Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Haass – Larkin unrepentant, Allister is on the attack, but where oh where is the DUP critique?

Fri 3 January 2014, 5:47pm

Now hold on, the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.  Inevitably most early reaction to Haaas is about the overall political verdict without going  much into detail. And you know how we can’t be bothered  to go into detail if we can stick  it into them instead.

But hush!  Jim Allister QC has spoken. People tend to overawed by Jim’s legal expertise. But lawyers are advocates – even when they’re not self -interested  politicians –  and so should be taken with a pinch of salt. Jim naturally assumes the worst and sees political bias where there is not malevolence. Well, you can’t legislate for sentiment. He even objects that politicians should support the law even where they disagree with it – an odd stance for one of Her Majesty’s Counsel. He refuses to take comfort in a stronger rights- based approach to parades, select commemorations and protests which asserts the right to parade and provides for a recourse to the old favourite of judicial review when all else fails. On prosecutions for past crimes Jim deprives us of the benefit of his own expert estimate of the likelihood of these succeeding.

Is there too much political involvement in the proposed new bodies?  Good question, Jim!

On parades, the chair of the Authority for Public Events would be appointed by the NI Judicial Appointments Commission ( NIJAC . Chair: the Lord Chief Justice) and others appointed on merit along trusted and tested lines.

Jim may have a point when he says the key Implementation and Reconciliation Group  may be too front loaded with politicians, even with  the representative selection prescribed. Implementation would of course be basic Executive policy so politicians could hardly be eliminated. But they might be better to follow the Policing Board model  of lay chair and vice chair over a political majority.

Myself I’m stumped to identify half- rational unionist objections

Kicking flags into touch is hardly a reason for breakdown.

A hierarchy of victims?  Jeffrey Donaldson we know is a rhetorical hardliner on that but how can remedial help be denied to anyone whether called victims or not? You’d have thought wouldn’t you  that people committed to putting victims first on any definition would have settled this years ago. Perish the thought that victims are a political football.

Details may start to matter for any unionists and others keen to make progress.

For instance In the proposed outline of a new rights- based parades code, “he avoidance of paramilitary-style clothing at all times during an event” affects former IRA as well as the continuity and real factions and loyalists.  So no berets and dark specs at commemorations and  the inevitable spate of funerals for old warriors who die peacefully in bed?

In the proposals on the past, powers weren’t included  to compel witnesses under penalty which were thought to be skewed against former police officers. This ought to reduce the credibility of the cry of  “one sided justice.”

Objections to an amnesty have  been neatly finessed.  While the proposed  Historical Investigations Unit may review cases and send them to the PPS, anyone wanting to give information to “information retrieval” can do so without an effective  threat of prosecution through  self-incrimination.

There is one fundamental difference with the GFA when nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. Haass is not an interlocking package. Before we bury ourselves in cynicism completely, the onus is on the DUP to state their specific objections and tell us what if anything can proceed.

Hush again.  Jim Allister’s professional leader John Larkin the Attorney General  is unrepentant over his limited immunity call despite the torrent of criticism from politicians.  In reply he even insists that politics is a “ noble” profession.

 Mr Larkin admitted that “views will vary as to the extent to which greater truth is likely” from those who killed even if they are given immunity from prosecution but that it could “create a climate where the truth may be possible to an extent to which it is not possible currently”.

He added: “I firmly believe in the existence of objective truth. I think the problem comes in trying to discover it. It’s not that there are several truths; there is one truth but there are varying perceptions of it.”

*  You can hear John Larkin in the slightly surprising vehicle of Country Ceili on Downtown Radio on Friday (03/01/14) at 9pm

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Comments (39)

  1. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    “Before we bury ourselves in cynicism completely, the onus is on the DUP to state their specific objections and tell us what if anything can proceed.”

    The DUP did something like this in the run-up to the St Andrews negotiations. We may have a new “St Andrews” and “Hillsborough” style summit; presumably there is a need for HMG to OKAY the cost implications. Presumably the DUP will play the same card that it did on policing and justice: this is about getting the detail right, and about making sure local people don’t foot all the financial cost. Hence the need to bring in HMG to negotiations. Irish Government may also be asked to help financially (though they are not in a position to contribute much), and as some of the historical issues relate to IRL government agencies it will have a legitimate interest.

    So I expect the DUP to have a rather technical and practical set of concerns and proposals.

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  2. Having to kick flags into touch is the major breakdown.

    Flags and emblems have been sorted in the workplace. This was thought to be impossible in the 70s, but the success of Fair Employment is now taken for granted.

    We can learn from the resolute implementation of well thought through policy.

    https://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/learn-from-the-success-of-fair-employment/

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  3. sherdy (profile) says:

    Brian, – You ask where is the DUP critique.
    Could I suggest that Mervyn Gibson hasn’t written it yet!

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  4. redstar2011 (profile) says:

    Game, set match Sherdy!!!!!

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  5. cynic2 (profile) says:

    “I firmly believe in the existence of objective truth”

    ….. an odd statement from someone with such a strong religious faith.

    So was the earth formed in 4004 BC or not?

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  6. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Bravo, sherdy. People vote for these goons to represent them, and then the goons pull in Mervyn Gibson as a negotiator. I can think of no worse insult to the whole electorate. It keeps me awake at night that Richard and Meghan may see MG as representing you and me in any degree. Let us nominate Chumley the Walrus to represent us in the next round of negotiations.

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  7. Barney (profile) says:

    Does Mervyn Gibson represent the views of the average DUP voter?

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  8. David Crookes (profile) says:

    If he does I’m going back to Greenland to get a job in the new mines.

    But think of it seriously. Imagine if the SDLP wheeled in the Papal Nuncio and Trish Stratus and the Dalai Lama and Delvene Delaney and the head of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Every pecking hen in the unionist coop would be away up in the rafters.

    The presence of MG at the R&M talks represents loyalism against democracy. I didn’t vote for MG, and neither did anyone else, so any draft document to which he contributed is of less value than page 3 of the Beano.

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  9. Nevin (profile) says:

    “I didn’t vote for MG, and neither did anyone else, so any draft document to which he contributed is of less value than page 3 of the Beano.” .. David Crookes

    I’ve just had a look at Mervyn’s tweets and spotted this:

    Mervyn Gibson ‏@mervgib 1 Jan

    @DarrenNI @Chrisryder47 I don’t see being asked be part of talks team as having priority over anyone. 3 of 5 parties chose non elected reps

    They were Mervyn Gibson, Sean ‘Spike’ Murray and Jeff Dudgeon. BBC source

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  10. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Nevin. What I said about MG goes for any unelected person. We have more than a hundred MLAs in Stormont. If they can’t handle negotiations, why are they there?

    It represents the merest corollary to add that if the three persons whom you name want to affect the governance of NI, they should stand for election to the assembly.

    The democratic process must be vampirized neither by quangoistic academics and goodie-goodies on the one hand, nor by presumedly important stake-holders on the other.

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  11. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Mr Crookes

    “The democratic process must be vampirized neither by quangoistic academics and goodie-goodies on the one hand, nor by presumedly important stake-holders on the other.”

    This statement seems at odds with your support for the Irish Senate.

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  12. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Charles, like nearly every supporter of the Seanad, I favour its reform. But let us leave personalia and return to the subject of NI.

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Anybody read Brian’s post, or did someone just declare that this is ‘kick your favourite villain time’?

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  14. Raymonds Back (profile) says:

    The sticking point for unionists comes early in the document where it states that they have to abide by the new parades body’s decision, even when they do not agree with it, and also that they have to tell everyone else to support it too. So, they cannot pretend to play to the Twadell Avenue mob, and I am sorry to say that no unionist party has enough leadership in it to state that they are not going to let a mob dictate their policy … especially around the 12th fortnight.

    On a lighter note, I was reading this recently in an interview with a physicist about the nature of time – perhaps Haass and OSullivan should have included a physicist in their team to explain to dunderheads the immutability of the past?

    “… Because [if you travelled to the past] what you think of as your future is in the universe’s past. So it can’t be one in the same everywhere. And that’s not incompatible with the laws of physics, but it’s very incompatible with our everyday experience, where we can make choices that affect the future, but we cannot make choices that affect the past.”

    That’s the Past sorted then … now for flegs and parades. :):)

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  15. David Crookes (profile) says:

    “…..no unionist party has enough leadership in it to state that they are not going to let a mob dictate their policy…..”

    That is our biggest problem in a nutshell, RB, many thanks.

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  16. Greenflag (profile) says:

    “but it’s very incompatible with our everyday experience, where we can make choices that affect the future, but we cannot make choices that affect the past.”

    Alas NI politics does not do physics other than obey Newton’s Third Law -with local modification.

    Universal version :

    “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction ”

    NI version:

    For every action there is often a more equal and more opposite reaction which ramps up even more unequal and even more opposite reaction until finally political inertia takes over and theres a new big bang and the NI universe begins again more equal and more opposite than before and so on ad infinitum .

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  17. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ RB,

    ”but we cannot make choices that affect the past.”

    True in theory and fact but thats not whats at issue here .
    It’s the ‘interpretation ‘ of the past .As we know from history the official ‘interpretation ‘ of the past becomes the conventional history of the present and future .

    Poor King Canute is remembered as a ‘dunderhead ‘ for attempting to persuade the sea to roll back it’s waves and not dampen his toes .

    What’s forgotten is that he was merely demonstrating the fact that there is a limit to the power of any KIng however mighty .

    As I write a new history of the recent past of North Korea is underway . This will provide no doubt full justification for the official State murder of the Dictator’s uncle .

    The USSR revised it’s official past every time a new President was appointed .

    And so it goes .

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  18. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Anybody read Brian’s post,

    Yes and some home truths there with which I’m sure most will agree .

    ‘Myself I’m stumped to identify half- rational unionist objections’

    Yep me too.

    ‘Kicking flags into touch is hardly a reason for breakdown.’

    The further into touch they kick them the better .

    “A hierarchy of victims? Jeffrey Donaldson we know is a rhetorical hardliner on that but how can remedial help be denied to anyone whether called victims or not?’

    It’s easy if one is a DUP – No is all it takes .

    “You’d have thought wouldn’t you that people committed to putting victims first on any definition would have settled this years ago.”

    Anywhere else perhaps but not in Northern Ireland .The universe operates differently there .

    ‘ Perish the thought that victims are a political football.’

    No longer a thought I’m afraid – They’ve become the staff of life (political ) for all sides and parties .

    “he avoidance of paramilitary-style clothing at all times during an event” affects former IRA as well as the continuity and real factions and loyalists.”

    Good idea but even better to abolish all parades including OO & AOH & St Patricks for a decade and thereafter all parade committees made apply and accept full liability for any and all public damage done to property and individuals as a result of said parade with organisers and signatories facing a minimum 5 year jail time for non compliance.

    ” the onus is on the DUP to state their specific objections and tell us what if anything can proceed.”

    After the next election perhaps .

    ‘ In reply he ( AG Larkin even insists that politics is a “ noble” profession.)

    Never was and never will be – A necessary profession I’d have said and particularly so in Northern Ireland where without the ‘rotten sod’s’ the population would long since have descended into an greater abyss than they already have .

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  19. David Crookes[11.17] I pointed out to the LAD group over on twitter a while back that their moniker ‘Loyalists Against Democracy’ lets the DUP/UUP/TUV off the hook by implying it’s only loyalists against democracy. They’re all agin it, but Robbo et al have spurious pretentions to being democrats, but their history tells us otherwise.Happy New Year by the way.

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  20. David Crookes (profile) says:

    GF: “…..abolish all parades…..for a decade”. Yes! People might start to read books.

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  21. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Bless you,, Daniel, and happy new year to you and your loved ones as well. Yes. They all appear to be against it.

    Followeth a message for our MLAs. Please afflict us with no more special interest delegates, no more stakeholders, and no more quangocrats. We elected one hundred and eight of you. You are all very well paid. Start running this incredibly small country. Do something useful. Instead of destroying our hospitals piecemeal, add a second storey to the RVH car-park, now. Stop worrying about bringing ‘closure’ to people who have suffered in the past. (People will suffer in the future if you insist on bringing closure to A&E units.) To our unionist MLAS: stop letting a minoritarian mob of lawbreakers tell you what to do. Stand up to the mob, and most people will back you. If you don’t, many law-abiding unionists are going to vote for the SDLP at the next election.

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  22. Am Ghobsmacht (profile) says:

    Danielsmoran

    “I pointed out to the LAD group over on twitter a while back that their moniker ‘Loyalists Against Democracy’ lets the DUP/UUP/TUV off the hook by implying it’s only loyalists against democracy”

    Admittedly this is probably worthy of a different thread so I’ll keep it brief (sorry Mick!) but when does one cease to be a Unionist and instead become a loyalist?

    There is definitely room for similar confusion with Sinn Fein’s version of Nationalistic-republican-nationalism (or whatever) but I still find the difference between a nationalist and a republican more clear cut.
    Not so with Unionism and loyalism.
    Surely Dodds would be a Loyalist?

    And if not, why not?

    Paisley was surely the figurehead of Loyalism at one point?

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  23. sherdy (profile) says:

    David, – People might start to read books.
    That could be dangerous. There would then be the risk of voters being educated and thinking about whom they vote for and why.
    Democracy as we know it could come to an end.

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  24. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    The Americans are agreed on flags, but not on healthcare. We are agreed on healthcare, but not on flags. Healthcare is much more important, so why don’t we send an emissary to get them to come to an agreement?

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  25. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Regarding the decision to include Gibson in the talks team, this was obviously a strategic ploy, and quite a logical one.

    It allows Robinson to show to the Orange Order that he is acting in their interests by putting one of their own people in front of the deal (alongside Jeffrey Donaldson, himself an OO figure). In the event that a deal had been agreed, Gibson and the rest of the OO would have a great deal of difficulty opposing any of the outcome from it.

    Of course, the flipside of that is that the OO are physically incapable of actually signing up to any kind of deal. Hence the outcome that we just got.

    I imagine the decision to include “Spike” Murray was some sort of a counter to the decision to include Gibson. Jeffrey Dudgeon is a historian with many decades of experience working for and with unionist politicians of various colours. I can see why they picked him – the UUP assembly group simply doesn’t have anyone with that depth of knowledge or background.

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  26. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Indeed, sherdy, and they might even be enabled by reading to draw such analogous parallels as would help them to answer AG’s question about being a unionist and being a loyalist.

    Can you be both? Yes! Here is a sister-set of facts from another corner of the universe.

    All freemasons are obliged to believe in a deity. Now, then. A certain university contains two masonic lodges — one for the big men, and one for the little boys. Several atheistic members of the university staff display their commitment to the craft by belonging to both lodges. Ordinary decent masons, who are chiefly interested in history, in ritual, and in honest charitable work, are right to deplore the naked careerism of university masons. There is nothing that some academics will not do to advance their own careers.

    The unionist-loyalist thing is similar. It’s all about career. It’s not about what you truly believe. A long time ago, on the 12th of July, an OUP-and-Orange-Order friend of mine was standing beside Phelim O’Neill as was (cabinet minister in the old Stormont) while a parade went past. ‘It’s wonderful to see so many men dedicated to the Order,’ may friend remarked. ‘Don’t talk a lot of pecking nonsense,’ Phelim replied approximately. ‘You and I are only in this stupid thing because we have to be.’

    More than a few unionist politicians are quite happy to know that the mob-card is alive and well in the Community Chest.

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  27. sherdy (profile) says:

    David, – I think you are quite comparing the masons with the OO, not that I have any inside knowledge of either body.
    But over my working life it was always clear to me that non-membership denied me access to certain jobs and promotions.
    And Phelim O’Neill’s attitude was very common among those I knew to be members.
    Did I resent the loss? Yes, but my family and I never starved without it. No supers, you might say.

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  28. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, sherdy. What not everyone realizes is that the old Unionist regime discriminated to some extent against Protestants who weren’t members of the OO. I’m talking about the days when even Judge Curran was ‘a leading Orangeman’ (they’re always ‘leading’, don’t ask me why), when the masonic order was specifically named and excepted in Stormont legislation applying to secret societies, and when JPs were handed out like Dolly Mixtures to ordinary loyal members of the party. In those days the OO was cynically used as a cement to bind the aristocracy, the middle class, and the working class together.

    But now lawless elements of loyalism are being used as a wild card by politicians who see a UI in the future, and imagine that they can escape from it it by going not quietly, etc., and by paring their intractable wee country down to size. Again. The TUV tell us that if they succeed in overthrowing the GFA institutions, “Britain will have to…” They know very well that whatever Britain does will weaken rather than strengthen the union, and that in any case civil disorder will return.

    Loyalism doesn’t want our institutions to bed down and become acceptable to all. Loyalism wants chaos, because it has chaos in its heart. Look at the last year if you don’t believe me. There are some people who would be glad if the Troubles started up again.

    I don’t know why the TUV critique is getting so much attention when the TUV have one out of a hundred and eight MLAs. I do know why the DUP have failed to enunciate a clear policy in the course of the last few days. They don’t dare to tell us what their policy is.

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  29. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ David Crooks,

    ‘All freemasons are obliged to believe in a deity”

    Several atheistic members of the university staff display their commitment to the craft by belonging to both lodges.

    Are the above two quotes from your post not contradictory ?

    Your above comment re the freemasons reminds me of the definition of an Irish Athiest – i.e Somebody who wishes to God they could believe in a God ;)

    What you are suggesting above is that certain academicians and others of course will join the freemasons or SF or the DUP or in order to further their personal interests even if they are non believers in the creed /doctrine /party etc .This is a ‘universal ‘phenomenon not confined to Northern Ireland .

    Some Freemasons take the obligation to believe in a deity seriously enough to reject applications from those who cannot believe in a Deity . I recall one individual elsewhere on the globe who somehow picked up the belief that Freemasons were atheists -And when asked as part of his induction ‘Did he believe in a Supreme being ‘ he replied No ‘

    His application was rejected .Embarrassment all round I was told . In the end he joined the Rotarians another ‘drinking’ club . Still the Freemasons and Rotarians and other Orders do good community service work otherwise . They just need to keep out of politics other than as individual citizens

    Perhaps the Freemasons have relaxed their entry requirements these days in NI ;) ?

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  30. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Greenflag. Yes, freemasons do a lot of very good work. There is indeed a contradiction between the order’s theistic constitution and the atheism of those who join the order in the hope of advancement. But in the world of careerism that kind of anomaly is universal, as you point out.

    Let me refine my last post. Some unionist politicians play a loyalist card in order to get elected. They worry me less than the ones who are unreconstructed loyalists in their hearts (complete with fringe benefits like support for lawlessness). I can’t understand the iron-and-clay syncretistic mixture of Biblical Christianity and loyalism that is prepared to break the law, but I find that mixture rooted and stablished in people’s hearts wherever I go in NI. Some of its votaries make a fetish out of anti-New-Testament sabbatarianism, and then ignore Romans 13 altogether.

    Pick-n-mix religion. Should we blame Woolworths?

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  31. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    Mr Crookes,

    Comrade Stalin has kindly explained why non elected people were included. I refer you to his post above.

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  32. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Thanks, Charles.

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  33. Greenflag (profile) says:

    ” I can’t understand the iron-and-clay syncretistic mixture of Biblical Chri”stianity and loyalism that is prepared to break the law, but I find that mixture rooted and established in people’s hearts wherever I go in NI”.

    Neither can I but I think understand where they are coming from . The same place as many traditional Irish Roman Catholics came form a century or more ago where ‘fear ‘ of the clergy was a subset of the fear of God . Where eternal hell fire awaited any who crossed the threshold of a Protestant Church etc etc :(

    For some Biblical Christians their God is an angry God alas . Perhaps they are the lost tribe of Israel ;) .The precedent is there .The ancient Jews were promised the lands and flocks of other people by their angry God who commanded them to murder , kill and rape enslave and exterminate the Amalekites and the Midianites among others .
    And then in Exodus 32:27:28 Moses summons his Levites and says
    The Lord God of Israel saith put every man his sword by his side , and go and out from gate to gate through the camp , and slay every man his brother , and evry man his companion and evry man his neighbour .And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men .

    In comparison to the above -Loyalists can be seen as a bunch of wimps .

    Seems to me that Moses if he were around today would certainly be on a charge of mass murder at the International Court of Human Justice at the Hague , Netherlands . Any plea that God made him do it would be received with the same amount of understanding that Adolf Eichman got when he said he was just following orders .

    But then I never did understand Biblical Christianity i.e the angry God version .

    I’m afraid for many of the ilk -it’s just a convenient cloak to wear which absolves them from hating or committing worse against the other ditto for the denizens of the Middle East and their unenlightened beliefs :(

    ‘Pick-n-mix religion.’

    I can’t comment as I made my choice of none many moons ago

    Should we blame Woolworths?

    Hardly -the fault lies within our selves and we can only fix those faults if we want to . Many choose not to want to .Life is easier that way -at least in the short term .

    F

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  34. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Indeed I was pointing out why I think non-elected people were included but not, of course, my agreement with this concept.

    I don’t personally think that anyone who is non-elected should have a say in the future of this country at all. It is a damning indictment of our politicians that they do; the authority bequeathed by the electorate mandate is being ceded to the streets and, not least, people like Winkie Irvine.

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  35. DC (profile) says:

    ‘people like Winkie Irvine’

    What are people such as Winkie Irvine like, Comrade?

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  36. Bishops Finger (profile) says:

    OMG, DC, Have you not heard? Are you comatose?

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  37. DC (profile) says:

    Well I saw some stuff in the Sunday World, it appeared that that paper was trying to stamp all over him just while he’s undergoing a sort of chrysalis, he’s a man in transition doing his best to keep things together on the conflict transformation front.

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  38. tmitch57 (profile) says:

    “The USSR revised it’s official past every time a new President was appointed .”

    @Greenflag,
    In the USSR the presidency was a ceremonial post, it was the leadership of the Communist Party that was the important post.

    “I don’t personally think that anyone who is non-elected should have a say in the future of this country at all. It is a damning indictment of our politicians that they do;”

    @CS,

    Why not? The delegates are answerable to the parties, whether they are elected or not, and the parties are answerable to the electorate. What is much more important in the operations of the government is the degree of transparency. Imagine if the Parades Commission were to consist of representatives of all the main parties–they would grandstand and few decisions would actually be made. Instead the Parades Commission can set up a technical objective criterion in making decisions and apply it to parades. The parties all knew this when they agreed to the Parades Commission. This way Sinn Fein doesn’t have to do the bidding of the residents’ groups and DUP and UUP do the bidding of the OO and Apprentice Boys in every parade discussion. Yet they can each grandstand on a few controversial decisions post facto.

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  39. D.A. (profile) says:

    As a followup to my questioning of MG on Twitter (yes, that’s me): I managed to drag out of MG that he wasn’t actually a member of the DUP – what about the other non-elected reps at the talks? Were they members of the parties on whose behalf they were negotiating?

    I’m still trying to get an answer from MG as to whether or not the Kirk Session (the ruling elders) of his congregation in East Belfast approved him taking so much time off from the role for which they pay his salary, but he doesn’t seem to be very forthcoming on that so far…

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