Orange Order’s NICS report: how do we stop citing neutral bystanders?

With apologies for the delayed response (I’ve been buried in job application forms – the simple words ‘apply by sending CV’ are now a truly beautiful thing to me), a fascinating statement at the start of Samuel Thompson’s piece on the Orange Order’s report on the NI Civil Service leapt off the page and warrants another look: “As an atheist I object to being called a Protestant but I suppose I could be termed part of the wider PUL community the Orange Order frequently claims to speak for”.

This “suppose” points us towards another issue with the Orange Order document and with how we talk about groups of people by their assumed religion, when based on details collected by employers, in that – with church attendance believed to be below 50% and the Census-declared ‘no religion’ group heading for 20% (some fascinating stuff from American here too) – the method of being forced to tick a box or have your primary school sized-up by faith is now in an environment in which we can either stop pretending such figures are representative or else find a new questions to ask.

One of the forms I was busy completing last week insisted that I declare “which community” I “belong” to, or else the employer would be “encouraged to use the residuary method of making a determination”, i.e. take a rough guess based on the information in the application (here’s an older sample for the benefit of overseas viewers, the legislation can be found here).

But what does a ‘state your religion – or else’ actually prove in an increasingly non-religious Northern Ireland? That the person goes to church for hatches, matches and dispatches? That the person was marched off to church as a child and hasn’t given it a thought since? One small tick-box is assuming a lot.

The Orange Order report spends page after page examining such data, although a table on page three showing higher Protestant representation in every grade from Staff Officer and above stands out as a bit off-message, with the unstated inference being that the Order is in some way speaking for those those assigned as Protestants as a group or that there is some sense of shared experience by either group.

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With so many people now non-churchgoers and/ or of no religion, let alone many people being active in their faith but not necessarily subscribing the Orange Order’s view of Northern Ireland or the workplace environment, it is quite a leap. After all, I saw almost no support for the report online, including from those I understand to be church-goers of the Protestant faith. As aside, and again for the benefit of overseas viewers, a very large number of people don’t care about politics in Northern Ireland enough to even vote.

The Orange Order’s document highlights, for me, to the need for a more reflective set of questions – if we must keep any – to be used by employers forced to hold a tally of religious identity in an increasingly secular Northern Ireland, especially if we are going to use such data for identity-in-the-workplace debates.

EMPATHY

I’ve tried to approach to the report with some sense of empathy – my own grandfather was an Orangeman for a time and I have a number of respected friends in the Order – however, some of the more surreal examples of fear in the workplace listed in the report made this a difficult task. It is hard to defend the simple fact that in places the respondents did not apply the ‘reasonable man’ approach of taking a human interest in their colleague’s GAA match or recent bereavement behind the Mass Card on their desk, instead giving the impression that they feel uncomfortable around those of the Catholic faith who do not hide that fact. If the respondent felt they could express themselves similarly, and wished to do so, then an open debate about that specific issue as opposed to whataboutery would have played out in a stronger way.

And a habit of equating Catholicism with “Nationalist ethos” is also unfortunate, not least because a large number of those of the Catholic faith have previously (30.7%) described themselves as “Northern Irish”: perhaps something the Orange Order could acknowledge and capitalise on as opposed to taking a more defensive, ones-size-fits-all stance.

Similar to the style of writing we have seen from – say – Nelson McCausland of late, it isn’t explained why the Irish language causes fear while the use of Ulster-Scots in the Norlin Airlan Civil Service presumably wouldn’t, or why a non-Catholic sympathy card wouldn’t be an issue while a Mass card is worth mentioning.

As it happens, there is some meatier stuff in the report: Drew Nelson states that some members felt they are unable to openly discuss parts of their lifestyle while perceiving that Catholic colleagues were less restrained in doing so. We cannot deny that this is how the respondents experience their workplace, so perhaps there is a wider issue about how those who identify with Protestantism in this way feel about their identity in the workplace. And there are some better examples than those in the media about behaviour concerning the Orange Order members, such as  a Poppy Appeal box not being in place or negative language towards Orangeism. There is also a common theme that those quoted feel Catholic colleagues are more likely to be selected for promotion.

Perhaps there are some hard questions we could be asking ourselves? Are these justified complaints or simply the outworking of our shared love of confirmation bias in Northern Ireland? Unfortunately through the frequency of the widely-derided examples referring to the likes of Mass cards and GAA the chance to clearly present the case and have that open debate has been lost this time around.

COUNTED IN

The use of tick-box employment statistics for religion also means a lost chance to know how many in the workplace identify strongly enough with their Protestant faith to even be in with a chance of feeling affected by the issues raised: as I’ve said, it is too much of a stretch to make assumptions based on box-ticking bearing in mind there’s a fair chance a person could be a non-churchgoer and could well consider themselves as having no religion at all.

In short, as Samuel Thomson alluded to: why bring those who “suppose” they are nominally part of the PUL community (not a term I’m overly keen on) into workplace identity issues by assumption?

I’ve long held the view that while a standard hands-across-the-divide cross-community session might ask how the Orange Order can be understood better by those of the Catholic community, another pressing need is for the Orange Order to attempt to be better understood by the increasing numbers of those who only consider themselves to be nominally Protestant, if at all.

Avoiding claims that tick-box Protestants (who could be, in reality, non-religious and may well not be Orange Order supporters) as part of the Orange Order’s debating positions, i.e. recognising the many shades of views held, would be one good starting point for this.

With reference to the report itself, I am bamboozled by what the Orange Order thought the report would say about it as an organisation, by the presentation of the information, the apparent lack of being able to perceive the inevitable response to the document or what it says about the Orange Order’s strategy and identity going forward. Perhaps the type of thing the new Chief Executive being sought (and here) by the Grand Lodge of Ireland might end up considering.

Since we can’t simply accept and openly learn from our differences in the workplace, meaning workplace policies and tick-box religious designations must instead be used, perhaps the Orange Order could agree that the introduction of statistics – if we must hold information at all – showing information such as whether a person is ‘active’ in a faith or ‘strongly identifies’ with a faith would be a welcome addition to the workplace environment debate. This further depth and clarity would benefit everyone.

And if there are serious issues of inequality in the workplace better data could be used a part of the discussion without the distracting media-bait of finger-pointing at Mass cards and counting everyone into a debate they may well want to be counted out of completely.

A final thought: I wonder if I could apply for the Grand Lodge of Ireland Chief Executive job by simply sending a CV?

They might have to use the ‘residuary method’.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Those church attending numbers seem high.

    With a population around 1.8m, less 20% of no religion, leaves 1.4m people “of religion”, and 700,000 church attenders.

    I find it hard to believer that 700,000 people attend church regularly…

  • Cushy Glen

    The crucial stat not referred to here is the number of young Prods who leave NI to go to university in Britain never to return.
    The UU & QUB are overwhelmingly Catholic students. Prods increasingly prefer Britain for HE. Why this is I don’t know.
    This Prod brain drain is feeding through into better paid jobs in NI which are increasingly held by Catholics by default because the Prods aren’t about the place to apply.
    Personally I’m not bothered. I was born a Prod but would regard myself now as an Irish Republican politically. I do not subscribe to any organised religion.
    However it’s an interesting development historically. In effect we are witnessing the Plantation in reverse & in a less dramatic form. What effect the reduced position of Protestants in the north will have politically remains to be seen.
    Many young middle class Catholics have no strong nationalist baggage, but they also have no allegiance to Britain or their monarchy. They will be open to economic arguments more than emotional ones.
    How the Prods continue to react as they see their position increasingly marginalised is the big question. Will they continue to take it thick & dig in or will many accept that the game is up & accept a deal with the south.
    What happens with the EU & Scotland & the global economy in the next couple of years will decide much.

  • Absolutely – I used ‘below 50%’ as I coudn’t find anything more concrete.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage regular church attendance in NI now stands at.

  • The sands are certainly shifting beneath us yet we see few signs of strategy by groups to be part of, and control, the process of change as opposed to being controlled by change.

  • Granni Trixie

    In considering the religious composition of students of any uni nowadays I think you would have to consider socioeconomic family background which is sure to reveal a chill factor for those from less well off families given there is a loan system and few grants. This must also impact surely on who has a choice about going across the water or staying at home to attend university.

    Not to mention choice of subjects, if your parents are well heeled for instance then would you not be more likely to pick a subject(s) for which you have a passion whereas those who are not in that position are more likely to pick subjects lending themselves to particular professions or training.

  • Granni Trixie

    I suppose the negative image the OO tends to have Is a chill factor holding individuals back from speaking openly about their experiences as members of OO. But I think that the OO will always be wrong footed as long as it holds onto rules/ policies which prohibit members from attending Catholic funerals etc.

  • the rich get richer

    To go a bit Myles na gCopaleen here ;

    It would be handy if everyone had badges (or barcodes) that explained what percentage that person was…; Perhaps 50% protestant and 50% Catholic and such like.

    It could even include percentage for each person ; %athiest ,%nationalist ,% unionist and even %fluctuation at time of observation .

    Can you imagine observing ; “Your individual” having a +2% Nationalist fluctuation and at the same time a +3% Protestant fluctuation

  • Saint Etienne

    After all, I saw almost no support for the report online, including from those I understand to be church-goers of the Protestant faith.

    Unfortunately through the frequency of the widely-derided examples referring to the likes of Mass cards and GAA the chance to clearly present the case and have that open debate has been lost this time around.

    These points are both related back to what the Order means when it makes the case that it is unfairly demonised. It is simply too easy to dwell on the Order’s perceived failings while giving others the benefit of the doubt:

    Are these justified complaints or simply the outworking of our shared love of confirmation bias in Northern Ireland?

    These complaints, and in a way this report, is the outworking of a political settlement that included a positive discrimination element based on the same crude numbering weakness you highlight in the Order’s report. Naturally people feel safer highlighting it’s shortcomings when it’s source is the Orange Order as opposed to the peace processors 😉

    Further – it’s pretty disingenuous of people being selective about what they perceive to be trivial issues in the report while ignoring the undoubtedly more serious issues. I’m not sure how we can hold a worthwhile discussion when individuals are waiting for one single point to disagree on before rejecting the whole discussion immediately as a result.

    I am a supporter of the Orange growing into this sense of an advocacy role. I note many nationalist commentators this week attempted to call the larger RC numbers an ‘equalising’ process. It’s been a while since I left school, though I doubt the definition of equal has changed much.

  • ted hagan

    I can only presume this Orange Order report on the civil service set out to find perceived negatives, since there is no reference to any perceived positive developments within the NICS; although this could be down to selective reporting. And, for instance, were there any grievances found from Catholic members of staff about Protestant staff?
    I haven’t seen the report, so I don’t know exactly what its mission was.

  • An update thanks to @royfis: of those who did not state ‘no religion’ or ‘refused’ 25% said they go to church once a week (21% for Protestant respondents), 13% two or three times a month (12% for Protestants) and 9% (10% for Protestants) once a month.

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2014/Background/CHATTND2.html

    As BelfastBarman has stated and the American link in the article suggests, it may be reasonable to suspect that these figures are on the ambitious side.

  • The Gruffalo

    Peter Lynas did a video a while back about church numbers. It was based on individual churches reporting to Evangelical Alliance how many people regularly attend so not scientific but a starting point and a lot lower than I imagined.

  • Thank you – posted some stats below but I may be translating them badly.

  • Thank you for this.

    For my part, I didn’t so much ignore the more serious issues as observe that they have been over-shadowed by a large number of more Ill-advised contents. That was the doing of the report and not those who have commented on it.

    I attempt to have empathy towards the OO as I grew up around a lot of good people in the Order.

    But a secular, less politicised NI is growing up around the OO. This report approaches the issue raised badly and that is at the door of those who produced it.

    The working environment angle was completely sunk by lack of empathy and assuming a poorly-presented position. It has been the response to the report’s reception from those in support of the Order that, as opposed to addressing the PR issue or learning from the response, to complain about the response itself. Elsewhere, it has seemed that there are those who cannot see why the OO has been perceived badly as a result of the report.

    Re the stats: they were using broad figures to make a point about workplace identity. It didn’t work as the figures aren’t relevant to people’s identity in 2016 – again, the report’s choice.

    The Orange Order will always have a place in whatever shape NI takes in the changing times to come. I’m an out-and-out getalongerist who would like see all views understand, respect and co-operate with each other so it gives me no great pleasure to write about what was a bit of a PR disaster: and, again, that is not the fault of those who have commented on it.

  • Pasty

    What kind of response did the Orange Order expect to a report that they stand in front of the World proclaiming there is discrimination when the sample size of respondents is 25 and they are either Orangemen or members of an Orange mans family. Nothing like fair and equal representation is there ?
    Do they really think that people would accept their report, it would be like the Klu Klux Klan delivering a report from sampling 25 of their members and stating they are being discriminated against by non whites in the US.
    You should look at the case of an Orange man who went to a tribunal after claiming discrimination within the NICS, funnily enough 2 years ago at the same time the Orange Order say they started looking at the allegations and read the findings of the tribunal. the link –
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland-news/orangeman-disappointed-over-dismissal-of-discrimination-case-1-5762273

  • Saint Etienne

    so it gives me no great pleasure to write about what was a bit of a PR disaster: and, again, that is not the fault of those who have commented on it.

    I think you need to be a bit more nuanced than that rather than hand everyone jumping on the order a get of jail free card on the subject.

    There is a basic need to acknowledge a shared responsibility when these angles get blown out of proportion, similarly there is a need to admit there are many elements of the commentariat whose sole relationship and aim when dealing with the loyal orders is one of confrontation.

    Doing so would make the getalongerist camp appear much less naive to the average self-identifying Ulster Protestant.

  • More confrontational than raising the issue of Protestant identity in the workplace by complaining about others expressing their identity?

    There will have been those who were opportunistic in their response but the Order themselves were responsible for the contents of the report – it was practically laughed off air by Nolan and poorly argued from what I heard.

    An organisation can do PR well or do PR badly. But you can’t do the latter, misjudge the public mood completely, and then complain about being unfairly demonised.

  • notimetoshine

    Do you know what the statistics are for protestants going over the water for uni? I’d be interested to know. I went to two of the ‘ancients’ in Scotland and I was surprised that it seemed pretty evenly split between Catholics and protestants amongst those from NI. Anecdotal I know but I would be intetested what the numbers are.

  • Saint Etienne

    Yes you can actually, when said demonisers throw the baby out with the bathwater, as has been only too willingly done again with this report. And blaming the Order for simply reporting back what survey respondents felt is as sure a way as any as demonstrating an ingrained reluctance to give the organisation’s wider points the time of day. Not yourself by the way. But I wouldn’t be so quick to act apologist for those motivations either. Especially when relying on the echo chambers within social media for sentiment.

    More confrontational than raising the issue of Protestant identity in the workplace by complaining about others expressing their identity?

    The Order’s main aim seems to have been to create awareness of the figures that make for interesting reading in today’s NI and are a genuine discussion point. The fact confrontational issues were raised by respondents is hardly surprising given the theme of the report is about equality in the workplace.

    I’m aware asking difficult questions is something we once trusted to the popular press, before it became largely contented/resigned to creating stories out of ridiculed straw men to sell themselves instead. Explaining that away is not going to lead to enlightenment – only further retrenchment.

  • Nicely put.

    Although I reckon the OO were at fault for releasing a report that was mostly bathwater and very little baby, and that they are very much responsible for how it is presented as opposed to simply being the reporting body, we’ve probably gone as far as we can go from our own respective viewpoints and for our part.

    Point taken re the media and social media: there’s only really the time and resources to go for a quick win and maximum clicks in many cases these days.

  • Zig70

    I think the same mistake as integrated education is made by equating religious beliefs and culture. I’ve no doubt there are plenty of atheist Orange order supporters. As for employment, it is a broad brush approach to catch the lazy sectarianism where folks employ on other characteristics than merit. It is really difficult to get enough information from a typical recruitment process that using non data based decisions is tempting. Can be seen in the reasons why women are so poorly represented in directorships.

  • Superfluous

    I reckon the ‘perception problem’ of the Orange Order among Catholics is hard to shake, and could be perceived to be off limits for casual office conversation between colleagues, because the pinnacle of the Orange Order’s marching season involves burning a load of Irish flags on top of bonfires and celebrating past victories over Catholics.

  • sk

    It’s a testament to the Orange Order’s lack of self-awareness that, in order to combat the widely held perception of it being intolerant, and sectarian, it releases a report that merely illustrates said intolerance and sectarianism.

    It would be easier to take the likes of St Etienne at their word, were they night desperate to defend the OO at every juncture, even when their leaders are coming out on national radio to complain about a mass card on a desk.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • SeaanUiNeill

    The problem is that the Report, St E, is a very ill advised document that really needded to be read and commented on by someone who understood something of PR. While I can be hyperbolic or flippant at times I’m actually being very serious with this. One of the great successes of SF is their carefully constructed PR which can ensure that such potentially devistating issues as the Áine scandal can be managed for the media and that SF can find GA still in place as leader afterwards.

    I read the report (in the linked PDF) when it appeared and could not help feeling that the LOI were myopic in their inability to consider how such sentiments were going to be publically judged by those thirsting for “confrontation” and all those degrees of potential judgement between the stance of opponents and of those who might have been sympathetic to the possibility. I can easily see how another more carefully framed consultation might have elicited far more usable material for their purposes. But then I’ve had time working in advertising.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In my case, certainly 15% bicycle…………

  • The ruling is online too – a lot of the stuff in the OO report sounds very familiar/ similar yet the comments in the decision are very firm.

  • To use another example, I get irritated by friends in GB who complain that the media didn’t cover their protest/ rally/ sponsored-whatever.

    Instead of discussing with their PR person (in the GB examples) the media are blamed: meaning the organisation is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over.

    I believe an organisation is in charge of its own image, media, direction and attitude to others. Eg Skoda, VW…even Sky and McDonalds have re-invented themselves.

    You can’t change the media, but you can change your PR decisions.

  • ted hagan

    Thanks a lot.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Very glad to be of help. The source document is always the best thing to look at.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I could not agree more, CJ. Rather than simply assuming that “truth will always out”, and then then criticising someone who does not see the “truth” as you see it, it’s important to remember that every textual framing of anything is going to be simply a representation of that thing, and it is incumbant on the people developing that representation to make sure that it actually says exactly what they wish it to say, not for others to conform to how the originators believe they should percieve it.

  • Granni Trixie

    I like it!

  • Don’t forget the statistical error of comparing percentages of groups with vastly different numbers of people, rather than comparing the actual numbers.

  • Nevin

    Preferably without tinted/tainted spectacles!

    Slugger bloggers all too often rely on secondary sources/opinions aka yesterday’s chip wrapping.

    For example, Jody Corcoran’s ‘analysis’ of a poll commissioned by that reliable paper of public record, the Indo, looks like little more than a puff-piece for Micháel Martin and Fianna Fail. My peremptory conclusion is based on the boul Jody’s impartial judgement:

    The origins of the divide between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are more profound than those which emerged after the civil war.

    Historians have argued it goes back further than that, to the different traditions linked to the arrival in Ireland of Anglo-Norman and new English to clash with the ‘native’ Gaelic people.

    Fianna Fail is the embodiment of that native spirit; it is entwined in the DNA of our people. In a way, Fianna Fail is Ireland and Ireland is Fianna Fail.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Nevin, foremost as ever as one of those beavering away to ensure that these original documents are linked when appropriate.

    I enjoyed your quote too, and to slightly re-configure the comment of one of Victoria’s ladies in waiting after watching a particularly torid production of “Anthony and Cleopatra”; “how very different from the home-life of our own dear northern political class”

  • Nevin

    I still do a little beavering but some of it has been censored here by ‘the management’! This is understandable when the rich and/or powerful can avail of the best legal assistance that money can buy.

    Heather Brooke appears to be a much more persistent beaver. I like her quote:

    Public relations is at best promotion or manipulation, at worst evasion and outright deception. What it is never about is a free flow of information.

    Sometimes you have to laugh at getalongerists; some are unbelievably politically naive!

  • For the benefit of the tape, the Orange Order report is linked in the above article in the first sentence.

    My comments on the report are based on my reading of the report.

    I’m a proud getalongerist but prefer ‘idealistic’ to ‘naive’.

  • Nevin

    I’d flag the following under ‘naive’, CJ:

    And a habit of equating Catholicism with “Nationalist ethos” is also unfortunate, not least because a large number of those of the Catholic faith have previously (30.7%) described themselves as “Northern Irish”: perhaps something the Orange Order could acknowledge and capitalise on as opposed to taking a more defensive, ones-size-fits-all stance.

  • Intentionally so, I have an idealistic view that different ‘sides’ should be talking to those in unlikely places where there is common ground to strategise and prepare for changes to come as opposed to staying static and hoping, incorrectly, that the world outside will stay the same.

    It is certainly naive, but where’s the harm in dreaming.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you Nevin, I’m on record about criticising media manipulation often enough on Slugger. My recommendation that the LOI sought out some competent PR was simply an attempt to suggest that without it in todays media you end up with, well, things like this utterly counter-productive report.

    They are after all trying to “promote” an opinion!!! Their naive belief that simply putting out what they think without actually crafting this to reach their audience and to say what they really want is frighteningly amateur, like those wrong-headed writers who will insist on reading no other writers work so that they may not be influenced in any way.

    You either want to get an idea over to an informed and sometimes sceptical audience, or, as with this report you seemingly want to wallow in self-pity, in the hope that some kind person notices.

    Oh, and regarding the “tinted spectacles”, while my entirely Unionist brother accuses me of having a rather green tint to the polaroids I use for driving, quite a few others accuse me of dulling the motorway to a warm orange glow! I just can’t win!

  • Nevin

    I doubt if there is a strong correlation between the use of the ‘Northern Irish’ brand and the opposing constitutional aspirations.

    The Catholic hierarchy switched its support of the SDLP to SF when it endorsed the anti-unionist ‘Stepping Stones’ proposals authored by the Redemptorists. It’s unfortunate but hardly surprising that the laity should get tarred with a broad brush.

    I’ve always preferred ‘doing’ to ‘talking’ – and I wouldn’t be inclined to talk to someone who was poking me in the eye. Having said that, I’ve concluded that the best way to deal with a bullying legal eagle is to present the damning evidence and then just sit back and smile. I got backing from what some might consider an unlikely quarter when I did that!

  • A United Ireland tends to poll low. If some Nationalists are culturally Nationalist rather than in favour of a real United Ireland then an pro-Union organisation playing strategically would have something in common with and want to talk to those people. And vice versa.

    We’re drifting into a conversation not really suited for this means. I’ve written before about organisations thinking well outside the box to work with others in response to modern attitudes to the constitution and it remains my own idealistic – and naive – ambition for NI some day that new blocks of voters (and non-voters) and ideas outside our existing stalemate would somehow be released in this way.

    As for people wanting to talk to other organisations or not, a very good reason for each organisation not to poke people in the eye.

  • Nevin

    CJ, I was just challenging your assertion ‘equating Catholicism with “Nationalist ethos”’.

    IMO the constitutional arrangement in the 1998 Agreement incites provocation; it’s a tug-of-war scenario. The Davids will struggle to be heard by the more excitable Goliaths supporters.

  • Nevin

    As one of those young baby-sitter arsonists in Peoples Democracy who helped set the place alight in the late 60s, I thought you’d be wearing red-tinted or, at the very least, pink-tinted specs!

    Where would you find ‘an informed and sometimes sceptical audience’?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, I have friends in California who are interested in this pale, heavens knows why…….and surely you read the other contributions on Slugger, proof if such is needed that the local ” informed and sometimes sceptical audience’ is not limited to our two selves.

  • Nevin

    I’m the only informed and sceptical one around here!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Equally anecdotal but in my experience (also of two Scottish universities) there was perhaps more protestants but the crucial difference being that most of the protestants stayed away and most of my Catholic friends returned.

    I know of about five protestant families off the top of my head where all of the offspring stayed away forevermore after university.

    Like you say, just a personal experience but not an uncommon one.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Cushy

    Did you ever consider doing a post about how you came to be a republican?

    I reckon it would be interesting.

  • Nevin

    I thought you were a supporter of the Progressive Democrats, Gf.

  • Nevin

    It doesn’t seem that long ago since Michael McDowell was PD leader. Poor old Bertie; it was FF sleaze that got me looking at governance here.

  • cu chulainn

    NI is now a place with the proportions of the traditional groups about 50/50 and a significant wedge of “others”. SF at least have the theoretical idea of persuading people, they just aren’t very good at it and entirely lack the capacity to build the realistic economic plan that is needed. But much of unionism doesn’t seem to accept the need for persuasion at all, but rather prefers to beat the drum louder in a way that might appeal to some on their own side, but which is a turn off not only for nationalists but also that middle wedge.

  • Nevin

    FF does seem to have made a remarkable recovery! The electorate does have a short memory; maybe the growth in independents indicates that some have not forgotten the tribunals.

  • Nevin

    “Meanwhile the charade continues as FF and FG try to avoid the horror of having to sleep in the same room.”

    Having to sleep in the same room as the Friends of Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy would be much closer to horror, Gf.