Alliance Warming To The Tribal Pitch

Pitching for Unionist or Nationalist unity in a bid to maximise representation for one tradition or the other is a well established tactic at election time in Northern Ireland. All unionist parties strictly advise ‘their’ voters to transfer to fellow unionists, regardless of sharp political differences on socio-economic, moral or other issues, whilst Sinn Fein will speak of maximising nationalist representation (though transfer patterns between nationalist parties have never been as uniform as within unionism.)

Part of the Alliance Party’s electoral pitch is that they offer something different- hence the Other designation within the Assembly.

Which makes the appearance of this leaflet all the more interesting.

East Antrim is an overwhelmingly unionist constituency. In 1998, the SDLP candidate, Danny O’Connor, secured a surprise election to the Assembly. The seat was lost in 2003 after years of loyalist intimidation and violence against the small catholic community in Larne had further reduced the nationalist population in the constituency (the seat was already a marginal.) No nationalist candidate secured election in 2007.

The boundary changes that came into effect prior to the 2011 election brought into the constituency an area of the Glens of Antrim that contained a significant number of nationalist voters, and it was his ability to motivate this core constituency to turn out which ensured that a nationalist representative, in the person of Sinn Fein’s Oliver McMullan, secured election with the sixth and last seat in 2011.

Fast forward to 2016, and the aforementioned leaflet gives an insight into the electoral strategy that has been concocted by Alliance in the constituency.

The Alliance Party leaflet claims ‘only’ their candidate can challenge Sinn Fein for the final seat and that they were just 69 votes short of doing this and claiming a second seat in 2011. That creates a false impression that the final candidate eliminated in 2011 was an Alliance representative. In reality, the UUP’s Rodney McCune was the last candidate eliminated in 2011, almost 500 votes behind the successful Sinn Fein candidate. Had McCune been eliminated prior to the second Alliance candidate, then it is possible that his transfers may have propelled the Alliance candidate ahead of Sinn Fein’s McMullan.

The implicit argument being made by the Alliance Party is that, because their voters did not transform uniformly to Mr McCune, it meant that Sinn Fein were able to secure a nationalist seat in the overwhelmingly unionist constituency of East Antrim.

Therefore, in order to prevent that from happening, voters in the staunchly unionist constituency should opt for Alliance.

I highlighted this leaflet and the ‘Us vs Themmuns’ mentality which motivated it yesterday on Twitter, provoking a flurry of replies from a range of Alliance Party representatives, including Naomi Long. An attempt was even made to equate this leaflet with the message on an Alliance leaflet in East Belfast which referenced the absence of other Unionist parties from the 2015 Westminster election contest in that constituency to proclaim that only Alliance could challenge the DUP there. Needless to say, the comparison is spurious. East Belfast will elect multiple unionist candidates, and Alliance were not pitching to an overwhelmingly nationalist audience the message that voting them alone would prevent DUP/unionist representation in a constituency.

I can quite understand why Alliance Party representatives would be anxious over this leaflet being highlighted.

Political parties will use a range of tactics and strategies to motivate and incentivise people into turning out and voting on election day. All is fair in love, war and politics.

In West Belfast, the two main unionist parties are currently busy telling the constituency’s unionist electorate that they must seize the opportunity to elect their chosen unionist by turning out on the day and transferring to the other candidate so that at least one unionist will gain election. Similarly, Sinn Fein are busy telling voters intent on giving their first preference to the SDLP or PBP that they should transfer to the five Sinn Fein candidates thereafter to ensure that nationalist representation is maintained at the same level after the election. On ‘both’ sides, that is to be expected due to the pre-eminent position of the constitutional question within our politics. I can recall a television interview with the DUP’s Simon Hamilton after a previous Assembly election count in which he publicly consoled himself and DUP voters after conceding that they’d not take a fourth seat in Strangford with the retort to the effect that at least the final seat had not fallen to a nationalist.

The challenge for Alliance will be in squaring its oft-made claims to be above such tribal pitches with the decision to produce a leaflet targeting the overwhelmingly unionist electors of east Antrim with the stark message that only Alliance can stop the main nationalist party from taking a seat in their constituency.

 

 

 

  • Cavehill

    The argument being made is that with 69 more votes, Alliance supporters could have had double the Alliance representation and one less MLA from a sectional party. representing them. Presumably this will inspire Alliance minded people who perhaps didn’t turn out to vote for Alliance in 2011 to vote this time.

  • Brendan Heading

    I can quite understand why Alliance Party representatives would be anxious over this leaflet being highlighted.

    Alliance are anxious about a leaflet that they printed and delivered several thousand times in several constituencies ? Are you sure about that ?

  • Gaygael

    That the first two comments are from alliance types may reinforce your perception of yesterdays Twitter storm Chris.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Alliance has always done this. Remember “Ford or Meehan – YOU decide”?! It’s not news.

    Just because Alliance doesn’t like the DUP doesn’t mean it likes Sinn Féin. It doesn’t like either of them. That shouldn’t be news either!

    This is a pitch for everything from NI21-minded to SDLP-minded voters to get to the polling stations and decide whether they want Alliance representation or Sinn Féin, given that is the likely choice for final seat.

    Alliance canvassers want it to be Alliance. Which is, you know, not news.

    Alliance was also out in Short Strand today, no doubt reminding people there that the last seat there is between Alliance and the DUP. In Chris‘s world, that must be sectarian. In my world, it’s getting rid of incompetent divisive buffoons who hold this society back.

  • Granni Trixie

    Away on Chris, you’re being too tricky by far.

    Funny enough, I was going around an area in SB today where there were the most tattered union jacks on lampposts you’ve ever seen. Many on the doorsteps declared allegiance with DUp and a few PUP. However, in the midst of DUPland
    there were quite a few enthusiastic Alliance supporters and I was thinking to myself how fortunate I was as someone from WB to be in a party which gave me access to people I might otherwise not have an opportunity to engage with. The experience also reinforces my belief that it is to their disadvantage should parties assume that They have no support in some localities and therefore neglect to engage with them.

    Especially as people are so contradictory: one man said to me “I might vote Alliance because I don’t vote for the DUP any more” . How I wished I had explored this further.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Perhaps Chris wrote this to do APNI a solid and share the word far and wide, when given a choice between parties entrenched in political pseudo-tribal warfare opt for a party that doesn’t get bogged down in it. How kind of him 🙂

  • Brendan Heading

    The article will get maybe 1000-1500 page impressions depending on the number of commentors. For most of them, it will reinforce what they already believe.

    Parties like SF/SDLP/UUP/DUP don’t really know what to do with other parties that accuse them of being narrow or tribal. They don’t have any way of deflecting this criticism. The only way they know how to respond is to suggest that their critics are themselves tribal, and not only tribal, but working for the other side. This is what the DUP did to Naomi Long in East Belfast; it is what Chris is trying to do to Alliance in East Antrim, and it is probably what Sinn Féin will try to do to Gerry Carroll in West Belfast – just as they did to Joe Hendron in the run up to the 1997 general election.

  • Brendan Heading

    Yes Mal, but the day will eventually come when the Greens wish to expand their voter base beyond people who currently vote Alliance and start winning votes from people who currently vote for the tribal parties. When that happens, the tribal parties will turn on them as well.

    I’d stand corrected, but I noted how the Greens maintained radio silence on the sensitive issue of the 1916 celebrations, for example, while Alliance were taking stick for their approaches in different circumstances. It’s a wise political strategy to avoid commenting on something that is more likely to cost votes than gain any, but as their vote expands the Greens will not be able to dodge divisive issues forever.

  • Gopher

    Ian it’s Chris, relax. Never explain, never apologize fear god and dreadnought. The reality is the unionist vote was shredded to pieces on a low turnout in 2011 and if SF hold East Antrim I will be the first to congratulate them. But you know Chris, one paragraph Gopher he aint

  • Gopher

    Sorry to answer my own reply, but may I just add the challenge for Alliance unlike the compulsion of SF Voters (Baa) is to get those in East Belfast to bother turning out in an assembly election. This drop off is not exactly unique but the sudden death drama of a Wesminster election appears to captivate voters apart from the enthusiasts (Baa). Maybe Alliance need to bake a lets not criminalize women cake to motivate turnout.

  • aquifer

    On the spectrum of things we have done before getting people elected this barely registers. Alliance NOT being nicey nicey would be a refreshing change.

  • Séamus

    It’s not a particularly new trick by Alliance; they almost certainly picked it up from the Lib Dems in Britain. The tactic being of using spurious poll numbers and other data to suggest that only your party can defeat a particular candidate, usually an unpopular one, in a certain constituency.

    The idea though that they were (at best) ignorant of the sectarian connotations of such a leaflet in a place like East Antrim, a constituency with only one nationalist representative, says a lot about the massive blind spots in the party’s thinking.

  • Granni Trixie

    Certainly agree about blind spot – thanks for the compliment.

  • Jim M

    Chris, has it occurred to you that ‘not liking SF’ and ‘being sectarian’ are not necessarily the same thing? There are a lot of reasons people may have for wanting to take a seat away from SF, other than ‘Themmuns!’

  • Glenn

    I would suggest that like SF, Chris has a single agenda. Only themmuns are sectarian.

  • Glenn

    An interesting take on elections 1min 7sec,

  • Cavehill

    I’ve already seen much made by SF activists of Gerry Carroll’s stance that he would designate as ‘other’ in the Assembly. One prominent WB SF activist called him the ‘anti-Irish Freedom/United Ireland candidate’ on Facebook and I’m sure this is just the start of it.

  • Graham Parsons

    The Alliance likes to present itself as the 3rd way, sadly it’s just more of the same.

  • WindsorRocker

    Alliance feed off the sectarian divide. Their East Belfast campaign in 15 was all about motivating non unionists to vote AGAINST the unionist candidate. No surprise if they are trying the same thing again in East Antrim this time.

  • Dassa

    I think a considerable number of Parties don’t even attempt to reach out. Stick to what they know. In the past in My constituency of Newry and Armagh we would have seen canvassing from Seamus Mallon and the SDLP in areas deemed mostly Unionist. I haven’t seèn an SDLP canvasser in over 10 years. They have simply give up on these areas which I believe is a big mistake from them.

  • Slater

    Alliance is now so bitterly anti-unionist it has become objectively nationalist.
    Its Protestant core voters have been deracinated and loathe their own people unlike the Catholic ones who peeled off to nationalism, as in West Belfast, when the territorial issue was no longer in question.
    Indeed Alliance never got a toehold in nationalist areas west of the Bann.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    And that failed miserably too ! Its a dangerous game running negative election campaigns you can also turn potential support voters off !

  • Nevin

    I don’t suppose it would be too difficult to create ‘a false impression’ from an ‘implicit argument’, Chris.

    Is it not mean-spirited to criticise APNI candidates about the party’s non-tribal stance when you don’t know where individuals stand on the pre-eminent constitutional question and when the 500-vote ‘successful’ but well below quota SF candidate benefited from 500 SDLP and 460 APNI transfers?

  • Gopher

    Only 4 constituencies elected MLA’s on under 4000 votes E L’Derry (3781) East Belfast (3723) East Antrim ( 3389) and good old North Down ( 3229)

    The East Antrim result I believe is pretty freakish, because Sammy Wilson was standing his name attracted a large vote unbalancing a low turnout poll. One would have to imagine without Wilson standing and the DUP running one less candidate their vote will be balanced this time and their 3 will be safe holds. The UUP offer a small ray of hope by running 3 which is nothing short of absurd when UKIP polled 3660 at the general election. My feeling here is with UKIP, and PUP standing turnout will be over 50% making Alliances leafleting the only practical alternative to 5 unionists if you dont want them.

  • chrisjones2

    How rich to see a supporter of one of the most sectarian of parties attack Alliance.

    As for misrepresentation what about all the largest party in Ireland guff? A United Ireland by 2016 anyone? SF as the party of equality? *

    Note * excludes women, victims of sexual offences, anyone who disagrees with Gerry etc etc etc

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well in an odd way Alliance are the most reliant on tribal politics of all political parties. If there was no tribal politics there would be absolutely no reason to vote for them. So none of this is a surprise really

  • Ultonian

    Excellent record in government, Liberal, evidence based policies, track record of pushing for transparency in government, including making their own donations public, good hardworking Councillors and MLA’s?

    Tons of reasons to vote Alliance. Unless you can’t see anything that falls outside the realm of sectarian politics.

  • Ultonian

    I’d say having to see *everything* through the lens of division and sectarian politics is a blind spot in everyone elses thinking, not Alliances.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Sorry I with Chris on this, it is bordering on the tribalist because it says keep party A or B out, not vote for us on the basis of what we can do if we get in.
    Alliance are resorting to negative politics here, maybe it should be competive against Sinn Féin and other parties not combative.

    Negative politics is great excuse for non-voters the likes of which Alliance might need to not bother even showing up.

  • Pete

    I have criticised the Alliance Party plenty of times in the past, but I don’t think there’s much issue here. It’s natural for a political party to want to beat a rival party to a seat.

  • Granni Trixie

    Since 1972 when I joined APNI I have been wanting to do ourselves out of business because ‘normal’ politics prevails. Alas, it hasn’t happened.

  • Ultonian

    Even if normal politics prevail, there’s still a place for Alliance as the only truly liberal party in NI. I’d rather it hang around.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I’d dearly love to see this excellent track record in government. David Ford has just been a mouth piece fr his senior advisers. I haven’t seen anything from him that shows any independent thought whatsoever

  • Lionel Hutz

    One point about this is that “normal” does include parties having a position on the constitutional question. There’s no political party in the world that I’m aware of that doesn’t have a view on what the constitutional of the country they represent is. It just so happens that most the time it’s settled or there’s a uniformity of opinion.

    So Idk what the end game for alliance is on that issue. Unless it’s simply that parties don’t place such prominence in the issue. But then, I don’t think they really do. So I guess it’s more that people don’t put so much prominence on it

  • Cavehill

    Funny, because the argument in this article is that Alliance is anti-nationalist. Which is it?

  • Granni Trixie

    Liberal values yes. But I hope you aren’t making the mistake of assuming everyone in APNi is a Liberal supporter. Some of us are Labour inclined ( though for me not with Corbyn at the helm).

  • Granni Trixie

    What about reduction in legal aid budget, victims charter, ongoing reform prison service,bringng down peace walls, brought through major bills such as the Justice Bill. The Just dept is one of the largest ministries – in terms of scale it encapsulates policing,criminal and civil justice,probation,victims etc

    In rationalising the justice estate and reforming systems DF has made a good start. But then you have no inclination to be fair to him,do you?

  • Gaz

    Bit of a non story here Chris.The interesting thing about the Alliance party is that their vote is concentrated in a doughnut round the Greater Belfast Area.After 46 years they are still virtually extinct West of The Bann..Why have they been unable to break through in the South and West?..They usually get around 8% of the vote with 8 MLA’s returned in Assembly elections going right back to the poll of 28th June 1973-The first election I followed on TV

  • Gerry Lynch

    All political parties do this and all political parties moan when it’s done against them. Sinn Féin always make it clear in Fermanagh-South Tyrone that voting SDLP splits the nationalist vote in a knife edge marginal and risks letting a Unionist in while moaning when the SDLP play for tactical votes from Unionists in South Down and Foyle. And when Joe Hendron got a couple of thousand votes from the Shankill to beat Gerry Adams in 1992, Shinners at the count barracked Joe with shouts of “UDA! UDA!”

    Alliance went biccies when the UUP delivered almost identical squeeze leaflets against them in a number of constituencies, including East Antrim, in Trimble’s time. Etc. etc.

    It’s an absolutely legitimate election tactic in my book as long as the numbers and graphics are valid. Alliance are stretching a point here, although there’s a logic behind what they’re saying. I’d call this one borderline but legit: everyone here can understand the point they’re trying to make about what would have happened if Geraldine Mulvenna had been just ahead of Rodney McCune last time without them having to spell it out.

    While Alliance at their worst can be moany and self-righteous, Sinn Féin win gold medals at the Balmoral Show every year for both categories. Given that the Shinners use exactly the same tactics themselves when it suits them, Chris’ blog amounts to the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Glenn

    You forgot that their president none other than Gerry Adams, broke their rules and still leads the party, the hypocrites. He did not inform the party when his brother confessed to abusing his daughter while a member of the party. They ask much of others but nothing of themselves.
    https://audioboom.com/boos/785491-sinn-fein-s-martina-anderson-says-cardinal-brady-s-reputation-has-been-damaged#t=0m50s

  • Gaygael

    We are targetting voters from all political parties and none. A quick look at tally data would tell you that. You might be surprised where our votes come.

    The tribal parties have already turned on us. You must see the sharp approach to us from the SDLP, and DUP and yourselves. Alliance benefit fromtribal politics by trying to push the they are not tribal line. We are a progressive party and want to take progressive and left votes from everyone. Those people do not exclusively vote alliance. In fact, after the 5 time debacle on marriage, the wasted opportunity on zero hour contracts, the ambivalence on abortion, and conflicting approaches on the living wage, those people may have already be drifting from alliance.

    As for controversial/divisive issues, we have been explicit on abortion and our support for extension of the 1967 Act. We are currently in breach of minimum human rights standards for women. Alliance can try to paint itself progressive by allowing conscience on human rights. We don’t belive that equality and human rights issues are conscience for a progressive party.
    We started the conversation on marriage by bringing the first motion. Maybe I should note that only Anna Lo of all the alliance mlas ever signed to a motion. And she is retiring.
    When we increase our numbers after May,we will not be shy at bringing forward controversial issues.

    We don’t shy away. The difference is we don’t feel the need to be reactive and jump to comment on every issue. We pursue our agenda. We hope that alliance will catch up at some stage.

  • Granni Trixie

    No, Chris’ blog amounts to electioneering.

  • Granni Trixie

    Gaz,to be accurate they were around 5per cent but under DF rose to 8.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Maybe you should be asking why non-voting people who don’t want to criminalize women aren’t voting for the types of parties who want to put an end of these crimes when they are offering that political choice?

    Could it be that that issue isn’t their only bottom line?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SDLP are of course guilty too, as are others both independent and party.

  • Gopher

    Not everybody is wanting to marry someone of the same sex or have an abortion even if they could. So although like me they don’t care if someone marries their pet Basset hound let alone another individual and 50% of the electorate are men and not likely to have an abortion, both are not exactly at the top of the issue list. My only rational choice to try and achieve both without my vote being badly misrepresented is to vote Conservative at the assembly election, something most of the electorate wont do. This is the reason why these should be settled by referendum because our choice of political party is so dire.

  • Gaz

    You are correct-though the ceiling still seems to be in single figures

  • Scots Anorak

    What the Alliance Party says about Sinn Féin or the DUP doesn’t much bother me. What does bother me, however, is the refusal of the Alliance Party to countenance the granting to speakers of Irish the same rights accorded to speakers of Welsh and Scottish Gaelic in other parts of the UK, and its bizarre equation of bilingual (i.e. not monolingual Irish) street signs with (numerically overwhelmingly Loyalist) flags. This seems to me like trying too hard at neutrality, even when it means inventing bad behaviour when there is none.
    I was one of those who helped unseat Peter Robinson by voting for Naomi Long in 2010, and I must say that I bitterly regretted it when I discovered just how far from being a genuinely liberal party the Alliance is.

  • Msiegnaro

    It’s unsurprising that Alliance have quite a nasty underbelly. I have found them confused at times and their constant attacks on Unionism and “holier than thou” proclamations have put me off voting for them.

    I’m unsure as to where some of their members stand for example IJP, how many times has this individual jumped ship? This is true of other parties too with Jenny Palmer and Raymond Farrell showing a strong appetite for jumping although in Jenny Palmer’s case the most recent jump was very much justified.

    In EB Naomi Long’s campaign was to stop Unionism by galvanising Sinn Fein and SDLP voters along with traditional Alliance voters and Green party members to shore up behind her and then boasted following her defeat about how weak Unionism was in its supposed “heartland”.

    Yes Alliance are nasty but are we surprised?

  • Cavehill

    In 2003 the vote was 3.7%, so the party has more than doubled its vote since then. Much of that, in my view, is a slow growth in areas that Alliance has little to no representation. Perhaps in 2019 the party will grab a Cllr or two in new areas and continue its slow growth in non-traditional places (including west of the Bann).

  • Lionel Hutz

    As someone who works within the justice system…I just see a suit. The legal aid issue for example, it has been clear he has been lead by the senor civil serants in the NICTS. And the major affect of those reforms has to been to maybe fatally damage the young bar and particularly to drive out women from the profession. You can’t have a legal aid system that monopolies large parts of the civil justice system and almost entirely the criminal justice system and then reduce rates and representation levels so much that it’s unworkable.

    I recognize it’s a vote winner. But that’s the simple truth.

    The prisons have got worse during his tenure…although I accept they’ve come back from the absolute brink in the last year.

    And the closing of more courts courts…. there is a significantly negative consequence of making it so that large numbers of court users who rely on public transport have to travel taking two or three buses to get to a court. It’s a sad fact that court users are disproportionately from the lowest of the low income scales. It’s a very strange thing to see a woman applying for a non molestation having to give her husband who she needs protection from a lift to court. Or them both getting the same bus.. it’s bizarre.
    The justice bill was a very wordy bill but point to me what significant reform it made.

  • Msiegnaro

    I think there is a degree of anti Unionism within Alliance that has not been projected at the polls, in fact in EB Alliance are predicted to get three seats while in WB they will struggle to get 300 votes.

  • Msiegnaro

    We’ve been here before with regards to the work-rate of Alliance MLAs and Councillors and in fact didn’t their MP go missing for quite some time too?

  • Nevin

    “an area of the Glens of Antrim that contained a significant number of nationalist voters, and it was his ability to motivate this core constituency to turn out which ensured that a nationalist representative, in the person of Sinn Fein’s Oliver McMullan, secured election with the sixth and last seat in 2011. Fast forward to 2016,”

    The two nationalist candidates in 2016 are former Moyle councillors; Oliver was an independent who later joined SF; Margaret Anne McKillop was a SF councillor who wasn’t reselected by the party and then went on to win a seat for the SDLP in the new super council. Chris has nothing to say about how this little tussle might pan out.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Chris is without party.

  • Brendan Heading

    This is another lazy cliché. It’s like claiming that police have a vested interest in not investigating crime, as if all crime stopped they’d be out of work. Or that – dare I say it – criminal lawyers have a similar vested interest.

    I never see this logic applied to other parties. Sinn Féin’s (and the SDLP’s) function would, arguably, cease if there was a united Ireland. So haven’t they an interest in preventing it from ever happening ? Sometimes to listen to them you’d think they really did – and the reversal in the nationalist vote, likely to be confirmed as ongoing in a few weeks time, could serve to support that perspective.

    But yes. Alliance’s mission, distilled, is to create the circumstances where the party is no longer necessary, by undermining and disrupting the structures that support tribal politics and sectarianism. So yes, the party exists as a response to sectarianism; and yes, all other things assumed equal, if NI transitions to a non-tribal society, a party advocating a transition to a non-tribal society would become redundant.

    In practice, this is a naive view of how political parties work. Parties tend to track sections of society over time; as public opinion changes over the years, parties adapt to the ebb and flow. The ones that don’t die out (cf. UK Liberal Party). This is why in the south the two largest parties, despite everything, are still broadly reflective of the opposing sides of the civil war events of 100 years ago. An entity claiming its heritage from today’s Alliance will surely exist beyond the period when our problems here are “solved” (whenever that happens) as the likelihood is that it would be a home for people generally predisposed to parties which are centrist, gradualist, pluralist and prioritise support the rule of law within the accountable frameworks of a healthy, participative democracy.

  • Brendan Heading

    Happy to defer to your expertise in legal aid and related matters Lionel – largely because I have none – but you misunderstand what a minister’s job is.

    It’s not the minister’s job to come up with policy detail. He determines the broad strokes and, hopefully, decides which out of the several options presented by his civil servants he will take, and account for those decisions, on a political level, in the assembly.

    The political cover part is crucial – it is the minister who has to take the flak if/when it goes wrong. The reason why the pace of progress is so incredibly slow in many departments – the issuance of abortion guidelines being a case in point – is because ministers are unwilling to provide the political cover to ensure that whatever is necessary gets done.

    The alternative to closing courts and cutting legal aid is to cut something else. Whatever he does, he’s going to take flak from the public, particularly from the professional classes which serve to lose out. So it’s a case of picking which one best serves the public interest.

    When this process goes wrong, the public ends up dealing with the pain. A case in point is the high profile intervention of the UUP DRD minister a few years back to cancel the Sinn Féin proposal to introduce on-street parking charges in a number of places. When the UUP took up office at the Department, the policy was, of course, reversed to much fanfare. That left a hole in the budget, which the minister then had to desperately plug, and the way he did it was to boot out all the contractors who were in place to repair street lighting. He also quietly began charging at a number of DRD off-street car parks.

  • Brendan Heading

    Agree it is not “normal” to take no position; but it is even further from normal to decide all elections on the basis of that position and little else. The other problem is that the supposed constitutional position of other parties is not really a constitutional position; it’s the accepted form of tribal face paint that denotes which of the two warring clans you’re in.

  • Brendan Heading

    Yes. I’ll be watching that one carefully.

    It’s fairly common for SF supporters to characterise Fine Gael as unionist, even though that party’s policy supports peaceful, consent-based reunification. Here on Slugger I’ve seen the SDLP characterised as “unionist” on the basis that they did not assert their (publicly stated) united Ireland with sufficient zeal.

  • Brendan Heading

    Oh, you poor wee sensitive soul. I’m sorry that those beastly Alliance ruffians have been so nasty to you by commenting on Unionism’s weakness in the context of an electoral pact and months-long campaign of intimidation and vilification.

  • Brendan Heading

    Alliance quite rightly refused to support a half-baked, unworkable and utterly stupid bill on the Irish language that Sinn Féin still can’t even bring to the floor of the assembly after 8 years.

  • Msiegnaro

    Thank you for the apology, very much appreciated.

  • Brendan Heading

    mal, the tribal parties haven’t turned on you. they haven’t picketed or burned out your offices or sic’d their supporters to attack the homes of your party activists. I hope to God they never do, and since I’m an atheist you can take it that that’s me hoping as hard as I can, but if you think they have turned on you you have no idea. The only reason why they haven’t is because they don’t think you are a threat. That is because the votes you are in contention for, especially in East and South Belfast (and North Down) are votes that would otherwise probably be Alliance.

    I’m not trying to suggest that Green voters are Alliance voters in disguise or anything daft like that but few can doubt that Alliance voters are the target demographic.

    I can’t take away from you the fact that the Greens have been bold and shown leadership on abortion rights and gay marriage, although it’s easier to be bold when you are starting from a low base. But the day will eventually come when you have your turn at participating in a flag vote, or a controversial commemoration, or some such other matter, and you will be backed into a corner with no way out. When that happens, people will accuse you of participating tribal politics, just as you are now accusing Alliance.

    Incidentally, good luck on getting that “reckless conception” thing past the Human Rights Act.

  • kensei

    To sum: “it’s okay when we do it”

  • chrisjones2

    Liberal? Alliance?

  • Gerry Lynch

    Yup, and that’s what everybody says, while also moaning when it’s used against them.

  • Is that you again Ian Parsley under a different name?