Seamus Mallon: “If we are going have integrity in Irish republicanism it has to be an organic thing…”

Marian Finucane caught up with Seamus Mallon when he was in Dublin recently with David Trimble to pick up their honorary degrees from Dublin City University. She did not pussy foot around, and began by asking the SDLP’s former Deputy First Minister, what he thought [in his own words] ‘needs to be said':

Stop this interminable failure to deal with issues, to them put them on the long finger, to treat them as though they didn’t exist. To run your political executive on trips to America and China, etc, etc and ignore the things about you under your feet in Belfast and throughout the North of Ireland.

Look at the whole way in which issues, that affect everybody’s lives, are not being dealt with. The question of the Parades Commission, that is the role of the political process, they haven’t taken it, they haven’t done anything about it.

The way in which education is in a shambles, no one knows, exactly, parents don’t know what type of school their children are going to go, what is going to be required to get them into a school.

Regarding his own relation with a certain prominent unionist leader of the past, he noted that they had had no difficulty in identifying flags as a potential point of conflict and moved to sort it out at Stormont between them:

“David Trimble and I when we were trying to set things up when we were called First and Deputy First Ministers, that was one of the issues that we had to deal with. And we sat down. We talked it through. And we said ‘right’, I think it was I who said it, ‘let’s see what happens at Westminster, then no unionist can object’.

“It was agreed. There never was a word about it. And I must say I would have thought Belfast City Council, and I include all the parties, would have more important things to deal with than to be going on to that issue.

“And that going on that issue actually opened a can of worms in terms of the flag protests, and it is part of a whole syndrome that is going on within unionism and republicanism, and that is take every opportunity to poke your fingers in the eye of unionism or republicanism and try and get one over them.”

This is, as Belfast already knows to its cost, the subject of a long (and no doubt expensive) US consultancy under the chair of Dr Richard Haass (no offence Richard, btw)…

Tom Kelly, in his Irish News yesterday, described Mallon as waspish in his delivery, but:

Trimble and Mallon were a partnership of equals. Mallon certainly never acted as a consort to Trimble, nor did Trimble ever disparagingly refer to his partner as his deputy.

He also notes that in having decline the leadership of the SDLP… “the nationlaist community and indeed wider society were entitled to the benefits of Mallon’s electoral nous and political eloquence.”

And further, the comparison between Mallon and Trimble’s relatively modest but stable achievements with the today is stark:

No matter how many joint photo-calls the executive has and no matter how many times the FM and FDM try to reassure that their marriage is safe, this is a dysfunctional partnership.

No wedding album ever held together a bad marriage. Give some recent decisions and solo runs certain minister could only be described as politically and ideologically feral.

Asked if he was a fan of Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams he made it clear he was not. He referred to the deaths of Patsy Gillespie and Jean McConville as signal events in the past of each men he found a block to any sense of friendship.

He went on to chart the political ramifications for nationalism, as he saw it, of Sinn Fein’s long war:

If those are the things that are sticking in my mind what are they doing to the unionist mind, and to unionist attitudes? Now they will immediately say, ‘ah but what about what the unionists did?’ And of course, I could write books about that.

But if we are going to have an integrity in Irish republicanism, because I don’t concede republicanism to Sinn Fein or the IRA because they have debased it, but if we are going to have integrity in terms of Irish republicanism, then it has got to be an organic thing.

It has got to look into the unionist heart as well as the unionist mind. It has got to, even despite what unionism does, we have got to make unionism part of Irish life. And unfortunately they are not.

That is why they are camped out in this mock show of strength just outside Ardoyne. Can you believe it in this day and age? They tried it in Garvaghey Road in Portadown, they are now trying it again. What are they trying to prevent or tell us?

But we should be trying to listen to what they are trying to tell us, and not humiliate them as things like the Castlederg march did.

Listen on for more on Blair, Clinton, Mo Mowlem

, , ,

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Is there a nod and a wink here to flags being flown on certain days at all council sites.
    That would be a massive climb down for nationalists and unionists would seize it.
    It has actually been telegraphed for ten months.

  • willieric

    wonderful sense from seamus mallon…………I felt trimble too was vastly under-rated. Sadly he was targeted by the narcissistic bully john reid, who apparently knew every word of the republican song book.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    FJH[5.41]’….a massive climbdown from nationalists….’
    Even more important from a nationalist viewpoint, having mandatory powersharing on new councils would give a reward to unionists for fifty years of corruption on old councils.

  • son of sam

    Interesting to note a comment from Barry McElduff M L A on Twitter, about Seamus Mallon:

    I wonder who he could be referring to? The comment says more about Barry than Seamus. The comparison of pygmy and giant comes to mind.

  • socaire

    I don’t think yesterday’s man is the one to be dictating who is a republican and who isn’t. He was more interested in crying to the newspapers about some police friend who was killed than attending the funeral of an ex pupil of his murdered by loyalists. Remember the wee girl shot at Ballymoyer? What republican would take an oath of fealty to the English Queen? What legacy did him and Trimble leave behind? At least the Brits saw through him and his party.

  • Mick Fealty

    Soc,

    What about dealing with what he says rather resorting to the old tactic of trying to take the man out of the game?

    It’s a stretch in anyone’s language to call what Mallon’s saying above as ‘dictating’. Republicanism in its broadest sense is surely about public debate and contention?

    How about dealing with some of the stuff he’s actually saying rather than ideologically trying to disqualifying him from a right to speak?

  • socaire

    Right, Mick. He has no time for Adams or McGuinness because he feels their past is a block to him. Plenty of time for old vanguardy. We’re talking about Irish republicanism here not namby pamby liberalism. How dare he criticize the present setup for being ineffectual when you think of the mess he left behind him. Then his patronising Sunningdale for slow learners. And he was deemed to be on the green wing of the party OMG. I’m sorry if he’s a hero of yours but c’est la vie. Adams doesn’t seem to benefit from no man playing, does he.

  • Mick Fealty

    And when you are done telling us how angry you are with him for having the temerity to speak after all these years?

    [Hint: the ad hominem rule is to force people to tell us what they think (which has the capacity to be challenging and divergent), rather how they feel (which tends to be convergent and dulled by endless repetition).]

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “It has got to look into the unionist heart as well as the unionist mind. It has got to, even despite what unionism does, we have got to make unionism part of Irish life. And unfortunately they are not.”

    The last time I looked, unionists were part of Irish life though not necessarily as specified by nationalists. Seamus may well be making the same mistake as John Hume by limiting unionism to an island of Ireland context whereas IMO it’s important that the two constitutional aspirations are recognised: the nationalist desire for NI to be part of a UI and the unionist one that NI remains part of the UK.

    “Blair, Clinton, Mo Mowlem…”

    I’m a bit surprised that Ahern and Hume were missing from the conversation.

  • redstar2011

    This yesterdays man and his lick spittle party were totally rejected by the electorate.

    A has been carping from the sidelines who had a total lack of balls when it came to pushing forward anything approaching a Republican agenda

  • socaire

    How you FEEL dictates how you THINK. And you think that 27 posts on how big a wretch GA is, is not dull?

  • Morpheus

    “But we should be trying to listen to what they are trying to tell us, and not humiliate them as things like the Castlederg march did.”

    The message is loud and clear Mr Mallon, those who see themselves as Irish in Northern Ireland are very welcome to do so as long as they don’t do anything about it. Heaven forbid they should be able to move the furniture around a bit to make the place more homely eh? They are only tenants afterall. They can have equality but only with terms and conditions and as long as it doesn’t interfere with unionist superiority.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    I’ve referred to the Ahern absence but Seamus tore strips off Blair in that interview and off both in this October 2003 exchange in the Commons:

    Was it not a foolish, and indeed a shabby, decision for the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to give exclusive negotiating rights about the future of the people of the north of Ireland—my future—and the future of the agreement, to two political parties who, in their various ways for various reasons, had damaged the Good Friday agreement, failed to work it and failed to implement it properly? …

    Despite all the problems, will he now ensure that common sense is put back into the thinking in Downing street and Dublin, to ensure that the political process in the north of Ireland regains that which was shabbily and foolishly taken from it by two sovereign Governments?

    NI interests naturally enough have a relatively low priority in both London and Dublin but it was good of Seamus to nail his colours to the mast.

  • socaire

    And we don’t feel ‘humiliated’ when the entire apparatus of this British colony/statelet/nation/country from Brownies to Zombies rears up to beat us with their poppies. (yep. That time again). I can’t wait for that thread. Take a week’s holiday, Mick. You need it. But Shame-us the boyo thinks we should turn the other cheek. See where it got him and the rest of the Stoops.

  • Comrade Stalin

    As I said on the other thread I respect Seamus Mallon greatly. I think he was among the best negotiators at the talks in 1998 and he was serious about reaching accomodation (when others were not so serious). Barry McElduff’s contribution to the subject is pretty poor. Seamus, of course, did not blow up hotels or furniture shops or shoot people on their way to work, unlike the 100s of acquaintances of people in Sinn Féin who contributed to their illegal “cause”.

    However there is back seat driving going on here, and a bit of hypocrisy. The system which was proposed by the SDLP’s negotiating team, led by Seamus, created a system of mandatory coalition and reinforced sectarian boundaries in the assembly. How can he criticize in this way the entire predictable outcome of the system which bears his signature ?

    Reading the quotations:

    Stop this interminable failure to deal with issues, to them put them on the long finger, to treat them as though they didn’t exist [..] The question of the Parades Commission, that is the role of the political process, they haven’t taken it, they haven’t done anything about it.

    But many of the things that are being parked were put on the long finger when SDLP-UUP were in charge.

    The shared future consultation, for example, was parked.

    Nothing was done over flags or marching. Why didn’t Seamus bring forward a paper on parades when he was DFM ?

  • Mick Fealty

    With respect soc, you seem to be doing anything but addressing any of the issues raise by the old man?

    In a nutshell, he’s saying the current administration is failing because it cannot deal with issues, parading being number one.

    Danny Morrison is in Bali just now, and ironically I think his dispatch from there is relevant (http://goo.gl/vMdEi9):

    To one local journalist who inquired about “the great success” of our peace protest ( which is how, generally and simplistically, it is perceived) I explained to him about the flags issue, and how the Orangemen were permitted to parade past Ardoyne (with no protests from the residents) on the morning of the Twelfth, but were barred from doing the same that evening when their supporters would be tanked up on alcohol and abusive to the local residents.

    “And that’s the cause of a stand-off?!”

    In other words, it’s another “interminable failure to deal with issues, to them put them on the long finger, to treat them as though they didn’t exist […] ignoring the things about you and under your feet in Belfast and throughout the North of Ireland.”

    And with a nod to Barry’s tweet above, doing things [for Ireland, or anyone else] is not the same as getting things done.

  • son of sam

    Mick
    I think you’ve tramped on some sensitive toes above!!

  • socaire

    I didn’t know that a cárta buí was transferable from one thread to another. Is that not playing the man? Lighten up, Mick. Shame-us has had his bite of the cherry.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” I think it was I who said it, ‘let’s see what happens at Westminster, then no unionist can object’

    Seamus Mallon

    I always liked Seamus but I find that a bit shocking.

    It highlights a major weakness in the thinking of the sdlp.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick

    “is not the same as getting things done.”

    Currently unionism is going though the 5 stages of grief. Currently they are going though Denial and Caravan. We have a lot of stages before we get to Acceptance. Then we will get things done.

  • Mick Fealty

    Here’s Ringland quoting Trimble (http://goo.gl/GmlONj) at the same gig:

    “…the Executive delivers little to people here, ‘other than its own existence.'”

  • Charles_Gould

    Seamus is a man of very high moral integrity.

  • sherdy

    Seamus, – You don’t seem to know what ‘they are trying to tell us’.

    Quite simple, really, the answer is ‘Not an inch’.
    How could you have forgotten?

  • aquifer

    Mallon and Trimble, both educationalists.

    From the latin e duco to lead out.

    And they did.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” Ringland”

    “That’s what normal politics means in the rest of the UK ”

    :-)

    The man can say the funniest thing and not even get the joke.

    How do you get an “alternative” when the Unionist parties club together when they think their is a chance to keep out the sdlp. The mid ulster by election when their was a chance to get rid of sf and get another MP from Northern Ireland to the mother of parliaments.

  • redhugh78

    Good to see that Seamus, even in his bitter old retirement, is still promoting the bending over backwards to appease unionism.

    He is probably most notable for his ‘Sunningdale for slow learners’ remark about the GFA, of course nothing could be further from the truth. Just one example, the amount of times the word ‘equality’ appeared in the Sunningdale Agreement? ..Zero.

  • Dixie Elliott

    redhugh78 said….

    “promoting the bending over backwards to appease unionism.”

    Just like Marty and HM the Queen who honoured the Paras after Bloody Sunday?

    In regards to Sunningdale let me see…

    Well Gerry Fitt was Deputy Chief Executive….A sort of Deputy First Minister.

    Council of Ireland = Cross Border Bodies…

    Oh and this part….

    “The present status of Northern Ireland is that it is part of the United Kingdom. If in the future the majority of the people of Northern Ireland should indicate a wish to become part of a united Ireland, the British Government would support that wish…”

  • Dixie Elliott

    I particularly like the court jester Barry McElduff MLA .

    He’s proof that any clown can be a politician.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seamus: “In many ways you could say the middle ground in the North of Ireland paid the price, the middle ground as represented by the Ulster Unionist Party and the middle nationalism by the SDLP. And you know it wasn’t just by accident because a point came in that whole process – sometimes called the peace process – which is an inadequate term because it isn’t dealing with so many of the elements that make peace. A point came when a decision, formally or informally, was taken by two governments that, in effect, they would start and build from the extremes out and that in a way had to get rid of the middle and when you lose the middle ground in any conflict then your starting points are not the most stable points in which to start and unfortunately as things went down that road the options became much much narrow for the whole political process and for the whole concept of the Good Friday Agreement that was the capacity to live together in a small piece of land that that narrowed very very substantially to the extent now where in a sense you have two power blocks, two huge silos not working towards the objectives of the Agreement but satisfying the needs of their supporters and their constituents.”

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

    “However there is back seat driving going on here, and a bit of hypocrisy. The system which was proposed by the SDLP’s negotiating team, led by Seamus, created a system of mandatory coalition and reinforced sectarian boundaries in the assembly. How can he criticize in this way the entire predictable outcome of the system which bears his signature ?”

    @CS,

    The only real appropriate democratic alternative for deeply-divided societies to some form of consociationalism is a form of mandatory voter-pooling as advocated by Prof. Donald Horowitz. But it has to the best of my knowledge only been attempted in Nigeria in the 1979 election and in Fiji. Because the government elected in Nigeria didn’t serve out its term but was overthrown in a coup there hasn’t been much field testing for this method. Under it parties to be seated would have to receive a minimal level of support from all recognized communities.

    Most of the nationalist or Catholic academics writing on NI were advocating consociationalism and the SDLP could point to a track record for the theory in Western Europe where it was successful. I think it would have been very difficult for the SDLP to go with a relatively untried vote-pooling system or for the UUP to convince the SDLP of this.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    So

    His sentiments can be summarised roughly as this:

    “Do your jobs and take your head out of the sand”

    “Stop putting problems on the long finger” (and if it’s true that he has done so then there’s nothing to say that he doesn’t acknowledge or even lament this – better to be warned about the perils of drugs from a ex-junkie than some one with no experience of them)

    “Stop jetting off around the world trying o attract investment when home is being trashed and repelling investment”

    “Concentrate on education”

    “Perhaps concentrate on other things than ruddy flegs and trying to take them down”

    “Stop trying to get one over on each other”

    “Stop using whataboutery as an excuse to provoke Unionists”

    as well as the heretical statement:

    “…despite what unionism does, we have got to make unionism part of Irish life. And unfortunately they are not.”

    and finally, the insult to Olympus:

    “I don’t concede republicanism to Sinn Fein or the IRA because they have debased it”

    MAY HE BE CHAINED TO A ROCK ON DIVIS WHERE COME EACH MORN AN EAGLE OF GERRY-ZEUS SHALL RIP OUT HIS LIVER.

  • derrydave

    It’s always good to hear from a real success story – please Seamus, do pass on some more of your wisdom so that we can learn and understand more about how you were able to do such a fantastic job whilst you had the chance…..oh, sorry…..you made a complete pigs ear of it didn’t you ?….and your party……whatever happened to them ? They must be riding on the back of that great success about now, yeah ?

  • Neil

    AG,

    You left a bit out of your paraphrase:

    “Yous’uns are crap, I could do a much better job”

    This in spite of the conclusive evidence to hand. If Mallon was such a gifted political operator you’d think he’d have used his formidable talents when he was in government instead of waiting 15 years to criticise the Assembly he helped create.

  • Mick Fealty

    Soc

    Ba do chárta buí don leanúint ar aghaidh ag imirt an fear, gan iúl le leas laghad an liathróid a himirt. Agus mé ag caint ach le mo chuid féin anseo?

    Ni é seo aon rud ach caint cogadh! Gabh i mbun, chan i ngleic?

  • socaire

    Oh, tá a fhios agam anois :-[

  • RegisterForThisSite

    I think Seamus is at least consistant, for the SDLP it’s all about agreeing for the sake of agreeing and getting on each other but not actually getting what your voters wanted.

    For me, the SDLP lost the nationalist vote when they jumped way too early on policing, their decision then fits with what Mallon is saying today,

    It may be insulting to call them the ‘Stoops’ and say they are happy with a box of chocolates, but there is more than a hint of truth in the cat-calling.

    Who took Ian Og seriously a few years ago when he claimed the DUP feared the SDLP more than SF.

    I think there is a percentage of the SF support who don’t necessarily agree with SF actions or policy but see a party that …er…sticks to its guns, so to speak and is therefore a safer pair of hands for nationalist aspirations. afterall why would nationalists vote for a party who appears more concerned about the happiness of unionists and not them

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    A decision at any price:

    Seamus: “It had been obvious for some time that there was a switch; that rather than the policy approach that had been there for quite some time that you built from the middle out and did it in a way that you got the extremes in and that you had inclusivity that included everybody not just the extremes. You could see that changing and you could see also the drive from the governments especially and others to get an agreement; this became the imperative, the handshake, the photograph and the good story coming out became more important than what was being discussed in the negotiations.” 17m 25s

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    The centre parties were key to the 1998 Agreement but when Ahern and, later, Blair released paramilitaries without a quid pro quo on decommissioning they did huge damage to the political prospects of centre ground parties.

    David Trimble [pdf]: “At the heart of this issue was a departure from the condition-led policies that had framed the process up until 1998; instead, here was the state doing things for terrorists and getting little in return. Moreover, once the prisoners were out, the Government had irretrievably lost a golden opportunity to exert leverage over the still-truculent paramilitaries. Yet, it didn’t have to be that way. Precedent suggested that the IRA had responded to a tougher Government line in the run-up to the Agreement of 1998. In his Belfast speech in May 1997, Blair had told republicans that the settlement ‘train’ was leaving, that he wanted them on it, but that it would leave without them if they did not get on. That had been followed by the second IRA ceasefire and republican adherence to the Mitchell principles. Then in January 1998, Blair had faced down republicans over Heads of Agreement. What enabled him to do so was not his charm and enthusiasm, but the “sufficient consensus” rule and Sinn Fein’s minority position within nationalism.”

  • Mick Fealty

    I think we should also point out that as much as the DUP an SF made life tough for the dynamic duo, having your opponents outside the tent gave you a strong political rationale for co-operating inside it.

    Robinson and McGuinness have no such incentives.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Robinson and McGuinness have no such incentives.”

    Mick, it stands to reason that the centre ground has difficulty making it tough for the more muscular expressions of unionism and nationalism; you don’t put weak members into a tug-of-war team.

    On the other hand, if Peter and Martin wish their pet projects to be considered then an element of co-operation or acquiescence is required; playing an orange or green card could easily scupper the chances of consideration.

    Both unionists and nationalists are struggling to attain a 50% vote share so the actions of the Alliance party and the two governments become magnified. We’ve seen some of the effects of this in the arbitrary decisions of the NIO Parades Commission. It seems that Sam McBride of the Newsletter has been the only journalist to take a look at the actions of the NIO.

  • 241934 john brennan

    “Robinson and McGuinness have no such incentives.”
    Quite right too. There are no sectarian votes to be harvested by SF and DUP working together in double harness. There are plenty of votes to gained if they are seen to pulling in opposite directions and kicking lumps out of each other. Ergo we get bigoted disputes about flags, parades, commemorations etc.
    When it comes to elections in Norn Irn, bread and butter politics butter no parsnips. Instead we opt for more and more green and orange turnips.

  • sean treacy

    Heard Seamus on Radio Ulster the other morning.Seems to have acquired a posher accent when being presented with his honoury degree.No mention of “the north of Ireland ” in those surrounings Had to laugh when he unmistakeably uttered” Nolan Ahland”!

  • Mick Fealty

    Nev,

    “if Peter and Martin wish their pet projects to be considered then an element of co-operation or acquiescence is required; playing an orange or green card could easily scupper the chances of consideration.”

    True, which is one reason why all this sectarian tail pulling is actually counterproductive for the parties concerned. Generosity and compromise are politically problematic for both.

    On CS’s valid point about the undesireability of backseat driving, I picked up on a term Seamus used early on in the interview which was the importance of acting within the political process.

    That might be taken as an admonishment to the paramilitary dog that’s currently wagging the political tail, but I also think he’s underlining the fact that politics is paramount, and that politics should be capable of fixing most of the stuff that’s getting pushed out on the long finger.. And it’s getting long fingered precisely because neither of these guys have the appetite to do the hard miles.

    Exhibit A: the Alliance party holding the Justice Ministry is a classic case of them being bailed out by, literally in this case, a third party.

    Yet on the flip side anyone planning to replace the two occupants of OFMdFM will need more than a flick of the pipe back to the days when Seamus and David did it to make any new attempt at co-operation stick in future.

    Any move to or through the middle (http://goo.gl/GhkVbq) has to retain validation from the core community that puts them there. I don’t yet see a functional constitutionalist republican riposte to the nay sayers, that does no sole resort to retaliatory tail pulling…

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick

    You need to clairify why you think the great “co-operating” was between Trimble and Mallon? David Skipy Trimble had the reputation for being somewhat surprised that Mallon actually wanted an input into Davids job as First minister.

    “Trimble was one of few dissenting voices. He said “I am sorry to have to say to the Prime Minister that I think that the hope expressed by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) that this will be part of the healing process is likely to be misplaced. Opening old wounds like this is likely to do more harm than good. The basic facts of the situation are known and not open to dispute.”

    Mr Trimble on doing something about a series of unfortunate events in Londonderry

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick

    I always love your view that Trimble represented some sort of “middle “.

  • redhugh78

    ‘I particularly like the court jester Barry McElduff MLA .

    He’s proof that any clown can be a politician’

    Really Dixie? Put yourself before the electorate to prove your hypothesis. p.s there’s always Duffy’s Circus.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “why all this sectarian tail pulling is actually counter-productive for the parties concerned .. the paramilitary dog that’s currently wagging the political tail .. politics is paramount”

    Mick, I’d suggest it’s a lot more complex than that. John Hume in “Personal Views” states:

    Don’t retaliate, let the world see who the real aggressor is.

    When it comes to tail-pulling and other forms of provocation the idea is to goad your opponent into over-reaction, preferably on camera. Of course, some of your opponents will be more than happy to respond but they may well target perfectly innocent folks – and on their own patch.

    You will have noted that it wasn’t just the paramilitary dog that was wagging the SF tail, the SDLP was also in on the act. In the lead-up to the 2016 commemoration and also the elections the SDLP may well try to out-green SF in conjunction with SF going after the SDLP as it reaches out for the First Minister’s chair. The DUP is also be severely tweeked by the TUV in addition to the actions of the paramilitary dog and the arbitrary behaviour of the NIO and its Parades Commission offshoot.

    In our contested space, partisanship is paramount, not politics, and even when the SDLP was highlighting the need for accountability in policing it was using the unaccountable Secretariat back-door to lever day-to-day policing decisions.

    The side-deals with paramilitaries also helped to hollow-out the middle so the opportunities for ‘acting through the middle’ were greatly reduced. Then again, the middle is also split on the constitutional question so the opportunities for significant collaborative activity let alone coalition are minimal.

  • weidm7

    The ‘peace process’ was that, a process towards peace, how can you have that if you don’t deal with those who are waging war? Getting peaceful parties to agree to be peaceful isn’t hard, but to get the paramilitaries to lay down their arms, you have to talk to them. Incidently, that’s why our peace process is one of the most successful in the world. It’s natural then that the SDLP got sidelined, I mean, what’s their importance if it’s the IRA you want to talk to and you can only get to them through SF?

    The real reason for the rise of the extremes though is that people saw that themuns and usuns were to be locked into government together so they voted for whoever will stand their ground longest and get the best deal for that voter’s community, that’s what’s still happening now. Until sectarianism goes away, there’s a UI, or the institutions are changed, this will keep happening. So it’s preety unlikely then.

    On the point about Seamus’s words, I find it hypocritical how some supposed nationalists have a bigger problem with the IRA, who at least began in order to protect catholic communities, than the British Army and unionists whose very reason for being was (and arguably still is) to subjugate the Catholic community. Perhaps we could begin a ‘reconciliation’ process within nationalism? The middle class parties’ (north and south) inability to accept SF’s past or at least put it behind them, is probably the biggest reason why there’s no all-party consensus and strategy towards achieving a united Ireland, which is 2013, there definitely should be. If Séamaí is such a republican, where’s his strategy for achieving a UI? Instead he’s stuck reviewing past atrocities.

  • Dixie Elliott

    redhugh78 you lot really are parrots. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard Adamsites say ‘put yourself before the electorate.’

    Fitt and Hume were hoarse saying this in the past. You lot have followed Seamus Mallon and the SDLP into everything, policing boards etc so it ill becomes you to slang them off.

    At least no one died followed them nor do I remember any scandals regarding the cover up of rape and child abuse surrounding the Stoops.

  • Mick Fealty

    weidm7,

    What struck me more than anything else was the thoughtfulness of his remarks. I don’t think that’s simply a matter of his seniority in years, or the novelty of any intervention from him.

    This was a forty minute interview and it had a depth and layering that we rarely get these days either from politicians or indeed commentators and analysts.

    You do nail something important in your first paragraph:

    The ‘peace process’ was that, a process towards peace, how can you have that if you don’t deal with those who are waging war? Getting peaceful parties to agree to be peaceful isn’t hard, but to get the paramilitaries to lay down their arms, you have to talk to them. […] It’s natural then that the SDLP got sidelined, I mean, what’s their importance if it’s the IRA you want to talk to and you can only get to them through SF?

    That’s an accurate description of how the governments saw ‘the process of ending the war‘ being played out and you are right to note it led to the dumping of the moderates.

    But in fact the critique Mallon lays out is the failure of ‘the process of beginning the peace‘ in order to deliver a stable society capable of meeting the aspirations of all its citizens.

    Instead we have two parties who have proven at times to be susceptible to the sort of scenario that Daniel Goleman describes as a ‘war of all against all’.

    In his book Social Intelligence (http://goo.gl/ygJnE1) Goleman cites a study of a troop of baboons when a particularly aggressive male (they called him Hobbes) invaded their territory:

    The impact of Hobbes on the other males was measured by taking samples of cortisol from their blood, and it became clear that his raw aggression rippled around the endocrine systems of the entire group.

    Under stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol, one of the hormones the body releases in an emergency. These hormones have widespread effects in the body, including many that are adaptive in the short term for healing bodily injuries.

    But Goleman goes on to say is that in our ordinary lives we only need a moderate level of cortisol: if it runs too high for too long it can give rise to a range of chronic conditions. In particular it damages neurons in the hippocampus and harms memory.

    Under these reduced conditions…

    …the impaired hippocampus learns rather sloppily, over generalising fearfulness to details of the moment that are irrelevant (such as a distinctive tone of voice). The amygdala (http://goo.gl/y7ohpO) circuitry goes on a rampage and the prefrontal area fails to modulate signals from the overreacting amygdala.

    The result: the amygdala runs rampant, driving fear, while the hippocampus mistakenly perceives too many triggers for that fear.[emphasis added]

    With old soldiers now firmly in charge of the peace we have a politics which, perhaps in spite the best of intentions, has become suffused with mistrust, hyper vigilance and endless overreaction. Goleman labels it post traumatic stress disorder.

    When Mallon dives into parades as a first point of criticism he expresses a straightforward belief that it can be dealt with politically, if there is the political will.

    But perhaps only with a leadership that’s not dogged with the kind of hijacking reflexes (http://goo.gl/VrQdRa) the amygdala excels at? I don’t expect you to interpret this too literally as being aimed at individuals.

    But these yearly triggers come around each summer with no one who is centrally involved seemingly knowing what do about them, other than ‘keep on fighting’. What’s been lost is the ability to discriminate cleanly between a real threat and an utterly trivial one.

    All constructive work is stopped whilst everyone downs tools to rally to the cause of some slight often wrongly seen as dangerous by de udder side. The old war makers strength (Hobbesian aggression) has become their abiding weakness.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “But in fact the critique Mallon lays out is the failure of ‘the process of beginning the peace‘ in order to deliver a stable society”

    Mick, Seamus puts it much more bluntly than that:

    “There’s a difference between negotiating your way into something and being bought into something because when you buy something in you’ve to sell something out to get it” .. 15m 30s

    In other words, the middle ground was sold out and paramilitaries and parapoliticians were elevated above constitutional politicians. In more recent times, the Irish government invited a UDA contingent to Dublin to greet the Queen. This sort of action reinforces the dominance of paramilitaries in many local communities and IMO it forces Peter and Martin, even were they minded to be more collaborative, to look over their shoulders at the respective dissident threats.

    As Seamus points out, the moderates didn’t have to be sidelined as SF and the IRA wanted to be included in the political process. He damns [14:50] ‘the release of prisoners, the whole question of decommissioning as George Mitchell and his body which was set up declared it to be a voluntary act’ as ‘shoddy thinking’.

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s made that point before, although I think more precisely here. Mine is rather less historical than that.

  • JH

    Mallon speaks his mind and doesn’t pull any punches. He’s in a position to cut into Unionist intransigence without being undermined at every turn by a violent past.

    It’s refreshing to hear this from a old SDLP guy. The clarity and precision reminds me a bit of the very occasional contributions you get from the old (British) Labour Party vanguard when they’re allowed to speak.

    I think to my generation that’s very powerful, given that we’re maybe the first to know only the career, PR politician and nothing else.

    You know the type. The cosseted purveyor of the prepared statement. Everything to all men, saying everything and nothing all at once, leaving every party to the discussion feeling like they’ve had their position vindicated.

    The current SDLP crop would do well to recapture some of that spirit. Find the members with the fire in their belly, the ability to make an argument and the knowledge of when to deploy it. Instead of the accommodation crew they have now.

    I’d wager if you cut into the newer Sinn Féin vote you’d find that this has a lot to do with it.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seamus’ approach is conciliatory unlike the bad-mouthing style that’s so apparent in John Hume’s “Personal Views”:

    Seamus: “The way in which councils have been raising issues of grave emotional importance – one in my own constituency – which should never have happened and shouldn’t be happening. Those are the things if we’re going to ever get to a shared society that we have got to start to deal with and get some overall concept of what it means to live cheek by jowl with people whose identities are different from yours.”

    This is an undisguised attack on the current SDLP leadership, a leadership which at times has shown greater concern for the rights of paramilitary aggressors than for those of its victims. Unfortunately, Seamus has offered no possible remedies for evaluation.