a few years ago, never mind during the conflict.

    And on a related if broader note, reading the general trend of your output this past while do you think its unfair of me to suggest that you’re mostly categorizing every nationalist action you cite as either as cynical and/or provocative (especially if even outreach gestures are now labeled as “tricks” and so on)?

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  18. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Ruarai… Well, I’ll take direction on the fact I likely hardedned it a little too much. But in some cases, that is what it has become.

    I think the point IJP makes is a good one, and germaine to the wider problem, which is that there’s a lack of generosity at play here. And I think that is a symptom of the DUP as well as SF…

    Robbo, was Inside Politics tonight. Two things struck me:

    - One was a crude and unbecoming reference to Gerry Adams’ demeanour in his interview on The View last night.

    - And then a roll call of estates in Castlereagh where a ban on flags on lamposts would not go down well (with the implication that he cannot and will not do it).

    I think I’ve said it before, but in their care not to get ‘Trimbled’, they may end up getting ‘Robboed’. Inflexibilities in the system are their to stop us from going back to conflict. The problem is that the system is being worked by two supremely inflexible parties.

    The cynicism engendered by the need to spin failure as the fault of the other which arises is both toxic and corrosive…

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  19. ayeYerMa (profile) says:

    Obelisk, there is no such thing as a “neutral” or unbiased media. If they are going to have a bias then I’d have more respect for them and their integrity if they at least stated a bias and made it obvious.

    Given that public money has effectively gone towards allowing reception of RTE across Northern Ireland to appease Irish Nationalism, why then does BBC additionally continue to act as a vehicle for promotion of a foreign nationalism on a daily basis?

    Sherdy, on Nolan only 1/4 panelists were in line with the constitution supported by an overwhelming majority of the NI population. Most of the time Irish Nationalism is over-represented in these audiences and panels, is usually what shouts the loudest. You have become accustomed to swallowing your own propaganda by a usually obliging local media that you are now confused when Republicans decided to provoke a normally quiet Loyalism.

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  20. MALCOLMX (profile) says:

    Firstly well done to Chris and Gerry lynch.

    Nationalist and Republicans share power in councils where they have a majority genuinely in the name of equality, believe it or believe it not.

    Unionism on the other hand demonstrates on councils what many Nats/Reps already know, that unionism believes in some god given or birth right to be in charge in this part of Ireland and that manifests itself in their supremacist sectarian mentality whereby they can’t even make small gestures to the ‘other’ side because of the old adage of not wanting a Fenian about the place. That’s not every elected unionist but seems to me most of them have this mentality.

    Unionism needs to realise that the days of the orange state are gone and stop fooling themselves and their electorate that they still hold their noses when reluctantly engaging with SF. MOVE WITH THE TIMES UNIONISM!

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  21. Hopping The Border (profile) says:

    “why then does BBC additionally continue to act as a vehicle for promotion of a foreign nationalism on a daily basis?”

    What is this foreign nationalism you speak of?

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  22. forthman (profile) says:

    Ruarai,

    I think you points are valid. Maybe Mick will look at the last line in his response, and maybe apply it to himself!

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  23. carl marks (profile) says:

    ayeYerMa
    “why then does BBC additionally continue to act as a vehicle for promotion of a foreign nationalism on a daily basis?”

    supply and demand my friend,supply and demand all those Irish wanna watch irish TV, live with it. you dont have a lot of choice!

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  24. Ruarai (profile) says:

    .Mick,

    I certainly agree about the lack of generosity bit (though if generosity is what you’re seeking, its less than helpful to undermine gestures like mayoral sharing with claims of stunt or trick. If generosity doesn’t start there, where does it?)

    There’s never really been much generosity around but it’s both worrying and surely unsustainable just how little there is around anywhere, just now.

    That said, it’s beyond me why you’re so focused (fixated even?) on the lack of generosity from Nationalists. One Way Generosity – stop being Nationalist/don’t rock the boat – is worse than useless: it would only heighten an hysterical response every time the slightest challenge to either the Union or to Northern Ireland’s Imperial Britain Theme Park decor.

    And those challenges will exists as long as Northern Ireland does. Fact.

    One senior civil servant said to me a few years back, “Ruarai, you have to understand, if we lose the 11 plus, what will middle class Protestants have left?”

    Folks, we need to start rethinking what are rights vs. privileges, how to build new areas of cooperation rather than how to find new ways to find loss and offense in the old areas and, not least, how to transform politics into something that is useful rather than a pasttime for trouble-makers.

    A generous approach to dealing with identity could start not with a Thirteen Days tone to dealing with flags but with Unionists trying to imagine a way of symbolizing Britishness that’s got a freaking toe in the 21 century, rather than the gasping clawing at old imperial ‘glories’, while Nationalists could start with an approach to Irishness that’s less about top down constitutionally-focused reminders of what’s contested and more about locally drawn attempts to explore How Irish identity is already a source of untapped shared history.

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  25. jagmaster (profile) says:

    ayeYerMa
    “why then does BBC additionally continue to act as a vehicle for promotion of a foreign nationalism on a daily basis?”

    Well perhaps you didn’t see the census figures that were released a while ago.

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  26. BarneyT (profile) says:

    Who famously referred to the 2003 GAA football final as an all British affair? Whilst funny in some respects and highly mischievous, could unionism not have played the same card here?

    Is there not some irony regarding Sinn Fein voting to fly the union jack in celebration of royal anniversaries that they could have exploited (tongue in cheek or not)? Much preferred to the alternative fire stoking

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  27. changeisneeded (profile) black spot says:

    Mick, I find it insulting that you describe what is a genuine hand across the divide as a “trick”. We all know the mayors seat has little power, its just symbolic like a flag and can have genuine good effects to share this position at local level for our communities. Judging by your recent input on here isn’t it time you where honest changed your profile pic to a Union flag.

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  28. Chris Donnelly (profile) says:

    Mick
    It is true to say that there is no power attached to the post of Mayor/ Deputy Mayor.

    But the refusal of majority unionist councils to countenance embracing all-inclusive ‘power-sharing’ in terms of allocation of such posts is quite significant as it confirms the existence of a mindset within mainstream political unionism deeply hostile to the notion of equality and partnership even at the symbolic level. No attempt has been made to educate the base in this regard.

    Suggesting the problem is one of poor public relations misses the point.

    Of course, on day to day matters, council determinations will be governed by the majority.

    You mention siting of memorials. I think you’ll find multiple British memorials throughout virtually every council across the north, including the UDR one erected on land donated freely a few years ago by Lisburn Council and the cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall (where you’ll also find statues to British military figures & monarchs, not to mention stain glassed windows dedicated to the UDR and RUC. One would’ve thought the protestors would’ve noticed these every Saturday as they gather at the City Hall railings but, alas, would appear not to be the case.)

    And, then of course, we have the Peter Robinson Centre in Castlereagh. One wonders what reaction would await a decision by Derry or Magherafelt Councils to name a leisure centre for Martin McGuinness!

    The most generous examples of note recently have been the willingness of Sinn Fein and the SDLP to support Diamond Jubilee beacons at Council level, and let’s not forget the monies distributed by councils so that loyalists could have Royal Wedding and Jubilee street parties (as well as tyre- if not flag- free bonfires!)

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  29. Nevin (profile) says:

    “Of course, on day to day matters, council determinations will be governed by the majority.”

    So lots of scope for cronyism and other forms of discrimination, Chris, ‘the notion of equality and partnership’ doesn’t add up to a string of beans; it’s just hot air; one prick and the balloon bursts.

    “multiple British memorials”

    My friend Robert Thompson has written several books, district by district, about those who perished in WW1. As far as I know, these memorials were paid for by local public subscription and they contain the names of local people, irrespective of class or creed; back then they would have used the Irish label. This makes these memorials part British, part Irish but mainly local.

    Memorials dedicated to the alphabet soup of loyalist and republican paramilitaries are raised by organisations that attacked their fellow citizens and did enormous damage to the economy.

    “most generous examples of note”

    need to be seen in the context of SF politicians, with SDLP ones in tow, running after the likes of Gerry McGeough, whilst in the presence of one of his victims.

    Moyle council has a Good Relations officer and policy but, judging by last Monday’s disgraceful performance, some good money is being thrown after bad. The victims will mainly be local minorities, including immigrants. The hardening of the political arteries can be summed up in this phrase that came my way a few months ago: “We don’t have a problem with A, B and C; we burn them out.”

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  30. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Mick, you refer to this matter as some sort of a trick or a game. The truth is sadly far more depressing.

    If the senior positions on councils such as Mayor (and others such as committee chairmanships) have no powers and no responsibility, what’s the harm in nominating people to them ? Why would the DUP in Newtownabbey nominate a man with known connections to the UDA (Tommy Kirkham) to the position of deputy Mayor rather than nominating a nationalist ?

    The long and the short of this is that it really is simple. Unionist councillors don’t want a fenian about the place and they’ll resist it unless their hand is forced. I have pointed out here on Slugger before that the unionists on Newtownabbey resisted for many years installing even a Catholic Mayor from Alliance, never mind from the nationalists (there still hasn’t been a nationalist Mayor in Newtownabbey). Sources – who were themselves disgusted by what they heard – within the Ulster Unionist Party passed on that certain councillors, whom I will not name, told internal meetings said that electing a Catholic as Mayor was unthinkable as a priest would have to be appointed as the council chaplain. Sources have told me that during negotiations, the unionists tried to impose conditions on Alliance to block the appointment of a priest to that role.

    It is difficult to believe that this kind of naked and unvarnished sectarianism exists. But it does, and to suggest that this issue doesn’t really matter or is some sort of game being played for optics is to seriously downplay the matter. It is a constant and ongoing reminder that unionists quite simply will not embrace equality and sharing even on a symbolic level. It is offensive that people would try to pass this off as some sort of political shenanigans.

    As for the SDLP and SF, they used to do a fair bit of discrimination themselves. Unionists were similarly systematically discriminated against in councils they did not control out West. It appears that the SDLP and SF must have had some kind of internal party directive passed down to support d’Hondt on councils and this has led to better unionist representation. Derry in particular is a shining example of the right way to do things. Maybe it is all symbolic, and maybe under the covers things aren’t so rosy, but at least it’s a start and it shows very clearly the complete lack of leadership within political unionism over equality issues.

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  31. MalcolmXZ[10.24] Unionist politicians don’t have even a scintilla of respect for democracy, and this is evedent from the history of the statelet. They see themselves as above the normal strictures of law and politics, partly because, for them, NI was created by and for them, and if there are catholics in it, they shouldn’t be acknowledged, as per Robinson’s line the other day, ‘the people WE share this place with’ in other words there’s no parity of esteem applying here now, any more than in 1968. They are now running out of road but expect things to stay the same in a nationalist majority as they have been to now.

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  32. SK (profile) says:

    On the subject of symbolic gestures, apparently Mike Nesbitt has torpedoed the one attempt thus far by political leaders to present a united front in the face of loyalist violence.

    Moderate Mike vetoed a joint statement on the basis that it lacked the requisite amount of unionist rhetoric. Cheers Mike.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/mike-nesbitt-scuppers-united-front-by-not-signing-statement-16263174.html

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  33. Nevin (profile) says:

    CS, why does Naomi Long seem to have a more balanced approach to the loyalist and republican threats from ‘outside the tent’ than her male APNI colleagues? Why are the latter prone to saying such silly things as SF voting for the Union flag being flown on the Queen’s birthday? Do they suffer from small man syndrome.

    “Derry in particular is a shining example of the right way to do things.”

    Is it? A friend walked into a Derry hotel many years ago. He noted a huddle of nationalist politicians and the Catholic bishop. The gathering had taken place in advance of a council meeting. This sounds a bit like Peter and Martin having a huddle prior to a meeting of the Executive; the minority doesn’t get a look-in.

    More recently there’s been some shape-shifting re.UK City of Culture; it appears to have morphed into the Derry-Londonderry City of Culture and on to Ireland City of Culture. The London presentation of the programme was held in the Irish embassy – in the presence of the DUP MP for Antrim North, Ian Paisley jnr.

    The Culture team was taken ‘in-house’ – Derry City Council – and a member of the team was removed and replaced by another member – without the advertisement of the job. Not so much shining example as same old ….

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  34. Chris Donnelly (profile) says:

    CS
    Good points. Bottom line is that, in a society as divided as ours, symbolism counts. And the absence of a willingness to embrace the type of symbolic partnership evident across nationalist majority councils in unionist majority councils fuels the mindset driving the flag protest movement.

    It comes down to leadership.

    Nevin
    British memorials commemorate UDR, RUC and British soldiers involved in every conflict, including Ireland, so it is disingenuous to pretend they are cross-community in nature. That’d be like stating that every republican memorial could be deemed cross-community on account of the protestant founders of Irish Republicanism who predominated the ranks of the United Irishmen.

    It’s better to be honest with these things, a much better starting point if the end goal is one defined by mutual understanding, partnership, equality and respect.

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  35. Neil (profile) says:

    Moderate Mike vetoed a joint statement on the basis that it lacked the requisite amount of unionist rhetoric. Cheers Mike.

    Maybe the politically astute glorious leader realised from the leaflet on he’s been played like a harp, having eagerly joined a plot to help Pete dislodge Naomi from ‘his’ seat at a very high cost. He’s a fool.

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  36. Chris Donnelly (profile) says:

    The problem for unionists is that they often win the argument by going through the due process laid down by law (think Ardoyne, think the Flag issue), but then lose the battle for public opinion.

    Mick

    This point is worth fleshing out in greater detail.

    The argument can rarely be separated from the perception in the manner you suggest has happened repeatedly for unionists.

    Whether it is an unwillingness to share power (in local govt chambers) or a stubborn refusal to put the betterment of community relations before the desire to ratchet up sectarian tensions at interfaces with provocative parades, it is the case that unionist politicians have been criticised precisely because of the substance of the issue and not the perception.

    Indeed, that unwillingness to lead the base on these issues is precisely why they have lost influence with a sizeable section of grassroots unionism.

    Cunning plans to ‘get one over’ on the catholics in Ardoyne & excluding nationalists from civic offices sit along the same spectrum as the creation of a Unionist Forum tasked with finding new battlegrounds to take on the Other without countenancing the notion that what was agreed on Good Friday all those moons ago meant the future would be one where unionism would have to co-exist equally with nationalism in a society approaching parity between the two traditions.

    To sum: It’s possible to be too smart for your own good….;)

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  37. SK (profile) says:

    “He’s a fool.”
    ______

    That he is.

    From the BT article:

    “What was more important was getting a statement from five party leaders to show some political cohesion and we had the agreement of four. Mike said he couldn’t agree to it because it didn’t restate the constitutional position of Northern Ireland,”

    An oppportunity to tackle the violence with one voice goes out the window because Mike Nesbitt doesn’t get to re-affirm something that was never in contention.

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  38. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Nevin,

    I am not claiming that the SDLP are anything other than a flawed sectarian party.

    What I am saying is that nationalists are at least making an effort. That effort isn’t being reciprocated except in one single case up the north coast. I think that was clear in my contribution above.

    On another note I find that line you’ve parroted five or six times referring to the gender of different Alliance spokespersons a little odd. In fact looked at another way it’s a bit creepy. I can never tell what weird off the wall notions you’re going to come up with. You and DC should get together.

    Neil,

    Regarding Mike Nesbitt, all I can do is shake my head. Earlier this week he introduced a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly. It wasn’t a bad motion but the DUP could not endorse it because it referred to the Belfast Agreement. Stop me if I’m wrong, but I thought the idea of the Unionist Forum was so that unionists could get together to have their story straight over stuff like this before duking it out in public ? Sounds like it won’t be too long before it joins the “Loyalist Commission”, Rodney Connor and various other unionist joint initiatives on the scrapheap by the sounds of things.

    Then we hear that Nesbitt can’t endorse a statement on rioting because it doesn’t reaffirm NI’s position within the UK. I mean WTF ? Suddenly Mike is putting a complete strawman up there over an issue that nobody is seriously disputing in order to get out of a statement condemning rioting ?

    This is showing all the signs of a guy who makes shit up on the hoof without spending a few minutes sitting down to think things over.

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  39. Nevin (profile) says:

    “It’s better to be honest with these things, a much better starting point if the end goal is one defined by mutual understanding, partnership, equality and respect.”

    I’ve no problem with much of this statement, Chris, so that was why I tried to ease you gently a little bit away from a traditional PRM propaganda position. Is the laddie not for turning? ;)

    I’d suggest an agreed statement of the problem is a better starting point; we are bedevilled by end goals.

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  40. Nevin (profile) says:

    “referring to the gender of different Alliance spokespersons a little odd”

    CS, it’s based on the public statements of Naomi Long and her male APNI colleagues. When I hear Naomi making similar silly observations then I’ll revise my opinion.

    Your disparaging use of ‘creepy’ and ‘off the wall’ is noted :)

    “nationalists are at least making an effort”

    I get to see ‘power-sharing’ in a local council first hand; it’s a sham. And when they want to shut me out, they collectively go into committee – a rather negative form of power-sharing :)

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  41. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Sham or not, it’s better than what the unionists are managing.

    The fact that they can’t bring themselves to nominate a Catholic to a piddling ceremonial role with no powers tells me all I need to know.

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  42. Expat (profile) says:

    Geoffrey Donaldson on the Nolan show suggested that consensus should be the governing principle for political action. The requirement for consensus is actually a recipe for stalemate and inaction in contentious matters, since it means that decisions will be taken at the level of the lowest common denominator of what is acceptable to the parties without their needing to give ground. This has been the overriding characteristic of the NI political process for the past 10 years and more, which has meant, we see from events on the streets of Belfast, there has been little or no real progress in overcoming sectarian divisions. Contentious matters are those that at some level touch up equality and the creation of a shared future. It is clear that there is no acceptance of the notion of a shared future among vast numbers of unionists, and we have recently witnessed the spectacle their elected politicians publicly pandering to the baying sectarian rabble.

    The call by PUP politicians for consensus, ostensibly sensible and reasonable, is actually a disguise of their unwillingness to move politically. Consensus renders the need for political movement optional – it is what we all agree about, but, unfortunately, very little that matters. A commitment to seek compromise is the real keynote, rather then compromise, implying as it does an imperative to move to create new and better ways – a new society.

    Equality inevitably entails those with power and privileges giving some of them up. The powers and privileges of the old loyalist order have largely gone, but only through the intervention to abolish one-party rule and by the demise of the old industries. Little more is left than the communal myth of who and what they are, and the flags and symbols are important in reinforcing and keeping that notion alive. However, this maintenance of a perceived triumph and sense of superiority can hardly worth the cost, which is a catastrophically divided society that cannot be seen as a viable as a governmental entity in the long term.

    Unionist politicians yet have within their power the possibility of ameliorating the situation and changing the inevitable course of events. It will entail their giving a new kind of leadership to their communities, but it will be a race against time for them. I don’t think they have it in them.

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  43. Nevin (profile) says:

    CS, I don’t think we should encourage shams or other forms of dishonesty.

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  44. Jagdip (profile) says:

    Very, very sorry for being off-topic, but does anyone have the advertisement in the Mid Ulster Mail welcoming home Gerry McGeogh which has so exercised Ian McCrea DUP MLA.

    “McCrea Disgusted at Gerry McGeough Advert in Mid Ulster Mail”

    http://www.mydup.com/news/article/mccrea-disgusted-at-gerry-mcgeough-advert-in-mid-ulster-mail

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  45. Nevin (profile) says:

    Jagdip, the function gets a mention in the Pensive Quill.

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  46. ForkHandles (profile) says:

    “It is difficult to believe that this kind of naked and unvarnished sectarianism exists.”

    Hold the front page! Some NI politicians are sectarian – shockkaaa !!!!

    Sorry, but that made me giggle. However, what you describe is jaw dropingly disgusting and embarrassingly backward.

    On the subject of majority one side councils electing a themmun to be mayor, or what have you. If the position doesn’t have any power then its not ‘power sharing’. It’s a step in the right direction certainly to share the position of mayor etc. But this is only a small step in the realm of good relations, not sharing of power.
    I don’t know the details of how councils work, but as far as I know everything gets a vote, and majority votes win. So its not actually possible to have power sharing. Its only possible when the majority can be over ruled by someone from a minority. I don’t think thats how councils work, or is that possible?
    What is possible at council level is for the council to vote to do something that is not within the scope of the usual things from their ‘identity’. Basically it is to vote for something that the other tradition identifies with. This is not sharing of power as the majority vote still applies, but it would be called something like ‘fair community representation’.
    Taking the recent flegs issue as an example. It seems that none of the nationalist councils will fly the union flag, even the insignificant 19 (I think) designated days. To follow a ‘fair community representation’ they could vote to do so. It would be to recognize something of the other community, something they don’t identify with but nonetheless recognize is important to a section of the community they represent.
    For unionist councils, maybe supporting the Irish language, GAA sports, or voting to support or host some all Ireland events etc. Maybe they could organize an event to commemorate a 1916 era political leader, although obviously not someone associated with violence. I’m sure it would be possible to look at what is coming up throughout the year and see something that might interest nationalist people, and then be the ones to suggest and support it in the council. Looking at Belfast city council, if a unionist party had proposed to put up a Happy Christmas sign on the city hall in Irish. Would this have not been a good step in ‘fair community representation’?

    So talk of power sharing in councils just because a themmun is given a powerless position is utter nonsense. It would be more accurate to list the things that one identity has voted for from the other identity’s interests. Probably the world’s shortest list!

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  47. Expat (profile) says:

    Geoffrey Donaldson on the Nolan show suggested that consensus should be the governing principle for political action. The requirement for consensus is actually a recipe for stalemate and inaction in contentious matters, since it means that decisions will be taken at the level of the lowest common denominator of what is acceptable to the parties without their needing to give ground. This has been the overriding characteristic of the NI political process for the past 10 years and more, which has meant, we see from events on the streets of Belfast, there has been little or no real progress in overcoming sectarian divisions. Contentious matters are those that at some level touch upon equality and the creation of a shared future. It is clear that there is no acceptance of the notion of a shared future among vast numbers of unionists, and we have recently witnessed the spectacle of their elected politicians publicly pandering to the baying sectarian rabble.

    The call by PUP politicians for consensus, ostensibly sensible and reasonable, actually disguises their unwillingness to move politically. The requirement of consensus renders the need for political movement optional – consensus is what we all agree about, but this, unfortunately, relates very little to sharing. A commitment to seek compromise is the real keynote, implying as it does an imperative to move to create new and better ways – a new society.

    Equality inevitably entails those with power and privileges giving some of them up. The powers and privileges of the old loyalist order have largely gone, only through the intervention to abolish of one-party rule and by the demise of the old industries. Little more is left than the communal myth of who and what the unionists are, and the flags and symbols are important in reinforcing and keeping these notions alive. However, the maintenance of a perceived triumph and sense of superiority be can hardly worth its cost, this being a catastrophically divided society that cannot be thought of as a viable governmental entity in the long term.

    Unionist politicians yet have within their power the possibility of ameliorating the situation and changing the course of events. It will entail their giving a new kind of leadership to their communities, but this will be a race against time for them. I don’t think they have it in them.

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  48. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks for the video link, Mick. [CD 5, Privy Councillor 0.] Does unionism have EVEN ONE robust and intellectually formidable spokesman? If it does, it should tell him to come out of hiding.

    Expat, glad to hear you mention “the demise of the old industries”. A real unionist leader would be encouraging people in loyalist areas not to watch films in bed, but to go to night classes, take up hobbies, learn instruments, play games, make things, grow things in window-boxes, and even invent things.

    Leadership is not a matter of dressing up in expensive clothes and looking solemn.

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