Will unionism’s long 2012 be seen as the year when the wave broke?

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With the #flegs protests seemingly diminishing, it seems like a good time to wrap up where 2012 has brought unionism, although it can be pretty much summed up in one word – crisis. It was a year in which there were early signs of modest progress visible to DUP leader Peter Robinson in March and by November he felt confident to proclaim that the constitutional debate had been won. And remember, in 2012 we were told repeatedly how ‘Catholics’ were being taken within, and reciprocating, the embrace of unionist outreach. Looking past the rhetoric, though, there seems little to support his optimism and the public statements  neither matched the actions nor the apparent angst that those statements seemed designed to hide.

Modest progress  (or, Denial)

Are there actual trends to support the DUP leader’s claims? The empirical data on elections is collated here on CAIN and doesn’t exactly offer him much food for comfort (and notably, the pattern since the 1980s suggest that an improvement in fortunes for ‘Others’ mirrors a drop in the Unionist vote). Similarly, however crude a parallel, the increasing proportion of the population estimated as Catholics in the census continues to grow mirroring rises in the nationalist vote and a long term decline in the Unionist vote. Indeed, the census data for those declaring themselves ‘British’, ‘Protestants’ and the recent electoral trends suggest that the term ‘majority’ in the local political lexicon is now pretty much redundant.

Those long term trends do, however, provide the real context for Peter Robinson’s Catholic outreach tactic. For the strategy, read, ‘we now need you to save the union [for us]‘. But this outreach is hard to reconcile with the reality of the show of unionist (and loyalist) unity on Clifton St at the end of the summer. The demand then? Some inalienable right to play The Famine Song outside one of the oldest Catholic churches in Belfast, a church which sits on one of the main arterial routes into the city centre. There were echoes of the familiar themes of pan-unionist defiance of the Parades Commission and credibility-stretching denials of sectarianism. And unionism yet again publicly defined itself as Orangeism, Protestantism, monarchy and a self-declared Britishness that doesn’t really resonate across the water (where it is seen, ironically, as an Irish thing). This coalescing of unionists interests was to be a recurring feature of the year.

Simultaneously, there was also disregard of the inherent (and self-defeating) risk to parades accessing that Clifton St/Donegall St route to the city centre by creating yet another parading flashpoint. For those who don’t realise, there are very few usable routes into the centre from the north of the city due to the proximity of the loughshore and the peculiar post-glacial topography. Around the perimeter of the city centre lies a prehistoric high water mark and raised beaches left by elevated sea levels after the end of the last Ice Age. This pushes pretty much all routes, apart from the Shore Rd, onto Clifton St. These raised shorelines, around 7-8 m above modern sea level are no longer visible amongst the modern cityscape other than a sudden steepening of the roads as they leave the city centre, such as on Donegall Street.

Down with this sort of things (or, Anger)

Events at St Patrick’s, though, were dwarfed by the subsequent flags protests, surely one of the most illuminating episodes in recent political history. The initial emphasis was on the Alliance party, with the circulation of 40,000 leaflets in one of those increasing shows of unionist unity by the DUP and UUP. The leaflet was to pressurise Alliance not to vote for a measure on designated flag days that had already been endorsed, albeit reluctantly, by unionist-led councils like Lisburn as far back as 2003. Debacle after debacle followed the Belfast City Council vote with protests, road-closures and riots.

The DUP and UUP, continuing their rapprochement from the summer, and having initiated the flags protests, made a most traditional of responses to a crisis in convening yet another Unionist Forum. Peter Robinson hailed this Forum as the most representative in 50 years. As ever, its composition merely reinforced that narrowly defined ideology incorporating loyalism, Orangeism and Protestantism. But a lack of leadership or imagination in the UUP and DUP was nowhere more apparent than the clear abdication of public media roles to various loyalist bit-part players.

Far from a unified show of strength, though, some of the protest violence suggests even deeper problems within unionism. Take, as an example, the attack on the DUP-led, 365-day-a-year flag-flying Newtownabbey Council Christmas party. Was this a clear failure of unionists in even educating their supporters on the actual issue, or, does it reflect an outright disenchantment with local unionism in favour of the likes of the BNP and UKIP? Whether the latter might translate electorally, isn’t clear, but it showed that there are clearly other significant fault lines within unionism.

And the lack of leadership wasn’t confined to the political sphere. The PSNI role in the protests, in particular closing roads where only a handful of protestors were present to the disadvantage of significant portions of the population, doesn’t suggest a force that is yet capable of the symmetrical policing required at political protests. Repeated ineffectual announcements of the illegality of blocking roads stood in stark contrast to the inaction of the PSNI when confronted by such ‘illegal’ acts.

Postscript: Be very careful what you wish for (or, Bargaining)

By the end of the year, the DUP even felt emboldened enough to follow all this up with calls for a border poll (with an obvious subtext that a narrow win now would provide a pretext to veto any further polls for a generation). In the limited media debate that followed, no-one really quizzed the DUP on what would happen if they lost the poll.

Obviously, the full political outworking of 2012 will not be seen for a while. It is entirely plausible that there will be political drift from the more centrist elements of the UUP towards the Alliance (or Greens etc). Arguably, the Alliance may end up being the main political beneficiary of the flags protests. If they, and the likes of the Greens, see their party support grow at the expense of unionism (see above), it will add emphasis to the transient and transitional nature of the political institutions here which never envisaged a significant proportion designating as ‘Other’. The irony of slippage in ‘Unionist’ support to ‘Other’ weakening the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement won’t be lost on many people. From the bravado of the border poll call, the flags, Unionist Forum and the parades issues at the end of the summer, retrospectively 2012 clearly revealed a deepening crisis in unionism that even the rhetoric cannot disguise.

And if you feel like it, you can go to Donegall Street and, looking back up towards Clifton St, you can see the place, somewhere just above St Patrick’s, where that prehistoric wave broke and began to ebb away.

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  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    “…the DUP even felt emboldened enough to follow all this up with calls for a border poll (with an obvious subtext that a narrow win now would provide a pretext to veto any further polls for a generation)”

    Are we sure about this? I’ll grant you it was reported like that, but if you go back and look at what was said, calling Mitchel’s bluff was what was mentioned by Arlene. Only SF then hardened that into an agreement to have a poll.

    This is how she did call his bluff the following day:

    As an aside, our own Kilsally certainly wrote eloquently of the reasons he personally would relish a border poll, and I understand, has elicited a response from Gerry in this month’s An Phoblacht. Ach, is e sin e…

  • John Ó Néill

    Even the initial statement was largely bravado as Villiers gives the impression of wanting to get in and out of here with her CV untouched. She was never going to get herself pulled into a border poll either.

  • Professor Yattle

    Judging by this thread’s author, unionists can at least take comfort from the fact that calling Sinn Fein’s border poll bluff caught them on the hoof.

  • Mick Fealty

    As I noted in my interview on RTE a couple of weeks both the SoS and the Tanaiste were obliged to knock it back. Gerry’s merely trying to make capital out of a question to which he already knows the answer is No. He keeps getting away with it too, which is handy. ;-)

    To return to the question in your post. Something may have happened in 2012, but I cannot for the life of me work out what it is, other than loyalists have been goaded back onto the streets again.

    Is that smart? Even from a nationalist point of view, I tend to think not.

    If I had a penny for every northern nationalist commentator who has wrongly predicted the collapse of unionism, I’d not be a common or garden blogger. Stressing unionism just allows it to dismiss the alternative, and to cohere to community boundaries more than before.

    All that’s happened in that regard is that Robo’s fine words as leader of the DUP have been left suspended hanging in the air whilst he allowed himself to be forced back into a tactical move to defend the flag (and take back East Belfast).

    I really have no view whether that tactical move will have work for him in the longer run, but nationalists have managed to detach him from his longer term strategy quite effectively, and in the meantime released the animus of loyalist youth in parts.

    Both sets of politicians are alos successfully sidelining their own institutions at Stormont. Outside destabilisation, evidence of any actual nationalist strategy is very thin on the ground.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    ‘……evidence of any actual nationalist strategy is very thin on the ground’

    Could it be that both nats parties have deduced that they don’t even need one for now, but have the luxury of sitting back enjoying the unionists unintentionally making the case for a UI to their Westminster masters? Neither SF nor SDLP are in any hurry to uproot the status quo now while they can instead wait a decade or so for the Republic to get it’s sovereignty back and let their economy recover, and in the meantime just wait to take over more and more formerly unionist seats.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – thats all still just defensive rhetoric, though. The latter half of last year clearly exposed a significant crisis within unionism – and the public statements are very much at odds within the apparent structuring of that crisis. Within all that the border poll issue was a completely throwaway episode at the end of the year. The real issue is an increasing distance between what unionist say and what is really happening. In the sense – Robo’s ‘fine words’ bore no relationship with his actions, or those of his party colleagues throughout the year, giving them little, if any substance.

    I’d have to suspect that, if pointing up crises in unionism is merely a nationalist pastime that unionists pay no heed to, that would, at least in part, explain that gap between what they say, what they do and what the reality is on the ground.

  • Mick Fealty

    None of that contradicts what I’ve said John. The problem ‘we’ (ie the rest of us) have is we have an inflexible system being worked by two inflexible parties, with the result that it takes six months to agree to put a job advert together. Great!

    We’re talking about a political system and creed that has been under stress for over 100 years. One more push, eh?

    The truth is that the combination of Sinn Fein and the DUP is useless at Government. They are good at absorbing large amounts of political pain though, as are the good folk that continue to vote for them in expectation that something will change.

    BTW, what did you mean by ‘wave’? Just asking…

  • JR

    “other than loyalists have been goaded back onto the streets again.”

    The word goaded suggests you think that the deliderate intention of the flag decision was to provoke a reaction from loyaists. and the use of the word again seems to imply you think this has happened before.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – it may be that the governing structures are useless – as I pointed out – imagine the crisis if, say 15-20% voted other and eclipsed either nationalist or unionist?

    Wave is a Hunter S Thompson reference.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes JR, I do think that. You really think it was in the DUP’s interest to have that row? A cunning plan to take Naomi down? They spent two years telling people it was not a good idea. As for precedence, Ardoyne?

    John, you might be right. In which case we ought to have a political debate about that. But I’m not planning to initiate one unless someone in Stormont who actually has a mandate sticks their heads above the parapet and starts the ball rolling.

  • Red Lion

    I remain hopeful that the boneheaded inept and tribal behaviour of political unionism during 2012 will yet provoke a reaction of switching of a significant portion of the DUP/UUP vote unto more middle ground. This will be made much easier if there is actually a liberal union party to vote for.

    Hopefully this will then make DUP/UUP finally finally wake up and realise AND ACT that they can’t keep pandering to a tribal vote or more accurately manipulating them up a tribal blind alley.

    I didn’t say this will definately happen, but there is definately a dynamic there.

    Its become a character trait of nationalism to sit back and laugh at unionism while being in denial about their own deficiencies. A lack of vision exists within nationalism, similar pandering to tribalism etc, they are usually just less stark about it. As Mick says Stormont has these rewards for tribal behaviour locked into it. The only way out of the smug and selfserving carve up is a dynamic toward the middle ground, cometh the hour, cometh the basil (hopefully, please!).

  • JR

    Do you think the sdlp and sinn fein sat i a room and said to each other How do we wind up the loyalists and get them to wreck their own areas? I know we’ll bring the union flag policy for Belfast into line with that of Lisburn and most of the rest of the UK.

    Maybe I am naive but I personally genuinely think that the union flag is not the flag of most of those who live in Belfast and that is why it no-longer fly’s 365 days a year.

    Interestingly I was driving yesterday and I notice that many mixed towns eg Dungannon, Magherafelt, Cookstown are now plastered in Union Jacks.

  • 6crealist

    That’s a pretty serious charge Mick i.e. that the leadership of the SDLP and Sinn Féin either plotted or acquiesced in a scheme to bring loyalist violence to the streets of Northern Ireland.

    Evidence?

    And given that you recently started a thread on pro-IRA graffiti being daubed on an isolated Protestant churche, I take it that you’ll be doing something similar in relation to the pipe bomb found outside Sacred Heart church in Ballyclare this morning?

  • 6crealist

    “Interestingly I was driving yesterday and I notice that many mixed towns eg Dungannon, Magherafelt, Cookstown are now plastered in Union Jacks.”

    The sheer size of the Union Jack flags fluttering Derry’s Waterside is something to behold. Serious inferiority complex going on there. But sure don’t them wans get everything?:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jan/31/eu-peace-fund-northern-ireland-loyalists

  • Mick Fealty

    JR,

    I don’t disagree with your reasoning either. Designated days is a perfectly reasonable solution, if you have some politics to prosecute it. But the problem IS two sided.

    Do I think the SDLP and SF sat in a room? No, of course not. All I am saying is looks to me like a good old fashioned elephant trap, which the DUP obligingly jumped into.

    The motive? Cover for nothing happening at Stormont?

  • 6crealist

    You’re flip-flopping: do you mean that the nats deliberately goaded the DUP, the loyalists who are “back on the streets”, both, or are they all one-in-the-same?

  • http://www.secondnature.ie Michael

    I mentioned in a comment post in early December – before all this broke, when PR was being lauded for being an astute strategist and a dynamic mover and shaker, that in reality he was a Steve McClaren type – forever a deputy leader. He may be smart and able but he ain’t no statesman. I could go further and really stick my neck out and say – nor is Mike Nesbit.

    It has been a sobering experience over the past six weeks to read every night the postings on the different protest face books – just to see the desperation of a whole section of society. The vitriol, the nonsense, the violence that is apparent – with no political reference points and even worse a dehumanised mindset – it is wholly depressing.

    It is not hard to envisage a return to violence, and yet there is no-one standing up to lead, to make the argument for a different path other than seeming fear ridden, zero-sum, victory or no surrender bollocks that anyone with a brain can see has no future for anyone, even the eventual victors. Even on those thousands of postings – no-one from within Unionism is carrying an argument or debate to the haters.

    There is no need for a Nationalist response – yet, just because this is Unionism’s time in the spotlight. The same reckoning will come for the nats and they are going to have to be ready with an outreach proposal that can shift something fundamental. One that goes beyond the cliches trotted out knowing they will have little impact.

    We are all going to have to shift. I just wish it didn’t take some messiah figure to lead it. Unfortunately that is what we are all waiting for – maybe they’re called Godot.

  • Mick Fealty

    Michael,

    I’m not sure it will. Maybe we just have to see where these guys take us first? The shift won’t come in words alone, but through agreed and seen through actions.

    Your point about the lack of Robbo’s statesmanship is well made. And I agree. I only differ in the sense that I think that any nationalist challenge needs to learn from this chaos and make ready for the shifts it’s going to need to make, now.

    And not wait for Godot…

  • Red Lion

    In plotting to remove the flag one aspect of the Sinn Fein dynamic will have been ‘wait to you see how this enrages unionism, God knows how they’ll get on, can’t wait to see how they’ll react’.

    Pushing the buttons of political unionism is an ingrained part of the Sinn Fein mindset, they love it, and they love the unionist self destructiveness that ensues.

  • 6crealist

    “In plotting to remove the flag one aspect of the Sinn Fein dynamic will have been ‘wait to you see how this enrages unionism, God knows how they’ll get on, can’t wait to see how they’ll react’.”

    I don’t know how you can construe the Shinners deciding to vote to have the Union flag fly on the same number of days as it does in Britain is a horrible defeat for unionism.

    “Pushing the buttons of political unionism is an ingrained part of the Sinn Fein mindset, they love it, and they love the unionist self destructiveness that ensues.”

    Why blame only the Shinners? Sure Alliance and SDLP are equally culpable of incitement to violence? It was the taigs what made them firebomb that car with the cop inside.

  • David Crookes

    John, many thanks for your post, which brings a short phrase into my mind. That phrase may be either a book-title or an obituary.

    ULSTER UNIONISM: 1912 — 2012

    We are all going to have to shift, as Michael says, and of course the shift will need to be led.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I’m not sure 2012 was any more significant than 2011 or 2010 and I don’t think things have changed much for unionism. The flags debacle has been horrible – and I tend to agree with Mick that the nationalist parties must be assumed to have considered the risk of massive public unrest and reckoned it a price worth paying for getting one over on the unionists (and Alliance was foolish to let them) – but if anything it may signal a grass roots unionist reawakening. That could be a very good thing for politics in the long run, as long as it is takes non-violent form of course.

  • Mick Fealty

    Beautiful writing John:

    Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Has it been five years? Six? It seems like a lifetime. The kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle 60’s was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive, in that corner of time in the world… Whatever it meant. There was madness in any direction. At any hour, you could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right. That we were winning. And that I think was the handle. That sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense. We didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum. We were riding the crest, of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west. And with the right kind of eyes – you can almost see the high watermark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

    But to be fair, “that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil” does not sound at all like a unionist fantasy…

  • Neil

    RL,

    Pushing the buttons of political unionism is an ingrained part of the Sinn Fein mindset, they love it, and they love the unionist self destructiveness that ensues.

    If you wish to blame the shinners for Loyalist violence I expect you’ll be most understanding with others who blame political Unionism for the actions of the IRA. After all, they knew how we’d react so they’re to blame. Just like Nationalists were to blame when Loyalists were throwing pipe bombs at female primary school children. Maybe instead the thick Loyalists who continually perpetrate such PR suicide should be held to blame.

    Maybe Loyalists are responsible for Loyalist violence. I recall a few years back there were riots in Ballymena because the Catholics in Fisherwick decided to erect a tri colour. Just the one, in a Catholic estate.

    You see taking into account the fact that there is British symbolism everywhere (street names etc.), that Unionists deck the province out in tens if not hundreds of thousands of British flags including in shared areas (every year), that there are 2,000 pro British, pro Protestant marches (every year), and all the while if Nationalists attempt to express their own identity with even one flag Unionists go ape shit. Loving that hypocrisy. Kind of like ‘everyone has the right to walk the queen’s highway’ compared to Operation half a dozen people ruin thousands of people’s days because democracy sucks dammit.

    You see, Unionism has given Nationalism nothing over the years, hell Unionists even tried to make it so Belfast is the only place on Earth where you can’t have a tri colour on St. Patrick’s day (cause they really hate the idea that the Irish identity even exists much less should be displayed anywhere).

    And still you can’t see why when we have the ability to affect change (through democracy, and being the majority in a council area) we think ‘why, those lovely Loyalist folks burned our homes down when someone put a flag in a Falls Road window 45 years ago and in many ways not much has changed so I guess they can lump it and we’ll force them to allow us to make things as we would like them. Saying as we can, and are in a majority now’.

    Unionism should have been nicer (for want of a better word) over the years, but they had no need to because the artificial majority was going to last forever. Oh, wait… In summary, if you want someone t blame for Loyalist violence and for the situation that caused it, you need look no further than your own community.

    I’m delighted the flag’s down, upgraded from mildly amused 6 weeks ago, and after the past fortnight I look forward to Nationalism having the numbers in the Council(s) to remove it/them completely. For good. And that’s a direct result of Unionist/Loyalist behaviour, nothing more.

  • Dec

    ‘and I tend to agree with Mick that the nationalist parties must be assumed to have considered the risk of massive public unrest ‘

    I don’t think anyone of sound mind would have considered the risk of massive public unrest in relation to applying the same flag policy at Belfast City Hall that exists at Stormont and Lisburn council. That being said, the unrest may have been massive but the people behind it are a tiny minority.

    Mick

    ‘All I am saying is looks to me like a good old fashioned elephant trap, which the DUP obligingly jumped into’

    Your conspiracy theory doesn’t fit with the SF narrative that the Unionisdt parties were aware of this eventual move for a couple of years. If it was a trap, and I seriously doubt that, then it certainly shouldn’t have been a surprise.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Mick. Its actually all pretty simple. The flags issue, generated by the two main unionist parties, presented the unionist parties with an issue upon which they could pin their colours. We all know how well that went.
    We are now in the next phase which means that the flag protesters have eh, stopped protesting because it has slowly dawned on them that they are certainly making no friends and only influencing people in opposition to them, mostly unionists I would think.
    The outcome will likely be the end of the UUP.

  • Greenflag

    Mick ,

    ‘The motive? Cover for nothing happening at Stormont?’

    Dear oh dear :( I guess in that case NI can look forward :( to a never ending sequence of riots , covert political conspiracies and who knows what as Stormont continues to busy itself achieving ‘nothing ‘ for as long as it continues to exist /function under the present GFA mandated system of governance .

    I see you put a question mark at the end of the comment which I guess means that you even have doubts yourself over SF’s ‘cunning ‘plan strategy .

    Neil above got it right .

    ‘if you want someone to blame for Loyalist violence and for the situation that caused it, you need look no further than the Loyalist community.’

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Neil[3.36] I could have written that post myself but you’ve saved me the bother. It summs up the whole mindset, but 28 years ago the city hall was surrounded by about 200,000over the AngloIrish agreement. Only in their wettest dreams could Bryson or Frazer bring that number out.

  • David Crookes

    Indeed, danielsmoran: you say, “…..twenty-eight years ago the City Hall was surrounded by about 200,000 over the Anglo-Irish Agreement.”

    Such a crowd is unlikely ever to assemble again. Many unionists accept that there is no longer any point in such demonstrations, and therefore that the old union is a thing of the past. I am as sad about its passing as anyone.

    The riots of recent weeks represent the sputtering wick of a candle that has burned itself away. Time to move on, resolutely and imaginatively.

  • 6crealist

    This fantasy that the loyalists were deliberately provoked into rioting and attempted murder – as propounded by Fealty et al – lets these thugs off the hook and lumps a sense of collective guilt on the nationalist community (as well as Alliance).

    It’s a blatant lie and we’re not going to stand for it.

  • Alias

    The reality is that the flag flying over City Hall meant little by way of offence to the overwhelming majority of the city’s resident’s ordinary lives, with the Council’s own survey finding that just 3% of the population found it offensive. If the flag was removed, who would feel better for it other than that cranky 3%? Will their ordinary lives actually be improved by the Shinners’ greatest political ‘achievement’ of 2012? Hardly.

    On the other hand, it means a lot to a section of the city’s residents who will see it as a sectarian gerrymander and an attack on their culture and values. For many of them it’ll be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back and they will be in no mood to compromise when it comes to the marching season in the city.

    As was always the case, the Shinners need to masquerade as the ‘defenders’ of a section of the city’s residents in order to grow support; and in order to do that, they need some hostile other to defend them from – hence the need to attack the loyalist community by attacking important symbols of Britishness.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Alias.
    “The reality is that the flag flying over City Hall meant little by way of offence to the overwhelming majority of the city’s resident’s ordinary lives”
    I am afraid that is sure does now.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    John,

    Great imagery with the WAVE. Thanks for posting it, Mick.

  • 6crealist

    Can I see your source for that figure Alias?

  • Reader

    John Ó Néill : retrospectively 2012 clearly revealed a deepening crisis in unionism that even the rhetoric cannot disguise.
    A serious exaggeration. The DUP sought local tactical advantage by whipping up emotion over defeat in a local skirmish, and the UUP followed on their tails. The cost was that the DUP was humiliated by a very public failure, while *at the same time* turning into a MOPE – no dignity, no strength, no strategy. Simultaneously the UUP indicated that it had no reason to exist.
    But whatever the fate of the parties, the rules of the game are such that neither Unionism or Nationalism as such can go into crisis – both are propped up by power sharing and designation.

  • Alias

    6R, sure. It’s the EQIA survey:

    “54% of all respondents said they felt pleased and proud (36%) or comfortable (18%) to see the Union Flag flying everyday on City Hall, with 39% having no particular feelings and 8% feeling either uncomfortable (5%) or offended and unwelcome (3%).”

    http://minutes.belfastcity.gov.uk/documents/s66734/Flags%20EQIA%20Final%20Decision%20Report%20Appendices.pdf

    Joe, thank Hunter, not John.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Understood, Alias, thanks are to John for drawing attention. Read a great biography of Hunter about 6 months ago. What a character.

  • Red Lion

    6realist and Neil

    “”I don’t know how you can construe the Shinners deciding to vote to have the Union flag fly on the same number of days as it does in Britain is a horrible defeat for unionism.””

    I don’t and I don’t know how you can construe my post as saying this, or indeed any of my several posts on different threads about the flags issues. Designated days suits me fine. However, I’m deeply unhappy, and have been for a long time, about the ineptitude and tribalism of political unionism, and especially with how they dealt with and mostly created the flag dispute.

    “”Why blame only the Shinners? Sure Alliance and SDLP are equally culpable of incitement to violence? It was the taigs what made them firebomb that car with the cop inside.””

    I dont blame the shinners, its to be expected of them. I primarily blame the idiocy of big house unionism’s oh-so-predictible reaction to the Shinners – thats where by far biggest part of the blame for the flags disruption lies. As for the SDLP, it is a little disappointing generally that they seem to be mimicking SF these days and are quickly losing the ability to think for themselves, but their stance was also predictable. As for blaming Alliance, absolutely not, I agree completely with their stance and abhor the treatment, slurring and threats they have received.

    And there really is no need to bring the word ‘taigs’ into slugger discussion. It reflects poorly on you. I was absolutely appalled at the petrol bombing of the police car at the arches and at the riots going on a very short walk from my front door, and I will absolutely not stand for it, or for the loyalist organisation of it, or for the DUP/UUP stirring it up.

    I stand by my comment that SF are well crafted at pushing unionist buttons, knowing full well it sends political unionism into gibbering wrecks. But i repeat its these gibbering wrecks, incapableof forming a strategic plan to deal with what SF will do next or to form a long term plan for the union, who are at the greatest fault in triggering the riots.

    It seems to me like you have read me making proportionate comment of just one aspect of political life in NI, SF’s ability to push unionist buttons, and then you have taken the oh-so-knee jerk and stereotyping leap into tarring me with the same brush that might be used aginst DUP/most of UUp. As Ive said many times before, the biggest bulk of the blame, by a country mile, in theflag violence lies with political unionism.

    I hope that last para doesn’t sound like man playing but reading your responses was somewhat bizarre given what i had actually said.

  • 6crealist

    Alias

    I think it’d be too strong to say that you’re a liar, but not for the first time you have deliberately misrepresented the facts to suit your own view (cf. your smearing of the NICRA last week).

    In this case, you fail to mention the following:

    1.) this poll surveyed visitors to Belfast and not people exclusively from Belfast

    2.) only 63% of those surveyed were from Belfast, while 78% were from Northern Ireland.

    3.) of the 78% from NI, two-thirds described themselves as Protestant, while only 24% described themselves as Catholic; 14% were ‘other';

    How is that a representative survey?

    Therefore, you have absolutely no evidence to substantiate your claim that:

    “the flag flying over City Hall meant little by way of offence to the overwhelming majority of the city’s resident’s ordinary lives, with the Council’s own survey finding that just 3% of the population found it offensive”.

  • Obelisk

    “John Ó Néill : retrospectively 2012 clearly revealed a deepening crisis in unionism that even the rhetoric cannot disguise.

    A serious exaggeration.”

    Is it? I guess it depends on how you define Unionism. If you define Unionism as maintaining the Union, you’re probably right. If you define Unionism as representative of the PUL cultural bloc, then you are wrong in saying John’s claims are exaggerated.

    Look at it seriously, what do we have.

    1.) The long, slow decay of the UUP probably entered the endgame in 2012 with Mike Nesbitt making increasingly desperate/irrational/inexperienced decisions (unless IJP is right and Nesbitt has inflicted this damage deliberately).
    Bear in mind this is the historic party that founded the state, and although it’s been dying for years if it actually finally collapses this will be a poltically massive event. The UUP will probably limp along till the next elections finish it off completely, but it’s politically non-viable.

    2.) Whatever your perspective on the flag issue, we can all agree with Mick’s observation

    “All that’s happened in that regard is that Robo’s fine words as leader of the DUP have been left suspended hanging in the air whilst he allowed himself to be forced back into a tactical move to defend the flag (and take back East Belfast).”

    Peter Robinson was for the months up to Christmas a man very much pre-occupied with attempting to gain Catholic support for the Union, summed up in his speech before Christmas where he claimed there was a crisis in Nationalism and that pro-Union Catholics would have a home in the DUP. Never has a speech been invalidated so fast, Peter’s backpedalling to shore up his right fringe have surely massively damaged even the tentative cross-community outreach he was attempting to build and which Turgon used to think him so capable of. Sadly for him it was the other of Turgon’s observations that came through, Peter is a fantastic tactician but a dreadful strategist.

    3.) The collapse of the UUP and the open revolt of the disadvantaged against the DUP and the Alliance threatens a serious re-alignment within political Unionism. There will be the matter of feasting on the carcass of the UUP and converting that parties voters into followers of the DUP or the TUV or the PUP or the Liberal Unionist Party if Basil goes for it and to ensure they don’t head off to the Garden Center. Even the Alliance will want to feast. A re-alignment of this magnitude is almost a crisis in itself by definition.

    4.) The Census results. As John says, nobody is now a Majority in the North and so nobody has a monopoly on it. Given that the entire raison d’etre of the state was based on the notion that the Protestants of north east Ulster were a people apart who deserved their own self-determination, the fact that that reason has now gone absolutely has to play a role in the crisis, especially when political Unionism is rooted in the PUL culture. We all have to find a new reason, but only one segment of the overall community had in real buy in with the old reason and they have to learn to adjust.

    So is John really wrong in his thesis?

  • 6crealist

    Red Lion

    all fair comments, although I can’t be expected to read through the archives and find all your past comments.

    I see you’re keen to differentiate political unionism from militant loyalism. The fact remains that when the DUP and UUP printed and distributed 40,000 leaflets, who did they think would do the heavy lifting in response?

  • 6crealist

    For what it’s worth, Alias, Catholic respondents to the survey said the following when asked whether the Union flag should fly at the Hall:

    always: 16%
    designated days: 48%
    never: 36%

    Please, try harder next time.

  • Red Lion

    “”I see you’re keen to differentiate political unionism from militant loyalism. The fact remains that when the DUP and UUP printed and distributed 40,000 leaflets, who did they think would do the heavy lifting in response?””

    How am i so keen?? I know full well the history of political unionism pulling the mobs strings for their own ends, and as an excuse for their inability as to see beyond the end of their noses as to what the union should look like – maybe see my comment at 12.50.

    And i am fully aware as to the motivation and consequences of the 40000 leaflets

  • Red Lion

    Meanwhile as we wait for news of what’s going on with Basil McCrea’s disciplinary hearing, today’s News Letter reports that a another UUP politician, Terry Wright from L’Derry, has left the party. Seems like he is a liberal dissatisfied with the direction Mike is taking the party.

  • David Crookes

    Great post, Obelisk.

  • Red Lion

    Basil McCrea has tweeted that he’s out of his hearing.

    Says ‘for those of you asking about a result i have been told not to expect one anytime soon. Committe have to reflect on unfo presented,’

    And so liberal vacuum continues

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    RedLion[8.13] Nesbitt on the sunday politics just after taking over the moribund uup, appealed for someone to ‘adopt’ him for a day, now all is becoming clear, that it was an appeal to Robinson but not in so many words. Couldn’t make it territory.

  • belfastboyo

    “Alliance may end up being the main political beneficiary of the flags protests. If they, and the likes of the Greens, see their party support grow at the expense of unionism (see above), it will add emphasis to the transient and transitional nature of the political institutions here which never envisaged a significant proportion designating as ’Other’. The irony of slippage in ‘Unionist’ support to ‘Other’ weakening the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement won’t be lost on many people. From the bravado of the border poll call, the flags, Unionist Forum and the parades issues at the end of the summer, retrospectively 2012 clearly revealed a deepening crisis in unionism that even the rhetoric cannot disguise.”

    I struggle to understand the unionist parties tactics on this whole sorry episode. They must realise that the vast majority of unionists are repulsed by all this and recognise that the union flag flying on designated is small fly in the bigger picture.
    People have came on to radio programmes forecasting the demise of Alliance, but they would be the type of people that would never vote from them anyway.
    I think that Alliance has shown in this steely guts which people like. They had a wishy washy reputation.
    Pandering to the protesters and hardliners is surely a bad idea considering that they are a tiny minority of the population.
    The silent majority will speak at the next elections and the main unionist parties are in for a bit of a shock.
    Alliance will be the biggest winners from this.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mainland Ulsterman:

    and I tend to agree with Mick that the nationalist parties must be assumed to have considered the risk of massive public unrest

    In the scheme of things, the question of what assumptions the DUP made concerning public unrest following their decision to distribute leaflets (in the neighbourhoods where most of the protests in Belfast took place) surely must be the greater consideration.

    On face value, there is no reason to believe that unionists would be upset in any way by a Belfast city council decision to adopt a policy already adopted by unionists in Lisburn and Craigavon. Is there ?

  • Red Lion

    “”On face value, there is no reason to believe that unionists would be upset in any way by a Belfast city council decision to adopt a policy already adopted by unionists in Lisburn and Craigavon. Is there ?””

    Spot on. If the DUP had used their wit they could have adopted their position months and months ago, and not allowed SF their little victory, and potentially might have been able to continue the basic groundwork of selling the union to Catholic Comm Background.

    Instead they saw a chance to stick a dangerous and dirty boot into Alliance. Party over country every time.And it backfired on them, and hopefully they will not win Alliance’s seat at the next election otherwise their grubby tactics get rewarded.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    16% support a UI currently in NI.
    Only 25% regard themselves as ‘Irish’ (2011 census).
    Northern Ireland’s place in the UK has never been more secure.

    The parades, flags, sectarian sports, Troubles legacy issues are entirely separate.

  • latcheeco

    UPC
    If nationalists are so content with N.I.,how come their representatives from both parties in Belfast voted to take the union flag down completely? Are they out of touch with their electorate? Or are you just reassuring yourself with the tired old ” great wee place if it wasn’t for a few republicans spoiling it ” spiel that is now frantically being propagated (albeit perhaps with slightly more subtle PR) by unionists and their allies.

    The problem is that if Northern Ireland does survive into the near to medium future it’s going to be at the expense of Unionism and loyalism as we know it, and because Sinn Fein need it as a cash cow in the medium term to build in the South. I don’t imagine many Unionists and loyalists want that sort of Ulster. Where’s the fun if you can’t be in charge?

  • Alias

    “Therefore, you have absolutely no evidence to substantiate your claim…” – 6Realist

    Stop making tit out of yourself.

    The poll was undertaken by the Council in accordance with EQIA guidelines. It found that just 3% found the flag to be offensive:

    “54% of all respondents said they felt pleased and proud (36%) or comfortable (18%) to see the Union Flag flying everyday on City Hall, with 39% having no particular feelings and 8% feeling either uncomfortable (5%) or offended and unwelcome (3%).”

    Now I can understand why you would try to undermine a poll that doesn’t support your sectarian bias but claiming that polls should be conducted on a sectarian basis with one poll for Protestants and another poll for Catholics is a bit desperate even for you.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    I think the average Nationalist career politician is much more sectarian than the average Nationalist person on the street. Perhaps one day we’ll see a moderate Nationalist or pro-UK/culturally Irish party emerge once Sinn Fein & SDLP’s voters realise their reps do sweet FA for them to improve their lives.

    More interested in trying to rewrite history than serve their constituents.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, 6Realist, if you are so concerned that the Council implements cross-community imperatives as determined by a sectarian headcount rather than as determined by the general population they are elected to represent, why do you support a decision taken by the Council on the flag that purposefully excluded the view of the other community?

  • Obelisk

    “I think the average Nationalist career politician is much more sectarian than the average Nationalist person on the street.”

    What could possibly give that impression hmmm?

    Let’s think really hard shall we? MAYBE the Nationalist politicians give that impression because they have to shore up the core, hardline vote in their community. Maybe they figure the soft voters are in the bag, but they have to be careful around the hardliners who are more easily prone to upset.
    Perhaps if an issue with the potential to trigger great unrest within that hardcore crops up it could be subtly manipulated though, towards the greater purpose and for the greater good of course.

    40,000 leaflets should do the trick. Oh wait, did I just sort of point out that how you describe the Nationalist parties could also be applied to the Unionist parties.

    Here let me rephrase your latest passage for you

    “I think the average (snip) career politician is much more sectarian than the average (snip) person on the street. Perhaps one day we’ll see a moderate (snip) parties emerge once voters realise their reps do sweet FA for them to improve their lives.

    More interested in trying to rewrite history/manage a tempest they helped provoke for electoral gain than serve their constituents.”

    There. I think that is a more balanced outlook on the situation. Truer at least.

  • Obelisk

    Alias

    “why do you support a decision taken by the Council on the flag that purposefully excluded the view of the other community?”

    Because he hasn’t figured he’s really British and is living in the British jurisdiction having ignorantly forfeited his right to self-determination under the GFA/Belfast Agreement. Obviously Sinn Fein’s British paymasters must be miffed they aren’t educating the poor foolish natives about how the world really works.

    A strongly worded letter of protest from yourself to Connolly House should do the trick.

  • latcheeco

    UPC,
    Thanks for the reply. I assume by “sectarian” you mean patriotic? . IMHO the opposite is more likely true. The flag came down to mollify the voters.

    “Perhaps one day we’ll see a moderate Nationalist or pro-UK/culturally Irish party”…shakes head…

    UPC it isn’t going to get any better for Unionism than it is now and it’s currently awful. This is partly because Unionism by nature is its own worst enemy and now that there is no British/protestant majority in the North and its leaders are beholden to the mob, Unionism/Loyalism is going to get more paranoid and defensive than ever. The other reason is that Nationalists’ electoral muscle is continually growing.

  • http://bangordub.wordpress.com/ Bangordub

    Lot of wishful thinking going on here.
    Reality check time. It is votes that count.

  • Neil

    Bangordub,

    votes, and the other guy’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Both sides make that mistake from time to time, but it’s currently themmuns turn.

  • latcheeco

    UPC,
    And I would humbly refer the Center to BangorDub’s sterling analysis of the numbers on his own site.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    latcheeco: …and now that there is no British/protestant majority in the North…

    I’ll repeat again:

    Only 16% currently support a single Irish state.
    Only 25% regard themselves as ‘Irish’ in census.

    I ticked ‘no religion’ and ‘Northern Irish’ on my census form and I’m just as pro-Union as those who ticked ‘protestant’ and ‘British’.

  • Neil

    Waste of time Latcheeco, he’s got hold of the NILT survey and he ain’t letting go. According to that survey the SDLP humiliated SF at the last election beating them by 6% of the overall vote. They have an old copy of the North Antrim phonebook they use for polling purposes. Northern Irish identity means nothing any more, certainly not Unionist. I’ve quite happily used the NI term more than once this evening alone, here on Slugger. From my lovely Nationalist home in working class Republican West Belfast.

  • latcheeco

    UPC,
    Well, I guess Sinn Fein and the Stoops are going to catch hell at the next council elections for taking that British fleg down against their constituents wishes.

  • Alias

    “Because he hasn’t figured he’s really British and is living in the British jurisdiction having ignorantly forfeited his right to self-determination under the GFA/Belfast Agreement. Obviously Sinn Fein’s British paymasters must be miffed they aren’t educating the poor foolish natives about how the world really works.”

    Kensei, is that you? ;)

    Their “British paymasters” will no doubt be delighted that (a) the Shinners are insisting that the British flag must have parity of esteem with the Irish flag, and (b) that the sectarian divisions that prevent unity are being stoked up by the Shinners.

    Gin and tonics alround – except at Connolly House, where it’s that cheap Tesco beer.

  • 6crealist

    Even if one allows for your trademark belligerency, I did expect a more coherent response, Alias. Instead, you seem especially emotional tonight.

    The quantitative difference between Catholic and Protestant outlooks as illustrated in table 2.32 demonstrates that the sample used in table 2.29 – which you use to validate your point – is ridiculously skewered and, therefore, utterly discredited.

    It’s very sad that you should continue to argue the toss here when you have so clearly been found to be ‘cooking’ the books.

    This is now the third time in seven days that you have categorically been found to lie: it must really hurt? And at the hands of lowly Catholic-educated plebs? Poor you!!

  • Alias

    Well, I’m sorry you feel that the Council fell far short of your standards for surveys but you really need to complain to them and also to explain to them why they were duped with a dodgy survey. I’m sure that if you act fast you can save the taxpayers from having to pay the research company and maybe even earn a little reward from the Council for alerting them?

    A mere 3% agreed with the statement “I felt offended and unwelcome because the flag was flying.” Yes, you heard that right: 3%.

    If 24% of respondents were Catholic and only 3% of all respondents found it offensive, that means, golly, that the overwhelming majority of Catholic respondents could not have found the flag offensive either. Do you think that the result would have been higher pro rata if the percentage of respondents who were Catholic was higher? If you do, there is no valid basis on which to base that claim.

    Indeed, the survey goes on to say “One percent of protestant visitors said that they felt uncomfortable, with a further 1% feeling offended by the Union flag flying. In contrast, 4% of catholic visitors said they felt pleased and proud, 8% comfortable with 56% saying they had no particular feelings. Twenty percent of catholic visitors said they felt uncomfortable with the Union flag flying, with a further 12% saying they felt offended.”

    Get that? 88% of Catholics didn’t find the flying of the flag to be offensive.

    The only folks who found it offensive were the Shinners and the SDLP. And what actually offended the Shinners about it was the lack of opportunity to wind up the loyalists in order to secure more votes from the sheep, with the SDLP being offended that the Shinners might out-green in them if they didn’t follow suit.

  • 6crealist

    Keep digging. It’s almost entertaining. Three times in one week: very poor, Alias.

    In any case, you can rest easy tonight given that SF and the SDLP will be obliterated at the 2015 elections as they’re now so out-of-touch with their electorate.

  • Alias

    The Shinners always did well out of winding-up the loyalists: it’s the Catholics who donn’t fare too well out of the dismal practice.

    Tomás Mac Giolla explained how this practice works: “…the Provisionals have always relied for their influence among Catholics on creating an atmosphere where they can masquerade as the defenders of the Catholic community. They are hoping, therefore, for attacks and retaliation by Protestant paramilitaries so that they can be seen to defend the Catholic community. Time after time they have gone out and engaged in vile sectarian murders knowing that they would provoke a reaction from the paramilitaries leading to more fear and more terror in Catholic areas and leading people to believe that they needed the Provos to protect them.”

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    6realist. The question asked of the catholics polled was too generalised, it should have been more precise because i believe the politicians other than unionist in the BCC vote would have judged that it wasn’t the fact of the flag being British they were objecting to, but the knowlegde of the motives behind those insisting it should fly ‘in their faces’ for the sake of spite, that was the point of voting for it’s reduced appearances.

  • tacapall

    Alias when has loyalism ever needed an excuse from republicans to engage in sectarian murder ? Exactly what actions have republicans engaged in that led loyalists to murder innocent protestants never mind the random murder of innocent Catholics. Tell us what actions republicans carried out that led to the murder of Constable Arbuckle on the Shankill Road ?

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    tapacall[2.29] There’s the rub. Odd isn’t it that an RUC man should have been the victims of so-called loyalists. The history of Norn Iron is filled with ironies. Finally, Peter Robinson isn’t even the good guy anymore on his own side. Who’d have believed it. The biter bit. Satire in these parts is truly redundant.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alias

    I think sf was prepared to keep the Union flag flying. The problem is not how “offensive” it is but how unrepresentative it is on its own.

  • Viridiplantae

    Mc Slaggart

    That begs the question, in both the correct and incorrect senses, on the issue of what is supposed to be being represented.

    Belfast City Hall is a delegated subsidiary organ of the unitary government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It’s not a workforce of a company or a phone in radio show presented by Stephen Nolan. How exactly is balance relevant?

    Do Quebec secessionists have the right to demand not to see a maple leaf about the place in terms of government buildings, if they have 47% of the vote in a particular town? Should the European Commission building on the Dublin Road be prevented from displaying the twelve starred flag on the grounds that a substantial minority of the people of Northern Ireland who the building serves do not wish Northern Ireland to be part of the EU? Should a proportion of post boxes be officially painted green so that people can inwardly pretend to themselves that An Post are emptying them rather than Royal Mail?

    The case for “representativeness” in terms of constitutional aspiration is not a given, and I haven’t seen it being won. The Alliance party surely must not have conceded this since they voted for only the union flag to fly, but only on certain days, yet in some ways they talk as if they have. The equality impact assessment didn’t concede it either. Also something is either a right or it is rightly a matter for a democratic vote but it can’t be both. Too many people on all three sides of this issue are using both the language of rights and the language of democracy and having their cake and eating it.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Unionism is flailing around, looking for Lundys to blame and any poll for comfort, provided the poll is not an election. Perhaps they realise that for unionism it is a case of this is the best it can get whereas for nationalism it is case of the best is yet to come?

  • Obelisk

    “Perhaps they realise that for unionism it is a case of this is the best it can get whereas for nationalism it is case of the best is yet to come?”

    I have felt in recent years that Unionists have missed the point of the GFA. It was sold to them on the premise that that it would preserve the Union, and it has for the foreseeable future.

    But they seem to have conflated the actual Union, the constitutional link, with how life would be in a North that was increasingly pluralistic and wherein the PUL cultural bloc would be one of many minorities.

    The Union was saved, it just won’t be the Union they wanted.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    ‘The Union was saved, it just won’t be the Union they wanted’

    That’s just it, Obelisk, and there has developed in recent times a conflict of interests between the unionist political parties and their natural voters. As long as unionist voters see there’s no threat from republicans , they don’t see any need to vote for their Orange Card wielding politicians anymore and have seen through them at last. UUPand DUP try to tell us that all they ever wanted was NI in the UK but we see now from the flags dispute, it’s really a Protestant/Unionist face the want it to project with no acknowledgement of nationalists at all. Just like the old days. But they have only themselves to blame for exploiting their own communities as cannon fodder to keep them in the style they’ve been accustomed to, and the devil take the hindmost. It’s going to be a lonely centenary in 2021 for unionism as the party is going to resemble a wake, since they will have lost even more ground by then.

  • Red Lion

    ‘The Union was saved, it just won’t be the Union they wanted’

    Spot on, and I , as a pro-union man, am glad.

    The sad thing is unionists could have a great lead role in reforming the union, but the intellectual capability or bravery simply isn’t there amongst its political class. Except for a few liberals and I continue to bang that drum…

  • Barnshee

    “I’ve quite happily used the NI term more than once this evening alone, here on Slugger. From my lovely Nationalist home in working class Republican West Belfast.”
    You left out

    Generously funded by the UK taxpayer (SE England branch)

  • Obelisk

    Barnshee

    Bit of a low blow there. I’d council caution though. I know some Unionists like talking about Catholics as being ‘loyal to the half-crown and not the crown’.

    Given that the Union is now dependant on that sort of person, though I wouldn’t talk about people who simply want to make their through life in that fashion, maybe you should try being a little nicer and a lot less condescending?

  • Barnshee

    “Bit of a low blow there.”
    “should try being a little nicer and a lot less condescending?”

    As (admittedly ex SE)tax payer my comment is meant to read across what passes for the political spectrum in N I

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Comrade Stalin,
    I may be wrong, but in Lisburn and Craigavon, wasn’t the decision on flags passed with both unionist and nationalist votes? That’s the difference – that this vote went through *without* that.

    Whether unionist councillors should have withheld their consent to this measure is a separate question. I’m not personally that much against it designated days. But it is their decision to make as elected officials. As long as it wasn’t unreasonably made (to borrow from administrative law, the test could be whether it was decision “so unreasonable that no reasonable person could have taken it”), they have to be allowed to make that decision. Otherwise, cross-community consent isn’t really operating as a principle. You can’t say, you can only veto stuff we allow you to – that just doesn’t make any sense.

    Of course if we’re reverting to strict majoritarianism for NI politics, then none of this applies. But I’m assuming no one sensible is really asking for that.

    What we need now is clarification about what can and can’t be done in mixed areas without cross-community consent, as this has put the cat amongst the pigeons really on what many of us had assumed was the approach. Also, clarification on the grounds upon which one community’s wishes can be overridden, as Belfast CC effectively did here.

  • http://www.secondnature.ie Michael

    Mainland Ulsterman

    That last paragraph is a debate that i think Nationalists have been waiting many’s a year to have so welcome belatedly to the table.

    The GFA tried to set up a process, somewhat based on trust and goodwill, and somewhat putting in place the safety nets of equality – the non governmental arbitrators (Patten, Equality Commission, HR Commission, Youth Commissioner, Victims and of course Parades).

    Now we need a symbols commission.

    In plenty of councils across NI power sharing and de hondt has been put in place, unfortunately they tend to be the largely Nationalist councils. That is outreach. Reciprocity is the key to building on good relations. We absolutely need more goodwill gestures that may not mean much in terms of giving away the silver, but that mean a lot for humanness of relationships. The alternative is richer lawyers on the back of judicial review and arbitration – the outworkings of majoritarianism!

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Michael,
    Agreed, it is time to find some consensus on symbols or if none is possible, have a default set. By whom is another issue!

  • Alias

    “Now we need a symbols commission.”

    That’s probably how a flag for Northern Ireland will be sold to the ‘nationalists’, i.e. presented them as something other than a further consolidation of the constitutional of Northern Ireland’s legitimacy. Defeat dressed up as victory…

  • Alias

    “…a further consolidation of Northern Ireland’s constitutional legitimacy. “

  • Kensei

    Alias

    I remain too young to have voted for the GFA, so gave up nothing. If anything is gone, it was taken from me. None the less it gave away little that wasn’t already fact.

    Any symbols commission will be forced to recognise the huge disparity between nationalist and unionist symbols. An agreed flag might be a getalongerist wet dream – I can see the school competitions now – but the people at either end who really care about these things will hate it. Not sure I see the point.

  • tacapall

    I wouldn’t be too comfortable Alias with the status quo and start imagining its forever, Sinn Fein and the SDLP are not going to disappear or abandon that aspiration for a united Ireland anytime soon. Never take anything for granted in politics, just because recent polls support the status quo now doesn’t mean in the future the people wont change their mind.

  • Alias

    “Never take anything for granted in politics, just because recent polls support the status quo now doesn’t mean in the future the people wont change their mind” – tacapall

    Sure, but would you want her back after she’s been sleeping with other men? ;)

    There is this dynamic where opposition to the British state agenda is neutralised and part of it is to assert that there isn’t any British state agenda and therefore there isn’t any need to oppose it. Meanwhile, the little acorn becomes a great oak…

    “Not sure I see the point.” – Kensei

    You’re not supposed to. A bit like the EU’s trademark stealthly incremental ‘baby’ steps approach to integration: one small step after another and before you know it, it’s too far ahead of you to catch up with. Plus, of course, they also tell you that they haven’t moved at all: “Single European state? What Single European state!” These folks are playing a game where every move is carefully planned toward a predetermined outcome, and where the waffle of “Let’s all go on a magical journey with no determined outcome” is all part of it.

  • tacapall

    “Sure, but would you want her back after she’s been sleeping with other men”

    Im sure thats what was on most Germans minds when the wall eventually came down. Remember this has been going on for almost a thousand years and throughout that period the majority of Irish people have opposed the British presence in Ireland and they will continue to do so for as long as it takes.

  • Alias

    Tacapall, both of those states are inductive arguments – indeed, mere fallacies.

    Another example of ‘nationalist’ playing draughts while the British state is playing three-dimensional chess is this statement:

    “Sinn Fein and the SDLP are not going to disappear or abandon that aspiration for a united Ireland anytime soon.”

    The British state has already converted “that aspiration for a united Ireland” into an anti Irish nationalist and a pro British national interest agenda, leaving the hollowed-out remants of both former Irish nationalist party to promote British national interests on the island of Ireland while presenting tha agenda to their supporters as being an Irish nationalist agenda.

    The aim of a united Ireland prior to the British state changing it was, of course, to extend the right to national self-determination to those member of the Irish nation who were denied it by partition. That nation, now successfully undermined to the point where it constitutes just 25% of the partitioned entity’s population has formally renounced its former right to national self-determination.

    It does not seek the extension of national self-determination to the partitioned entity: it seeks instead the removal of the right to national self-determination the members of the Irish nation who were not denied it by partition.

    It serves the British’s state agenda by proposing that the nation-state of Ireland should be dismantled and replaced with a replica of the partitioned entity where another nation is to hold a veto over it.

    The island, therefore, is to become a place where the British nation and British national interests are to have parity of esteem with those who formerly enjoyed the status of a sovereign nation with a right to national self-determination.

    Before the British state revised the agenda, the goal was parity of esteem between orange and green – two traditions but one nation. Now the goal is parity of esteem between two nations. That is a profound difference which is presented as no difference at all.

    As I said, the ‘nationalists’ are stil playing draughts…

  • Reader

    Michael: In plenty of councils across NI power sharing and de hondt has been put in place, unfortunately they tend to be the largely Nationalist councils.
    Surely it’s clear now that there *isn’t* power sharing in councils? As the Newry play park decision demonstrated, it’s majoritarianism dressed up with a bit of office sharing.
    The nearest we have to power sharing is when Alliance holds the balance of power.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mainland Ulsterman :

    I may be wrong, but in Lisburn and Craigavon, wasn’t the decision on flags passed with both unionist and nationalist votes? That’s the difference – that this vote went through *without* that.

    Er .. yes. Hence the claims that voting for designated days is damaging to unionist culture/identity do not stand up.

    Whether unionist councillors should have withheld their consent to this measure is a separate question.

    The reason why they did not withhold their consent to designated days is a key element as it exposes their hypocrisy on the issue and their willingness to create a situation which led to riots and disruption on the streets.

    Of course if we’re reverting to strict majoritarianism for NI politics, then none of this applies. But I’m assuming no one sensible is really asking for that.

    This is not about majoritarianism. My question is simply this – why are unionists claiming that designated days is an insult to unionists when they happily voted for it themselves on two other councils ?

    In other words, why did unionists vote differently in a place where they did not have an overall majority ? Answers on a postcard.

    What we need now is clarification about what can and can’t be done in mixed areas without cross-community consent, as this has put the cat amongst the pigeons really on what many of us had assumed was the approach.

    Why did the cross community approach not work, exactly ? Why would anyone assume that unionists would not support a policy in Belfast that they happily either supported or tolerated elsewhere ?

    Should there be a flat veto where the notion of cross community consent is to be used as a cover for political parties making nakedly party political decisions >

    Also, clarification on the grounds upon which one community’s wishes can be overridden, as Belfast CC effectively did here.

    Can you please explain how you can make the charge that the unionist community’s wishes were overridden given that unionists supported designated days in Lisburn and Craigavon ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    MU:

    Michael,
    Agreed, it is time to find some consensus on symbols or if none is possible, have a default set. By whom is another issue!

    But we did have consensus and we did have a “default set” has been the 18 designated days which we have in Stormont, in many other parts of the UK, and on several councils in NI – and on each of those councils (except Belfast) the designated days policy was voted in by unionists. Nationalists tolerated this and in Stormont and elsewhere they have made no attempt to change it where it was in place. That’s a consensus.

    Fast forward to December 3rd 2012 and we have the situation in Belfast where nationalists decide to accede to the same designated days that everyone has gone along with for so long, and suddenly the unionists completely withdraw their consent and describe a policy that they happily supported and advocated for over a decade as an attack on unionist culture/heritage/identity/etc.

    How is this sort of dealing fair or reasonable ?