For Everyone – the main points from Alliance’s blueprint for a shared and better future

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Like their last election Manifesto, the Alliance Party’s “blueprint for an Executive strategy to build a shared and better future” [PDF of Executive Summary] is not a skinny tome. So far I’ve got about a third of the way through the seventy or so pages. While I read the rest,  here’s a synopsis of some of the key points in the “For Everyone” blueprint for you to ponder and comment on.

Alliance For EveryoneDavid Ford’s introduction:

[Building a shared society] won’t be addressed by tinkering at the edges, or trying to simply manage the symptoms of the problem … The ending of violence has given us an opportunity to tackle the underlying divisions of our society; history will not forgive us if we squander it. I want Northern Ireland to become a truly shared society where nowhere is out of bounds to anyone because of their creed, colour, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

For two decades Northern Ireland received huge international support to ease our transition from hostility to peace. Across the world we have proclaimed that our peace process is a model for others to follow. And yet almost nineteen years after the ceasefires of 1994, fifteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, eight years after the publication of the first ‘shared future’ strategy under Direct Rule, a meaningful, strategic approach to tackling our pervasive divisions has yet to be developed under, and embedded into, our devolved political structures.

The proposals and arguments in the blueprint are based around Alliance’s vision:

A shared and integrated society free from intimidation and discrimination and fear, where every member is safe, has opportunities to contribute and participate and is treated fairly and with respect; a truly civic society, underpinned by the shared values of equality, respect for diversity, and a celebration of our interdependence.

As well as appealing to the get-along-together side of people’s better nature, the document also outlines economic reasons for investing in “mechanisms, policies and programmes”.

Alliance’s existing practice of examining “all major policies … for their potential impact on sharing versus separation” in the the departments they control – DEL and DOJ – would be extended to all departments.

Sharing would be intentional and not an add-on with “new leisure, educational, health, social and community facilities … built with an explicit objective to ensuring optimal and open public use”.

Initiatives would not be limited to short-to-medium term outcomes. Executive “resources will be made available to enable investments [to] support longer term reduction in hostility and the normalisation of sharing, either through the provision of shared goods, facilities and services to meet demand or to provide support and security for those making the choice to mix, share or integrate”.

Children growing up within divided societies continues to perpetuate division, this must be addressed, by getting to the roots of the problem facing our children and young people with real and meaningful action, not just papering over the cracks, tackling issues early on not relying on last minute intervention.

Shared education would: reduce “the cost of maintaining around 85,000 empty school places” as well as “directing funding towards pupils rather than the maintenance of the school estate”.

The integrated education targets – along with flags – have been the focus of much of today’s media attention around the blueprint.

  • Set a minimum target for 20% of children being educated in integrated schools by 2020.
  • Make the process for schools transforming to integrated status easier.
  • All future new school builds should be integrated, bar in exceptional cases.

The BBC’s Mark Devenport calls Alliance’s proposals “more radical” when he compares these proposals with those in the leaked CSI draft report from Stormont’s cross-party working group on Shared Relations.
Alliance For Everyone by wordle.net
Around housing Alliance propose:

Setting and delivering a target through proactive and inter-Departmental programmes, that by 2025 all evidence of threat, intimidation and exclusive claims to territorial monopoly by any group or cause will be eliminated in Northern Ireland and mixed and shared housing must be considered normal throughout the region and at all levels of income.

On peace walls the targets are smaller than the leaked cross-party draft report, but perhaps more achievable:

There will be an aspiration to the removal of all interface barriers over time, in collaboration and partnership with local communities. This approach should allow the setting of baseline targets for a minimal reduction of 20% in the number of interface structures over the next ten years, with a further 30% removed within fifteen years.

There’s a nod to the past, but as Pete corrects me, not to the Eames/Bradley report that was tainted by a single recommendation out of the pages and pages of proposals:

In order to deal with the past and its legacy it is essential the Executive will engage with the British and Irish Governments to agree terms for a cross-party talks process, aimed at reaching agreement on arrangements for dealing with the past. This will take account of the Commission for Victims and Survivors’ Report on Dealing with the Past.

Under the section on flags, there is a statement that “Northern Ireland is and remains part of the United Kingdom, until or unless people decide otherwise”, noting that “we have divided and overlapping identities” and “in matters of esteem all must be treated with dignity and in a spirit of equality”.

There’s a call for the Executive to

agree that the Union Flag is flown over public and civic buildings in Northern Ireland on designated days as defined by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport

as well as an appeal for the Executive to “carry out a consultation on the possibility of developing shared symbols for Northern Ireland”.

… there should be zero tolerance of paramilitary symbols, there is no place in a normal society to celebrate a culture of violence and intimidation. The inappropriate use of national symbols is also an issue. People have the right to display any legal symbol from their home. It must be recognised that this does not extend to street furniture.

The display of flags should be regulated with enforcement when required, with a proposal that statutory agencies involved in this regulation would grant approval for “flags and other celebratory material [to] be displayed in a regulated, time bound manner by application” in order that “all space in Northern Ireland is shared and cannot be claimed by anyone permanently or exclusively”.

Along with “Executive leadership” there’s recognition that work is required at a district council level, along with adequate funding and a suitable champion. The proposal in Alliance’s blueprint is that the Community Relations Council is developed into a Shared Future Council.

The devil will be in the detail, and the practicalities of implementation under the current structures in the Assembly and the Executive. The reaction of other parties will be interesting to watch. Conservative NI spokesman Trevor Ringland was not universally happy with the blueprint or Alliance’s role in building a shared future.

[Trevor Ringland] welcomed some of the ideas in Alliance’s latest document about integration, but he said that the party had missed its best opportunities to help deliver a shared future.

We certainly need a plan to combat division, as our greatest political priority. However Alliance has to shoulder a lot of the blame for failing to deliver a viable strategy on a shared future. The party had leverage during the negotiations to devolve policing and justice, which it could have used to demand much more concrete progress on a CSI strategy and that key aspects of the 2005 Shared Future document were maintained …

Any meaningful CSI strategy must contain targets for things like sharing schools, integrating housing and reducing duplication of services. Alliance has said some things I would agree with, but they have consistently failed to deliver their key objective of implementing a strategy to bring about a shared future. In the process they together with the other executive parties have let the people of Northern Ireland down and the sooner they all face up to that, the better for all of us.

Whether you deem the report to be ambitious, idealistic, well argued or laboured, the “For Everyone” blueprint will certainly be a talking point in the corridors of Parliament Buildings over the next week, and a focal point of the Alliance conference on Saturday 2 March.

But before then, will Alliance tuck these proposals under their arm and march confidently back into the cross-party shared relations working group?

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  • Obelisk

    “agree that the Union Flag is flown over public and civic buildings in Northern Ireland on designated days as defined by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport”

    I know it’s so limited to just grab this out of this post. There is obviously A lot to take in there and a lot of good ideas. I’d even like to salute the Alliance Party for taking the plunge and putting forward proposals when everyone else isn’t really willing to do so.

    But as the flag issue is front and center right now…no. No to Nationalist Councils flying the flag on any day at all. I won’t like, when I hear the odd Sinn Fein or SDLP politician endorse the civic days argument as a good compromise I wince inside because I know when they move to take the flag down permanently they’ll be reminded they called it a good compromise.

    Let’s be very clear, the whole civic days notion is an Alliance compromise the Nationalist parties agreed to as the second best option to full removal.

    The idea that councils with Nationalist majorities will have to fly the flag without any Unionist concessions on symbols throughout the North has to be a complete non starter.
    Not so much a shared future as an unfair status quo preserved in aspic.

    Everything else I can really sink my teeth into and even support. But on issues of identity I don’t think the Alliance gets it sometimes, even if they are unfairly caught in the middle because of it.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    The only way Alliance can get its policies adopted or even seriously examined is by first selling them to the NIO or London. This has been the case since 1973 when they convinced the NIO to adopt PR-STV for local elections other than Westminster rather than first-past-the-post.

    Why is this so? I think it is a combination of maturity and identity. Alliance policy wonks are like the nerds and teacher’s pets that everyone hates at school while doting on the jocks/athletes and the good-looking kids. Both communities in NI also feel under siege from historical and geographical circumstances and so are more concerned with basic identity and no surrender (whose Irish version is not one bullet) than with actually formulating working policies on many issues. The only real party that Alliance ever has any competition from in terms of policy generation is the SDLP, which is sometimes inhibited by how having too wonkish policies will affect its competition with SF, which finds it much easier to simply indulge in blame games.

  • Pete Baker

    Alan

    There’s a nod to the Eames/Bradley report that was tainted by a single recommendation out of the pages and pages of proposals:

    “In order to deal with the past and its legacy it is essential the Executive will engage with the British and Irish Governments to agree terms for a cross-party talks process, aimed at reaching agreement on arrangements for dealing with the past. This will take account of the Commission for Victims and Survivors’ Report on Dealing with the Past.”

    The Commission for Victims and Survivors’ Report on Dealing with the Past wasn’t the Eames/Bradley report.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    All good stuff. The main problem is that both the DUP and SF have absolutely no interest in trying to unite people. They exist because of deep divisions and they will do everything to maintain that, apart from mouthing insincere platitudes from time to time. The parties that could have done something to advance are moving into obscurity. I’m glad that I left.

  • DC

    This document should have beeen pulled out at Belfast City Council and waved in the faces of both SF and the SDLP, both those parties wanted the flag down so this is the document that should have set out the terms for doing so. Without it, Alliance’s designated days decision at BCH can be overturned in time. IF both SF and the SDLP thumbed their noses at it then the designated days amendment should have been pulled and the original removal motion blocked outright.

    It seems a bit unfair to call loyalists and unionists out on to a new shared future ground that even the Alliance party has yet to define and get agreement on, so I mean people are right to think that without consensus on the flag Sinn Fein have got pretty much what they wanted in terms of its neutrality policy towards all things British.

    While I haven’t read the document I imagine it is largely focussing on inter-community initiatives and programmes to improve good relations between unionism and nationalism; however, in contrast, today, imo the problems out there at the moment are intra-community fracturing problems inside loyalism and unionism than inter-community. In terms of where Alliance operates I think it would be interesting to see what ideas it has on mending intra-community relations between it and wider unionism especially after its recent decision on the flag. Whether or not Alliance can fix the damage to its image and reputation over the short term may well be key to its long term survival.

  • DC

    The idea that councils with Nationalist majorities will have to fly the flag without any Unionist concessions on symbols throughout the North

    Almost all of the government agencies have been completely rebranded and deBritified. Indeed some government functions even outsourced and McServiced, so come on where’s your generosity of spirit!

    Not to mention the PSNI.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think the key thing about this document is to try to stimulate discussion. I heard Jonathan Bell on Nolan this morning criticizing the plans for a lack of ambition. Why hasn’t the DUP’s superior ambition over shared future issues led them to do any more other than prevaricate for five years over the publication of their own proposals ?

    obelisk:

    Let’s be very clear, the whole civic days notion is an Alliance compromise the Nationalist parties agreed to as the second best option to full removal.

    A bit of give and take is what is needed here. I am sympathetic to the view that neutrality over symbols is the best compromise but this has problems. For example is the presence of the Irish language on buildings or street signs neutral ? Unionists would suggest that it isn’t. Maybe nationalists should be talking about what kind of deal they might be able to strike over issues such as the language in exchange for increasing recognition of the flag in nationalist-controlled council areas ?

    tmitch:

    The only way Alliance can get its policies adopted or even seriously examined is by first selling them to the NIO or London. This has been the case since 1973 when they convinced the NIO to adopt PR-STV for local elections other than Westminster rather than first-past-the-post.

    This isn’t the case anymore. We have devolution and we are on our own. London won’t interfere, not even over a security matter like this one we’ve got over flags.

  • Obelisk

    ” so come on where’s your generosity of spirit!”

    On this one part of this one issue I have none. The only symbol of equal weight to the Union Flag is the Irish Tricolor. As the tricolor cannot fly, then I cannot accept the Union Flag flying also.

    I am willing to discuss virtually any other symbol in terms of parity. Just not that one, because there is nothing I can come up with to share space with it.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    DUP, UUP and Alliance have all came out in favour of widespread (or total) integrated education. If one of them was to take the education portfolio next time around, how far could they realistically get in changing the catholic church-enforced apartheid education system in NI?

    Could we see the type of ‘solo run’ ministerial decisions previously made by Murphy, Ruane and Attwood?

    Or would they be blocked by well-funded, catholic priest-backed legal challenges in the courts?

  • DC

    @Obelisk – come on, there’s even Irish being used on government headed paper as part of the rebranding of government departments.

    How about a tricolour in the grounds somewhere?

  • NOT NOW JOHN

    “No to Nationalist Councils flying the flag on any day at all”

    For me the way forward is to try to identify a flags policy that gains the support of both sides (and the middle); the designated days policy may not be the answer but it is surely a step in the right direction. Those who wish to reject it should endeavour to put forward a more viable alternative.

    Advocating a ‘no flags’ policy sounds rather like the nationalist equivalent of unionists advocating a policy of ’365 days a year flying of the Union Flag’. It is worth remembering that Councils are neither Nationalist or Unionist; they may be nationalist or unionist CONTROLLED but they all contain representatives from both sides. Advocating a flags policy which is bound to make those in a minority continue to feel alienated is surely not the way forward for the next twenty years.

  • Obelisk

    “A bit of give and take is what is needed here”

    When I comes to the Irish Language, I would agree that Unionist could find it offensive. I would support Ulster Scots being put up also.

    But as I just mentioned to DC the flag is such a horrible issue to deal with because Nationalists have no counter. It is ridiculous to expect the flag of another state be hoisted alongside the Union Flag, even if its the flag that has my allegiance.

    I have no symbol that can realistically be placed alongside the Union Flag and so the only logical course of action in regards to flag is No Flags or civic flags of the various councils.

    A deal over language rights can probably be dealt with in terms of increased recognition of Ulster-Scots. We can do similar deals on street names, on statues (John Redmond next to Carson just for fun although that man needs more recognition) memorials, anything except that flag.

  • http://www.wordpress.ianjamesparsley.com IJP

    Obelisk

    You’re trying, but I think you are the one with recognition issues!

    Ulster Scots – not something I exactly oppose (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ulster-Scots-Short-Reference-Grammar/dp/1468166638) – has nothing like the same symbolic weight as the Irish language.

    Indeed, if a Shared Future means anything it is this: even insofar as we can be neatly packaged into Orange-Protestant-British-Rangers and Green-Catholic-Irish-Celtic (and this is decreasingly the case anyway), they are not mirror images of each other.

    Flags may mean more to one “side” (or to a particular section of one “side”) than to the other; language signs may mean more to the other.

    In other words, “Separate but Equal” doesn’t work. So forget about it. You’ll need to share the future – and you have no right to impose any conditions before we start working together to determine how.

  • DC

    Or would they be blocked by well-funded, catholic priest-backed legal challenges in the courts?

    It seems a bit strange in this day and age that religious organisations pretty much hold key influence over the running of schools, it’s as outdated as the notion of the state running all services on behalf of the people.

    It’s time for a bit of mix and change, although wholesale change like the DUP is suggesting is never a good thing. Having come out of a New Labour government of being ‘progressive’ whatever the costs you appreciate keeping the link between tradition and progression. Too much ‘progress’ esp if poorly carried out is usually followed by the reparative.

  • Gopher

    @Oblelisk

    What about each new council runs a competition to design a civic flag for each. Or the we have a competition to design a flag for the whole of NI for the days the union flag dont fly?

  • Framer

    You could have given Alliance some credibility for their integrated integration policies if it wasn’t for the glaring omission of new policy on removing the fair employment law exemption when appointing teachers.

    That’s 20,000 plum jobs outwith equal opportunity.

    This is a sine qua non for integrated education, allowing at least the beginnings of an integrated teaching staff, but Alliance run scared of clerical interests.

    It is easier to bring down a flag than take on the Catholic church or the Methodists.

  • DC

    It is easier to bring down a flag than take on the Catholic church or the Methodists.

    Or perhaps even closer to home, in the Assembly, the reintroduction of cross-community voting on the First Minister and DFM which was junked after St Andrews. That would’ve been a nice Alliance output to have achieved as a precursor to taking on the justice post. That i think was small in scale and just about doable that would have been Alliance leading and other people – supporters – would have been impressed.

    Putting on my Hindsight 20/20 Glasses, I really am at a loss about the flag, it was so unnecessary for such a party to become embroiled in given all the unfinished business around shared future and national identity issues being so emotive and unrewarding for that party given its position as ‘non-sectarian’, esp once that leaflet went out. I really believe pride over one seat and perhaps council group arrogance both kicked in overruling reason and pausing for thought.

  • Alias

    “On this one part of this one issue I have none. The only symbol of equal weight to the Union Flag is the Irish Tricolor. As the tricolor cannot fly, then I cannot accept the Union Flag flying also.”

    You can see why the Shinners are promoting that meme. On the surface it looks to their supporters (AKA the sheep) like they’re promoting an Irish nationalist agenda when, in reality, they’re acting to undermine it, and to promote British national interests.

    Once the Shinners lead the sheep to argue that the ‘two flags or none’ policy is the one to follow, the sheep will not be able to reverse the policy and argue that only one flag should fly should unity ever become a realistic option.

    To this end it will be claimed that either the Irish tricolour must be disposed of or that the Union Jack must fly on another pole beside it at equal height. Since this nonsense won’t wash, it’ll be proposed that the symbol of the sovereign Irish nation must be disposed of an relaced with an enblem that gives parity of esteem to the British nation and British national interests.

    The outcome, as far as the paymasters of the Shinners are concerned, is that the Union Jack will still fly from ‘the mainland’ as the symbol of the sovereign British nation whereas the hapless Irish will have been hoodinked into disposing of the symbol of Irish sovereignty – and, of course, their former sovereignty itself.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    DC: I really believe pride over one seat and perhaps council group arrogance both kicked in overruling reason and pausing for thought.

    A simple ‘We believe in a reduction of flags and symbols across Northern Ireland but it has to be done by agreement’ statement followed by a vote for the status quo would have:

    -Saved on tens of millions of pounds of PSNI overtime
    -Stopped businesses losing tens of millions of pounds over their busiest period
    -Not caused long term damage to community relations
    -Not severely damaged Alliance’s future vote in East Belfast and other Unionist areas
    -Given Alliance the power to go back to UUP/DUP (in Belfast anyway) and forced a few more compromises

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    @Obelisk,

    South Africa went through a similar flag problem twice in the 20th century. In 1910 when the Union of South Africa was created out of two former British colonies and two former Boer (Afrikaner) republics it used the Union Flag. This became a “parity of esteem” issue for Afrikaners so a new tricolor flag was designed that included the Union Flag and the flags of the two Boer republics in small versions within the central white stripe between blue and orange stripes–orange for the Dutch House of Orange. This solution worked as long as minority rule existed. With the institution of majority rule in 1994 it was felt that a new flag was needed that wouldn’t be identified with apartheid. So a committee designed a neutral flag that wasn’t connected to Afrikaner, English, or ANC symbols.

    A committee should design a neutral flag for NI that contains either no sectarian/national symbols or symbols from both communities. That flag could then fly over official buildings on a daily basis. The Union Flag would only fly on designated days and eventually might even be phased out altogether.

  • http://sammymorse.livejournal.com Gerry Lynch

    Well, that took long to get on to the subject of the fleg, didn’t it?

    I suppose it’s a handy short cut for a party political argument without having to grasp any of that fiddly policy detail that’s necessary in most countries.

    My only insight on the document is, if it’s this length, then Stephen Farry almost certainly wrote it.

  • GEF

    “Flags may mean more to one “side” (or to a particular section of one “side”) than to the other; language signs may mean more to the other.”

    Indeed, those who put so much importance in flying flags seem to be the poor, unemployed and uneducated who live most of their lives on welfare benefits. If they protested for weeks on end out in winter weather for employment, better living conditions, education etc would be understandable.

  • boondock

    Flags flags flags, whats wrong with the civic flags if people have a problem with no flag.
    Alias surely the reverse situation if unity happens would be just unionist controlled areas would fly no flag (ie no Tricolour) or would fly only a civic flag, not to mention the fact that a new Ireland will most likely have a new flag anyway.

  • Gopher

    @Gery Lynch

    Not sure people are disrupting life over education at the minute but no doubt that will happen in good time so one solution at a time.

  • David Crookes

    “…..a meaningful, strategic approach to tackling our pervasive divisions has yet to be developed under, and embedded into, our devolved political structures.”

    Don’t know who wrote it, Gerry, but I refuse to vote for anyone who writes that kind of English.

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Any comments or predictions on whether Alliance should now return to the cross-party shared relations working group, rather than just throwing this document over the wall?

  • Obelisk

    “Well, that took long to get on to the subject of the fleg, didn’t it?”

    The first I heard about this new document belonging to the Alliance party was on the Belfast Newsletter webpage last night.

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/headlines/alliance-sinn-fein-councils-should-fly-flag-1-4729952

    Note the headline, Alliance says sinn fein councils should fly the flag. Now the Belfast Telegraph went with the much more upbeat ‘
    Alliance unveils its blueprint for healing divisions in Northern Ireland

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/alliance-unveils-its-blueprint-for-healing-divisions-in-northern-ireland-16267357.html#ixzz2JRx46khy

    But the Newsletter article, especially given current events, focussed again on flag flying. Given that is the topic of the moment I don’t feel my own initial response was out of place to focus on it.

    ‘I suppose it’s a handy short cut for a party political argument without having to grasp any of that fiddly policy detail that’s necessary in most countries’

    It’s shorthand for identity politics, which like it or not do play a massive role here and are capable of energising political blocs in a way bread and butter issues aren’t.

    The political parties themselves are based on identity politics. Do I describe Sinn Fein as a radical socialist party? Do I describe the DUP as a right wing conservative party? Do I describe the UUP as an ongoing political farce? No, we use the terms Nationalist and Unionist to describe the ideology of each party. In foreign media reports they simplify even further and just say Catholic and Protestant.
    Alliance, which does try and escape this paradigm is variously labelled as cross-community and non-sectarian.

    “Indeed, those who put so much importance in flying flags seem to be the poor, unemployed and uneducated who live most of their lives on welfare benefits”

    Trivialising. Agree or disagree with the Flag Protestors there are very real issues here that need to be sorted in terms of a shared future and political alienation. I maybe implacably opposed to their goals and disturbed by their methods, but I’m not going to condemn what they are protesting over as trivial when it really isn’t. People should look at the South and across the Water to look at how politics are conducted there as…as an aspiration. Our political waters are still too poisoned, and these issues you can condemn are still very much front and centre. Don’t blame the Flag Protestors for getting upset over an issue of identity when our entire political discourse is dominated by it.

    Now the majority of the document is full of good ideas. Shared education, shared facilities, equality for all. There is a lot of merit in what Alliance has come up with. But is the source of the division not our identity issues to begin with?
    Is it truly surprising these issues keep cropping up?

    How likely is change to come from this document? I mean the unspoken truth is that the reason the DUP and Sinn Fein haven’t come up with their own strategy because they have too much to lose from making the hard choices regarding a shared future and the neat ethnic division forms readily reliable voting blocs. I’d imagine it’s not all machiavellian level political machinations, maybe a good deal of it is fear.

    In my head I recognise Shared Education is right in practice, right in morality, right in terms of streamlining the education sector and ending duplication of services and yet in the darker recesses of my soul I feel a little trepidation at the prospect. Ulster Press Centre wrote

    “DUP, UUP and Alliance have all came out in favour of widespread (or total) integrated education”

    With the subtle implication being that Sinn Fein and the SDLP support apartheid education system designed to foster division. But as I recall Peter Robinson’s statements on the subject, wasn’t his basic idea that Catholic students simply switch to the state system en masse?

    What about the place of the Irish Language (and Ulster-Scots) in schooling. In the current Catholic sector I believe students are required to take Irish for at least a few years at secondary level before GCSEs. Is there a forthcoming guarantee that at Shared Schools Irish will be offered? Will Irish and Ulster Scots have a place in school culture beyond the classrooms?

    What about Sports? In many Catholic schools the GAA has a presence when it comes to Gaelic football and Hurling. WIll the GAA retain that presence when it comes to Shared Education? Will those sports even be offered or downgraded because sure ‘every kid loves soccer and basketball anyway’.

    And what about History? Can every parent be guaranteed their children will receive a neutral and unbiased account of our History when it is taught in schools?

    Now I don’t believe the issues that coming up with a truly shared education system are insurmountable. I think the positives of a shared education system are absolutely undeniable. But I do want it done in such a way that I am not worried that these shared schools are used to grind away identity. I am sure many Unionists would have similar concerns. Integrated education needs to happen, but it needs to be done the right way.

    Shared facilities? Can’t argue with that at all. Economic case of Alliance on this issue is unanswerable. Social case of Alliance on this issue is unanswerable. The only reason this hasn’t been implemented already is political cowardice.

    IJP

    “You’ll need to share the future – and you have no right to impose any conditions before we start working together to determine how.”

    I’m not imposing conditions. To be frank on the flag issue what we have now is something I can personally live with, where the votes are there the flag stays up,when the votes aren’t there it comes down. This outworking of democracy suits me perfectly fine. This is why the Alliance proposal annoyed me, it seemed to overule local democracy where the people voted for parties who promised to take the flag down. I have no objection to the flag flying if that is the will of the majority of any given Council.

  • Barry the Blender

    More meaningless platitudes from the Alliance party. Who would have thought it?

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Barry. (Even the cover looks boring.) A compendium of abstract nouns, compiled by the grey-faced senior prefects of the school charity committee. The political equivalent of weak cold fair-trade tea and stale Marie biscuits.

    We need a New Interesting Party.

  • otto

    “We need a New Interesting Party.”

    No you don’t. That’d just be the same product in a new package. I agree about the yellow pack branding though – 1980′s Crazy Prices. Remember the beer?

    How about a nice zesty orange David? Would that help?

    It says;

    Whigs – and there’s a liberal link
    Christian Democrats – and there’s a Fine Gael link
    Sainsbury’s – which is wholesome and middle class
    Irish – but different from the Green lot
    and Super Prod! – not really sure about that one

    These cousins have done well with Orange branding and beards.

    http://www.ndp.ca/#

  • ForkHandles

    Obelisk, How about the 9 county Ulster flag to represent all Ireland Irish identity? To me it is the perfect solution. What does it mean to you in terms of something to identify with? Or any other nationalist person reading?

    Since everyone in NI is from the 9 county Ulster province I would have thought we could all identify with that flag to some degree. In the same way, we are all from the UK and we should all be able to identify with the Union flag to some degree. I think those flags would be the perfect solution for the range of identities we have here in NI. Add to that a new NI flag and we have the problem sorted.

    The issue of the Tricolour is really a non starter. I dont think any country is going to allow the flag of another country to be flown from its government buildings. It is probably illegal and I expect the Irish government would not allow it either. A little bit of realistic thinking and its obvious that an alternative flag is required. The 9 county flag is by far the obvious choice.

    The idea that the best solution is to have absolutely nothing is one of the examples of abnormal Northern Irish thinking. It is just the insane result of tribal thinking and hating themmuns stuff. Moronic. People who think that having nothing as the best solution are completely unaware of how abnormal they are. Visit any country in the world and you will find flags and emblems all over the shop. Somewhere with several different identities requires a range of flags and emblems etc to represent all people. This is what being normal is! This is what should be insisted on 24/7 until the people in charge produce something that all like and accept. With the bitter extremes in NI we would have to settle for something the vast majority accept. Perhaps in a referendum.

    As regards flag fly policy there are millions of combinations that would allow identities to be represented. All that is needed is for people to get over the mindset of wanting to supress other identities. There is no need to do that, it really is the stupidest thing. Its much better to build up together rather than seek to knock down the ‘other’.

    How about -
    The 3 Union, Ulster and NI (pref a new one) flags should be flown together from government buldings for a minimum of 50% of the days of the year including the designated days. This would provide something for the public to see and like, even if they only like one. It would also allow arrangements for having some flags down and only flying one of the flags to mark certain historical events, or current events taking place. There could be flexibility in when each flag is flown, as long as all 3 are displayed for 50% of the year atleast.
    If a council wishes to fly a flag 365 days a year, they must fly all 3.
    Belfast city hall and Stormont to fly all 3 365 days.

    If the councils in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan were to agree to also fly the 9 county Ulster flag it would provide a nice all Ireland linkage.

  • otto

    I like your thinking Forkhandles.

    There’s five flagpoles on the City Hall. Fill yer boots.

    What about all the provinces on match days and all the four UK countries on designated days for a start. That’s just friendly.

    You could have the Civic Flag on the big middle one all the time.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Otto! You might add the Transmuting Unionist Party. But no: our enemies would seize on TUP, and call us the Tupperware Party.

    Northern Whig Party?

  • ForkHandles

    :) Lots of options possible. Positive solutions are the way to go, not negative. Def not some bland nothingness.

  • DC

    Well, that took long to get on to the subject of the fleg, didn’t it?

    Reductio ad fleg.

    And Alliance’s proposed flag legislation could also be known as ‘fleg’.

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    IJP,

    ‘In other words, “Separate but Equal” doesn’t work. So forget about it. You’ll need to share the future – and you have no right to impose any conditions before we start working together to determine how.’

    Obelisk DOES have a right to place conditions on certain matters, all pols or people do, it’s how you get around them or disarm them that matters in this instance. That’s how it works in the North, certain things are coupled together by opponents in order to exact leverage on matters (devolution of policing and parades for instance)

    I think your point re different cultural expressions (flags, language) carrying different weight for communities is valid

    David Crookes,

    ‘Don’t know who wrote it, Gerry, but I refuse to vote for anyone who writes that kind of English.’

    Agreed, it’s management speak at its worst and most people simply switch off. Best of luck to you all who decide to read it through to its end, I tried and found it impenetrable and sentimental.

    Obelisk,

    ‘Don’t blame the Flag Protestors for getting upset over an issue of identity when our entire political discourse is dominated by it.’

    I couldn’t agree more. Don’t blame the players, blame the game. This place was created as a sectarian carve up, thus why do people act surprised or shocked when they see sectarian/identity politics being considered most important as the creation of this place insured that identity politics IS the most important type of politics here. I don’t like it but c’est la vie

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Is it really surprising, given the comments, that the only Party condemning communal hatred and promoting equality of all citizens is detested by the extremists (DUP, SF and, to a slightly lesser extent, SDLP and UUP)?

  • Progressive Unionist

    It’s just depressing to see some nationalists here come out against such a reasonable proposal as flying the flag on designated days across Northern Ireland including in areas west of the Bann.

    Surely that’s a reasonable compromise, especially given there’s a substantial unionist minority west of the Bann and particularly it means that the nationalist minority in places like Larne or Carrickfergus get designated days too.

    It would only be flying over places like Strabane or Derry on one day every few weeks on average – surely that’s not too much to ask as a gesture of respect for the unionist minority in those areas?

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    PU,

    ‘It’s just depressing to see some nationalists here come out against such a reasonable proposal as flying the flag on designated days across Northern Ireland including in areas west of the Bann.’

    Perhaps, though the argument of it being ‘reasonable’ is one you should argue a bit more convincingly than or thoroughly than using the point of ‘there’s a substantial unionist minority west of the Bann’. I think it’s a decent point, however, we have a situation in the North where there is a zero sum game and some parties are massively unwilling on your own side to any kind of a quid pro quo. As Chris Donnelly has noted consistently (and to the chagrin of many unionist posters with their dog whistle posts) there is very little respect for Nationalist cultural expressions in the North, in places like Larne (extreme case) or Belfast (see Irish Christmas greeting and unionist response).

    My advice to you and unionism in general if you want some kind of movement to what you consider to be a ‘reasonable’ proposal; you get more bees with honey than vinegar.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, footballcliches. You say, “…..it’s management speak at its worst…..impenetrable and sentimental.” Agree 100%. No weight in the scrum.

    Why should we repose any trust in colourless unimaginative people who take themselves with such awful seriousness?

    Many of my friends want to know what the AP proposes to do about noisy streets by night and lawless schools by day. They don’t want to hear a lot of useless meaningless words.

    Here is the saddest thing about the AP and their vision.

    They haven’t got one.

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    David,

    ‘Many of my friends want to know what the AP proposes to do about noisy streets by night and lawless schools by day. They don’t want to hear a lot of useless meaningless words.

    Here is the saddest thing about the AP and their vision.

    They haven’t got one.’

    That’s my problem in general with APNI, they are a creation that relies far too much on some creative ambiguity of their own and when asked or cajoled to detail some of the nuts and bolts of their plans some of them become testy and accuse all around them of sectarianism or petty political point scoring.

    I don’t wish to take this thread of on something of a tangent, but I have a liking for the Irish language (hope to start a night course shortly here in Queensland, Australia of all places!) and for people having the opportunity to learn it back home. Now, in APNI’s manifesto the rather contentious issue of the Irish language takes up about a paragraph and is lumped in with Ulster Scots and sign language. Now, APNI could be doing something rather clever here and trying to defuse a situation, OR, and this is my own opinion, they merely don’t want to tackle it for fear of showing their cards and peeving off a side. This is not political courage, it is hiding behind a vague and meaningless vocabulary to try and curry favour.

  • http://footballcliches.wordpress.com/ footballcliches

    Btw, the above is merely an example from me, I’m sure others have their own. I would love to speak to someone in APNI about this of course, you know, go over some of the nuts and bolts of their policy on this matter, though not here

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    Trevor Ringland’s criticisim was interesting, not because it had any impact – it did not. It was the fact that it was actually made.

    The NI Conservatives will never be able to compete for the Alliamce Party’s space unless and until it becomes a centre-right party which ditches its unionist identity and adopts an agnostic position on Northern Ireland’s future sovereignty.

    I also believe that the more that politicitians from all parties use “S.F.” words (not the Shinners, of course) the more it plays into the hands of Alliance.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Obelisk,

    IJP has already dealt with this but to add, I don’t think that the kind of rigidity you are expressing here in terms of what concessions you consider to be equivalent is the way to go. Unionists, as Ian said, attach a lot of importance to the flag. Nationalists rather less so, which is why nationalists find it easy to make the concession of not flying a flag at all.

    On the other hand, nationalists, especially SF, put a lot of store in Irish language signs and they’re constantly trying to extend their use (I see the end of Cromac Street in the city centre has recently surreptitiously gained an Irish sign and nobody has said anything about it). Most unionists, including those who would be big on the issue of the flag, don’t give a stuff about Ulster Scots. In fact I recall at least one story where Ulster Scots signposts somewhere were torn down because the locals thought they were in Irish.

    You can’t just say to people “here are the concessions you’re going to get because I consider them equivalent, if you don’t like it, tough”. The idea is to try to negotiate, go in with a wish list and get to the point where everyone comes out with something positive.

  • otto

    “In fact I recall at least one story where Ulster Scots signposts somewhere were torn down because the locals thought they were in Irish”

    I did a double take on the Newtownards Road first time I saw the Gae Lairn centre. Wondered what a Gael Airn was.

    It looks like it’s not just Alliance who are a bit timid about shoiwng their hand.

    Trevor was tying himself up in knots a bit last year congratulating Judith Gillespie on her Silver Fainne the other day. He seems to think it might be a bit too Lundy to give unqualified support for the cross-community benefits of everyone reclaiming Irish/Gaelic so he’s camouflaged it with a lot of stuff about international trade.

    http://www.niconservatives.com/news/deputy-chief-constables-language-achievements-are-inspirational-ringland

    Looks like the Scottish Conservatives have decided that the DUP’s full bore unionism is the successful approach. Their websites look like clones of each other.

    http://www.scottishconservatives.com/

    http://www.mydup.com/

  • otto

    “Last year….the other day”!

  • Obelisk

    Comrade Stalin

    I disagree with IJP’s premise, and was actually a little aggrieved he seemed to suggest I hold my flag in less esteem than my Unionist neighbours hold theirs. I don’t. Every emotion a Unionist feels when they look at their flag, the pride at what it represents, I feel too for mine. My flag is not a tactic brought out just to irritate Unionists but is the touchstone for my identity, just as the Union flag is for them.

    I just had this mad notion for a while that my flag could play a part in civic society too, and that my Unionist neighbours would one day recognise what it means to me and would treat it better other than as kindling for their bonfires.

    “How dare you take our flag down” some young man bellowed at Gerry Kelly on Stephen Nolan a few weeks back. I bet every Summer that young man happily stands in the glow of a bonfire and offers a cheer as my flag ignites and turns to ash.

    As this has rumbled on not one Unionist commentator has acknowledged the repression of my culture, even when continually challenged about it they don’t want to know. They can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that the anger they feel at the perceived disrespect to their culture is what I feel at the long term disrespect to mine. The lack of empathy and hypocrisy deadens me inside to their complaints. I would well believe many Nationalist councillors feel the same way, it makes it easy to ignore their more hysterical and emotional outbursts.
    Can any Unionist disagree? Can any of you tell me with a straight face that my culture should accord your culture vastly more respect than is afforded mine.

    Besides equating flag rights to language rights is a false equivalency. Firstly, will the corresponding english signs be taken down or will the Irish be put up alongside? I would imagine it would be the latter because that makes the most sense.

    Secondly, will Irish street signs be compelled on streets that may have a Unionist culture and who may not want it?
    I doubt it, but Nationalists would have to see a flag they feel connection to hoisted over shared civic buildings at regular intervals.

    Thirdly, how can language recognition be equivalent to the flag? I’m all for an expansion in the recognition of the Irish language, maybe through an Irish Language Act. You know, like the legislation Unionist politicians wailing about the erosion of their culture blocked?

    You say it’s easy for me to make a concession on a flag, I say it isn’t. It’s actually quite sad to have to acknowledge my flag won’t fly beside the Union Jack in a physical demonstration of the shared future. But it was only a mad notion.

    I simply cannot imagine anything Unionists will offer on cultural rights that would equate to their flag alone flying. I am sure Unionists have other cultural items we can barter with them about, so maybe this shopping list negotiation you suggest will occur. But the options regarding the flag remain the same in Nationalist or shared councils.

    Both Flags, No Flags or maybe a new shared civic flag.

    Bringing this back to the main topic, about Alliance’s shared future…CS, how can we have this shared future until we can respect each other’s culture? And why are the recent demands for cultural respect a one way street? Why no acknowledgement that our demands for cultural respect continually fall on deaf ears, with every little bit of progress we make done so in the teeth of Unionist opposition.

    Why is every recent suggestion at solving this seemingly a way to get Nationalists to accept the Union Flag flying? Why every suggestion except the likeliest outcome, which is that both sides don’t talk to each other and that in 2016 after BCC gets a Nationalist majority we get a repeat of this whole scenario when the flag comes down altogether.

    Forkhandles

    The nine county Ulster flag, I have literally no issue with it and I identify with it, but the very fact it is nine county means your suggestion will probably not get off the ground.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Comrade,

    Nationalist dont place as much store in having our flags on public buildings because we never have ours on public buildings. Go Figure.

    By the way, Alliance are not just suggesting that the flag should fly over District Council Buildings but Public and Civic Buildings. Presumably this includes any civic hall, leisure centres, libraries, courts, hospitals…..

    Oh what an interesting vision the Alliance Party have.

    On the education point. Whatever else about it, I find it hard to find any evidence to suggest there are substantial savings to be made through integrated education. the Deloitte report said about £10 million a year. Hardly a massive economic argument.

  • http://mrulster.org Mr Ulster

    @DC 30/1/2013 1230 “It seems a bit strange in this day and age that religious organisations pretty much hold key influence over the running of schools…”

    Was ever thus, and don’t forget that the (whole) primary and (vast majority) secondary school system in the Republic is owned and controlled by churches.

    Attempts were made in 1930s by original Northern Ireland Parliament to secularise school system here, but defeated by both Presbyterian-controlled schools as well as by the Catholic Church.

    At least the law in the Republic forbids employment discrimination in schools. I remain mystified how it can still be allowed in Northern Ireland.

  • David Crookes

    A lot of nonsense is talked about integrated schools. In Belfast alone, BRA and MCB are effectually integrated schools without all the professional PC do-goodery.

    If the AP was seriously interested in education, it would work to abolish the lawlessness which is the single most important fact about many of NI’s schools. But don’t ask the AP to talk about any such reality. The AP doesn’t do reality.

  • ForkHandles

    Obelisk, Its a pity you think there wouldn’t be much support for the 9CF. I really think it would be a goer. The flag of another country like the Tricolor could never be flown from government buildings in any country. Not in a way that would suggest some sort of ownership of the place, and that’s what it would suggest. The Legality issues and EU court cases would be massive. There is no way the Irish government would allow it to happen because of the trouble it would cause and also bad press for them. That’s why I suggested an alternative that could actually be done. There doesn’t seem to be any compromise suggestions coming from Nationalists.

    The Ulster Hall predates both states. The 9CF would be entirely correct to fly there. Imagine an event to raise the 9CF flag there with councilors from all 9 counties. Lots of handshakes, smiles for the camera, building business and social links, and talk of the long history of the Ulster province and so on. Great PR. Surely this would be a great hand of history moment for nationalists? It should also be a great moment for unionists

    As regards what you say about unionists suppressing nationalist culture. I would agree that happens alot of the time and of course the other way around too. There are a several reasons such as tribal hostility and that sort of thing. But the main reason i think is that unionists are not asking for anything new themselves. They are not proposing something new that their culture would like and then balancing it out with nationalists getting something they would like. This is how to do it without anyone feeling they are losing. it doesn’t always have to be one thing for each ‘side’. Proposals could very easily be presented as joint initiatives. Some PR could have allowed the Irish Christmas sign to go up in the name of shared respect with unionist politicians being on TV supporting it etc. This would give unionists some ownership of the plan and would hopefully stop the more tribal people from getting all themmuns on it. Unionists totally ballsed that up due to backward tribal themmuns thinking prevailing. If the Irish language sign went ahead then the other side of the coin could be a proper home coming parade for soldiers coming back from Afghanistan, with all the normal respect for the union flag and so on. No need to suppress and cause riots.

    This sort of mechanism has been done before. But maybe politicians have lost focus on the mechanism and are only able to see it from the tribal tit for tat mentality.

    There needs to be more new ideas from the unionist culture to help with granting more plans for nationalist culture.

    I feel that nationalists need to start compromising on issues and making alternate suggestions. just saying no to everything should have been left behind in the last century. Unionists need to do it too, but i am making the point here about nationalists. They could easily have given something on the flag issue by agreeing to designated days in all councils. The number of days are so low that people will never see the flag anyway. But its still a no never mentality as far as I can see.

  • otto

    On integrated education – credit where credit’s due to the maintained sector.

    My kids have enjoyed Irish dancing, Gaelic football (that not so much tbh – not enough mates but I think it looks brilliant – like touch rugby crossed with basketball but faster and with a bit of touching) and traditional music (love that, fleadhs and all) through the open friendliness of our local catholic schools and churches without having to partake of any priestly hocus pocus. They also do proper prod stuff like Rugby and Hockey and baking jubilee cakes in case you’re worried we’re closet catholics.

    I can appreciate why it’s important to many otherwise integrationist nationalists that the cultural offer of the catholic church/maintained school infrastructure isn’t diminished.

    Perhaps nationalists need to be a bit more clear about what they think shared schooling really means before they accuse Alliance of being the only ones with the wishy-washy flim-flam.

    In my experience it’s easy to have your cake and eat it if you live away from peace walls.

    Fitz seems happy for us all to live a weird chequer board life where one side plays on the black squares and the other on the white so we never bump into each other but I can’t believe that’s typical of the majority of Nats. Certainly hope not.

  • ForkHandles

    before this thread fades away, id really like to hear nationalists views on the 9CF as compromise flag for them. any views on this?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mr Ulster :

    At least the law in the Republic forbids employment discrimination in schools. I remain mystified how it can still be allowed in Northern Ireland.

    Believe it or not, there is a specific exception to it in EU law.

    WRT the Republic, last I heard the RC church was desperately trying to get out of running the schools. That might be because the church there bears part of the cost.

  • David Crookes

    Do the four main churches up here in NI bear part of the cost of running any of the schools whose management committees are chaired by members of their clergy? If not, why not?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Not as far as I know.

    It was a dirty deal cooked up by the old Stormont parliament which the RC church gladly participated in as the government essentially gave them money to run schools from which they could exclude erroneous Prods.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ie “separate but equal” in its fullest sense.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Lionel:

    Nationalist dont place as much store in having our flags on public buildings because we never have ours on public buildings. Go Figure.

    I’ve yet to hear nationalists even attempt to make a serious case for changing this, even on the councils they control. I hear them promoting Irish a lot more – including here on Slugger.

    I think the comparison is apt, as Irish is used by some nationalists (not all) as a political football in the same way the union flag is. In the same way that the protesting idiots don’t speak for the modern notions of what the UK is (ideally) supposed to be about, I don’t think the idiots who only know a few sentences of Irish, most of them sectarian slogans, are representing the values of those who want to promote the language.

    By the way, Alliance are not just suggesting that the flag should fly over District Council Buildings but Public and Civic Buildings. Presumably this includes any civic hall, leisure centres, libraries, courts, hospitals…..

    You presume too much. It’s civic buildings only. If you were paying attention, that is why the Alliance motion on BCC had the flag taken down permanently from the Ulster Hall and from the Duncrue depot.

  • DC

    Unionists, as Ian said, attach a lot of importance to the flag. Nationalists rather less so, which is why nationalists find it easy to make the concession of not flying a flag at all.

    As like Nationalists, Alliance found it easy doing designated days.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Comrade Stalin (12.40 am). I sometimes wonder whether Protestant clergy are over-represented on the boards of state schools, but it isn’t as if there was a huge crowd of lay persons wanting to do the work. In most cases that I know of, a clergyman who sits on a school board is working without pay for his local community, and not grabbing power for his own church.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC,

    As like Nationalists, Alliance found it easy doing designated days.

    Like nationalists, unionists also found it easy dong designated days in Lisburn and Craigavon. A fact that sits awkwardly with your own misleading narrative.

    David :

    I sometimes wonder whether Protestant clergy are over-represented on the boards of state schools, but it isn’t as if there was a huge crowd of lay persons wanting to do the work.

    I find that the clergy are over-represented everywhere. They shouldn’t have any involvement in civic society outside of their respective churches. The time when the churches were major stakeholders in the community is past.

    In most cases that I know of, a clergyman who sits on a school board is working without pay for his local community, and not grabbing power for his own church.

    There must be some reason why he’s there.

  • DC

    Like nationalists, unionists also found it easy dong designated days in Lisburn and Craigavon. A fact that sits awkwardly with your own misleading narrative.

    There was consensus there in Lisburn, done in the spirit of good relations compare that with Belfast where there was an attempt to remove the flag completely and for good – chalk and cheese politics. Not least that Lisburn is not a divided city whereas Belfast is and with that comes a lot more emotion and complications which Alliance still seems not have discerned which is quite disturbing for an apparent ‘good relations’ ‘cross-community’ party.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There was consensus there in Lisburn,

    But the people who supported that consensus in Lisburn refused to support the same consensus in Belfast. Why ?

    Not least that Lisburn is not a divided city

    Nothing to do with it. We are being told that designated days diminishes Britishness. Why doesn’t it diminish Britishness in Lisburn ?

  • DC

    Because Lisburn is not divided and that the politics of fear were absent, unionists generally fear anything to do with SF but in particular that heightens whenever it involves a SF proposal to remove the union flag completely. Alliance from SF’s point of view has provided a stepping stone to full removal which is arguably more accurate a view than Alliance’s one of selling designated days as durable, because if there is a nationalist majority in time designated days will be overturned in line with other nationalist-run councils.

    Whereas if Alliance could prove that nothing can change this compromise position of theirs then it would have a stronger argument to put to the people, but this really isn’t the case, which is why the yellow document above ^ is circulating, circulated in hope that the powers that be will take it up to save its political ass, rather than in expectation.

    Northern Ireland politics have been nothing if not about propaganda wars and identity and with that comes a big socio-psychological element to politics here in NI in order to stimulate the respective political bases, the political grass-roots. So the proposal in Belfast to remove the flag completely must have come with a different set of politics and considerations than those which were present in Lisburn?

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Comrade Stalin. About thirty-five years ago a headmaster in Antriim told me with some frustration that the chief obstacle to comprehensive education in his area was a local clergyman. Whether or not we agree with comprehensive education, we must be appalled that an unelected cleric should have more say in the matter than any other voter.

    Back in those days I often heard that Protestant teachers applying for jobs nearly always felt obliged to have a reference from their minister. If that was true, then we had something like a mirror-image of what was often called ‘the priest-ridden education system of the RoI’.

    Old Irish pair of simultaneous equations. If they do it, it’s bad. If we do it, it’s good.

    I beware of stake-holders. Whenever they come to believe that they’re the whole point of everything, they can create what Nietzsche called ‘morality as vampirism’. Such persons need to have the stakes driven into their hearts.

    A strong desire to control people should disqualify anyone from being allowed to do so.

    Beware of the great and the good. Sometimes it happens that when the nasty stupid electors fail to elect the right great-or-good candidate, the establishment rewards the Important Loser with a high position.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, but designated days is not a Sinn Féin policy. It is a unionist policy, supported by and voted on by unionists.

    Your frankly bizarre argument here is that as soon as Sinn Féin vote for something then it stops being a unionist policy and becomes an act of treachery. What sort of nonsense is this ?

  • Obelisk

    Comrade Stalin

    DC may have a point. I’m expecting a full removal of the flag as soon as a Nationalist majority is in place whereas I don’t expect it to come down in Lisburn anytime soon. I’m not gonna lie and say the Alliance compromise was a good median, I think it was expedient given the votes. This is why I also ignore reject the wags who go on about Sinn Fein and the SDLP VOTING to fly the Union Flag. It’s down almost all the time as a result, so it was a pragmatic choice.

    Forkhandles

    “before this thread fades away, id really like to hear nationalists views on the 9CF as compromise flag for them. any views on this?”

    I am sorry you misinterpreted my previous comment on this. The 9CF flag would be a wonderful compromise flag. For me it’s the flag of the province of Ulster, one of the four provinces in Ireland and represents my identity as an Ulsterman in the context that someone could be a Connachtman/woman or a Leinsterman/woman.

    If Unionists were to be able to see it as the flag of their region within the UK we could have a compromise flag that means the same thing (regional flag) to both groups but within different contexts.

    What I mean about lack of support though is I don’t know if Unionists would accept the 9 county flag, it’s always struck me as more of a Nationalist symbol with Unionists perfering the Ulster Banner.

  • ForkHandles

    Obelisk, interesting idea about the regional flag use of 9cf. I think its sort of already taken though as the Irish province flag. Dual use might create endless posts on slugger arguing about which it really is! Perhaps a new NI flag could be based on it, ie yellow. I think its best use is to provide an all Ireland linkage for people who want to see their all Ireland identity represented.

    I’m pro UK and pro NI and I don’t have any problem with the 9CF. All in NI should be able to associate with it and our shared history as coming from the Ulster province. I think the ‘if they’re into it, we’re against it’ mentality may need to be overcome for some unionist people, but its all possible. New compromise solutions are the only way forward. I would like to see the middle ground of both identities get together and discuss how this flag could be used.

  • DC

    AlJazeera – Inside Story

    How divided is Northern Ireland?

    Rioting has returned to the streets of Northern Ireland following a move to restrict the flying of the British flag. Loyalists say their very identity is under threat.

    Guests: Niall O’Donnghaile, Sammy Wilson, Eamonn Mallie.