Anna Lo, and the Myth that Northern Ireland Politics is about the Border

11 views

I very much doubt Anna Lo’s Irish News interview was in the Alliance Party’s 2014 elections gameplan. While almost all members of the party will remain loyal to her in public, I have equally little doubt that a number are privately fuming. Even some of them will have little problem with what she said, rather with its timing two months before local elections and little over a year before Naomi Long has to defend East Belfast. Others will regard it as a genuinely positive step, creating space for Alliance to expand beyond Belfast suburbia.

All political parties have internal ideological faultlines. Nearly twenty years ago, Nicholas Whyte identified Alliance’s primary faultline as being between the Liberal Unionists and the Liberal Liberals. I think that was spot on back then, although there were always a few Liberal Nationalists in Alliance – remember that one of Alliance’s first Stormont representatives was the Tyrone Nationalist MP Tom Gormley.

That number has unquestionably grown over the past decade, as two issues have ceased to be live political subjects. Firstly, and ironically, the border is a dead issue for the time being – Northern Ireland is unlikely to leave the Union in the next generation, as Lo herself acknowledged, and both Nationalist parties are signed up to the Principle of Consent, backed by almost universal support from Nationalists in the 1998 Referendum.  Secondly, core areas of historic Nationalist grievance – housing, employment discrimination and differential education funding – have been dealt with and receded from public consciousness even as significant communal socio-economic differentials remain.

David Ford’s view that Northern Ireland is better off in the Union reflects the view of a majority of the party’s membership; some of those would describe themselves as proud to be British, for others it’s simply a matter of practicalities. A much smaller number would vote for a United Ireland in a border poll and third group, somewhere in size between the definitely pro-Union and pro-Unity blocs, is genuinely agnostic. I can’t think of any member of Alliance who believes that Northern Ireland’s deepest problems would be solved by getting rid of the border. I can’t think of any Alliance member born in Northern Ireland who doesn’t consider themselves Irish – part of Alliance’s core constituency is that bit of Northern Irish society which thinks of itself as quite definitely Irish and British. And, here’s the bit where people outside Alliance won’t believe me: I can’t remember any of this ever being a problem within the Party. Alliance has spent too long hiding its internal diversity.

While the timing of Lo’s comments is arguably inopportune – and the only honest answer to whether they will damage Alliance electorally is “we’ll see soon enough” – the genie is now out of the bottle, and David Ford’s News Letter interview was the first response to a reality which has long existed but has only now been publicly acknowledged. Alliance is a cross-community party, whose core objective is to ameliorate and ultimately end Northern Ireland’s status as a deeply divided society, rather than to maintain the Union. Alliance’s central constitutional tenet is the Principle of Consent rather than a particular outcome on sovereignty.

All this begs another question which isn’t being asked. What are the other main Northern Ireland political parties actually there for? Nominally, both Unionist parties’ cardinal objective is to maintain the Union, while the SDLP and especially Sinn Féin exist primarily to end the Union and remove the border. I think it’s important to spell the obvious out, because judged on how successful they are in achieving their primary objectives, all four of those parties are abject failures.

Over the 92 years of Northern Ireland’s existence, how many people who had hitherto been Nationalists had been persuaded that they were better off in the Union by the political representatives of Unionism? I rest my case.

The performance of Nationalist parties in persuading Prods of the benefits of a United Ireland is even more abject – they can’t even persuade Nationalists to back the idea. In every piece of opinion research ever carried out, significant number SDLP and Sinn Féin say they’ll vote for the Union in a border poll.

Not only that, but Nationalist parties have failed to take a single concrete step towards making the island of Ireland function as a more coherent economic, political or cultural unit. Cross-border bodies with executive powers have been in operation for 12 of the past 16 years. It’s difficult to think of anything important that’s happened as a result. Cross-border food safety adverts don’t count as important.

Cross-border bodies were flagged up by Nationalists as a major gain from the Good Friday Agreement and were long feared by Unionists. They have turned out to be a major damp squib. Ironically, the most significant use of cross-border Ministerial relationships has probably emerged from David Ford’s tenure as Minister of Justice.

The post-GFA period has seen a steady increase in disinterest towards the North, and even fear of it, in the Republic. It is jarring to encounter Dubs visiting Belfast referring who how things work ‘in Ireland’. Sinn Féin supporters will point to their emergence as a real electoral presence in the Republic, but that is a double-edged sword: the party’s higher profile has coincided with a period when they are heavily invested in trying to legitimise the IRA’s war, reinforcing the perception of Northern Ireland as somewhere scary and foreign. Despite the most favourable circumstances imaginable for a breakthrough, Sinn Féin’s support seems to have plateaued at a level far short of that needed to put the North on the Republic’s political agenda.

Political Nationalism’s attempts to create the conditions for national unity seems to be confined to councils putting up bilingual signage and taking down flags.

Meanwhile, Unionism is equally mired in issues around the public expressions of identity. Outside an NI21 experiment which may yet be stillborn, Unionist politicians still universally fear being cast as Lundies. Increasingly, the Union is dependent on the votes of people who don’t see themselves as British and lean towards Irishness culturally. Unionist politicians seem determined to alienate them. There is no display of misbehaviour at a Loyal Orders or band parade, for example, so childish or obnoxious that a Unionist politician will criticise it.

Unionism, by definition, needs Northern Ireland to work. It therefore needs devolution to work, which it clearly isn’t, and it needs normality. 2014 Northern Ireland probably has no greater symbol of its abnormality than Camp Twaddell. Camp Twaddell is all about displaying Loyalist paramilitary power, and Unionist politicians remain committed to working constructively with Loyalist paramilitaries on issues of mutual concern. Northern Ireland isn’t an integral part of the Union, but a peripheral basket-case where gun-toting hoodlums are cow-towed to by politicians in a way that would have embarrassed Bettino Craxi and simply would not be tolerated in any part of Great Britain.

The reality is that Northern Ireland politics isn’t about the border at all. Every piece of opinion research ever carried out in Northern Ireland has found significant numbers of SDLP and Sinn Féin voters in favour of the constitutional status quo. Why do they vote for Nationalist parties? Because they’re well aware that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is not going to change soon, and they are interested either in advancing the Nationalist community’s position within NI or simply find political Unionism hostile and sectarian.

The four traditional main parties exist not to advance a particular constitutional position but to defend communal interests. With the honourable exception of the SDLP, they are also mired to the oxters in paramilitarism past and/or present. All four will alienate potential supporters for their preferred constitutional position for the sake of looking macho on identity issues. Northern Ireland’s politics aren’t about the Union and the border, for these will likely be with us for most people living’s lifetimes, but tribalism.

The only serious threat to the Union is the tribalism of Unionist politics, a tribalism so toxic that otherwise law-abiding men and women will work closely with gangsters when the tribe’s symbols of identity are perceived to be under threat.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Gerry, I couldn’t have put it better. If we all would just admit that the troubles were an ethnic conflict, we’d be so much closer to finding a solution. You can’t cure the disease if you haven’t diagnosed it properly.

  • http://nwhyte.livejournal.com Nicholas Whyte

    Gosh, did I really say that? You were listening to me more carefully than I was!!! Needless to say, I stand by every word.

    I don’t know Anna Lo at all – her involvement with Alliance began long after I left NI – but I agree that this was not some Machiavellian plan to carve into the Nationalist parties’ vote. Rather it’s an intelligent woman, not from Northern Ireland, thinking out loud, a little too audibly, about how she got there, and where we all might eventually end up.

    The Unionist reaction in itself will certainly shore up the Alliance core vote, most of whom can see the absurdity of attempting to Lundify an Asian. Having been out of the place for a while, working on other conflicts, I can confirm that nobody else much cares about the local squabble. Perhaps it hurts to hear the sacred quarrel treated with contempt; but that is all it is worth.

  • JH

    I really resent the common use of the term ‘Nationalist’ to refer to someone who would vote for a united Ireland; it’s presumptuous and insulting.

    In that sense I can share a bit of Anna Lo’s frustration.

    Given a choice I’d vote for a united Ireland. Not because I yearn for the day of impassioned reunion. Because if we could solve all of our differences tomorrow our prospects within the UK would be average at best.

    In that sense Alliance are starting to sound like an interesting proposition. It all hinges on what they do next. Will they snuff this out because Lo’s views are inconvenient? Or will they nurture this as a defining example of what makes them unique.

  • Politico68

    Very nicely written piece but incredibly empty considering the amount of words and clear academic talent behind the pen.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Let’s just say Anna Lo was naive and caused her party a major headache and in particular Naomi Long. Alliance has always been a pretence since 1970. A hiding of the elephant in the room. I thought the party should have had Bob Cooper as it’s leader, as Napier was seen in nationalists circles as a token, a hostage to fortune and a veil much as Paul Clarke is at UTV, a cuckoo in the nest, a pretence by UTV that they’re neutral when they’re anything but. UTV are, like the BBC utterly unionist through and through.

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

    Gerry,
    Very good post! You probably don’t remember me, but I interviewed you back in September 1998 when I was doing research for my first book. I think that Stephen Farry suggested that I talk to you. I remember you explained to me why Alliance couldn’t just market itself as a unionist party with a difference (like having chosen two Catholics as party leaders in the past). You told me that you thought such a move would end up costing the party many more votes from its core of “other” members than it would gain from soft unionists.

    You, or Nicholas Whyte, seem to have confirmed my suspicions about the Lo interview. After having interviewed a number of Alliance leaders I came away with the impression that they were much more spontaneous and natural than your ordinary politician who is trained to stay on message and not reveal anything that might be damaging.

  • boondock

    There are several reports of many Alliance members fuming at Anna Lo and Geraldine Rice even went public.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-26704950

    It seems a liitle strange for an agnostic party to be ok to be seen as Unionist but god forbid if someone mentions they would like a United Ireland.
    These fuming Alliance members might like to remember that after 40 years Alliance have failed to make a real electoral breakthrough so maybe its about time for a different approach. Apart from a couple of high points in the seventies the Alliance party has been stuck between 5-10% of the vote. Even when Naomi won her seat the overall Alliance vote was 6%. I hope Naomi can hold her seat but lets not forget she won it under exceptional circumstances. I dont think a future Unionist candidate will be carrying the baggage Robbo had in 2010. If she loses it wont be because of what Anna Lo said. It certainly has made the Euro election a little bit more interesting.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think Gerry Rice is fuming because she couldn’t get elected and Anna did.

    Daniel, if you think Alliance are a pretense then you don’t understand them. But this is a problem of “if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. You have to get your head around the idea that there are people who don’t spend much time thinking about constitutional issues and don’t care whether their friends and colleagues want a united Ireland or not. This is not some sort of fakery imposed for political purposes, it is real and it is what keeps a lot of people in Alliance where people know that they will not be considered an outsider for having a specific view.

  • Turgon

    Gerry Lynch makes some valid points. Politics in Northern Ireland is clearly fundamentally tribal. However, politics in many societies is highly tribal.

    Labour in the major industral and post industral cities of the midlands and north is tribal; in South Wales even more so. The Tories in the shire counties are tribal; the Liberal Democrats in parts of the south west.

    Turning to the USA it seems pretty tribal: though I have no expertise there. The white population of the south once solidly Democrat is now solidly Republican.

    Tribal is being used here as a derogatory term but in reality it more means voting along traditional lines.

    Alliance is also highly tribal. It is the tribe of the liberals who pretend they do not care if they are Prods or Taigs along with those who genuninely do not care. It is a largely middle class, middle of the road tribe based very largely within the Pale of the “nice” constituencies around Belfast with a little bit in solidly unionist middle class areas such as the Triangle around Coleraine / Portrush / Portstewart.

    Alliance is also the tribe of the “letsgetalongerist” though some of them have become disaffected by Alliance’s entering the executive. It is also the tribe of those who throughout the Troubles wanted to get posts on Quangos and the like. People such as Duncan Morrow are the high priests of that particular branch of the tribe.

    The tribal nature of Alliance is nowhere better demonstrated than by Gerry Lynch’s sneering contempt for the Twaddell protestors. They and unionists who have sympathy or support for them are assuredly not of Mr. Lynch’s tribe. He has no ambitions for his party to gain their votes.

    There is the problem for Alliance. They are a middle class middle of the road tribe. However, their support has largely been from what they identify as the “unionist tribe”. Their recent gains especially in East Belfast has been from those in the “unionist tribe” who are very similar to the Camp Twaddell groups Lynch so contemptously dismisses. Remember the ballot boxes of Dee Street.

    That creates a significant electoral problem for the future. The best strategy which is what Lynch is outlining here. That is to paint the unionist parties as more and more orange (pointing to Twaddell and highlighting its paramilitary connections as much as possible). That will hopefully hive off some liberal unionists to voting for Alliance. It does, however, leave the problem that Alliance which is heading gradually in a nationalist direction from unionist-lite is still attarcting most of its support from unionists.

    Lynch still has not squared that circle but his strategy is a sound one and he is to be commended as one of his tribes clear thinkers even if he no longer works for Alliance.

  • Morpheus

    No one has to paint the Unionist parties as Orange Turgon – it is a reality. OO membership makes up 2% of the population so statistically there should be 2, 3 at a push, in Stormont but 40% of those who voted against the Haass proposals are in the Loyal Orders – and those are just the ones who felt it important enough to include in their Register of Interest,unlike Poots and McCausland. 75% of our unionist MPs are members and who knows what influence they have when it comes to local council so no one needs to paint the Unionist parties as Orange because it is blindingly obvious.

    Except NI21. They are a pro-UK party which doesn’t have the stranglehold of the Loyal Orders around it’s neck. They could be the party that Catholics can vote for because the NILT tells us that only 1% of Catholics vote DUP/UUP combined. Take away the influence of the local Grand Master and Catholics will vote for a pro-UK party.

    On what do you base your assertion that Alliance is “heading gradually in a nationalist direction from unionist-lite”? Because of Anna Lo’s opinion? Surely not.

    Alliance have proven that they can attract both unionist and nationalists yet they are 100% committed to the GFA and the principle of consent. That will be attractive to the electorate who are fed up with the current set-up. In one fell swoop they have opened up their target market considerable. yes they will lose voters like Gopher who say they are middle of the road but are only concerned about their side of the road but they will gain on the other side what they lose for the simple fact that this is how things are in the real world – Catholics and Protestants just getting on with life and working together.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “Nationalist MP Tom Gormley”

    It is an interesting thing that Tyrone nationalists at one time often voted to elect a Liberal MP. I myself at one time got involved with the Alliance part and even did some going round door and trying to get people to vote for them.

    The current Alliance part is one driven by platitude and the idea it can all be fixed by policy. This is in stark contrast of both the sdlp and even more shockingly sf. This can be clearly seen by contrasting Derry/Londonerry and Belfast on the issue of flags and marching.

    The big event last year in Derry “British” city of Culture turned out to be one long year of “making the island of Ireland function as a more coherent economic, political or cultural unit”.

    Alliance in Belfast managed to turn their city into a major embarrassment. You may say that is harsh but the simple fact is Alliance equivocation on these issue all these years lead to the final outcome. For example I remember Alliance one saying how brave they had been to support the first catholic may for Belfast. This was extremely embarrassing as sf had been putting “protestants” up for that type of position one they got in a position to do so.

  • Mc Slaggart

    I did mean mayor not may in the last post.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Turgon

    “sneering contempt”?

    I re-read this article to see where you got that from and all I could find was this:

    ” 2014 Northern Ireland probably has no greater symbol of its abnormality than Camp Twaddell. Camp Twaddell is all about displaying Loyalist paramilitary power, and Unionist politicians remain committed to working constructively with Loyalist paramilitaries on issues of mutual concern. ”

    Hardly laden with contempt and reasonably accurate (I have to defer on the paramilitary power part as I’ve never been to Twaddell).

    And I agree with Morpheus with regards to painting the other parties Orange.

    If Alliance are doing that then they are applying the tiniest brush stroke of orange paint amongst a backdrop of paint explosions akin to that on the Sony Bravia advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cyoh7yyB2Ms

    “Over the 92 years of Northern Ireland’s existence, how many people who had hitherto been Nationalists had been persuaded that they were better off in the Union by the political representatives of Unionism?”

    Why are unionists so rubbish at proselytising nationalists?

    The case for the union is rather strong and we hear on this very site from people of a nationalist background how they could be tempted to go pro union if the unionist parties toned it down a bit.
    Could the blind eye they turn to marching misdemeanors, their attitude to flags, their on-off relationships with loyalists etc perhaps be off putting to nationalists?

    If so, then why embrace these aspects if they are clearly to the Union’s detriment?

    If the maintenance of the Union is primary then logically these trappings are secondary and thus expendable.

    Yet still the main unionist parties stick with them.

    Flags. Marches. Sharing platforms with paramilitary types. No flag for Northern Ireland. No new NI anthem.
    Just little Britain.

  • westprog

    The bizarre thing about Northern Ireland politics is that the issue of the border is effectively dead. Since all the major parties have agreed how the status of Northern Ireland can change, it doesn’t matter what any politician’s position is on the issue.

    Except that of course, it does – as a sectarian marker. The threat that Alliance pose – and have always posed – is of a non-sectarian Northern Ireland. That’s why the sectarian parties will always try to make the border an issue – when what they really mean is that Alliance won’t push the interests of one group exclusively. Or that they are “middle class”, as if the inability to get on with one’s neighbour were an essential component of working class values.

  • Turgon

    morpheus and Am Ghobsmacht,
    The unionist parties suppoort things like parades etc. because indeed they are fairly tribal. Gerry Lynch is exactly correct. Just as nationalism is tribal (SDLP and terrorist named play parks), Sinn Fein and all manner of things.

    The unionist parties may not be that good at proslytesing for votes but the concept of maintaince of the union seems as you yourselves observe so strong that despite the unionist parties’ failures it (the union and support for it) remains strong – at least according to the surveys which many of us take with a large pinch of salt.

    As such in a tribal society such as NI people vote with their tribe: unionist, nationalist, letsgetalongerist and the subdivisions with those tribes: PUP, TUV, DUP, UUP, NI21 (to be confirmed), Alliance, Green, SDLP, Sinn Fein, Dissident etc. (I am sure I have left some out). The tribal chieftians help them and dispense largess. That works as much for Alliance as anyone else though Alliance’s chieftians have less influence on largess than they used to have during the Troubles when the NIO gave Quango jobs to them and their hangers-on (step forth Mr. Morrow).

    Turning to your obsession with the Orange Order. Indeed many UUP and DUP politicians are Orange men (though neither leader is). NI21′s are not mainly as they only have two. The same actually applies to the TUV where Jim Allister is not an Ornageman though the idea that Orange Order leaders in a party makes them more tribal may fall down a bit there. In the past the UKUP also had a dearth of Orangemen but was far from a soft unionist party.

    The suggested importance of the Orange Order is interesting when at other times liberals and nationalists celebrate its fall in numbers. Previously the fact that at the last UUP leadership election no Orangeman was a candidate was seen as an example of its waning significance.

    As to Lynch’s contempt the attempt to make Twaddell synonymous with loyalist paramilitarism is exactly the point of the contempt. The alienation of those people espoecially working class women at the protest is a bit more complex than just about a parade and is not just suppport for paramilitarism.

    Alliance’s position is, as I said, potentially problematic in view of the fact that very similar people to the Twaddell protestors are major contributors to the fact that Ms. Long takes the plane to London to work.

    That brings us back to Alliance’s problem. They are a tribe and have gained recently by being supported by certain members of a different tribe.

    To help with this they had borrowed some appearences of the tribe whose support they wanted. They wore mammoth rather than bison fur hoods and had sabre tooth tiger tooth pendants rather than elk antler pendants. Now they have disrespected the sabre toothed tiger pendant and demonstrated their respect for the elk one they may have a problem.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Turgon

    “terrorist named play park”

    It would be tribal if they did not name parks after Republicans. These people exist and their place in society needs acknowledged.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Alliance don’t in reality pose any great “threat”. Much as some may wishfully hope they do, or can.

    Notwithstanding Anna Lo’s opinions Alliance is a small ‘u’ party that attracts the majority of its votes in unionist areas.

    How do they do in West Belfast, Derry, South Armagh? Will Alliance’s newly outed green wing improve its performance west of the Bann?

    The reality is that it is only in unionist (Prod) areas like East Belfast that Alliance could ever have returned an MP. Even though exceptional circumstances prevailed at the time, mostly based on the personality of the previous incumbent. The presence of similarly ‘impressive’ nationalist political ‘stars’ never could result in Alliance getting a look-in.

    Of course for some voters (and commentators) Orange will always be more hard to swallow than Bloody Green. But give the orangies their due at least they are prepared to give the nice guy/gal a go sometimes.

  • Turgon

    Mc Slaggart,

    Indeed nationalists / republicans and their place does need to be acknowledged though there are many less divisive nationalists/ republicans one could chose. Indeed one could hardly think of a more objectionable individual than McCreesh to unionists and indeed many nationalists.

    Exactly which part of Mr. McCreesh’s place in society it is we acknowledge is of course an issue. I believe there is an indirect acknowledgement to him and his activities in Bessbrook but strangely it has been attacked.

    Of course neither McCreesh nor the Kingsmills victims are in our society now. Unlike the victims McCreesh has a major say in deciding to leave our society (though his family may have had a say in that as well).

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Mc Slaggart

    Why do they have to be acknowledged in ‘shared’ spaces?

    Surely that runs contrary to the idea of a shared space?

    Turgon

    Well answered apart from the contempt part, I still don’t see any sign of open contempt on his part.
    It could be at worst simply inaccurate.

  • Turgon

    Am Ghobsmacht,
    Dismissing them as simply all part and parcel of paramilitarism is contempteous as is trying to imply an analogy to the mafia.

    I do not want to derail this thread but you are remarkably ill positioned to comment on people treating parts of unionist identity with contempt. You have previously been extremely contemptous regarding people describing their identity as British only. Your own profile drips with contempt for assorted people with whom you disagree.

  • Morpheus

    Turgon

    You say that you take opinion polls with a large pinch of salt – me personally, I disregard any UI opinion poll completely. I fail to see the point that point of asking anyone their opinion on a UI when they have absolutely no idea what a UI entails. They have no idea what the health system would be like, they have no idea what the education would be like, they have no idea what the political system is like, the judicial system, the judicial system and so on so how are they supposed to give an informed assessment as to whether or not they are pro-UI or not? It’s like Coke-Cola doing a survey asking participants what they think of their new brand of soft drink but telling them bugger all about what it looks like, what is smells like, what it tastes like etc. Totally pointless.

    I have no obsession with the Orange Order, I simply provided the facts which show that although the organisation is dying on its ass with fewer and fewer members they still have a grossly disproportionate and unrepresentative influence on the upper echelons of power here in Northern Ireland. Now I know you are not too keen on the actual evidence in certain matters that but if you have anything, anything at all, which refutes anything I say then by all means post it.

    Neither peter Robinson nor Mike Nezbitt are members but they were all afraid to take the parties in the direction they know they need to go to make sure they are still relevant in 10, 20 or 50 years from now. Both have shown signs of reaching out and both have been snapped back into line just as quickly. It is ridiculous that in 2014 The First Minister of Northern Ireland panders more to the Grand Master than the people who put him in that position in the first place. as for MN then his recent ‘proposals’ tell us all we need to know about who he is trying to court.

    As for “Lynch’s contempt the attempt to make Twaddell synonymous with loyalist paramilitarism” then that too is very evident. Have a look at this video from the Camp last week when masked men in ex-military vehicles pulled up to police line stewarded into position by Sash-wearing members of the OO:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=229065693965056&set=vb.167750270096599&type=2&theater

    Again, not much paint needed there.

    Alliance does not have a problem as far as I can see. As a party in one fell swoop they have managed to position themselves as the only truly cross-community party which attracts those who are pro-UK and pro-UI yet still remain 100% committed to the GFA and the Principle of Consent. In short they have aligned themselves with most workplaces and circle of friends – Catholics and Protestant working together and just getting on with life. Those who jump ship because Alliance have ‘one of themuns’ in their ranks will be very easily replaced by those who will now see that they really are cross-community and because they are so pissed off with the current tribal set-up they will vote for them. As individuals Naomi Long for example is still the same hardworking pro-UK MP from East Belfast that she was last week – that has not changed. Ditto David Ford who confirmed that he remains very pro-UK. All they have done is open up their market in a very shrewd move.

    I assume by your last paragraph you are talking about cavemen tribes?

    I am not sure how McCreesh got pulled into this but from my own perspective I find the name of the play park as abhorrent as you. If the locals wanted to remember him they should’ve ponied up and paid for something themselves but any and all public spaces – including play parks – should be neutral and welcoming to all.

  • Charles_Gould

    “Labour in the major industral and post industral cities of the midlands and north is tribal; in South Wales even more so. The Tories in the shire counties are tribal; the Liberal Democrats in parts of the south west.”

    Turgon

    If you define economic class as tribal then yes. But economic class is a different kind of tribal than religious or national.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Am Ghobsmacht

    “Surely that runs contrary to the idea of a shared space?”

    That is the nub of the matter. Alliance party policy is to keep all the current symbols and names and in order to make it a shared space add to it.

    For this approach to work one must include all elements of a city and not just those one likes or finds acceptable. For example the sf mayor of Belfast went to the British remembrance ceremony. In a city like Newry physical force republicans make up a large section of the population and their traditions need to be respected.

    As I have said else-wear in slugger / city has managed to make the Guildhall a welcoming place and keep all the kings and queens of England inside it. Public art in that city also acknowledge major events such as the famine. Belfast city has not even started to acknowledge its “full” history.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Turgon

    “are many less divisive nationalists/ republicans one could chose”

    Did you ever see the “Famine Queen” sitting outside Belfast city hall?

  • Turgon

    Charles_Gould,

    It is not just about social class though is it?
    In parts of the north of England and South Wales and especially parts of Scotland middle class even upper middle class people largely vote Labour. In the shires not everyone is wealthy – far from it – the rural poor are to be found there as much as anywhere. Yet these rural lower middle class and working class people largely vote Tory though some are begining to shift towards UKIP at times.

    Although many may wish to see voting as on socio economic lines it is not as simple as that anywhere: not in mainland GB, not in the USA . That lack of voting along such lines is simply more pronounced in our society.

  • GEF

    I doubt if many other AP councillors on Castlereagh Council including Naiomi Long’s husband will be singing Anna’s praises. Just read what Geraldine Rice has to say.

    “Anna Lo comments: Geraldine Rice ‘shocked’ by united Ireland remarks” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-26704950

  • Mc Slaggart

    Morpheus

    “I am not sure how McCreesh got pulled into this but from my own perspective I find the name of the play park as abhorrent as you. If the locals wanted to remember him they should’ve ponied up and paid for something themselves but any and all public spaces – including play parks – should be neutral and welcoming to all.”

    I agree with you but that is not Alliance party policy! They want to keep all the existing names of parks and only add to that particular list. In Northern Ireland we have city name after someone who brought the gun into the Irish democratic process.

  • Morpheus

    Gef, thanks for the link. It seems there is yet another pro-UK person or 2 in the ranks of the Alliance – although I suggest they were pro-UK last week as well. This theory that Alliance are “heading gradually in a nationalist direction from unionist-lite” doesn’t hold much water does it?

  • Mc Slaggart

    BTW:

    Who honestly thinks that “McCreesh” was responsible for less murder and bombs than Martin Mc Guinness?

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    The semantic argument about “tribalism” here is actually more important than it appears. Turgon is attempting to paint it as a purely political sort of tribalism, but this won’t wash. A labour-supporting Englishman from Bradford and a Conservative-supporting Englishman form Oxford may vote on a tribal basis, but they both consider themselves equally English. Their political tribalism is secondary to their nationality.

    Equating that with Northern Ireland is disingenuous. It is not simply a question of degree. In NI we have an ethnic conflict, which is fundamentally different. The closest English equivalent would be the race riots, and even then there was no political separatism.

    Also, Turgon: if you agree that support for the union is not synonymous with support for unionist parties, then you concur with the OP that the Union is not the real issue.

  • Barnshee

    “and differential education funding”

    Roman Catholic schools remained in the ownership of the Roman Catholic Church Other Schools passed ownership to the state.
    This accounts for the ” differential education funding” Why would anyone maintain buildings owned by some one else?

  • Turgon

    Mr. Gallagher,
    “Turgon is attempting to paint it as a purely political sort of tribalism, but this won’t wash.”

    Maybe try not telling lies about what I said. Tribalism here in NI is partly political, partly not. The assorted tribes here are in part political in part social and even in part (actually very little) religious. Unionism, nationalism and liberal letsgetalongerism and any other tribe one seeks to define are complex in nature. They are also not immutable to change. Mixed marriage is a typical manner by which one’s tribe or identity changes.

    Of course it is fair to say that unionists / nationalists (Prods / taigs) are the most obvious tibes.

    “Also, Turgon: if you agree that support for the union is not synonymous with support for unionist parties, then you concur with the OP that the Union is not the real issue.”

    Again try not to tell lies about what I have said. If you read my comments I did not demur from Mr. Lynch’s comments I took them to an extent agreed with them and extended them pointing out it was not simply unionists / nationalists.

    Turning to mainland GB. Tribal identification with political parties is not about nationality as much but equally it is not simply about specific politics. That is exactly the point I was making.

    Tribalism is prevalent in NI but is not justPprods vs Taigs. Also other societies are tribal albeit maybe not always as clearly or as much as ours.

    Again try not to tell lies about my comments. I have always accepted even writtee about NI being an ethnic conflict albeit without real physical ethnic differences.

  • DC

    This is the same Gerry Lynch that took to Slugger warning us all that unless Unionism de-Unionised itself in terms of sovereign symbols and so on and had less Britishness about the place in NI, he and other catholics and Alliancers would consider voting NI out of the Union.

    Having it both ways again really is the staple of the Alliance party.

    Stop being so British such as flying the sovereign (not tribal) flag 365 days a year otherwise NI is more likely to be voted out of its constitutional position by catholics such as him!

    But now – oh politics is nothing to do with the border!!

    You guys are not to be trusted.

  • http://www.richard.gadsden.name/ Richard Gadsden

    DC, If you want to be British, actually British, like those of us who were born, grew up and have lived all our lives in Great Britain, then you and your Unionist politicians could start acting like British people of the 2010s and not the 1950s.

    For a start, stop believing in god. Here in actual Britain, the Catholic and Protestant Churches are huddled close together against the mighty onslaught of secularism and atheism. Of our three main party leaders, two are atheists, and David Cameron is a weddings-and-funerals Anglican.

    For seconds, stop using the union flag – we don’t; we fly the flags of St. George and St. Andrew and Y Ddraig Goch, not the union flag; we identify increasingly as English, Welsh or Scottish first and British second. Still British, but our actual nationality is primary.

    Alliance have always struck me as being far more British than the Unionist parties; they seem to be people that would fit in better this side of the Irish Sea than the one they’re on.

    PS, Gerry Lynch is a high church Anglican, not a Catholic. I don’t normally care what sort of weird god-botherer people are, but do try to get it right.

  • DC

    This is what Gerry wrote last time incoherent then as it is now.

    Welcome to the Northern Ireland that won’t vote itself out of the Union but won’t give Unionism majority support.

    The Union is now dependent on ‘pro-Union Catholics’ and detribalised liberals from Protestant backgrounds.

    How would you like it? Both ways please!

  • foyle observer

    You have to laugh at Turgon and his ‘terrorist named playparks’.

    What about (yes, whataboutery) your leader Allister, standing shoulder to shoulder with TERRORIST Billy Hutchinson at Twaddel?

    Are you ok with that, you hypocrite?

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    DC, just because someone doesn’t fit into a neat pigeonhole doesn’t make then incoherent.

  • DC

    Andrew

    By incoherent I mean illogical take a look at the two sentences I have picked out that he wrote into his piece last time round – you can’t claim NI to be safe to then follow up that up with NI being dependent on a particular confession and group, it’s bullshit logic, either it’s safe or it’s dependent.

    That’s what I mean by both ways as is becoming all the more clear.

    @Richard – yeah British values have loosened a little over the years on the ‘mainland’ in concert with this loosening, a beheading.

    And in my sentence I did say other catholics and other Alliancers.

  • DC

    Sorry correction I went up and looked again at my comment and stand corrected, Richard.

    However the rest still stands.

  • Morpheus

    I was on LAD earlier to get that link for Turgon showing Camp Twaddell the other night and came across this sickening indictment on our society. If kids are doing this sort of thing in school and parents think it’s great then surely we can all agree that we need a change and we need it fast before the next generation is infected:

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/697e000f2599dad0fda0e5c796812edf/tumblr_n2xmltRrdR1sl89nfo1_500.jpg

    This depressed the feck outta me when I saw it

  • Barnshee

    “before the next generation is infected:”

    The next gereration is already “infected” some very strong “antibotic” is needed

  • Morpheus

    If only our leaders could sit down and spend 6 months coming up with a list of proposals between themselves – facilitated by, I don’t know, a world renowned and highly respected diplomat – which offer a start out of the quagmire eh?

    But how on earth are we going to get that?

    Think Morpheus, THINK…

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    DC, safety is always dependent on something. If you’re up a tree, you’re perfectly safe so long as you don’t start cutting the branch you’re sitting on.

    Turgon,

    I am taking issue with your attempt to portray “letsgetalongerists” as “just another tribe” equivalent to unionists and nationalists, in an attempt to drag them down to the same level. This is offensive nonsense – while unionism and nationalism are clearly ethnically-based movements, Alliance, Greens etc. are consciously multi-ethnic parties. Portraying them as “just another tribe” is a cheap attempt to deprive them of the moral high ground by insinuating a false equivalence.

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

    “Turning to the USA it seems pretty tribal: though I have no expertise there. The white population of the south once solidly Democrat is now solidly Republican.”

    @Turgon,

    If you have no expertise how can you be sure that it is tribal?

    “Tribal is being used here as a derogatory term but in reality it more means voting along traditional lines.

    Tribe in anthropological terms is a subdivision of an ethnic group consisting of several clans such as as the Karanga, Kore Kore, and Manyika tribes of the Shona ethnic group in Zimbabwe or the Mpondo and Tembu of the Xhosa ethnic group in South Africa.

    In common usage tribe is used to mean ethnic group, so that tribal means ethnic and tribal voting is voting along ethnic lines. That may be traditional or it may not be. One could vote along ethnic lines and still be modern.

    “Alliance is also highly tribal. It is the tribe of the liberals who pretend they do not care if they are Prods or Taigs along with those who genuninely do not care.”

    Liberalism is an ideology not an ethnic identification. Being non-ethnic is not an ethnic identification.

    “It is a largely middle class, middle of the road tribe based very largely within the Pale of the “nice” constituencies around Belfast with a little bit in solidly unionist middle class areas such as the Triangle around Coleraine / Portrush / Portstewart.”

    Again, this is not ethnic, it is class. Turgon, if you want to be taken seriously you should actually learn how to look words up in a dictionary so that you will know what they mean. Tribe does not mean ANY GROUP of people.

  • Turgon

    tmitch57,
    “Tribe does not mean ANY GROUP of people.”

    It has become short hand for a group. For example in the Daily Telegraph Dan Hodges is described as follows: He writes about Labour with tribal loyalty and without reservation. I think as a columnist on a major newspaper he is to be taken more seriously than me.

    You also describe tribe as “a subdivision of an ethnic group “ If you are trying to suggest that there are actual ethnic differences between Prods and Taigs it is your position which should not be taken seriously.

    The point is that Alliance and letsgetalongerists share many similarities in internal group dynamics to Prods and Taigs. Furthermore Gerry Lynch was using the term tribal as a derogatory term for unionists and nationalists. Since that was an inaccurate term by your definition it is no worse for me to use the term than Mr. Lynch.

    Incidentally I am taken seriously by some people (more than I think should) and not by others. If you do not take me seriously I am supremely unconcerned. I can assure you that I do not take you seriously.

    Mr. Gallagher,
    You told direct lies about my position and comments in order to attack it.

    I refer you to above re the fact that the term tribe and tribal is used in politics (and elsewhere). It is not offensive to use the term tribe about letsgetalongerists unless one regards using the term about unionists and nationalists as offensive.

    “equivalent to unionists and nationalists, in an attempt to drag them down to the same level”

    Dragging them down to the same level is only relevant if one wishes to castigate unionists and / or nationalists for their positions. I am not so arrogant or presumptious as to do so. I am a unionist but that does not make me feel that nationalists are inferior nor that nationalism as an ideology is inferior. Since I regard unionism and nationalism as morally equivalent and in actual fact irrelevant in moral terms it is not possible for me to drag anyone up or down by such a term.

    You on the other hand have this to say: “is a cheap attempt to deprive them of the moral high ground by insinuating a false equivalence.”

    The arrogance of presuming that another group (Alliance, Greens etc.) has ” the moral high ground” is deeply insulting to those who are unionists or nationalists. Indeed claiming someone has ” the moral high ground” not over an issue but intrinsically as a group is deeply tribal. I think you have rather effectively proved my point. Letsgetalongerists are tribal and you are rallying to their supposed superiority in a remarkably tribal fashion.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Turgon,

    It is not offensive to use the term tribe about letsgetalongerists unless one regards using the term about unionists and nationalists as offensive.

    You are conflating two usages of the word “tribe”. This is misleading and disingenuous. It is quite clear that the OP intended “tribal” in the sense of “ethnic”. This is a label that can accurately be used to describe unionism and nationalism, but cannot be used against “others”. Just because the word “tribal” can be applied to “others” IN ANOTHER CONTEXT does not equate them.

    Dragging them down to the same level is only relevant if one wishes to castigate unionists and / or nationalists for their positions

    The idea that political parties should be ethnically homogeneous damn well deserves castigation. An insult directed against unionism as a political movement is not one directed at unionists as a social grouping. There are many unionists who do not vote “unionist”.

    The “moral high ground” is the belief that politics should not be based along ethnic lines. The entire point of the OP is that one can be a unionist or a nationalist and not support a “unionist” or “nationalist” political party. Is it arrogance to believe that ethnically-homogeneous political parties are dangerous?

  • Turgon

    Gallagher,
    We have already demonstrated that there are no real ethnic differences but the term is not unreasonable. As such since you use the term ethnic not in its exact fashion and indeed conflate it with cultural it is reasonable to use the term tribal similarly loosely.

    “The idea that political parties should be ethnically homogeneous damn well deserves castigation”

    Firstly try not to use inappropriate language. Secondly the political parties here are far from ethnically homogeneous (see ethnic term above). Thirdly various parties have had and continue to have people from the “other side” and outside Northern Ireland invalidating your position.

    Unionism or nationalism as political movements are not fundamentally ethnically based and even if they were it is unclear why they should be castigated. I believe Belgium has parties which one might describe as ethnically based. Are they to be castigated as well?

    “The “moral high ground” is the belief that politics should not be based along ethnic lines.”

    Again is it not morally superior unless one wants it to be so to justify one’s own tribe – as you are repeatedly doing.

    The Labour party or Tories do not (apart from the mad) describe their positions as morally superior to other positions. Political positions are just that political. Whether they are on ethnic, social, religious lines is irrelevant. Individual positions might be immoral or moral but the whole of nationalism or unionism is not and cannot be morally inferior to one another or some other political ideology.

    It is only relevant if one wants to elevate one’s own tribe to a morally superior position (a moral high horse). This is exactly what you are doing and is very tribal.

    When in a hole Gallagher stop digging. Actually no go on it is quite fun watching you.

  • notimetoshine

    @Turgon

    I enjoy your efforts to justify and defend the sectarian merry go round that passes for local politics here, but one quick question I would like your opinion on.

    How do we pursue effective governance when our governing parties are so diametrically opposed and obsessed with the orange and green?

  • PaddyReilly

    Tribalism is a term used in African countries to designate those who do not identify with the nation, but with a particular ethnic subdivision, traditionally associated together. In Ireland, the nation is Ireland, but there is a particular sub-group who believe themselves to be different, the Unionists. So you are either a Nationalist or a tribalist. Alliance, by tolerating this subdivision, range themselves on the tribalist side. I am a Nationalist: therefore I am not a tribalist.

    I realise that you may not agree with this analysis, but I have as much right to declaim it as you have to your analysis.

  • Turgon

    notimetoshine,
    “I enjoy your efforts to justify and defend the sectarian merry go round that passes for local politics here”

    I am defending people’s right to vote for whomsoever they choose and objecting to others castigating them for those choices and characterising their political parties as being morally inferior to other political parties. Essentially I object to claiming that people are morally inferior for being or voting unionist or nationalist. Even voting Sinn Fein which I am totally opposed to does not make the voter on morally lower ground than anyone else: not now the IRA has stopped violence. I may loathe SF but voting for them currently does not make one immoral.

    One of the problems with these sorts of arguments especially from the likes of Gallagher is that they are the beginnings of the justification for the “We are all guilty” narratives of the Troubles. The other is that it is offensive to ordinary decent voters who vote as they choose. That being the essence of a democracy. Describing someone as morally inferior or suspect for voting unionist or nationalist (or Labour or Tory or SNP, Plaid etc.) is the thing which is morally reprehensible. That it often comes from individuals such as Mr. Gallagher who no longer live in NI is from them particularly hypocritical.

    Turning to your question. It is very valid and I do not have an answer (nor do I need to: I am a hobby political analyst not a politician). I agree, however, that our society might work better if our orange green position was changed. Clearly proper politics would be ideal. As a half way house I would like to see voluntary coalition with a requirement for one party from each side in government a bit like Belgium. However, that is to do with practical politics and has nothing to do with morals.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    I don’t know if you’ve been up at Twaddell. I’ve driven past it and seen video footage of it. It is a UVF-inspired show of strength, run adjacent to the UVF-controlled “parades forum” and regularly features speakers on the podium who from the UVF, one of whom has been named publicly by the BBC. Standing next to these people have been prominent Belfast Orangemen, the TUV leader, the deputy leader of the DUP, at least one prominent Ulster Unionist MLA and the leader of the PUP.

    To complain on the back of this that people are unfairly castigating unionism and its relationship with loyalist paramilitaries takes some neck. The protest camp is illegal; the posters are illegal; it occupies public land illegally; and it is a severe nuisance to the residents who have to live beside it. It is a deliberate attempt to stretch police resources and is itself a form of threatening behaviour designed to overturn a legal Parades Commission decision. Nobody who is a democrat should be in any way associated with it.

    Others have argued about how your tribal arguments fall down. I will introduce another point to this mix. The Durham miners would not boycott the Labour Party if one single non-frontbench member did a newspaper interview suggesting that it might be worth giving capitalism a try. We are being told here that Anna’s comments – which should not be even vaguely controversial – mark Alliance out as a wolf in sheep’s clothing which has systematically and pervasively duped “unionist” voters. People are saying these things because our politics is tribal. Alliance are being accused of having a foot in two camps rather than occupying a third camp which members of the other two camps are free to come and go from as they please.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC,

    The subtle point, which you have missed in the course of expressing your own personal obsessive grievance with Alliance, that Gerry made a while back is quite simple. Unionists aren’t a majority and they need Catholic votes to keep the union safe. His advice is that unionists might consider, in this context, the possible downsides to supporting people who block roads, riot, hurl sectarian insults outside Catholic churches, and engage in illegal protests up in Twaddell.

    Peter Robinson made speeches about this and talked of the need to get Catholics onside and voting DUP. That can’t happen while the party continues to endorse naked sectarian which Catholics will correctly feel is directed at them.

    It is your call as to how you deal with this advice. But unionism’s back is against the wall.

  • notimetoshine

    @Turgon

    Fair enough I take your point, but what is moral about voting for parties that are seemingly unable to deal with the realities of practical politics, therefore damaging our public services, the economy etc.

    That to me is the height of political immorality. Therefore one could infer that voting for parties that facilitate this could be considered immoral.

  • DC

    People are saying these things because our politics is tribal. Alliance are being accused of having a foot in two camps rather than occupying a third camp which members of the other two camps are free to come and go from as they please.

    I don’t think Alliance is any of that to be honest, it’s just a bloody nuisance, a party that messes around with things of emotional importance to others and couldn’t care less, not one fck it appears to give when doing so. Until it takes heavy flack for behaving in such a way it then blames Unionism for not leading its constituents, on its behalf, to its position, which in the circumstances others didn’t believe was the right thing to do. Eg the timing and implementation of designated days in Belfast alone.

    Naomi Long got involved in politics because of an Alliance politician helping her out on an issue important to her, whereas Peter Robinson got involved because a friend got killed, for Naomi her politics is utilitarian, perhaps selfish utilitarianism – and she trades on helping other people out in this way so that she gets to exercise her voice and assert her opinion on things that matter to her personally, that’s the trade, that’s the deal. Her politics isn’t really grounded in left / right or in unionism nor nationalism but Naomism. Naomi helps you out individually you help her out by going in and voting for her and give her free licence to talk about whatever she thinks is important to her, political individualism if you like. Whereas with other alternatives you get communalism and in east Belfast the most popular one goes by the name of Unionism, in other parts of the world it might be collectivism or labourism or socialism or whatever else. But any way, stuff like flags and symbols of sovereignty and so on a care she does not give, whereas sanitation and toilets in the developing world which does fit her personal outlook which is a Christian one, all of that stuff is. If that is of importance to her at Westminster and so on that’s fair enough.

    But at the moment we have a couple of problems with all of this and that is Northern Ireland is trying to bed down and we need politicians that are bit more robust on the constitutional identity front that can tie these issues down, because that’s just the stage we are at in terms of the development of this place. Having a party behaving fast and loose is destabilising and not what we need at this moment.

  • DC

    obsessive grievance with Alliance

    Listen, I know who said to me “sure what does it matter if there is a united Ireland” same one running around saying publicly designated days and I wonder why?

  • Comrade Stalin

    (facepalm)

  • DC

    Just putting it out there lol :)

  • notimetoshine

    ” Naomi her politics is utilitarian…”

    Seriously?

    I’m no fan of Alliance ( I think they aren’t aggressive enough) but my god maybe we need utilitarian politics.

    The nonsense that the ‘orange and green’ brings to our politics has neutered any possiblity of real governance, real legislation and real change on issues that can make a difference.

    We don’t have practical politics in NI because people are either unwilling or unable to stop obsessing about strange constitutional and cultural ideologies.

    Our orange and green political establishment fiddle while Rome burns, maybe we need pragmatic, utilitarian politics if only to have an effective political establishment.

    These elections so far have been dominated with all the orange and green crap yet we have yet to hear substantive discussions on policy, on representation, on making our lives better.

    Bloody disgusting

  • DC

    That’s ok so long as that is how it’s marketed on the basis that Alliance no longer pulls its ideas through any philosophical or ideological framework but just what has the most utility to it and its voters on any given issue that passes by the decision making table at that time, day, minute, second.

    Hardly a recipe for stability in an ethnically divided society but sure as hell it would be a more honest one and it would probably gain more credibility in doing so.

  • notimetoshine

    “Hardly a recipe for stability in an ethnically divided society …”

    Well our current political process is hardly a recipe for stability now is it?

    At least Alliance are trying. Our political parties are too busy with their own obsessions to effectively govern and legislate. In an ethnically divided society surely the only way to govern is to compromise, to go down the middle.

    Sure as hell I would rather movement on welfare, education and health than a settlement on flags parading and the past.

  • DC

    I’d like them all dealt with as compassionately as possible but what sort of movement had you in mind i’m thinking on welfare in particular?

  • notimetoshine

    I’m not sure where I am, on welfare reform, my main concern is that the executive should at least show some movement on it, I mean we can’t afford the financial penalties which may be levied on an already tight budget.

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

    ” If you are trying to suggest that there are actual ethnic differences between Prods and Taigs it is your position which should not be taken seriously.”

    @Turgon,

    You should let the people who professionally research and write on ethnic conflict for a living like Donald Horowitz, Arend Lijphart, et al. know of this. They regard Northern Ireland as a prime case study for ethnic conflict. The only ethnic characteristic that unionists and nationalists lack is separate languages, but in Burundi and Rwanda the Hutu and Tutsi speak the same language and are normally considered to be separate ethnic groups. And as I’ve pointed out to others here, the attitude towards promotion of Irish as a language is almost as good as a language difference. Unionists and nationalists have separate geographic origins, different remembered pasts, different religions, and different days of celebration (consider the separate marching days). The refusal to see the two groups as ethnic in origin is ideological in itself and relates primarily to being able to blame Britain for all the problems in NI and to justify considering the entire island as one political unit.

  • DC

    I think the penalties are worth paying and to say it’s dead money there is a lot of stuff that is dead money in the civil service.

    Here’s one – rent seeking by outsourced companies in the public sector, now I am not against outsourcing it just depends, the same way it’s becoming clear some industries or certain key companies in key sectors should be re-nationalised, energy companies, banks, but take your food, catering and hospitality companies, 5-10 % they charge on food, a surcharge, charged to the civil service, public funds down the drain. Eg ordering biscuits and stuff for civil service and other public meetings. Civil Service would be better off just getting tesco to deliver as a normal customer or get a van and go to Makro. False economy.

    Any way back to benefits, you do realise if you vote Alliance on benefits you get a No vote at Westminster and a Yes at Stormont that my friend is the trouble with utility it tends to lead to inconsistency, whereas if you take a more principled stand you are either for it or against in both, although as I have pointed out you shouldn’t be surprised to learn of Alliance having it both ways by now ;)

  • notimetoshine

    I see where you are coming from and I don’t doubt that Alliance become inconsistent.

    But for me that is because they are too softly softly with the other parties. A middle ground party should be shouting from the rooftops about bigots and divisive politics.

    But for me the orange and green stuff prevents us from good governance. Our political establishment is so mixed up in the cultural issues that everything else takes a back seat.

    On top of that there is a general incompetency within Stormont. Mismanagement of the housing executive, Edwin Poots and his disgusting management (or lack thereof) of the health service, the farce regarding the ESA, the housing executive etc etc. Now what you have described regarding outsourcing just another example. Procurement policies are complicated and require alot of delicate work. Far too complex for the DUP/SDLP/UUP/SF.

    Our politicians aren’t cut out for governing, the orange and green makes a nice distraction.

    That is why I dread local councils getting planning powers. We don’t vote for good policies we vote on cultural/religious/ethnic backgrounds. The councillor could be a moron but he is one of us.

    If only our parties could put aside all the cultural stuff and govern. The last hope of NI is in the greens, NI21 and Alliance. Which is in itself depressing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    NTTS,

    Actually I agree with you. I’d like to see Alliance hitting back. Jim Allister says the party are indistinguishable from Sinn Féin – so how about pointing out that the TUV are the twin sister of the BNP ? (they are). The DUP talk about equality – how come they’re the only party represented in the House of Commons advocating the return of capital punishment and whose members think that homosexuality must be recriminalized ?

    The current Alliance leadership believe that negative campaigning in this way turns off voters and the public in general. Since they’ve been steadily winning more and more elections I’m not well placed to gainsay them.

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

    ” In Ireland, the nation is Ireland, but there is a particular sub-group who believe themselves to be different, the Unionists. So you are either a Nationalist or a tribalist. Alliance, by tolerating this subdivision, range themselves on the tribalist side. I am a Nationalist: therefore I am not a tribalist.”

    @Paddy,

    And in the Middle East the Turks, the Arabs, and the Persians (the dominant group in Iran) make the exact same argument regarding the Kurds and every other ethnically different group that is not like the nation that they defined in ethnic terms. Under De Valera the Irish nation was defined in very ethnic and sectarian terms. The unionists reciprocated in the North.

    Has it ever occurred to you that from the unionist perspective the nation is the UK and by YOUR DEFINITION you are the tribalist?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Turgon

    “Am Ghobsmacht,
    Dismissing them as simply all part and parcel of paramilitarism is contempteous as is trying to imply an analogy to the mafia.”

    Did Gerry condemn all within Twaddell as paramilitary to the last man/woman?

    Or was he talking about the general vibe it gives off?

    Or something else?

    Is indeed there any paramilitary imagery or connections with paramilitarism at the camp?

    Not the same thing Turgon.

    Like I say, I’ve never been but Comrade Stalin has been so kind as to reiterate what he has seen:

    “I’ve driven past it and seen video footage of it. It is a UVF-inspired show of strength, run adjacent to the UVF-controlled “parades forum” and regularly features speakers on the podium who from the UVF, one of whom has been named publicly by the BBC. Standing next to these people have been prominent Belfast Orangemen, the TUV leader, the deputy leader of the DUP, at least one prominent Ulster Unionist MLA and the leader of the PUP.

    To complain on the back of this that people are unfairly castigating unionism and its relationship with loyalist paramilitaries takes some neck. The protest camp is illegal; the posters are illegal; it occupies public land illegally; and it is a severe nuisance to the residents who have to live beside it. It is a deliberate attempt to stretch police resources and is itself a form of threatening behaviour designed to overturn a legal Parades Commission decision.”

    “I do not want to derail this thread but you are remarkably ill positioned to comment on people treating parts of unionist identity with contempt. You have previously been extremely contemptous regarding people describing their identity as British only. Your own profile drips with contempt for assorted people with whom you disagree.”

    1/ Gerry wasn’t treating unionist identity with contempt, he was passing comment regarding the Twaddell camp.

    Two different things.

    2/ I do not hold people who consider themselves as British-only in contempt, I see them in a slightly ludicrious and delusional light, a ‘Tatiana-Grigoryeva-is-Australian-only’ complex of sorts.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f_uhNNHqO4

    By your logic she’s an Austrlian only.
    By my reckoning she’s an Australian of Russian extraction.

    She can’t divorce herself from herself from her slavic background anymore than some loyalists can divorce themselves from their (Northern/Ulster) Irish background.

    “Contempt”, “racist”, “obsession” (and dear knows what else), if these are your observations and conclusions of people that disagree with you then it serves to undermine your (very well written) blogs, for if you’ve taken such negative views of people from very little evidence then dear knows what else you may have got wrong.

    It is nothing less than subtle man playing by trying to portray people in an unfair light, which is perhaps why you made that remark about Alliance doing something similar to Unionist parties, do you perhaps recognise your own craft at work?

    Food for thought Turgon.

  • Turgon

    Am Ghobsmacht,
    You have described people calling themselves British only as “ludicrous”, “ridiculous” above you have described them as “delusional”. If that is not contempt then what is. Along with your personal profile it adds further to the distinct impression of one who has contempt for almost anyone who does not agree with you.

    Coming back to Lynch: you are telling (again) direct lies about what he said above. He described Twaddell as being all about Loyalist paramilitary power which is contemptuous of the people there. The sense of alienation of working class unionists in North Belfast is rather more complex.

    Furthermore he (Lynch) describes unionist politicians as committed to working with loyalist paramilitaries at Twaddell. The unionist politicians are committed to working for their unionist constituents there. However, Lynch produces a completely dishonest spin to claim that unionist politicians are primarily helping terrorists. Such dishonesty is of course to be expected from Lynch as he is trying to deflect attention from Lo’s remarks.

    Then you come back to more racist gibberish now including Australians. You are quite clearly obsessed with racial lineages, ancestry and such like. Let us be clear the individual you comment on can describe in any way they wish: that is their right (and no you do not have the right to disagree with them on that – apparently this individual lives in Australia, and is Australian so if they wish to self define solely as Australian that is up to them). You on the other hand seem determined to categorise all individuals according to racial characteristics and ancestry. This is deeply unpleasant and would be described by most people as racist.

    As to your views of my blogs, I am supremely indifferent to your opinions. You have demonstrated here that your views are narrow minded, contemptuous of other views, pretty unpleasant and unpalatable in a modern multicultural society. As such I am not inclined to rate or regard you as an arbiter of my work. You provide no food for thought: I reject practically all that you say. You leave me with just amazement that an apparently intelligent person is willing to trumpet such obsolete and objectionable views so openly.

    As I said above I have no wish to derail Gerry Lynch’s thread which at the outset I noted I agreed with parts of. As such I will leave you with you own bizarre views for the meantime.

  • PaddyReilly

    Has it ever occurred to you that from the unionist perspective the nation is the UK and by YOUR DEFINITION you are the tribalist?

    It is a matter of numbers, of geography, and geopolitics. Given the fact of a worldwide British Empire as the most dominant force in the world, it would be possible for a mere 300,000 Unionist voters to claim that they are in Great Britain, and not the island they find themselves on: the natives are not important.

    But England today lacks the prestige, the wealth and the will, to keep enforcing this reversal of the natural order: so Ulster Protestants from the 6 counties will just have to learn to be a particular tribe of Irishman (as those in Donegal already have). Certainly there is no future in trying to educate the Northern Irish Catholics out of their legitimate aspirations in the name of anti-tribalism.

    There are 4 million Iraqi Kurds, 8 million Iranian, 14 million Turkish. These people are numerous enough to expect their own state. But that does not apply to all of them: there are solidly Kurdish areas and numerous outlying blobs of Kurdish folk in the middle of Turks, Persians and Arabs. These last can never expect to be incorporated in a future Kurdistan: they will always be Turkish/Arabic/Persian tribals.

    NI Protestants are essentially part of an outlying blob. King George V and the British Government did their level best to place them in a federal Irish entity, but they insisted on a separate dispensation. It has not been a success and it isn’t going to last.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    Coming back to Lynch: you are telling (again) direct lies about what he said above. He described Twaddell as being all about Loyalist paramilitary power which is contemptuous of the people there. The sense of alienation of working class unionists in North Belfast is rather more complex.

    What is contemptuous of the people who live there, Turgon, is the ongoing endorsement and delegation of authority to the UVF in a neighbourhood where the UVF can’t even get a councillor elected. You have to ask the question of why this is happening.

    However, Lynch produces a completely dishonest spin to claim that unionist politicians are primarily helping terrorists. Such dishonesty is of course to be expected from Lynch as he is trying to deflect attention from Lo’s remarks.

    Gerry’s big and ugly enough to defend himself and I’m sure he will in due course. But why do you think in particular he is motivated to deflect attention from Anna Lo’s remarks ? To my knowledge Gerry isn’t an Alliance Party member. He no longer lives in NI.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Turgon

    “Am Ghobsmacht,
    You have described people calling themselves British only as “ludicrous”, “ridiculous” above you have described them as “delusional”. If that is not contempt then what is. Along with your personal profile it adds further to the distinct impression of one who has contempt for almost anyone who does not agree with you.”

    I did that, yes indeedy.

    I would not have had the backbone to come out with such an outrageous stance had I not lived on the island of Britain for 11+ years.

    I’m hardly alone in this regard.

    It is not contempt, merely an exasperated view shared by a number of our fellow British citizens.

    I bear these people no ill will.

    As for my profile and your summary of it then please explain why I hold people such as FDM, Rory Carr, Green Flag, Morpheus,Comrade Stalin, Floreat Ultona, Harry Fashman, Fitzjameshorse, Ruarai and Son of Strongbow in high regard (as well as a few others, not going to list them all) despite my numerous run-ins with them?

    I welcome differing opinions and listen to them.

    That is why I no longer run around in a Rangers top whistling tunes about the killing Catholics.

    “Coming back to Lynch: you are telling (again) direct lies about what he said above. He described Twaddell as being all about Loyalist paramilitary power which is contemptuous of the people there. The sense of alienation of working class unionists in North Belfast is rather more complex.”

    It is hardly contemptueus, they are smart enough to know that by selecting such leaders and tolerating such emblems, parades and banners in an illegal camp that habitually abuses and films crown representatives in an intimidating fashion that they are going to give off the impression of flexing loyalist might.
    Part and parcel of loyalist might are the paramilitaries.
    Their choice turgon.

    “Furthermore he (Lynch) describes unionist politicians as committed to working with loyalist paramilitaries at Twaddell.”

    Yes he does

    ” The unionist politicians are committed to working for their unionist constituents there.”

    I’ll take your word for it so yes, they are

    ” However, Lynch produces a completely dishonest spin to claim that unionist politicians are primarily helping terrorists.”

    Primarily or are they using Loyalist terrorsits as a means to an end? (again)

    ” Such dishonesty is of course to be expected from Lynch as he is trying to deflect attention from Lo’s remarks.”

    I would say “such honesty is expected from Mr Lynch as he is sick of the thuggish boot on the neck of Northern Ireland’s people”

    This man has felt the aggessive edge of Loyalism on live TV (?), I doubt Lo’s comments are at the fore of his mind when considering Loyalist narrowmindedness.

    “Then you come back to more racist gibberish now including Australians.”

    I merely ran with your pont, if you deem it racist then blame yourself, I neither exaggerated nor indulged.

    “You are quite clearly obsessed with racial lineages, ancestry and such like.”

    Possibly, I was delighted when I traced my ancestry to a Scottish Presbyterian captain who fought in the Battle of the Boyne. But I don’t consider myself Scottish. Go figure.

    ” Let us be clear the individual you comment on can describe in any way they wish: that is their right (and no you do not have the right to disagree with them on that – apparently this individual lives in Australia, and is Australian so if they wish to self define solely as Australian that is up to them).”

    My argument is about the idea of cultural divorce e.g. to me she is an Australian citizen but also a Russian of sorts likewise Jonny Adair, Willy Frazer, Jim Allister and Jamie Bryson are British citizens but also Irishmen of sorts.

    “You on the other hand seem determined to categorise all individuals according to racial characteristics and ancestry. This is deeply unpleasant and would be described by most people as racist.”

    I told you before that if I viewed people by their ancestry then my argument would be void i.e. both I and Jonny Adair (and the others) would be Scottish, not Irish, so no, you’re just not listening. Again.

    “As to your views of my blogs, I am supremely indifferent to your opinions”

    Fair enough, probably quite wise.

    “You have demonstrated here that your views are narrow minded, contemptuous of other views, pretty unpleasant and unpalatable in a modern multicultural society.”

    Well, strange how I’ve managed to live in multicultural societies and other countries quite happily since I left Mid ulster all those years ago.

    How many Irish & Scottish Catholics, French, Portuguese, Malays, English Muslims, Chinese, Free P’s, Croats, Norwegians have you happily lived with Turgon?

    “As such I am not inclined to rate or regard you as an arbiter of my work.”

    Fine

    ” You provide no food for thought: I reject practically all that you say.”

    Aw well, my ‘most people born in Ireland are Irish’ theory has one less supporter.

    ” You leave me with just amazement that an apparently intelligent person is willing to trumpet such obsolete and objectionable views so openly.”

    That’s the closest thing I’ll ever get to a compliment from you, so I’ll leave it there.

    “As I said above I have no wish to derail Gerry Lynch’s thread which at the outset I noted I agreed with parts of. As such I will leave you with you own bizarre views for the meantime.”

    Thank you, I shall spend my time talking about other bizarre notions such as how unionism doesn’t have to be offensive or flag orientated or how band parades can be more civillised. Such madness…

  • Turgon

    Am Ghobsmacht,

    “Well, strange how I’ve managed to live in multicultural societies and other countries quite happily since I left Mid ulster all those years ago.”

    Many racist people live in multicultural societies.

    “How many Irish & Scottish Catholics, French, Portuguese, Malays, English Muslims, Chinese, Free P’s, Croats, Norwegians have you happily lived with Turgon?”

    You see that just illustrates the point. I have actually worked with people of many cultures in NI, GB and overseas. I, however, am not obsessed with their ancestry, ethnicity or any such. I just see them as people. I do not preen about the number of different cultures I know and have or have had friends from. I guess I am just not that interested in race let alone racism. It seems in yor case to quote the Bard: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

  • http://www.richard.gadsden.name/ Richard Gadsden

    @DC “a party that messes around with things of emotional importance to others and couldn’t care less”

    I think it’s more a party that genuinely can’t see why people care. Either way. I know I sure as hell can’t.

    It seems to me that both Unionists and Republicans have spent a great deal of time cultivating some very long and very sensitive toes, and it’s now impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on one or the other set.

  • Greenflag

    @ Richard Gadsen ,

    ‘and it’s now impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on one or the other set.’

    Indeed which is another plus for Anna Lo and Naomi Long and all the more reason for them to continue not just to step on the aforementioned ‘sensitive ‘ DUP/SF/SDLP/UUP toes but for each to don a pair of Doc Martins and to dance a Highland Reel or Kerry Polka on them (toes ) ;)

  • Greenflag

    Am Ghobsmacht ,

    ‘ I shall spend my time talking about other bizarre notions such as how unionism doesn’t have to be offensive or flag orientated or how band parades can be more civillised.’

    A word in yer ear ould son . What you suggest in your quote above sounds eminently reasonable and indeed sensible to most residents of planet Earth . My experience in that department is that you would make more progress trying to get an answer from the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem .

    Although you are correct in that ‘unionism ‘ doesn’t have to be offensive -alas that goes with it’s historical origins a couple of centuries ago -It’s flag fetishism lies somewhere on the North Korea Nazi Germany or Maoist China spectrum which is why the Twaddell Ave lot have become a laughing stock .

    The thought of civilising band behaviour would alas take all the fun out of traditional Catholic baiting even unto empty Church buildings . But to be fair to the lads ( not all parades are uncivilised ) not at least until the elixir of youth discreetly covered in brown paper bags has been imbibed to a degree commensurate with lack of sobriety :)

    ‘Such madness’

    Quite -which does not render it any less so when repeated .
    Some are destined alas never to learn or to learn only the hard way .

    Que Sera -Ireland will outlive them all (and you and me too ) :)

  • DC

    ‘I think it’s more a party that genuinely can’t see why people care.’

    Wrong! So wrong wrong wrong.

    Because if that was the case the motion would have been blocked on the basis that there might be many good reasons to change flag policy, but only one real genuine one not to and that being people are fed up with the politics of flags, as it is not genuinely important.

    If that was true Alliance could have kept the issue dead by not to making it live. Just negate any ‘progress’ on it if indeed such a change is to be viewed as progress seeing as Alliance is supposedly a party that genuinely doesn’t know why people care about flag positions.

    Alliance got caught out fcking about, messing around being a nuisance. And we are all supposed to fall into line because Naomi Long has a vision of a shared future particular to her that she wants people to follow, a shared future that remains to be defined except by flag positions of the sovereign flag!

    Not genuine – wise up Richard!

    ‘Either way. I know I sure as hell can’t.’

    Aye I know, but you’d prob strike a hard on over a Mercedes badge in front of your nose instead.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC,

    I have corrected and debunked all of this nonsense many times over already. Yet you continue to repeat the same lies.

  • westprog

    What is tribal politics? How does a tribe differ from other social groupings? What’s the difference between tribe and class?

    The point about a tribe is that a person identifies totally with the tribe. He doesn’t vote one way and go to the pub with people who vote a different way. He watches sport with people who go to the same pubs, and he knows that the people who watch different teams, or entirely different sports, won’t come to his pubs, or vote for the same politicians.

    Ideally, this tribalism would extend to dress, language, leisure pursuits, etc. The problem with NI tribalism, clung to so desperately the more counter-productive it is, is that so much of everyday life is now pretty much the same among both communities. They might isolate themselves, but they isolate themselves into mirror images of each other.

    That’s why it becomes so important to have tribal badges that assume all the more value the more abhorrent they are to the other lot. Never mind that ordinary people in the Republic or the UK find much of what goes on alien and bizarre. People in Salisbury don’t bedeck their streets with flags and murals. People in Dublin don’t name their parks after murderers, at least until a decent interval has passed.

    I agree with the comments made above about Alliance not being aggressive enough with their moderation. They need to call out the disfunctional society they are trying to change. A problem with Northern Ireland has always been the unwillingness to talk straight. There’s an ever-growing constituency out there of normal people looking for someone to speak for them.

  • DC

    @Comrade Stalin – I love all the work you’ve been doing on here and I take you much more seriously than Ian Parsley.

    But, either designated days applies to all councils or none, does it apply to all councils? No. The inconsistent application of designated days is because the issue is not really about equality law but about local political decision making, more than anything else.

    Equality law or sorry to be more precise the desirability of good relations is surely based on circumstances, political environment and whether changing flag policy in the circumstances would indeed be counter productive and not conducive to good relations. Now, a better person than me and Alliance probably should have spotted this, that the time wasn’t right, dark clouds on the horizon, rain not far off, bumpy ride ahead type thing, but ah well.

    In the end a very soft guidance policy by soft I mean that it really didn’t have that much if any legal punch to it was bigged up and blown out of proportion, guidance was mistakenly read as some sort of directive. A soft good relations policy that should have been used to give birth to improved relations across the city ended up stillborn and it upset the wider unionist family.

    Blame who you like if you want but you guys were the change makers. I don’t like this sort of change, I don’t like the way you stepped forward, it was stepping out of line and I don’t think you guys can be trusted.

    Turgon said in another post about explaining is losing, more like disbelieving is losing. I don’t believe you guys even believe in what you supposedly stand for, whatever that is, because you behave fast and loose, just like Nick Clegg on tuition fees!

    Alliance frittered away the chance to seriously get a win win by using Belfast as a bargaining chip to get designated days throughout all councils, but it frittered away that opportunity, letting the horse that was Belfast bolt and the story thereafter has been about gate closing – and also about blaming Unionism for not leading its constituents to a position, which they did not want to be led to, because they felt it unfair, given their beliefs in a one sided peace process. No better example of that than selective use of designated days when it is only about reducing, not producing the union flag. Equality only seems to apply where the union flag flies a lot, it is then used to reduce it by 95%, but where it is never flown, it’s never as a policy used to produce it. Nope, never.

    So what I have learned is – remove does not improve.

    Show me a shared future that breaks out of ‘remove to improve’, diluting Britishness to make certain others feel better due to their intolerance of legitimate British symbols, then perhaps I could get interested in this shared future.

  • Morpheus

    Holy crap DC but you take the phrase ‘”haven’t got a clue” to a whole new level.

    “But, either designated days applies to all councils or none, does it apply to all councils? No.”

    How many times??? The Alliance’s policy is to fly the flag on designated days and they came to that policy after getting legal advice, advice from the Equality Commission, contacting hundreds of councils around the UK to see how they fly the flag and engaged in 10 YEARS of debates before taking part in a democratic vote. They tried to have that policy implemented across all councils and it failed because unionist councils would be forced to reduce their flag flying policy to designated days. Nationalist councils who opt for neutrality would’ve had a flag flying policy forced upon them. That was never gonna happen but at least Alliance were 100% consistent.

    Would you like the right to chose taken away from unionist councils and force them to move to the same designated days that you have such a problem with in Belfast?

    Your assertion that there was much legal punch is absolutely bizarre and not based in even a smidgen of reality. You do realize that the legal advice came from Senior Counsel right? A QC no less.

    You then go on to talk about blame. As you have been told many, many, many times before, blame those from previous generations who used and abused The Union Flag and made it contentious.

    Unionism will go from 100% to 50% and nationalist will go from 0% to 50% that’s just how it has to be so get ready for it….50-50, that’s equality. Sooner rather than later there will be a new flag and a new anthem that represents us all and doesn’t divide us so get ready for it.

  • DC

    Sinn Fein had bad intentions, bad motives, therefore Alliance using or relying heavily on that voting bloc to get its minority policy position over the finishing line meant it got tainted with bad motives, these bad motives ruined the merits for change, which should have been about good relations.

    Now, if Alliance had been a majority party and had the mandate to do what it did rather comfortably then the motives, as a majority party, would have been different, but the motives were largely SF ones, nationalist ones, spiteful ones, therefore any merits got cancelled out.

    Because nationalist ones are about reducing the flag due to spite because there is no legitimate policy aim or reason for flying the Irish tricolour, republican ones are about intolerance and also nationalists never apply designated days to their own councils. Those were – largely – the dynamics behind the decision making process. Bad ones.

    Motives, merits, only to reduce, never to produce and remove does not improve. There you are.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Richard Gadsden

    “It seems to me that both Unionists and Republicans have spent a great deal of time cultivating some very long and very sensitive toes, and it’s now impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on one or the other set.”

    You honestly need to support such a claim as Republicans/nationalists have been extremely supportive of unionist parades. This is true to such an extent that Unionists think its reasonable to stop Republicans marching in Castlederg.

  • Neil

    Sinn Fein had bad intentions, bad motives

    The old Unionist ‘these truths we hold to be self-evident’ attitude. You cannot for a second understand that your point of view is just a point of view, not carved in stone tablets by God himself. Just yer bog standard, as good as anyone else’s opinion. That’s why you all started shitting solid gold bricks when Lo expressed a point of view that was (OMFG) not a Unionist one.

    there is no legitimate policy aim or reason for flying the Irish tricolour, republican ones are about intolerance

    Um… yeah OK, that’s not a hypocritical statement at all, demonstrating intolerance and accusing other people of it in the same breath. Projection once again.

  • Morpheus

    SF had the same intentions that they continue to have in the rest of the nationalist controlled councils – neutrality. Which in itself is not a bad thing because at least it’s demonstrating equality.

    Get it into you head that SF changed their position in Belfast to back the Alliance position which is the same as the rest of the UK, inline with legal advice, in line with Equality Commission advice and inline with the College of Arms recommendations. You should be THANKING Alliance because without their strong principled stance in the face of some truly disgusting tactics from the cowardly DUUPers, Belfast City Hall would be neutral as well.

    What you are pissed at is someone coming into your backyard and moving the furniture around. The reality is that it isn’t your backyard and it isn’t your furniture.

    Now grow up, stop behaving like a petulant child and get over it because, like I said, as unionism goes from 100% to 50% and as nationalism goes from 0 to 50% you are in for some changes, we all are. The end result will be an equal, symbiotic 50-50 relationship and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.

  • DC

    Neutrality is bigotry because there is a legitimate policy aim to fly the union flag which SF denies out of intolerance, out of spite and Alliance got caught on the wrong side of a bigoted motion, which it furthered.

    Neil, it was also the opinion of Senior Counsel –

    Although the flying of the Irish Tricolour would not, per se, be unlawful, having regard to the legal obligations discussed, it was difficult to regard this as being within the range of options legitimately open to the Council

  • Morpheus

    Listen to yourself man, ‘neutrality is bigotry’, I mean seriously, c’mon.

    No matter how hard you try Alliance voters – in fact everyone except fleg central – know that Alliance made the right decision for the right reasons and should be thanked, not firebombed. You need to get over it and stop droning on repeating myth after myth even after they have been debunked

    …by multiple people

    …multiple times

    …with ease.

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

    Let’s unpack this tribalism thing. Turgon jumped in to take offence at it rather than presenting against what I said. So I’ll restate it.

    The four traditional parties would all resent any suggestion that they are only interested in communal advantage and argue that they are geared at advancing/preserving a particular constitutional objective, which they believe is in the best interests of everyone in NI regardless of religion/tribe/w.h.y. The problem is that’s not what they do in practice.

    In reality, they are all useless at arguing for their constitutional position. Unionists have never even had to; if the day ever comes where they might, they’ve annoyed pretty much all the possible swing voters. Nationalists can’t make effective use of the All Ireland tools available to them or even lock in their own voters for a border poll.

    What Northern Ireland political parties are about is communal advancement (for the Nationalists) and communal defence (for the Unionists). That subtle but important difference is one reason why Nationalists seem so much more appealing to outsiders at first blush and why Unionists always think they’re losing even though they’ve won. In any case, they’re all about looking out for ‘us’, especially when ‘themmuns’ are up to their antics. Call it communalism if you find the word tribalism offensive. But that’s the substance. Unlike, say, the SNP or the Parti Québecois, the SDLP don’t really expect to convince UUP or DUP voters to support a United Ireland. And they’re the least tribalised of the four.

    Why do people vote Sinn Féin if they don’t particularly want Irish Unity any time soon? Either because they just enjoy the way the Shinners stick it up to the Huns or despite despairing of the way the Shinners stick it up to the Huns, they think the Huns are even worse and need their cards marked. And the same, mutatis mutandis applies on the other side of the community.

    As for the whole looking down my nose at working-class Prods thing about Twaddell… where to start! As Stalin pointed out, the UVF, who run Camp Twaddell can’t even get a councillor elected from the Shankill these days. Half of working-class Prods have opted out of the political system entirely; they have a variety of views if pushed, but despair at the flag waving joke that passes for Unionist politics is certainly part of the reason. And just because a bunch of gun-toting thugs claim to speak for a community, doesn’t mean they do.

    Actually, we do occasionally bedeck Salisbury in flegs and bunting, westprog (a voice of common sense!) At times a Royal Jubilee or when locally-based troops here in Army country are coming back from Afghanistan. The atmosphere is about as far from the average band parade as you could imagine and A Good Time Is Had By All. But that’s actual Britishness as opposed to the ersatz variety that’s usually the only one on offer in Northern Ireland.

  • Turgon

    Mr. Lynch,
    Actually I agreed with much of your analysis. However, you go on to talk about “What Northern Ireland political parties are about is communal advancement” or indeed “communalism”

    This is pretty true but is exactly as true for the Alliance Party as any of the others. Alliance advance their communities interests and positions just as much. Throughout the Troubles and even afterwards they had an influence on the NIO far in excess of their electoral strength. They also provided the best mechanism to get into the Quango-cracy which helped run NI. Many managed to spend almost their whole career in Quangoland. The likes of Duncan Morrow one of Alliance’s elderstatesmen is a pretty good example though he has now moved seamlessly from Quangocrat to soft univsity job (hardly one of Anna Lo’s STEM subjects).

    As such Alliance did very well for their tribe, community call it what you will.

    Turning to your comments about parades and Salisbury. It is interesting that returning soldiers here in NI get a much less good deal and much less honour. Barton Creeth has a very good article on this issue below.

    Staying on the Salisbury issue you need to be called on a direct untruth. You state about celebrations in Salisbury: “The atmosphere is about as far from the average band parade as you could imagine and A Good Time Is Had By All.”

    Since about 95% of band parades are non contentious most are exactly as you suggest: celebrations where a good time is had by all. Most parades are exactly like that and the lack of any controversy let alone trouble at most backs that up.

    However, that would not fit into your narrative so you are directly dishonest about it. Some band parades are indeed controversial but very few: maybe more in North Belfast where you are form but not elsewhere.

    Or maybe it is that you do not like band parades. You may have your own reasons for seeing a difference between the majority of band parades (non contentious as they clearly are) and analogous celebrations in Salisbury. Maybe one can take the North Belfast man out of North Belfast (indeed to Salisbury) but not take North Belfast out of the man.

  • Turgon

    Sorry got the italics wrong, I think fixed now.

    Mr. Lynch,
    Actually I agreed with much of your analysis. However, you go on to talk about “What Northern Ireland political parties are about is communal advancement” or indeed “communalism”

    This is pretty true but is exactly as true for the Alliance Party as any of the others. Alliance advance their communities interests and positions just as much. Throughout the Troubles and even afterwards they had an influence on the NIO far in excess of their electoral strength. They also provided the best mechanism to get into the Quango-cracy which helped run NI. Many managed to spend almost their whole career in Quangoland. The likes of Duncan Morrow one of Alliance’s elderstatesmen is a pretty good example though he has now moved seamlessly from Quangocrat to soft univsity job (hardly one of Anna Lo’s STEM subjects).

    As such Alliance did very well for their tribe, community call it what you will.

    Turning to your comments about parades and Salisbury. It is interesting that returning soldiers here in NI get a much less good deal and much less honour. Barton Creeth has a very good article on this issue below.

    Staying on the Salisbury issue you need to be called on a direct untruth. You state about celebrations in Salisbury: “The atmosphere is about as far from the average band parade as you could imagine and A Good Time Is Had By All.”

    Since about 95% of band parades are non contentious most are exactly as you suggest: celebrations where a good time is had by all. Most parades are exactly like that and the lack of any controversy let alone trouble at most backs that up.

    However, that would not fit into your narrative so you are directly dishonest about it. Some band parades are indeed controversial but very few: maybe more in North Belfast where you are form but not elsewhere.

    Or maybe it is that you do not like band parades. You may have your own reasons for seeing a difference between the majority of band parades (non contentious as they clearly are) and analogous celebrations in Salisbury. Maybe one can take the North Belfast man out of North Belfast (indeed to Salisbury) but not take North Belfast out of the man.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    No time to reply in full but I want to talk about this one :

    Since about 95% of band parades are non contentious most are exactly as you suggest: celebrations where a good time is had by all.

    Howl on.

    Just because 95% (99.9% ?) of marches aren’t like Ardoyne doesn’t mean “a good time is had by all” in the sense that Gerry very obviously means.

    I don’t think I’m too far away from most nationalists in that I’d tolerate a lawful parade past my house provided I had reasonable notice, that those organizing the parade took responsibility for it, and that they took the time to consult with the locals. That doesn’t mean I have any intention of turning up at the event, or that I would be even capable of enjoying it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Turgon

    “Staying on the Salisbury issue you need to be called on a direct untruth. You state about celebrations in Salisbury: “The atmosphere is about as far from the average band parade as you could imagine and A Good Time Is Had By All.”

    Since about 95% of band parades are non contentious most are exactly as you suggest: celebrations where a good time is had by all. Most parades are exactly like that and the lack of any controversy let alone trouble at most backs that up.

    However, that would not fit into your narrative so you are directly dishonest about it. Some band parades are indeed controversial but very few: maybe more in North Belfast where you are form but not elsewhere.

    Or maybe it is that you do not like band parades. You may have your own reasons for seeing a difference between the majority of band parades (non contentious as they clearly are) and analogous celebrations in Salisbury. Maybe one can take the North Belfast man out of North Belfast (indeed to Salisbury) but not take North Belfast out of the man.”

    Flabbergasting.

    Absolutely flabbergasting.

    Here is a native of Belfast kindly informing us that it is possible to have parades in a non-intimidating fashion.

    Rather than dig deeper and ask for details in the hope that we can apply the same principles (or some of them) here to try and take the sting out of marching season you accuse him of dishonesty (as usual, yawn).

    Nationalist and even non nationalist commentators and posters on this very site quite clearly outline their grievances and sore points about parading you still somehow arrive at the figure of 95% in regards to how many parades provide a ‘good time for all’.

    This statistic is only possible if the nationalists/non-parading types are discounted by their non-attendance ( by means of being effectively confined to quarters) and IF those thousands of parades are bereft of the following traits that often travel in tandem with many flute band parades and contests:

    * Songs about the deaths of Catholics e.g. The Billy Boys or warped sea shanties such as “What Shall We Do With the f****n B*****d?”

    * Intimidating banners curiously similar to banners of groups that have had a role in killing Catholics e.g. Moneydig’s new banners which is very similar to their old UDA banner but instead uses the word ‘federation’ (or union) instead of ‘association’

    * stalls that sell insignia of the UVF or such like(I still have a few badges from my youth lying about my parents house) or T-shirts that say “yabba dabba do, any fenian will do” or whatever the latest fashion is.

    * The disrespect of houses of worship either by making an effort to play outside them or take a ‘break’ outside of them (i.e. toilet stop)

    That’s without compounding the matter with alcohol, I’m sticking my neck out on that one as in my day the drinking culture wasn’t so bad unless it was big ‘tour’ on a Saturday or the 12th.

    Naturally some of the bands have excellent discipline which only highlights the pitiful state of the matter as it doesn’t have to be this way.

    But few are willing to admit that there is any kind of a problem with the parades and some even see the passing off of peaceful parades in England as a sign that it would be the same here if it wasn’t for those bothersome f****ns kicking off and going out of their way to be offended.

    Incidentally, the parade in Glasgow would fit your criteria (as laid out earlier) as a ‘non contentious’ parade and yet it is one of the most dreaded days in the Glasgow calender.

    I want the band parade scene to survive or indeed flourish but not in its current provocative format.

    Until the ‘KAT’ culture is rightly condemned (or even not ignored) by all within the pro-marching contingent of the unionist community this change will not come about, there’s too much of a fear to be seen to be giving in to ‘them’.

  • grandimarkey

    Since about 95% of band parades are non contentious most are exactly as you suggest: celebrations where a good time is had by all. Most parades are exactly like that and the lack of any controversy let alone trouble at most backs that up.

    That’s a remarkably unintelligible leap of logic.

    A good time may have been had by those that attended, but it may be worth exploring who those people are…

  • PaddyReilly

    Every piece of opinion research ever carried out in Northern Ireland has found significant numbers of SDLP and Sinn Féin voters in favour of the constitutional status quo.

    Nationalists can’t make effective use of the All Ireland tools available to them or even lock in their own voters for a border poll.

    In the Crimea, opinion polls assured us that only 41% of the voters were in favour of joining Russia, but when there was a vote in it this became 97%. Why is this?

    1) Opinion polls can be bought by persons with an interest in the outcome.
    2) Many people prefer not to express a desire for something they’re not going to get. At the time of the polls there was no referendum planned.
    3) Opinion polls get more accurate when the election nears; exit polls are almost spot on.
    4) When it became apparent that the Russkies were going to win hands down, the Tatars decided to abstain, pushing the figures even higher.

    So there is an observable effect that when the advocates of a particular viewpoint are destined to lose by the geography of the entities they are placed in, they will respond by not voting or expressing an opinion.

    The figures for the 2011 census show that of the 9 constituencies with a Catholic majority, 8 return a SDLP or SF MP. The one apparent exception, North Belfast, is not an exception, because it only turned green in 2011 and the last Westminster election was in 2010.

    The necessary condition for SF or SDLP to win an election seems to be that the majority of the electorate are Catholic. When that condition is in place, they have in every case ended up with the prize, despite split votes and Unionist shenanigans.

    So when you say Nationalist (politicians) can’t even lock in their own voters for a border poll, you are making unwarranted statement about something that has never happened. When a majority of the electorate are Catholic (in approximately 30 months time) it is then that the conditions will be in place for SF and SDLP (if you consider them a single entity) to start winning elections. They will do so with remarkable alacrity, and it is the other parties who will despair, stop voting, and stop wanting a partitioned Ireland.

  • Gopher

    “No war my Lords! No War!” Queen Elizabeth it was said had a strong aversion to war not just because of the blood and expense but because with wars she became tied to the vagaries of chance. She knew how they started she never knew where or how they ended. In the rest of the world war is seen as politics by other means but in Northern Ireland politics is war by other means. The repeated systematic breakdown in Northern Ireland governance is the fact that the five main political parties have failed to enter into postbellum politics and worst still every single one of these party’s like alcoholics in denial falsely believe they alone dont have the problem its the rest causing the dysfunction.

    As we know (yet) another postbellum political war broke out this time the casus belli was the flag over city hall. Cicero claimed the the causes of events were more interesting than the events themselves and the subsequent protest did disqualify his belief, mobs just arnt interesting. But the saga threw up some interesting largely unforeseen vagaries the type Elizabeth feared.

    Basically what happened was Alliance leader David Ford, crowned himself Holy Roman Emperor and Naomi Long was named Elector of East Belfast. and he declared “Cuius regio eius religio” as far as local government goes in a blatant attempt for votes unfortunately this caused the detachment of parts of the Alliance Party’s disparate coalition which consisted of remnants of the defeated UUP, the protestant, agnostic and atheist proletariat and various bands of Loyalist Landsknechte and anyone with common sense.

    Since the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Basil refused to join the Emperor and raised his own standard, a pig on its hind legs giving two fingers to a trough over the cross of St Patrick with the words “OPPOSITION” embroidered on it the Emperor had to get his nose out of the trough for thirty seconds and look elsewhere. It was decided over a coffee on the Lisburn Road or Switzerland as it is sometimes known, just like Henri IV before them that the European Parliament was “vaut bien une messe” so Anna Lo was given a fashionable Broad Black Brimmer and East Belfast became artificial colonial pig dogs. This annoyed the SDLP because they imagine like the Emperor because they drink coffee on the Lisburn Road and call East Belfast artificial colonial pig dogs Alliance might steal their votes because their broad black brimmer just aint as fashionable

    Thats the state of play right now and we will find out at the election which liberal (sic) party gets to call East Belfast artificial colonial pig dogs.

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

    “Actually I agreed with much of your analysis. However, you go on to talk about “What Northern Ireland political parties are about is communal advancement” or indeed “communalism”

    This is pretty true but is exactly as true for the Alliance Party as any of the others.”

    @Turgon,

    You’ve called Alliance a “tribe,” while defining it in terms of class and ideology. Yet you deny that the real tribes–ethnic groups whose members share geographical origins, religious denomination(s), political mythologies, shared past, celebrations, sports teams (as Gallagher points out above), pubs, residential areas, and political parties are such. Brilliant. No wonder you don’t need a license to practice journalism.

    “Throughout the Troubles and even afterwards they had an influence on the NIO far in excess of their electoral strength.”

    Maybe this was because they provided intelligent analysis backing up realistic solutions such as reintroducing PR-STV in local and Assembly elections. This was at a time when the UUP was only proposing more repressive security measures.

    “They also provided the best mechanism to get into the Quango-cracy which helped run NI. Many managed to spend almost their whole career in Quangoland. The likes of Duncan Morrow one of Alliance’s elderstatesmen is a pretty good example though he has now moved seamlessly from Quangocrat to soft univsity job (hardly one of Anna Lo’s STEM subjects).”

    Maybe this is because if London or the NIO appointed nationalists unionists would object and vice versa.