“A swing of only two votes in every hundred from the DUP to Sinn Fein would see Martin McGuinness become the next First Minister”

Arlene Foster spring conferenceAt the DUP’s Spring Conference on Saturday in Limavady, DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster used her speech to put herself at the centre of her party’s Assembly election campaign. (Party members even tweeted with the hashtag #ForwardWithArlene today … though it was hijacked a little with less DUP-friendly messaging.) A sensible strategy given the very high public approval ratings at present for her leadership.

Ten weeks on, that process of change and renewal continues.

I want to repay the faith that has been shown in me and do all in my power to help this Country and our people reach new heights.

As a mother, I understand the pressures and worries of families when it comes to relying on a strong health system, balancing the family budget, hoping there are real job opportunities.

As a politician, I am uniquely placed to help unite unionism and put an end to the decades of division we have seen.

But if we want to continue to lead the people of Northern Ireland, we must first make sure our own house is in order.

That’s why I want our party to set the standards in public life and not just to meet them. I want our members to know they are listened to and valued, and I want the public to get the best value from our political system.

If, in the months and years to come, that means taking difficult decisions to help restore confidence in the political system, I will take those decisions.

So far so good.

Setting and not just meeting the standards in public life is a good ambition for a party that is frequently featured in negative reporting of irascible exchanges in committee rooms and the Assembly chamber; questions about donations; and failure to challenge racist language when in conversation with members of the public.

Today I want to set out the five key priorities which will be at the very heart of my plan for a stronger Northern Ireland.

Firstly, I want to continue creating more jobs and increase incomes. In the last five years we have promoted over 40,000 jobs though foreign direct investment, business start ups and local support. With the reduction of Corporation Tax to 12.5% from April 2018 I believe we can create tens of thousands of jobs by 2020.

Secondly, I want to protect family budgets. Due to the tough decisions taken by DUP Finance Ministers, Northern Ireland continues to have the lowest household taxes anywhere in the UK. We pay half as much as people in England and around 60% of the average in Scotland. That means people living here get to keep more of their hard earned money than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. In this next Assembly term I want to continue protecting household budgets, ensuring we don’t raise a penny more in household taxes than is needed.

That’s a no to introducing water rates during the next Assembly term.

Thirdly, I will prioritise spending on the health service. I believe the single most important role for government in Northern Ireland is to provide the best possible health service for all of our people. That’s why our Health Ministers have employed 1200 more nurses and almost 300 more consultants. At the same time, we have tackled waste and saved £800m. To build on this work will involve a significant cross party agreement on reform but will also require prioritising funding. That’s why in the next five years we will increase the health budget by at least £1 billion to employ more doctors and nurses and to reduce waiting times.

Will the DUP need to secure both Finance and Health ministries during d’Hondt to pull this off?

Fourthly, I want to raise standards in education for everyone. We rightly take pride in the best of our education system, which produces better exam results than anywhere else in the UK. But we must make sure that every child is given a chance in life and the best possible education. I want to build an education system which does not play favourites but is fair to every sector, every school and every child.

And fifthly I want to invest in infrastructure for the future. That means building new schools, new roads and new hospitals so that Northern Ireland is prepared for the future. I want to see real investment in local communities and neighbourhoods so that everyone can take pride in where they live and improve their quality of life.

ForwardWithArlene bannerHaving laid out the vision, now comes the crunch. To deliver this requires power, and that means continuing to have more MLAs than any other party.

I need the strongest mandate to implement our plan to build a stronger, safer, more stable Northern Ireland. That is why I am asking for the support of people from right across Northern Ireland, from people who have always loyally supported us and from people who are prepared to give us a chance.

I can’t promise the earth but I will promise to be as good as my word. If I’m asked a simple question, I will give a simple answer. I will not change course to court popularity but will always remain resolute to ensure I do what I believe is best for Northern Ireland. That may not always win me friends but I hope it will always win me respect.

It is on this basis that I will put myself forward to be returned as First Minister at the next election. At the heart of this election is an important choice for the community.

108 MLAs will be elected but in reality the next First Minister will either be me or Martin McGuinness. Your vote will decide. It’s that simple.

We have come too far to now turn to the untried and untested. There is too much at risk.

This is a time for political leaders, who have stood the test of time. It is the time for those who have made their name by having achievements of their own. It is time for those who are rooted in the community and have withstood the political battles to come out stronger.

My record shows I can work with anyone in the best interests of Northern Ireland but make no mistake Martin McGuinness and I have very different visions of the future of this country.

I want to work with our national government to bring about a better future, not against it. I want to make sure that we remember the past, not rewrite it. And I want to make sure that we have a fair and balanced peace process, not one where some are more equal than others.

It is a choice between his vision of taking this Province out of the United Kingdom and my vision to strengthen the Union.

Voting DUP to make sure Arlene Foster remains First Minister rather than her being deputy First Minister to Martin McGuinness is a cheap emotional shorthand for the DUP asking for enough votes to continue to have more MLAs than Sinn Féin so the DUP get to pick up more ministries than Sinn Féin when d’Hondt is run. It’s a way of saying “don’t vote for the UUP, TUV or UKIP” without having to name your rivals.

The order of the figure heads at the top of the Executive doesn’t matter. It might be a nuisance to have to swap over to the office at the other side of the hallway. It might be annoying no longer be able to slip into the Executive room via a side door in your office [if I remember the geography of Stormont Castle correctly]. It might mean being introduced and shaking hands second after the First Minister, but in terms of power and control, First Minister and deputy First Minister are equal posts. One can barely sneeze without the other agreeing in advance to sneeze immediately after.

While there is a certain amount of symbolism, the difference between First and deputy First Ministers does not need to be debilitating. It’s not humiliating to be deputy First Minister. It’s just a function of the level of electoral success. You get the office the voters feel you deserve.

If you’re not comfortable with Martin McGuinness being First Minister, you’re probably not comfortable with him being deputy First Minister either.

The DUP could agree to Sinn Féin’s suggestion that the names First and Deputy First are removed and the co-equal nature of the roles could be expressed in the names. But then there wouldn’t be a top dog and a deputy top dog.

What Northern Ireland needs now, more than ever, is strong unionist leadership. We need to move forward to a stronger future and not go back to the past. We must not allow all that has been achieved to be set back. Northern Ireland needs stability, not instability. We need a party with a plan and not half a dozen with competing and conflicting visions for the future.

That is what the DUP under my leadership will offer on the fifth of May. Division and instability would be disastrous for Northern Ireland and would put at risk everything that has been achieved. I have more respect for those who stand their ground than those who blow with the wind and will seek to be all things to all men.

On Election Day the people of Northern Ireland will be faced with a simple choice. I may not be on the ballot across the Province but a vote for our DUP candidates all across the country will return a unionist First Minister. People who vote for the DUP in East Belfast or East Antrim are voting for me to be the First Minister every bit as much as people who are living in Enniskillen. Northern Ireland needs strong leadership.

The message is clear but terribly simplified. Vote DUP to keep Arlene as First Minister because we know you wouldn’t want Martin in the role. Rather than vote DUP to maximise the number of ministries we control and maximise our influence for unionism over the Programme for Government and its delivery for everyone in NI.

The final section Arlene Foster’s speech returned to the theme of not allowing Martin McGuinness to become First Minister.

People seem to assume that this election is a foregone conclusion and that it has been decided even before a vote has been cast. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics in Northern Ireland is tough and brutal. This election campaign will be no different.

Make no mistake, this election is very close. A swing of only two votes in every hundred from the DUP to Sinn Fein would see Martin McGuinness become the next First Minister.

There we go again. The bogeyman is knocking on the door of the office across the corridor. Whereas truthfully, Martin McGuinness would be very upset if he through being First Minister was actually in reach when he would only get to hold onto the role for a year or so before handing over to a Sinn Féin colleague like Conor Murphy.

Update – Nicholas Whyte has crunched the numbers to how much of a shift would be needed for Sinn Féin to overtake the DUP. Answer: a lot more than 2 votes in every 100 …

Their real agenda in the May election is to shred and split unionist votes. They didn’t make the breakthrough they wanted in the South and will do all they can to take Northern Ireland. They will seek to capitalise on a new and untested leader of the SDLP and on the complacency of some unionists. That would be bad for unionism and bad for Northern Ireland. It would take Northern Ireland in the wrong direction and send out the wrong message at this crucial time.

For many, including myself, power sharing with Sinn Fein is difficult but it is a price worth paying to keep Northern Ireland Moving Forward. But if you think it is difficult now just imagine what it would be like with a Sinn Fein First Minister and the Executive dominated by republicans.

That’s why we must stand our ground and fight for every vote. And it’s not just to stop a Sinn Fein First Minister, I want the mandate to promote my positive agenda for the future.

It’s about stopping something perceived as negative from happening … and promoting something positive as an afterthought. Fear first, vision second. Switch those round and it would sound so much more progressive.

But we can only deliver it if we get the support of the people at the ballot box. The next two months will determine the fate and fortunes of this party and of this country for decades to come. Every vote in every seat will matter. The stakes could not be higher. Not a single vote has yet been cast. The outcome will be for the people of Northern Ireland alone to decide. We serve at their pleasure and only with their consent.

The last paragraph:

I look forward to seeing you all on the campaign trail. Let us go out and make sure we can commemorate the sacrifice of 1916 and celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland with unionism still in the driving seat.

The chances of Sinn Fein winning more seats than the DUP are very improbable. It’s not something Sinn Féin are contemplating at this election … though with Northern Ireland’s continued demographic change, it will become more probable over time.

While the speech contains the framework of the DUP’s vision that will be expanded upon during the Assembly campaign, playing the fear card before the election is a predictable and short term strategy.

It demeans unionist voters and suggests that the DUP isn’t properly listening to them. It says that the DUP don’t value their achievements and don’t believe that they can sell their vision strongly enough to convince voters to elect them to deliver it. Instead it says, vote for us because you wouldn’t like them.

It pretends that unionist voters don’t understand that you’re really saying don’t vote for the UUP, TUV and UKIP.

It’s inconsistent to tell people to believe Northern Ireland has a positive future on the one hand and then to encourage voting for a negative reason on the other.

The DUP should be proud of their record … or change the record!

Setting the standard in public life should maybe include not winding up sectarian sentiment or stoking political fears in the electorate.

Photo by Cllr Ben Mallon

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  • ted hagan

    DUP and Sinn Fein are glued to each other. They hate it, but they know it. Everything else is pretend.

  • aquifer

    Yep. Vote DUP and get Sinn Fein. They don’t oppose one another, they complement one another, two sides of the same old halfpenny.

    The old Paisley and Provo double act. With us the meat in their sandwich..

  • Ernekid

    So the central plank of the DUP’s election strategy will be once again. ‘vote for us to keep Themuns out’. I actually hope that Sinn Fein do become the largest party, as when the Unionists refuse to cooperate with a nationalist First Minister and bring the whole power sharing apparatus down it’ll show how petty and supremacist they actually are. Even though there is literally no difference between the First Minister and the deputy First Minister the DUP will refuse to work with the Assembly if they aren’t the biggest party. I’d like to see McGuinness as FM as It’d make the DUP base really mad.

  • ted hagan

    A race to the bottom in other words? We can’t have far to go now.

  • Paddy Reilly

    “A swing of only two votes in every hundred from the DUP to Sinn Fein would see Martin McGuinness become the next First Minister”

    Yes, but swing voters are a feature of British (and similar) democratic politics: they do not exist in Northern Ireland, when constitutional matters are being dealt with. So there is no risk of 2% of DUP voters becoming disenamoured with the DUP and breaking away to vote for Sinn Féin. Or vice versa. Swing voting in NI is DUP to TUV, SDLP to Sinn Féin.

    But of course there is a parallel mechanism which depletes the DUP vote and boosts the Sinn Fein one, and that is the Protestant Death Rate, gradually removing from the electorate the elderly, who are disproportionately vastly more on the Protestant side; together with the Catholic birth rate, which replaces them with newly qualified young voters, who are slightly more likely to be Catholic than Protestant.

    This means that Unionist NI will not be wiped out overnight, but that its demise can be followed in simple increments: the groundwork should be completed in about 9 months time.

    The obvious Unionist response will be to try and stay this with an orchestrated massive increase in turnout. This is their democratic right, I suppose, and something Nationalists need to be aware of: but I also suspect there will be a massive increase in cheating. Particular attention needs to be paid to the votes of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Reformed Presbyterians, sects which abstain from voting on religious grounds: you might find their other Protestant Brethren take the liberty of using their votes for them.

  • Nevin

    The Norn Iron Lady speaks out – and the ‘progressives’ wet their knickers! There’s also something of the Norn Iron Lady in Naomi Long, the only man in the APNI leadership – to coin a phrase.

  • Granni Trixie

    If only the DUP would fast forward problems instead of kicking them down the road as they usually do.

  • Ernekid

    I’d be genuinely curious if anyone is planning to switch their vote from the DUP to Sinn Fein or vice versa. I doubt if many DUP voters will put a transfer for SF or SF voters giving transfers to DUP. Inter communal bloc voting is a rare phenomenon

  • Paddy Reilly

    When power sharing started there were a certain number of transfers from DUP to SF and vice versa, because they were seen as partners, but now both parties and their voters have reverted to seeing the other party as the principal enemy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I take no pleasure in being able to say “I told you so” to those increasingly less viable speculations that Arlene would perhaps be both inclusivist and progressive in her “New Unionist Jerusalem”, such as Sam McBride’s comments in early December:

    “[Quoting Arlene] ‘They wrongly present people’s political choices as one-dimensional. Unionism will be its most successful when all its gateways are open and it has a message that aims to attract the greatest number to the cause of the greater good.’

    The logic of Mrs Foster’s argument was clear – unionism has to be a broad church, embracing those from many backgrounds.” (Sam McBride “Newsletter” 12/12/16)

    But obviously intending to “attract the greatest number to the cause” of voting only for those who are actually DUP Unionists! A rather limited interpretation of “the greater good”….

    As I said then about the tension of holding together a party originating in extreme views, historically supported at its inception, and in its core vote, by that portion of the community which would have problems with more liberal interpretations of Unionism:

    ” I know that the modern political approach globally is to be ‘all things to all people’ (excellent marketing wisdom to ensure maxing out on votes) but how does this actually work in practice? You cannot both deliver to Liberal Modernists and to those potential TUV voters who stubbornly support the DUP as some attenuated expression still of the older party ideology of the late “Dr No”. This is a real “lie on your belly with your toes in the air” vision of Arlene’s opening up a Golden Future. Who is going to be gulled here, for someone certainly is.”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/12/08/arlene-foster-as-leader-would-challenge-some-cherished-media-narratives/#comment-2407555628

    So now Arlene shows herself as something of a “traditionalist” with her own delightfully “lite” version of the notorious “Comber Letter” [addressed to poor impoverished Hugh Montgomery, Lord Mountalexander]:

    ” December 3rd, 1688.

    ” GOOD MY LORD,

    “I have written to you to let you know that all our Irishmen through Ireland is sworn: that on the ninth day of this month they are all to fall on to kill and murder man, wife, and child; and I desire your lordship to take care of yourself, and all others that are judged by our men to be heads, for whosoever of them can kill any of you, they are to have a captain’s place; so my desire to your honour is, to look to yourself, and give other noblemen warning, and go not out either night or day without a good guard with you, and let no Irishman come near you, whatsoever he be; so this is all from him who was your father’s friend, and is your friend, and will be, though I dare not be known, as yet, for fear of my life.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, any ‘progressive” worth his salt already has become well used to rubber knickers with the shenanigans we daily encounter here.

    I disagree with you about Arlene (you know this already) but strongly agree with you about Naomi and her worth. What a real pity the DUP did not turn to her in late 2015 (just joshing, but with a serious edge…)…………

  • submariner

    I don’t know why anyone is surprised by her call. I have posted on slugger on more than one occasion stating that come the election the DUP would be shouting from the rooftops to vote for them or you’ll have a Fenian for a first minister. Sectarianism is in the DNA of political unionism and Arlene is no different

  • Redstar

    Alas does it matter a jot as to which of them get which top job.

    They both share the same conservative establishment politics.

    Only difference is the Shinners pretend they don’t have a split personality in all this- 26 counties against Corp Tax against and cuts to public service workers- 6 counties the opposite!!!!

  • Bill Slim

    Can you point out please where the DUP have said anything about having a “Fenian” for First Minister. Many thanks in advance.

  • Discuscutter

    It was surprising that people believed she would be inclusive. If that was a risk it would have ruled her out of the DUP leadership.

  • Chris

    The DUP have created this situation for their own purposes. At St Andrews they made it so the largest party automatically gets FM rather than election by the Assembly. They have also repeatedly voted down attempts to abolish the post Deputy First Minister and create two First Minister posts (currently the only difference in power and privileges is the name). In short, it suits the DUP to wheel this prospect out every election time, so those who are dissatisfied with them, and may want to vote first preference UUP or other, hold their noses and vote DUP to supposedly hold back SF. Nevermind the fact that the two big parties have achieved very little since 2007.
    It’s Northern Ireland politics at its worst.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The DUP will refuse to work with the Assembly if they aren’t the biggest party !” No Chance ! – Pounds,Shillings & Pence Me Lad ! The Troughers Paradise !

  • Pasty

    If only the DUP could have a ballot paper with only their name on it.
    A Change from If you Don’t Vote for US there will be United Ireland in the morning to there will be a Sinn Fein First Minister. Only thing is there WILL be a Sinn Fein First Minister, the changes to the Assembly set up is changing the titles from First and Deputy First to “the First Ministers” – so no real point in voting for DUP is there ?

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘With us the meat in their sandwich..’

    Some turkeys always enjoy Christmas . They like being the centre of attraction in the middle of the table surrounded by all the goodies proffered by those who would eat them 😉

    Forget not that Foster is a politician . Normal service will be resumed after the election and further outreach efforts will be made to include ‘themmuns ” but first there’s an election to win or at least come first . It doesn’t do to come second .

  • Greenflag 2

    Worst ?
    No it could be a lot worse and was when NI did’nt have any politics or what was called politics was de facto one party rule which led to an absence of even that ‘misgovernance ‘

  • Chris

    I obviously don’t mean it’s the worst to ever happen to NI. It’s just one of the worst elements of our political discourse.
    In the Ulster Unionist Era it was Dublin that was the bogeyman.
    Northern Ireland has always had politics, even during DR.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Northern Ireland has always had politics, even during DR.’

    Of course . Just as the atmosphere has 17% oxygen without which nothing could live , Unfortunately the political atmosphere in NI since 1920 has been 97% sectarianism and 3% politics with that 3% mostly managed from London . The Assembly may have improved those numbers to just 90% sectarianism and 10% politics with just 5% managed from London but hey it’s an improvement . At this rate it’ll take only 4 centuries to get to 90% politics and 10% sectarianism so theres that to look forward to !

  • Greenflag 2

    I would guess that those who don’t vote on religious grounds are outnumbered 10 to 1 by those who can’t be bothered to vote at all for reasons which nobody as far as I know has endeavoured to research . It would be an interesting research study to survey non voters to establish their community backgrounds , religious /non religious denominations , educational standard , social class , average earnings , size of family – marriage status / gender etc etc . Not just in NI but in the Republic, UK and USA .
    Perhaps our politicians just don’t want to know why 35% of the electorate don’t bother to vote or perhaps they’re just relieved they don’t ?

  • Chris

    The sectarianism is political, as was the Northern Ireland conflict.

  • Bill Slim

    I’m sorry, but what exactly do you mean by inclusive? Are you seriously saying that she should be attracting SF voters and if so what exactly have SF done to attract unionist voters?

    Arlene is setting it out exactly as it is. If you want a DUP First Minister then you must vote DUP.

  • Bill Slim

    What changes are these and when are they coming into force?

  • Robin Keogh

    Arelene has made it Crystal clear from the get go that she intended to be a Unionist first minister for a Unionist people in The Union as Isolated as is humanly possible and no Irish need apply. So,no surprise that the SF bogeymen is thrown into the mix to frighten wannabe TUV,UUP and other potential pro Union voters. Maybe the average Unionist will fall for it, maybe not, I wouldn’t be betting on it anyway.
    The message is not one of keeping SF from the first ministry really, as it make no difference to Shinners one way or another, it certainly doesn’t occupy the minds of republicans and nationalists in the way it seems to afflict the DUP. Arlene in her new post needs to consoildate DUP support under her matronage in order to dispel any lingering doubt about having a woman in the top spot.
    What she might be failing to see possibly is that the threat to her party’s supremecy might come more from the centre rather than her Unionist opponents.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My own thoughts too, DS. I think that the more liberal Unionists were simply hoping that she would shift ground from the rigidly fixed old guard Unionist tropes. Every reasonable person across the political spectrum here can see that these old cliches do not, and will not, work to do anything but compel the entire community to tread water in some form of Nietzschean “perpetual re-occurance”…..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And if you don’t want an old guard DUP First Minister, or old guard SF first Minister for that matter?

    The same old “Dreary Stepples” response of “put up with it and shut up, that’s how it will always be……..”

    And that after Arlene was quoted as saying “They wrongly present people’s political choices as one-dimensional. Unionism will be its most successful when all its gateways are open and it has a message that aims to attract the greatest number to the cause of the greater good.” A one-dimensional DUP interests only “greater good”, rather than the entire communities collective Greater Good, it seems. Any other reading can only “work” by failing to read between the lines of the rhetoric.

  • Jollyraj

    Hmmm…. Politician says “If you don’t vote for me, you may get someone else as your political representative”. Scandalous. Robin (below) is right to be outraged.

  • Greenflag 2

    Indeed thats why it will never really /can’t change until the ‘source ‘ i.e the NI State no longer exists -Sectarianism was/is NI’s main artery to keep the show on the road even if advanced signs of arterioscleriosis are becoming increasingly evident .

  • Bill Slim

    “And if you don’t want an old guard DUP First Minister, or old guard SF first Minister for that matter?”

    Then vote for someone else. You surely didn’t expect her to have to tell you that?

  • Bill Slim

    “a Unionist first minister for a Unionist people in The Union”

    I don’t think there would be many votes for her standing as a republican first minister in the ROI.

  • Bill Slim

    Sectarianism would disappear in a united Ireland would it?

  • Robin Keogh

    I note your agreement with my post, thank you.

  • Korhomme

    “Arelene has made it Crystal clear from the get go that she intended to
    be a Unionist first minister for a Unionist people in The Union as
    Isolated as is humanly possible and no Irish need apply.”

    Or a DUP first minister for a DUP people?

  • Reader

    Sectarianism was unknown until the 1920s?

  • Thomas Barber

    If Sinn Fein ever manage to achieve speaking rights for Northern MPs in the Dáil they would sweep the boards throughout nationalist areas in any Northern election. Until then Martin mcGuiness will always be deputy First Minister.

  • Thomas Barber

    it was certainly unknown in Ireland until our neighbours across the Irish sea invaded.

  • Robin Keogh

    Honestly Thomas, the position of First Minister is purely a Unionist obession. I certainly couldnt give a fiddlers.

  • Robin Keogh

    You are probably more accurate there.

  • Thomas Barber

    Its unimportant to yourself Robin but believe me its very important to Northern republicans it gives the illusion that the First Minister reflects the opinions of the majority of voters.

  • Paddy Reilly

    those who can’t be bothered to vote at all for reasons which nobody as far as I know has endeavoured to research.

    I’m not sure that I believe in these people: but on certain cases I was one of them, because

    1) I was placed on the electoral register before I reached the age of 18, and an election took place, which I could not legally vote in;

    2) When I went away to University I registered myself in my University digs, but my mother also kept me registered at the family home, in case an election took place during the vacation; this carried on for years, until I acquired a permanent home. So legally I could only vote in one of these locations.

    3) Later I was unable to vote in the referendum on changing the electoral system because I had moved and not yet re-registered.

    Also at some future date I will doubtless remain on the register for a year or so after my death.

    So as your average punter is recorded on the electoral register about 1.25% times, a full turnout is an impossibility or example of assiduous personation.

  • Nevin

    I’d forgotten that the Iron Lady – Margaret Thatcher – had called her opponents in the party ‘wets’!

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont get the sense from within SF that its really that big of a deal.

  • Bill Slim

    A pity your post is based on stupidity though. Does McGuinness stand as a unionist DFM?

  • Robin Keogh

    Ask the English Queen

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m with the 50% who have discovered that voting for someone else simply encourages people to believe that as own up system is functional in some way. It’s a bit like telling someone who has been sexually abused to go to the police, and if you are unable to see why they don’t, that explains why you are still voting.

    No, the way my fellow citizens seem to “vote by standing order” on one of two issues (the Union or a United Ireland) effectively disenfranchises me, something this bid by Arlene to be the only Unionist party simply confirms.

    You may not have encountered my quoting Emma Goldman on Democracy before, so here we go again:

    “The average mind is slow in grasping a truth, but when the most thoroughly organized, centralized institution, maintained at an excessive national expense, has proven a complete social failure, the dullest must begin to question its right to exist. The time is past when we can be content with our social fabric merely because it is “ordained by divine right,” or by the majesty of the law.”

    Time for some real change and I don’t mean the monopolisation, and homogenisation, of Unionism by the DUP, whose record of non-delivery is probably what has compelled Arlene to try “them scare tactics that are so popular across the water” in referendums, I see.

  • Reader

    Thomas Barber: it was certainly unknown in Ireland until our neighbours across the Irish sea invaded.
    Sectarianism arrived in 1169?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There are wets and wets, Nevin, I’m rather more inclined to think of myself as Heraclitus “the Weeping Philosopher” wringing his hands over the world. “Among the wise, instead of anger, Heraclitus was overtaken by tears”. I certainly put out a few boxes of man size paper hankies every time I see either the DUP or SF in the news, although I’m occasionally weeping with laughter……

    Plato quotes Heraclitus as saying “One may not step twice into the same river” meaning that the water one has first stepped into has then flowed away, with time passing ensuring change. Our political habits here are one of the strongest attempts anywhere in the world to refute tis and freeze the flow, possibly attempting yet another “Ulster First”…….

  • Superfluous

    Eventually the DUP’s biggest threat of a big swing in votes will be a particularly cold winter.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No, 1565. The Elizabethan conquest brought the reformation and with it then Protestant/Catholic thing here. Perhaps the key moment is the appointment of Sir Henry Sidney in 1565 as Lord Deputy of Ireland. Sidney’s marital link with the Dudleys put him into the foremost “political” Reformation clique, and although Sussex as Deputy had attempted to destroy Seán Donnghaileach Ó Néill, Sidney brought the Reformation as part and parcel of his agenda, with the habits of confiscation and re-distribution of property that the reformers had learnt in England with the dissolution of the monasteries, and those sectarian habits of religious contempt that were used to justify the theft of others lands and the destruction of their culture.

  • Greenflag 2

    Thanks Paddy but I was not suggesting a full turnout i.e 100% more like the 90% achieved in the recent Scottish Referendum or in elections in Australia (compulsory voting ) , Austria (92% non compulsory ) or Belgium ? I’m sure there are many people who are /were in similar situations to your experience but hardly 35% more like 5% to 10%?

  • Greenflag 2

    Yes when everybody including the Normans /Irish / Others were all Catholic 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    When the Normans invaded Ireland in 1169 it was’nt souls they were after it was land /loot and the Pope of the time supported Henry 11 ‘s Lord of Ireland claim because the Irish did’nt have a KIng or one able to assert authority over the whole island . The Pope also blessed William the Conquerors invasion England against the ‘excommunicated ‘ King Harold . Harold was ‘framed ‘ i.e accused of not having a Roman enough (i.e French ) Church at the time .

    The Irish like everybody else in Europe at the time did not live in a democracy . It was big sword rules and anybody who does’nt like it or speaks up gets to hang from the castle wall etc .

  • Greenflag 2

    Them are the facts Seaan . Religious differences proved a handy excuse not just in Ireland but elsewhere for conquest and expropriation of property etc . Nowadays it’s done by algorithms and international financial manipulation overseen / unseen by bought politicians everywhere .

  • Greenflag 2

    Put it like this -it would have a much better chance of disappearing in a UI than in NI . Religious differences would lose most of their political significance and thus .sectarianism would diminish as people adapt to a political reality where your religious denomination or lack of one is immaterial .

  • Greenflag 2

    Sectarianism( religious sectarianism ) has existed in Ireland and Britain since the 16th century . The formation of the NI State and the Free State did’nt serve to reduce sectarianism but instead increased and politicised sectarianism to the degree it exists in NI today .

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Well said Seaan, but any true ‘progressive’, i.e. objective realist, has excellent bladder control. Keep your continence when all around us are losing theirs!
    Arlene/Darlene would have no shame in sporting sturdy waterproof underwear (just in case) while fear mongering at the lectern. In fact it would add to her credibility among the assembled sheep. Steve Bell’s knickers on the head cartoons spring to mind.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Or urinating upstream while stemming the flow downstream. How we love wallowing in our own ordure – a fatal faecal abnormality.

  • Cosmo

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-10866072

    For people who read NI’s skimped news reports and believe they judge on actions, rather than mere words…unfortunately the drip, drip, drip of negative and expensive terror-activity (see link above) is an essential part of the machine helping to maintain old fears and mistrust, resurrect painful memories, and stultify vision and confidence.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My own feeling is that if enough people actually stopped supporting our two home “Teams” then the match cannot go on, same as was mooted by the PD back in 1968. When one thinks back to the earlier attempts to shift the debate from polarised eruptions of violence back into areas of sanity, such as by the Volunteers of 1780s acting in a Belfast described as “The Athens of the North”, then the sense that we are trapped in ‘déjà vu’ all over again” is simply compelling.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Actually the image that most springs to mind for me is urinating into the wind to get the boyos coming up behind……..even at the cost of fouling yourself……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah Steve Bell!!! I have about four of the collections of his work within reach…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nietzsche’s perpetual re-occurrence digital style! As the boy himself said, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties”…………Cerberus, perhaps?

  • Kevin Breslin

    A DUP party split achieves the same results, can we have that instead? 😀

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Fouling yourself isn’t a cost when you claim “they made me do it” – it’s the politics of the dirty protest.

  • chrisjones2

    Bogeyman bogeyman ….vote DUP

  • chrisjones2

    Almost …..since SF accepted partition and took the shilling ….

  • Greenflag 2

    In Greek myth Cerberus was the three headed hound of hell who like the latter day Berlin Wall kept people inside from leaving . Our modern day Cerebuses are a thousand headless snakes zombieing their way through destroyed societies, stateless chaos in search of greater profits . As our latter day hounds of hell loot their way through the maze of an unreformed international global financial system they regard all elected politicians as just a temporary irritant that can be bought , sold or transferred to the next vacancy on some board of directors in the City or Wall St or elsewhere . To quote a worn cliche ‘they haven’t gone away ‘ .

    As for NIetzsche ? Once is enough in this universe 😉 As for the others I know nothing of I could’nt possibly comment .

  • Greenflag 2

    Illusions are fine -everybody has them -it’s just they ultimately come face to face with reality -sadly sometimes when it’s too late and what has been done cannot be undone .

    Somebody was quoted as saying that the Argentinians were Uruguayans with illusions of grandeur and it took the Malvinas/Falklands war for them to face ‘reality’ . A week or so ago they faced another reality by kow towing to international creditors after a generation of wishful thinking and voting.

    BTW I agree the election of an SF FM would be important although what the effect might be on those outside the SF tent
    is anybody’s guess .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Unsurprisingly, I find myself entirely in agreement. To my mind the likes of Cerberus and Blackstone are a new, if quite invisible “plantation” and the actual landmass is being alienated from even the existing Unionist “Sean-Ghaill” of all, classes while their pointless squabbles continue over the old threadbare concepts which is all they can permit themselves to address politically.