Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Haass has scrapped the first draft of his proposals, and is now ‘furiously drafting’ a new one.

Wed 18 December 2013, 2:38pm

So, the Haass talks are to take a break? Well, no. But the DUP have said no to Dr Haass’s first draft:

…he and his team will spend the time furiously drafting a new discussion document for the five Executive parties to study.

The party told him that it could not recommend any single aspect of the draft to its supporters and warned that progress was impossible without its co-operation as the largest party.

“We spelt out our bottom line,” Jeffrey Donaldson, one of the party’s negotiators, confirmed. Gerry Kelly also said that Sinn Fein had “a series of difficulties” with the proposals.

Well, of course there’s certainly a lot of spin around, but it’s odd that the first draft contains so much both main parties are likely to object to. There’s little evidence of any of SF’s own wide ranging proposals arising in the leaks, the sound and the fury that have arisen thus far.

Barney Rowan who seems to have a fair amount of access to talks insiders noted that “Haass and O’Sullivan are not going to produce a ‘Green’ or an ‘Orange’ document, but rather a paper that challenges everyone”.

Well, good. Except that as I highlighted last September what’s missing are the concrete incentives (and disincentives) for the parties themselves to play a value positive game. Pointing to an international treaty, a constitution or even a ministerial code is insufficient to change the game a political party will want to play.

Perhaps Dr Haass has some stealth incentive to make Sinn Fein and the DUP to eat their carrots and greens?

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Comments (77)

  1. Michael (profile) says:

    It was asking for trouble putting such a hopelessly optimistic part-time timescale on the talks. I don’t know if that was naiveté or just trying a different way but all experience points to these types of discussions being drawn out until some big deadline is imposed from the outside. In this case as the process belongs to the executive itself there is no such pressure, and I’d venture nothing much either side can offer by way of bargaining chips.

    DUP had themselves in another painted corner before going in – having raised the undead zombie ultras to the streets. They need to have something big to sate their appetites and they ain’t getting that from this process.

    It would be lovely to think these guys could do business but I don’t see any Statesman in there to bring a bigger picture perspective. Haass has no stick to beat them with apart from embarrassment and most there have no shame.

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  2. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Amen to that last!!

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  3. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    From what has been reported of the flag proposals in the media–they look imaginative. Flying the tricolor for visits by the Irish president to Belfast has a “parity of esteem” aspect, without eroding sovereignty. The same is true with the proposal to let councils decide whether to fly the Union flag on designated days or no flag at all.

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  4. SDLP supporter (profile) says:

    The only thing these guys understand are financial sanctions. Cut their allowances, parliamentary, assembly, Electoral Commission, etc, until there’s substantive agreement.

    And to think that the like of Jeffrey Donaldson is touting his ‘not for profit’ company as having some sort of conflict resolution expertise when he cut and ran in 1998 (as a member of the OUP) and is doing the same in 2013. These guys are incapable of negotiating anything.

    Came across a quote the other day; who can place it?

    ‘’The life of an Irish politician is one of one long series of postponements and compromise and disappointments and disillusionments . . . . Many of our ideals of complete, speedy and almost immediate triumph of our policy and of our cause, have faded, some almost disappeared. . . . We have spent forty years at this work . . . . which will have been worth it if … we can secure substantial agreement amongst our people in Ireland.’’

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  5. I’m pretty sure this whole thing has been stage managed.

    In any negotiations, certain principles are constant. In these particular negotiations, the emphasis is clearly on getting both sides to accept things they had previously designated red line status to.

    In other words (yawn) the important thing is to ensure that both sides give ground, and are seen to give ground. The distance moved must be perceived by both sides to be similar in size. Crucially, both sides must appear to ‘give way’ at the same time.

    Richard Haass chairs the Council on Foreign Relations. Now, not having had many truly international statesmen, Northern Ireland lacks the cultural dismissiveness that other nations have developed around the political theatre of negotiations. Nevertheless, unfamiliar as we are with the process, it happens in exactly the same way here as it does elsewhere.

    A ‘name’ like Richard Haass is not going to attach himself to the process unless substantial ground has already been agreed in private.

    His job isn’t to conduct the negotiations. They’ve already happened. He wouldn’t put a reputation like that on the line by announcing a timetable unless he already had substantial agreement from all sides.

    His job is actually to teach these political amateurs how to present a compromise to their supporters without creating a sense of defeat!

    So his first proposal is scrapped, containing too much for both sides to commit to. Both sides huff to the media, who present the story to the public exactly as the plan requires. Both sides build up some pride, having secured the perception that they won’t be pushed around to acccept the first deal on offer.

    Phase one of the plan is complete.

    Haass leaks it that he got it horribly wrong, that he’s furiously working on a second draft proposal. Of course, he’s not that busy, all this having been worked out in advance…

    But both sides get to preen themselves in the perception that they’ve made a famous international diplomat back down…

    Then, just when time appears to be running out, both sides will save the day by making generous concessions simultaneously out of the goodness of their hearts, thus securing the future for Northern Ireland (for this read electoral snugness for themselves for another political generation).

    Which is no bad thing. Political theatre’s necessary. The professionalism of Haass is refreshing in a place where political theatre has remained far too primitive, to the detriment of all who live here.

    Here’s to a bit of political sophistication, I say. Hopefully he leaves a few lessons behind, as well as an agreement!

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  6. between the bridges (profile) says:

    SDLP S, can i guess? Some Englishman…

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  7. Nevin (profile) says:

    “what’s missing are the concrete incentives (and disincentives) for the parties themselves to play a value positive game.”

    The parties are only part of the ‘avoid the blame’ game as well as the Haass/O’Sullivan process. London and Dublin are also players yet are trying to foist all responsibility on the parties in general and the NI Executive in particular.

    Has the Haass/O’Sullivan process done anything more than provide a little bit of theatrical diversion in advance of party campaigning for the forthcoming European and local council elections? Will they halt the bombings, paramilitary barbaric justice or political provocation and its associated reaction? Slugger has fixated on the latter but has had little, if anything, to say about the first two.

    What exactly is a ‘positive game’ in a constitutional tug-of-war?

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  8. I ask in all seriousness if the Haass talks are important.
    There was a certain feeling in 1998 that we were all in some way affected and involved.
    What happened in 1998 changed our lives…mostly for the good.
    Nothing about 2013 will change our lives.
    The Dissident Republicans are treated as a joke (nobody would have made the same jokes …in the mainstream…in the 1970s).
    likewise Twaddell doesn’t really affect anyone.
    Will anyone be really euphoric if a breakthru is announced.
    or devastated if the talks fail?

    on a scale of 1 to 10 how much do we really care?

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  9. Only six months to the next big election which, being European, will be a plebiscite on electoral strength of each of the parties. Brave party to allow anything that a base doesn’t like, and on that thinking the unionist electorate (at its most fickle and unsettled for a long time) will take a lot of convincing.

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  10. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    You Northern Irish are quite miserable.

    Richard Haass and Megan O’Sullivan are doing this for nothing.

    They are quality people. Seriously first class.

    They are listening and will make sensible proposals.

    Adopt them, move on, cheer up!

    To tribe X: you’re not going away.

    To tribe Y: neither are you.

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  11. Michael (profile) says:

    FJH you are right but depressingly so. You have said before that we no longer in post conflict phase but pre-conflict phase. I have reflected on this and to a large extent agree. The key reason is there is little common cause between the two main parties that can shore up any sense of a general move towards unity of purpose. The best we hope for is patching issues as they arise rather than any comprehensive sense of achieving genuine cooperation and unified society. As society at large we look to our political leaders to set the tone. I am confused and dismayed as to why so many of our population gives the authority to these people to continue to act in the manner they do. Any wonder democracy gets a bad name.

    Of course the underlying issue is the constitutional question but must we live in stultifying limbo until it is resolved, indeed is it ever likely to be resolvable? There is no panacea of finding green fields of elysium and lions hugging lambs in any future scenario of the constitutional issue. Some may argue that life would be better, but for many it would be worse – that is inescapable unless we can be as one in the society (not the State) we wish to create.

    We can at least choose to be magnanimous in our day to day living and that way whatever is down the line there is a culture of civility in the society at large.

    What is here is ugly, stagnant, and belittling.

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  12. Frankly everything that one side (nationalists) regard as an interim measure is treated as a settlement by unionists.
    A unified society means that at least one side has lost.
    To be brutally frank…I dont want a unified society. I just want an honest one and a peaceful one.
    And I suspect not enough people actually want a unified society.
    Wanting a unified society is very nice…but not some kind of moral high ground.

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  13. Michael (profile) says:

    A society to be functional needs a common set of values – Sharia or liberal democracy, where religious freedom is guaranteed, or where common ownership of everything including property and means of production is welcomed. Whatever it is, it is binding enough to keep people moving in the same direction rather than different directions towards instability.

    We vacillate instead of being brave and articulating a shared set of values. I would like to think that something as secondary as the constitutional question is not as big as whether we want to be alive and not emigrated to enjoy our grandchildren brought up in their native land.

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  14. Nevin (profile) says:

    “But the DUP have said no to Dr Haass’s first draft”

    Have Haass and O’Sullivan hijacked the political process? Were the party representatives on the Panel of the Parties by-passed? Did the MLAs get an opportunity to discuss the submissions with those who submitted them? Did they, as group, have sight of this first draft before it was discussed with the individual parties?

    The Panel is charged with bringing forward consensus recommendations whenever possible on the specific issues of parades and protests; flags, symbols and emblems, and related matters; and the past. The Panel is committed to bringing forward these recommendations to the Office of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister before the end of December 2013.

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  15. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    You can certainly see the GFA as an “interim” measure; a “stage” or “phase”.

    Thing is, it has de facto become NI’s constitution. Quite hard to move away from or destabilize.

    I would posit that Haass is fine-tuning it, not moving it on to the next “stage” or “phase”.

    Haass will have an important effect. Haass is the way that NI will work.

    Haass is a kind of management consultant, hired in (in this case he seems to be offering his services as a loss-leader) to offer a template that the parties can then use with their internal conservatives.

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  16. Nevin (profile) says:

    “something as secondary as the constitutional question”

    Michael, it may be secondary to you and to parties such as APNI and the Greens but it gets top-billing with the four main parties.

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  17. Michael (profile) says:

    Being a little facetious but at the end of the day – death and taxes trumps who you pay them to and where you are buried. I am a nationalist with everything that goes with it, but I am also a pragmatist and I’d rather do civil and profitable business with all my neighbours than impoverish myself and my descendants on a wrong strategy for achieving that aspiration. Somehow I believe that the fastest route to a peaceful United Ireland is a cohesive society where the majority of people like each other and are prepared to walk there together rather than a syria-scenario where we inherit a bombed out nation of people who hate each other.

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  18. socaire (profile) says:

    I think people should try to be a little more realistic about the outcome of this panto. Say, for example, that the political parties agree on the ‘no flags’ option. Who or what is going to stop me erecting a flag anywhere at any time? If I succeed, who will take it down? Who will stop the British/Irish marchers and commemorationists and whose version of the past will become law? Get a grip and go and wrap up your presents.

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  19. sherdy (profile) says:

    DUP tactics don’t seem to have changed: ‘Give us everything we want or we’ll scupper all arrangements’.
    Richard Haass will go home a sadder and wiser man.
    Lesson 1: the DUP are very difficult to deal with, but the DUP with the Orange Order pulling their strings: impossible!

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  20. socaire (profile) says:

    Lesson 2: The DUP is the Orange Order.
    And Mr Haass will just go home and order a stiff whiskey on the way.

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  21. Charles Gould[4.21] I fully expect the parties can’t afford a resolution of any of the issues so with elections so close, the talks are destined for failure, which UTV’s Ken Reid has called a ‘soft landing’ earlier. It will fail or I’m a Dutchman, although from RH surname, he’s the Dutchman.

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  22. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    danielsmoran

    SF have an interest in some aspects of Haass and DUP in others. There is scope for mutual gain.

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  23. socaire (profile) says:

    Could you move away from the generic phraseology and state what you think these various interests are. Do the stoops have a wish list? Have they told anybody?

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  24. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    ” Who or what is going to stop me erecting a flag anywhere at any time? If I succeed, who will take it down?”

    @socaire,

    If you erect a flag on your own property I imagine it will just be ignored. If a council erects a flag in violation of the new policy it could be fined or face economic sanctions in the form of distribution of tax revenues. The loyalist flag protesters could be fined and arrested for disturbing the peace.

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  25. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “A unified society means that at least one side has lost.”

    @fjh,

    Both the loyalists and the republicans have lost. The loyalists lost the struggle to keep the Irish as second-class citizens. The republicans lost their struggle to bomb and shoot their way into a united Ireland. Why can’t nationalists simply accept the terms of the agreement and live by them until they have the votes to change the constitutional status of NI? It is quite possible to have a unified society if both sides accept that the situation is not necessarily permanent and that the GFA posits a legal procedure for changing the status of the province.

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  26. Nevin (profile) says:

    “although from RH surname, he’s the Dutchman”

    socaire, his Haass grandparents were born in New York and their respective parents were born in Russia.

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  27. socaire (profile) says:

    Say that the Irish had a 50% + 1 vote, do you really think that the unionists would meekly accept the verdict and settle down in a unified Ireland? Their ‘leaders’ and the sly fifth column in London would soon make plans for repartition and they wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Democracy is ok but nothing like the real thing.

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  28. socaire (profile) says:

    nevin, missed and hit the wall!

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  29. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    socaire (profile)

    18 December 2013 at 8:53 pm

    “Say that the Irish had a 50% + 1 vote…”

    When you say ‘the Irish’ do you just mean nationalists?

    If so, could you not just say that, even Ian Paisley referred to himself as an Irishman. Pretty sure he never referred to himself as an Irish nationalist though….

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  30. goalsboyce (profile) says:

    The problem is having to deal with backward unionism who hold this part of Ireland to ransom and behave like spoilt brats. People around the world regard roads as being built for transport and not a freebie for sectarian marches nor do they care about flags.
    Gay people should be treated as equals never. We,ve missed out on thousands of jobs at the maze peace centre and the scrapped new sprts stadium because it don’t fit with their sectarian orange oath. This alone turning away jobs would be enough to have them sacked for incompetence in any other country.
    I just hope at the next elections non unionists, normal people, give them the scalping they deserve. The opportunity to consign unionism to history will be a big draw for many people come a border poll.

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  31. cynic2 (profile) says:

    “Lesson 2: The DUP is the Orange Order.”

    Lesson 3 – and I don’t perhaps like this any more than you – they exist and you HAVE to accommodate them

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  32. socaire (profile) says:

    Obviously I mean those whose FIRST allegiance is to Ireland not Britain

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  33. Gopher (profile) says:

    I can’t really see the point of agreeing anything in the Haas talks unless stability is the fundamental outcome agreed by all until such a time if ever there is a border poll.

    I still believe with failure built in to the talks there will be an assembly election in 2014

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  34. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    tmitch57

    ‘Why can’t nationalists simply accept the terms of the agreement and live by them until they have the votes to change the constitutional status of NI?’

    In what way are nationalists not accepting and living with the terms of the GFA?

    ‘It is quite possible to have a unified society if both sides accept that the situation is not necessarily permanent and that the GFA posits a legal procedure for changing the status of the province.’

    This is the position held by all nationalists, other than a few dozen dissident fanatics. Nationalists are already doing what you demand of them.

    You have (inadvertently?) made the case that the obstacles to a ‘unified society’ lie exclusively within unionism.

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  35. notimetoshine (profile) says:

    Who cares?

    Let’s be honest with ourselves here, they’ll create some sort of political fudge that doesn’t really address the issues, and when the next incident/major political theme raises it head we will have another round of negotiations and another pointless agreement and so on ad finitum.

    One interesting thing here, there doesn’t seem to be any money on offer, so maybe the talks will fail until someone opens their wallet.

    I think we should elect two political bodies to stormont. We can have a ‘real’ assembly that deals with issues that are of real concern and can make a lasting positive effect on peoples lives and then we can have a ‘themmuns usuns’ assembly (maybe in the old senate room) and they can go on for ever with their crises, talks, discussions, negotiations and all the other carry on that our esteemed leaders carry out in our name.

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  36. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    cynic2
    ““Lesson 2: The DUP is the Orange Order.”

    Lesson 3 – and I don’t perhaps like this any more than you – they exist and you HAVE to accommodate them”

    ?? They should get equal treatment to any other organisation and nothing more.

    For example Orange order members complaint about a republican parade in castlederg was honest but misguided. If republicans cannot march because you do not like them then why should the Orange order ever get to march?

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  37. Anaximander (profile) says:

    The sound and fury do indeed signify nothing. A Paisleyite Phillipic it was not.

    To serious matters: as part of any deal, it will be necessary to include elements that are acceptable to both sides’ baseline positions. A fortiori, therefore, the Union flag will not be flying 365 days per year. To do otherwise, as the SDLP’s policy document on flags rightly states, contravenes the principles enunciated in the Good Friday Agreement. People in Northern Ireland have a right to be accepted and identified as “British, Irish, or both”. This was signed off on by all parties currently involved in the Haas talks. To that end, the marge de manoeuvre around flags comes within the purview of a defined scope.

    Either both communities are represented on matters of identity, or none are. This could take the form of flying both the Union Jack and the Tricolour from council buildings and other “shared” installations, flying neither (such as applies to the PSNI, which as a body is legally prohibited from displaying the Union Jack on police buildings), or compromising on a new “Northern Ireland” flag.

    Steam rising from Unionist ears is, presumably, a negotiation strategy that will be wheeled out to placate the baying elements if and when an agreement is reached, “we know it’s bad, but look at how bad it could have been…”

    It often helps to take a look at similarly divided societies around the world to see what they do. If one visits Catalonia, one will see the Catalan flag (and the Catalan language) solely employed on local authority and “communitat” buildings. Both flags tend to fly from state buildings. If one visits Canada, one will rarely, if ever, see Canadian flags flying from provincial installations (this is especially true in Quebec where the Canadian flag appears to have disappeared entirely from all but federal buildings).

    There is no legal issue whatsoever with the Tricolour flying, on an official basis, in Northern Ireland. It should be remembered that the Tricolour long predates the foundation of the Free State/Irish Republic and was generally acclaimed as the flag of Ireland by the Nationalist community across the 32 counties before the country was sundered in 1922.

    As both the SDLP (including Alasdair McDonnell) and Sinn Féin have repeatedly stated, the Tricolour is the flag with which Nationalist community identifies. The lynchpin of the Good Friday Agreement is respect and equality for both communities’ identity. Any agreement on flags is duty bound to respect this.

    As such, Unionist steam will have to be well vented.

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  38. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    Just becuase you’re the largest miniority doesn’t entitle you you to ideological hegemony. All traditions are entitled to cultural recognition and representation commensurate with their percentage of the popuation. The southern state could offer reciprocity for flying the Irish tricolour in Ulster/N Ireland by flying the individual emblems of the British union flag in the other three provinces of Ireland. Cultural generosity is imperative. Traditional intransigence and obstreperousness is not the way forward all four nations of the British and/or Irish Isles.

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  39. socaire (profile) says:

    Why should the 26 counties – a ‘sovereign’ state allow the flying of another state’s flag in their jurisdiction as a sop to anybody or anything?

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  40. Barnshee (profile) says:

    Why should the 26 counties – a ‘sovereign’ state allow the flying of another state’s flag in their jurisdiction as a sop to anybody or anything?

    OH dear

    Why should the UK – a ‘sovereign’ state allow the flying of another state’s flag in their jurisdiction as a sop to anybody or anything?

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  41. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    ‘He shoots, he scores, but the goalie was off the pitch typing on a PC’.

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  42. socaire (profile) says:

    Britain doesn’t really allow the flying of the Tricolour in the 6 counties, it tolerates it to calm the Tadhgs. And if we were as big a world power as them we would fly it in London. Laugh is, they wouldn’t care.

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  43. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    London (and most other British cities) has lots of Irish Tricolours on show. Outside hotels, ‘Irish’ pubs etc. This year I even caught sight of at least one tricolour being waved at that most British of events the Last Night of the Proms.

    Go to any of the larger horse racing meets, the Cheltenham Festival is a great example, and tricolours are everywhere representing the involvement of Irish horses and fans at the events.

    The same things cannot be said south of the border. Despite the UK being the next door neighbour, large numbers of British visitors and lots of GB horses running on Irish tracks the Union Flag seems to be verboten.

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  44. Cric (profile) says:

    Am I the only one who thinks these talks are absolutely pointless?

    Sinn Fein are not going to accept full time flying of the Union Flag and the DUP are not going to back down and accept designated days. We all knew this before the start, yet we’re still pretending that there is some middle ground to be found.

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  45. socaire (profile) says:

    That is because the Irish flag is no threat in England. It doesn’t signify territorial claim. I’m sure they would have got a brilliant reception after Brighton etc but as far as I’m concerned, if they pull out their army and civil structures and leave us to keep our pigs in the parlour, then anybody that wants can fly whatever flag they want. But then we,savages, need the guiding hand of the English. Just like the Scots and the Welsh. And yes! These talks are a complete waste of time. Our local councillors vying for notice.

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  46. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “In what way are nationalists not accepting and living with the terms of the GFA?”

    @Billy,

    In attempting to remove all signs of UK sovereignty in NI in the name of parity of esteem. Had Alliance not proposed a compromise the two nationalist parties would have removed the Union flag from the Belfast City Hall completely. Sinn Fein is fighting the symbols war in the hope that people will forget that it lost the real war. The SDLP is going along out of fear of losing voters.

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  47. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Son of Strongbow

    “large numbers of British visitors and lots of GB horses running on Irish tracks the Union Flag seems to be verboten.”

    ???

    Could it be that “British visitors” are embarrassed by what unionists do with their flag?

    An example would be the British Queen. I was wondering how often she has officially met the Orange order.

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  48. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Yes McS that must be it. You are no doubt correct when you imply that visitors to the Republic from GB have the actions of a tiny percentage of the population uppermost in their minds.

    Perhaps the converse is also correct? The Irish tricolour being used as the battle flag for various nationalist murder gangs mustn’t have registered with the flag waving Irish at Cheltenham etc.

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  49. Mc Slaggart (profile) says:

    Son of Strongbow

    “visitors to the Republic”

    I take it you have not been to the Northern Ireland tourism re-education class yet,

    “the actions of a tiny percentage of the population uppermost in their minds.”

    In a year of flag madness the beating of English police people by the protesters was particularly noteworthy. The number of English local papers filled with the story of their local bobby facing them mad Irish with their flag in Belfast.

    http://youtu.be/ZHAFmFsb9XM

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  50. BarneyT (profile) says:

    interjection….look at my avatar. Anyone got Haass’ number? Tell me this wont work, or at least a variation. A flag has to be graffiti friendly, hence the lack of symbols. Ok the scale is not represented but go with me. I could live with this for all Ireland. It has gwg and rwb.

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  51. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Barney :

    Your avatar when turned vertical shows the letter Y .

    Why the letter Y ? Why not an RH for red hand ? or GO for Green Orange or OG for Orange Green or as the locals would soon rename it own goal ;) ?

    People could interpret that Y as why does NI exist at all at all ;) ?

    Poor Haas . I guess after this he’ll look forward solving the Israeli Palestinian stand off with a renewed sense of optimism .

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  52. Resolve (profile) says:

    Haven’t posted on Slugger in years (although I still read most all of it) but I feel compelled to break that vow of silence, Greenflag, to second that comment… poor Haass indeed!

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  53. Anaximander (profile) says:

    tmitch57:

    “Sinn Fein is fighting the symbols war in the hope that people will forget that it lost the real war.”

    The Sinn Féin policy (both flags or no flags) is identical to that of the SDLP, so that explanation simply will not do.

    Secondly, the Nationalist policy on flags is a direct outcome of the principles enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. If that is odious to Unionist parties, then they ought to make clear that a key component to the peace process is in jeopardy.

    Lastly, the struggle for Irish reunification was shifted from the paramilitary to the exclusively political and democratic sphere post-1998; thus, the disbandment of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Of course, Sinn Féin will do all they can to advance down the road to that goal. If Unionists are mystified by this, or view it as a breach of mistrust, then they had best swiftly wake themselves up. The agreement was not a final solution to the Irish Question. It was a pause in centuries long struggle.

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  54. Anaximander (profile) says:

    tmitch57:

    “Sinn Fein is fighting the symbols war in the hope that people will forget that it lost the real war.”

    The Sinn Féin policy (both flags or no flags) is identical to that of the SDLP, so that explanation simply will not do.

    Secondly, the Nationalist policy on flags is a direct outcome of the principles enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. If that is odious to Unionist parties, then they ought to make clear that a key component to the peace process is in jeopardy.

    Lastly, the struggle for Irish reunification was shifted from the paramilitary to the exclusively political and democratic sphere post-1998; thus, the disbandment of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Of course, Sinn Féin will do all they can to advance down the road to that goal. If Unionists are mystified by this, or view it as a breach of mistrust, then they had best swiftly wake themselves up. The agreement was not a final solution to the Irish Question. It was a pause in a centuries long struggle.

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  55. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Having listened to some of the ideas coming out of the Haass talks I don’t see why the DUP would agree to them.

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  56. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    I had assumed there was a fairly obvious “trade” between SF and DUP, the proposals don’t seem to have that yet.

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  57. Gopher (profile) says:

    I’m not sure “unionists” are unaware are using politics SF as war by other means to gain a thirty two county paradise hence the talks. if the talks cant find agreement to bring stability until such time if ever there is a border poll Haas should go home and let us enjoy the show

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  58. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    To paraphrase Bob Dylan: “The [demographics] they ae a changin!” Northern Protestants need to embrace the egalitarian concept of distributive justice, however belatedly, and realise that the bad old days of ideological hegemony are dead and gone. Percentage cultural identity predicates frequency of flag flying, marching or parading. Either fly both flags proportionately or fly neither. Ulster uinionism needs to move out of the Plato’s cave of it’s own construction and get to know their fellow island cohabitees, sure in the knowledge that people in the rest of Ireland don’t bite. Nor do they smell either better or worse than anyone else. Even the early European settlers to the Uniteed States of America had to uncircle their wagons eventually, and get to know the natives.

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  59. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    “Even the early European settlers to the Uniteed [sic] States of America had to uncircle their wagons eventually, and get to know the natives.”

    ?

    You mean before the Yankees massacred the “natives” almost to a man? Surely you can’t be lamenting that the “unionists” should have followed the Yankee approach? Genocide of tribe after tribe and then locking the few that remained up in ‘reservations’.

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  60. Greenflag (profile) says:

    There have been times in the recent history of Northern Ireland (1965 -the present ) when an opportunity arises for the parties to make a breakthrough in community relations and to move forward .

    Most of the time the opportunity has fallen to the main Unionist parties and most of the time they have failed . Every change is seen as a retreat and a threat and this as Haas and O’Sullivan have discovered is just another in a long line.

    For a flag conscious society to the extent that NI is -it’s obvious that the simplest and most sensible solution is to fly both flags from public buildings on designated days .Each represents about half the population so why not ..It would give official recognition of the very nature of the NI State and looking forward a generation or two could engender less .triumphalism from Republicans when the Union Jack is no longer the provinces official state flag .

    But the unionist politicians an their flag lobby don’t do imagination or fairness and have all the foresight and strategy of a brick wall .

    Which is why they find themselves in this or similar positions again and again .and will eventually find themselves bricked up with the rest of Ireland and the world moving on .

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  61. Greenflag (profile) says:

    anaximander ,

    ‘The agreement was not a final solution to the Irish Question.’

    True but for now it’s the only one acceptable to both sides without the idiot element on both sides returning to the gun /bombings /killings /property destruction /sectarian warfare etc .

    ‘ It was a pause in a centuries long struggle.”

    True but a pause with a difference . The difference being that the right to decide their own political and constitutional future has been given to ALL the people of Northern Ireland .

    Now what could be fairer and more reasonable than that ?

    Neither Haas nor O’Sullivan being diplomats/envoys will tell either side the harsh truth -which is -that they don’t know how lucky they are to have such tolerant and democratic neighbours who have put up with the childish themmuns and usuns stupidity for 40 plus years .

    Haas & O’Sullivan need to go home and enjoy Christmas/Holidays with their families and leave the benighted provincial politicians to their midwinter darkness .

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  62. DC (profile) says:

    ‘The Sinn Féin policy (both flags or no flags) is identical to that of the SDLP’

    Well that bargaining position is not legitimate any more as Haass has ruled out the tricolour in any form and both parties will have to come to terms with that.

    Both flags or none is nothing other than bigotry, neutrality is bigotry i.e no flag is sophisticated middle class-type bigotry whereby bigotry is disguised by asking for something that is not attainable but sold as doable and seeming plausible. It is a clever attempt to disguise bigotry by using a bullshit policy of two flags that even those that stand by that position and argue for it know full well won’t happen; but, supporters stand by it nonetheless so that the Union flag can be taken down due to perceived unfairness, whenever actually there is a legitimate constitutional entitlement for it to be up at least designated days from all councils.

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  63. SK (profile) says:

    DC,

    I think a lot of people could live with designated days on a province-wide basis, or at least that’s what the BBC poll a couple of days ago seemed to indicate. The Haas team seemed to be suggesting something similar, but it’s being shot down because the Unionist negotiating team feel that designated days shouldn’t apply to Belfast. The capital, it seems, should have special status as a compromise-free zone. With that in mind, do you not think you’re directing your ire at the wrong people?

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  64. DC (profile) says:

    The educated middle-class have connived in both flags or none as a means of making themselves feel a little better while they deliver a bigoted outcome.

    Nationalist bigotry tends to be silent and sophisticated a bit like the whispering campaign by people in influential positions – the chattering classes – that spooked wee Rory McIlroy when he toyed with teeing off for Great Britain. If that had been the prods and the other way round the outburst would have been visible and vocal probably along the lines of Rory being ‘a fenian loving B’ or something crude; but, here’s the difference he probably would have carried on playing for Ireland regardless, whereas Nationalist bigotry is more sophisticated in that it works and puts people off, while at the same time making sure no one directly picks up the tab for it i.e. being found out publicly as bigoted.

    Any how…I would encourage designated days throughout NI as at least this is something that could be sold as a win-win, if what you say is true that it is all the blame of unionists, are you on the negotiating team?

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  65. SK (profile) says:

    DC,

    It’s clear from your musings that the flag issue is important to you and that’s fair enough. Nobody denies that not getting their own way has been traumatising for Loyalists.

    But, with respect, a lot of what you come out with is just- and there’s no nice to say it- unmitigated crap. Neutrality is not bigotry. Putting up a flag on occasion that nationalists might identify with, is not bigotry. You might not agree with those suggestions, but that doesn’t mean the people who made them did so out of some nefarious bourgeois desire to torture you.

    Whatever intellectual journey you are on seems to have led you into a cul-de-sac.

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  66. DC (profile) says:

    ‘Putting up a flag on occasion that nationalists might identify with, is not bigotry.’

    I didn’t say that in relation to that desirable stance, my point was that it is known by nationalists to not be possible never mind probable because that flag belongs to another sovereign country that gave up direct claims to NI and therefore cannot be directly grafted onto NI councils. In response a spiteful and bigoted removal of the Union flag tends to follow in a bid to make nationalists feel better.

    The right thing to do would be to leave the union flag alone till nationalists can find some way of getting what they want without pissing off unionists in the process? Because no union flag, despite there being a live living Union, is bigotry – neutrality is bigotry.

    So my conclusion is – remove does not improve.

    And I am just putting it out there, I can assure you I am not in a cul-de-sac in fact I am in the market for new ideas and compromise.

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  67. SK (profile) says:

    “The right thing to do would be to leave the union flag alone till nationalists can find some way of getting what they want without pissing off unionists in the process?”
    ____

    “Give us what we want, and then later on, come up with an alternative that keeps us happy”. That’s your solution?

    And how does that work?

    Perhaps a fleg version of Dragon’s Den? We can have Jamie Bryson, Ruth Patterson and Christopher Stalford sitting in an abondoned warehouse somewhere, then we can get the fenians to come in and pitch some ideas to them. Because that’s the natural order of things, isn’t it? It’s Nationalists that have to do all the legwork.

    You could easily flip that on its head and ask why unionists can’t respect Belfast Council’s decision until such time as they can think up an alternative that won’t upset nationalists. I would suggest that the demographic trajectory is such that unionists might be wise to start making some platitudes.

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  68. Submariner (profile) says:

    And I am just putting it out there, I can assure you I am not in a cul-de-sac in fact I am in the market for new ideas and compromise.

    @DC No you are not for compromise.Compromise was designated days as democratically decided by Belfast city council, a compromise that brought out the knuckle dragger’s and terrorist supporters to wreck and destroy and spew their hate and bigotry on social media for all to see. You and the rest of the flegger fraternity will have to learn that the days of ramming your supremacist crap down the throats of your fellow citizens are gone. Unionists no longer have the numbers in electable positions to do anything other than compromise with Nationalists and i can assure you that compromise looks nothing like your flegger fantasy.

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  69. DC (profile) says:

    Perhaps a fleg version of Dragon’s Den?

    No just that the Union flag is left up designated days and nationalist politicians can come up with something culturally catholic and nationalist that could be flown 365 days apart from the Irish tricolour which is a bit too political and ideological for the circumstances and inappropriate – going by Haass.

    That’s all.

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  70. sherdy (profile) says:

    DC, – You don’t seem to realise that your union jack is also a ‘bit too political and ideological for the circumstances and inappropriate’ for nationalists/republicans.

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  71. redstar2011 (profile) says:

    DC you seem to epitomise the loyalist/unionist who has to be dragged kicking and screaming every inch of the way to accepting its fair shares all round from now on.

    No exceptions or indeed dispensations for bigoted flag flying at BCC or anywhere else.

    Frankly if I were a realist unionist I would get in while the goings good and jump at designated days as it aint gonna get any better than that

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  72. DC (profile) says:

    The vast majority voted in favour of the GFA i.e. accepting NI’s constitutional position, which at the very least should ensure that designated days is respected across all councils along with other flags deemed suitable, appropriate and relevant which going by Haass doesn’t include the tricolour.

    With there being a live living union the Union flag does at least seem to be appropriate and relevant in the circumstances. However, if there is a united Ireland then please Trickler me 365 because fair’s fair.

    But in the meantime please afford those that backed the GFA a bit of enjoyment of UK membership by respecting the existing constitutional culture and implementing designated days across all councils in NI.

    As if there is change and a united Ireland, I assure you I will do likewise and respect that. Fair’s fair.

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  73. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “DC, – You don’t seem to realise that your union jack is also a ‘bit too political and ideological for the circumstances and inappropriate’ for nationalists/republicans.”

    @Sherdy,

    Maybe that is because those republicans still haven’t reconciled themselves to the fact that under the GFA NI remains part of the UK until such time as they can muster a majority in a referendum to change this. Under the GFA official bodies will have emblems that are neutral or balanced such as the mixture of symbols in the PSNI’s badge. But the flag flown over official buildings reflects the sovereignty of a territory, which is indivisible. If republicans want loyalists to play nicely in a united Ireland they should start by setting an example now.

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  74. sherdy (profile) says:

    tmitch – If a union jack is obnoxious to myself and other like-minded people, it doesn’t matter what laws are passed. You can’t legislate something like a butcher’s apron to be acceptable or obnoxious.

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  75. DC (profile) says:

    ^Bigotry.

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  76. Greenflag (profile) says:

    DC ,

    “Well that bargaining position is not legitimate any more as Haass has ruled out the tricolour in any form and both parties will have to come to terms with that.”

    Mr Haas isn’t Irish . Do you seriously believe that Irish people i.e the 85-90% of the population on this island are going to allow /permit an American or anybody else to decide what is legitimate or not as regards the Irish national flag?

    Two flags or none is fair enough . The current temporary NI State needs 90% plus support from it’s citizens if it is to survive for any length of time and one way to ensure that is to have most of the citizens identify with both flags . Unionists will just have to get over their abhorrence of the Tricolour and ditto for the Republicans/Nationalists as regards the Union Jack .

    .

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  77. IrelandNorth (profile) says:

    Fly both flags alternately or fly neither flag at all. Or fly the Saint Patrick’s saltire (SPS) solo 365/12 if need be. In the context of a constitutional compromise in the “Counties of Contention” (Kiely, 1946/2002), it’s possible to envisage a redesigned Irish tricolour (ITC) incorporating the SPS into its white segment, horizontally or vertically, between the green and tangerine segments. I don’t intuit great resistance to flying the existing SPS across the rest of Ireland for a little goodwilled reciprocity on flying the ITC in N Ireland/Ulster (NI/U). Or Ulster/N Ireland (U/NI) for that matter.

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