Where now for craft beer socialism?

My dad has been voting for left-wing parties in Northern Ireland since 1970. But after 46 years of trying, 2016 is the first time that someone he voted for – Clare Bailey – actually got in. Indeed this election, from a green left point of view, feels good. Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in Northern Ireland can finally feel a little bit less left out of the global action…

My tribe in Northern Ireland are firmly ‘other’. We take our kids to Pride and are part of local brewing co-ops. We’re more concerned about TTIP, fracking and the global refugee crisis than the state of the union. But we’re not for emigrating and we genuinely give a crap what happens in Stormont. And this is probably our best election yet.

The growth of the Green Party in Northern Ireland is one of the major causes of our excitement. Two MLAs and an increased vote share everywhere, despite other leftist options, and especially in the winnable seats. Queer and trans candidates, lack of power suits, people we can relate to. From abortion access to fossil fuels to integrated education, they care about the stuff we care about.

The success of People Before Profit is also cause for celebration. Eamonn McCann singing the Internacionale in his acceptance speech – in reference to Paisley’s victorious gospel ditties of yore – was the highlight of my election. Sorting out welfare and stopping Corporation Tax change are high on our list of priorities. Whilst most of us are not living in poverty (except the conceptual artists), we’re not rich. We can afford craft beer, but not to get drunk on it. We’ve been hanging on for years on NHS waiting lists with our gallbladders exploding. Hardly anyone I know has a pension pot. We believe in a strong welfare state and we’re happy to contribute to it. It also feels good to be part of an all-Ireland left.

We’re grateful to Alliance for holding the middle ground when things were bad. We’ve often voted for them – even campaigned for them. But with a heaviness of heart, when they’ve abstained from equal marriage votes or not unconditionally supported full abortion access. But Naomi is surely coming, and if they change fast enough, we might be able to get excited again. And especially for those of us in rural unionist constituencies, the presence of Alliance continues to provide an important non-Jurassic option.

We also take heart in the fact that some new faces in the SDLP and the UUP seem not so very far away from where we are. MLAs feel younger, there’s a little less testosterone than before… LoveProudly.org reckon that 59 out of 108 MLAs are now in favour of equal marriage, which may bode well for holding up any future legal change. Even Mike Nesbitt seems to be wavering on the subject – his kids can’t understand his problem. The centre ground is becoming less conservative.

Of course all of this is small potatoes when compared to the dominance of the DUP. Arlene and her Martin letter did the trick, and their unrelenting politics of fear will be as hard to stomach as ever. What impact, if any, Fresh Start will have on the petition of concern is unclear. Now that Sinn Fein hasn’t hit the magic 30 seats needed to use the petition, the DUP may try to protect their own veto more vigorously.

But there’s a new naughty corner in town. Comprised of serious politicians who can’t wait to disrupt the status quo. Of course it will be hard to be an effective opposition from over there. But a bracing war of attrition on the established order – that seems very possible. And the term ‘naughty corner’, whilst hilarious, is derisive. It under-estimates how determined they are. We don’t know yet who will join the four mighty avengers, whether any of the larger parties will go into opposition with them, if any progressive alliances might be formed, and who might snag an influential job as committee chair.

No doubt this optimism seems misplaced to those in larger parties with access to ministerial jobs, party budgets, mainstream media time, access to a LOT of stamps and let’s face it, loads more supporters. Progressive parties are still small, and change is painfully slow. But to inhabit the green left is to be an optimist by definition. And compared to where we have been, this feels good. There’s some big shit happening in the world today. And it looks like Northern Ireland might almost be ready to engage with it.

Claire Mitchell was a sociologist of religion at QUB until 2010, when she left to pursue civilian life. Now a mother, runner of a small business and occasional storyteller at Tenx9. She is a shamefully lazy member of the Green Party in NI, although all views here are her own (as she’s never quite made it to a meeting).

Claire Mitchell is a freelance writer. Formerly senior lecturer in Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast. She is a member of the Green Party of Northern Ireland, but all views are her own. More at www.clairemitchell.net

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TC, is that meant to be a serious comment that adds to our understanding of things? Grow up. Naomi’s one of the few people actually doing something real in her constituency politically. Try meeting and talking to her, and you might just notice that the “yapping” is actually about something serious for a change, unlike most of her detractors.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Depends how you define sin, Teddybear. To create wealth you need to exploit others in some manner, as profit needs to be gleaned from somewhere, either by pressing down wages or overcharging for the services or for your product. That’s how wealth happens. But of course that’s always been a most respectable sin.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Prosperity Theology, Ianhimself:


    Very popular here in certain churches, I hear.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”……

    One of those injunctions that usually falls into the great memory lapse, unlike the texts that hate can more easily be built around.

  • Brendan Heading

    What kind of things do you think Alliance should open up on ? Genuine question.

    My comment about Brazilian rainforests was a little flippant, but i was highlighting the issue of spending a lot of time debating things that we can’t focus. I’d like to see us focussing on fixing the things that are within the scope of the devolved powers rather than doing the school debating society thing they do up there.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Sorting out welfare and stopping Corporation Tax change are high on our list of priorities.’
    Does ‘sorting out welfare’ mean anything other than just more of the same?

  • Brendan Heading

    The other matter is that burning extracted natural gas is far more environmentally friendly than burning coal or oil.

  • Brendan Heading

    Dearie me.

  • Old Mortality

    Did you explain to your children that the principal difference between gay men and other men like their father, presumably, is that the former enjoy inserting their willies into each others bottoms.

  • Brendan Heading

    Naomi is on the record supporting reform in the cases of FFA and sexual crime. Some of the other Alliance reps take the same view (although some do not). This is to the right of the Greens but to the left of the majority of MLAs.

    MLAs who oppose the extension of the 1967 Act still make up the majority of the assembly. That includes the DUP, SDLP, SF, half of the Ulster Unionists (if not more) and Jim Allister – at least 85 out of 108 MLAs or more. There really is no point in going after Naomi for not being pro-67, as it wouldn’t matter if she was.

    The best we can do is make the case for incremental reform. When that’s in place, the debate can be had about where we go next.

  • Brendan Heading

    South Belfast has only two unionists out of six ..

  • Kev Hughes

    True that, but Chris’ contention is that it would help alleviate fuel poverty, be less painful to the environment and the downsides are allegedly invented (I stay clear of the Drudge Report tbf).

    I’d contend that there’s absolutely no guarantee regarding any of his points or that they’re fanciful T best. Let’s remember here folks, the U.K. has had North Sea oil and gas AND fuel poverty, why the North would fair any better I’m all ears.

  • Teddybear

    Business is the proven method of wealth creation. There’s nothing exploitative about business. Everyone knows a profit is made from what they buy. That profit is what funds the wages of the firms we buy stuff from. It’s even funds our own wages.

    It’s not exploitation but a societal contract between producer and consumer that everyone (well 99% there’s always people who are against everything ) accepts and embraces

  • Brian O’Neill

    Yeah yeah.

    ‘The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute notes that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women. Most child molesters, therefore, are not gay people lingering outside schools waiting to snatch children from the playground, as much religious-right rhetoric suggests.’


  • Teddybear

    Yes indeed. I’m one of few traditionalists who interact online. Let’s not assume the world is liberal or left wing just because most of the voices we hear online are off that ilk.

  • Teddybear

    Talk about stereotyping! So straight men aren’t allowed to espouse the joys of the Edward bear aka teddy bear?

  • Teddybear

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Teddybear

    Today’s express opinions here on this thread of a conservative and religiously inspired nature. I’ve received several OMG How Can You Say That responses. Are people here really shocked at hearing opposing views? In fact I get the impression that the left wing are more prone to stomping on dissenting voices than the right.

    As for Green Party, why don’t they appeal to working class or rural communities. In fact, is it not one of the biggest ironies that the Greens gain risible votes in rural/farming constituencies? The people who work the land for a living don’t see the Greens as a friend

  • Zorin001

    I’ve no problem hearing differing views but when there worded in such a way as to demean and dehumanise (and I know that wasn’t from you), then yes I have a problem.

    I understand that gay marriage and abortion trouble those with strong religious views and I’m more than happy to engage but tolerance and respect is a two way street. Terms like “abomination” and “depravity” reduce that conversation to a slog in the mud and do nothing but entrench attitudes.

  • Post-conflict politics? See above reference by Brendan HEADING re ongoing shootings and murders. May I add to the mix the small matter of dealing with the past?

  • Chingford Man

    Don’t be surprised. Liberals spend so much time talking to each other over their craft beers they rarely encounter people who disagree with them. When they do, they can’t deal with it. Then we discover that liberals are tolerant of everything except a conservative’s viewpoints. If Trump gets elected, many of them will go into meltdown.

    As for the Greens, they are really just middle class urban leftists who wouldn’t know one end of a cow from the other.

  • Teddybear

    I regard all murder as a depravity be it of the born or unborn but yes, language should be temperate and never insulting. I have no argument with women who go down this road. I have nothing but sympathy for them. The psychological scars it leaves lasts a lifetime. They’ve merely been influenced by the society they live in

  • Teddybear

    You’re 100%.
    One key mistake the right have made is not taking control of social media in the same way they have off the press.

    This has sown a bitter harvest of a generation of secularist, anti life, anti west anti Christian propagandists controlling the minds of the hashtag generation. It will take a generation to correct but the work needs to begin now

  • On the fence!

    This is the sort of twaddle that makes it so hard to take the green party and it’s advocates seriously. There is no problem that will be solved by reducing the consumption and therefore production of meat. Vast areas on all continents are only suitable for pasture and therefore animal production. There are equally vast areas on all continents currently in crop production resulting in massive environmental damage which could be solved by returning them to pasture and therefore animal production. In the UK alone there is a huge untapped potential for agro-forestry which would help greatly with combating both air pollution and flooding issues and probably increase animal production at the same time.

    As for your grain/meat ratio, for it to be correct a 600kg steer killing out at 350kg would need to consume 5.6t of grain during it’s lifetime. In reality, a 600kg steer in the UK will more typically consume about a tonne of animal feed in it’s lifetime. This feed will typically be a quarter to a third grain, the rest will be by-products of grain and other food processing (for us humans!) so your figures are not only out, they are sufficiently far out to be completely nonsensical.

    Finally the greenhouse gases, ever thought of accounting for what will happen if all the humans on the planet suddenly switch to a 100% vegetable diet!!!!!

  • Starviking

    The problem I have with the Green Party is that they are first and foremost single-issue activists. Their main issues are in the field of science, but they are unwilling to change their positions based on what science says. Basically, they are anti-science

    A good example is the Green response to global warming:

    Greens get in coalition in France – force a cut of France’s nuclear power, not fossil power.

    Green political influence in Germany – Germany’s nuclear plants get the chop, Coal gets a boost

    Green politics harm the planet, they don’t help it.

  • Starviking

    Well, I think it hovers around the 50% mark compared to coal, and oil is about 75% of coal. That said, there are problems with methane releases – methane being a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    HI Starviking, strongly disagree on almost everything but travelling with limited internet access. Will get back to you in a few days.

  • Séamus

    I can’t help but notice the lack of any reference to Sinn Féin in the article (beyond that they missed 30 seats). This is interesting because, while I certainly don’t consider them socialist or even Marxist (as some do indeed label them) in their politics, they are definitely progressive in a lot of what they stand for – certainly more progressive than the SDLP, UUP and Alliance. (Their position on abortion isn’t great, but again compare it to those other parties. And they’ve been a longtime proponent of marriage equality.)

    Is it because of a fear by middle-class liberals to engage with nationalism or republicanism?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Great for earthquakes to. You do know what gracing actually does to the. Sub-strata Chris?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The informed people m

  • RG Cuan

    Agree fully about the Greens and PBP, don’t think i could be as positive about the socially regressive SDLP & Alliance however.

    Much of the increase in support for the Greens (in South Belfast at least) seems to have come from those of an Irish / nationalist background as it was the SDLP that lost out.

    I think that if the Greens were more proactive on wider Irish issues (perhaps more connections with the Green Party in the south) and took a more progressive stance regarding Irish language promotion (this is a no-brainer for European Green Party) then their vote would see another jump.

  • Sharpie

    Despite the gangland activities and dissident actions – there is no moral support at large out there. That is the difference. We are in a post-conflict society – which is a peace-building phase. At some stage we have to move from talking about nothing except the conflict into creating a society that we aspire to and will help make happen.

    Dealing with the past is an important part of that transition. I would say that we are dealing with the past already and won;t know it until 20 more years have gone past. There will be no agreed way that will make everyone happy so it will happen piecemeal, trial by media, medals, marches, commemorations, inquest, historical inquiries, judicial reviews books, tv interviews, rumour, digging up disappeared one by one etc. This is our messy process.

  • Other

    Whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion this comment crosses the line into a homophobic rant and should be removed.

  • Other

    What an inaccurate, childish and offensive statement.

  • Other

    I’m sure the majority of workers would disagree and feel that their labour is exploited for the lowest pay possible. Yes business creates wealth but only for the few. Trickle down economics as been proven to be nonsense.

  • Sharpie

    There is, I think a disconnect between what they say and what they do. They speak far left but practise at the centre. There is also a contradiction between what they say in the North and in the South that acts as a muzzle. I think they try to juggle the volatile political issues here, speaking to their base and trying to act in the greater interest, getting caught in real politik of deal making with Westminster and Unionist. I have to say where they excel is on the local level where they have activists who do stuff on the ground.

    They are consistent on a socially liberal agenda but are not able to make a lot from it because of the other rhetoric they carry. They should expand their discourse on what economic success looks like instead of pretending they can deliver a Chavez revolution in Ireland, they never will be able to do that. They have to move to the economic centre where the world works – and to keep some socially radical policies.

  • kensei

    Never got why abortion is a shibboleth for the far “progressive left”. It is an objectively difficult moral question, on which reasonable people can have strong views either way – without the need for religion to enter into it. There is cognitive dissonance on all sides. If you doubt this, consider how devastated even the most left wing pro choice woman could be over a miscarriage.

    The result is that it drives off a lot of people who should be natural allies on basically every other issue apart, never mind building weaker coalitions on specific issues.

  • Teddybear

    If they were forced at gun point against their will do jobs they didn’t like, then yes that’s exploitation.

    But we don’t live in such a society. If people feel they are under paid then then they should seek to retrain or move to another locale/job. People are paid what their labour is worth.

    are people really surprised with their job prospects/low paid work if they mess about in school, get next to no GCSES and end up with no skills that command high salaries?

    The working class are their own worst enemy. They by and large don’t value education nor make their children study in the evening the way middle class people do.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And a gay lifestyle is obviously a proven method of having satisfactory relationships for some of our fellow citizens! But back to business. If a profit accrues to one party then there is some degree of exploitation. I know you do not want to hear that the very fabric of our “culture” is sinful, but just think about the mechanics and it’s perfectly evident. You are obviously flexible on this one issue giving it a lot of interpretative freedom. What is the real problem with the other thing then?

  • Schmitty

    How do you control social media? Social media by its very nature is ‘social’. It is conversation, interaction, etc. Are you suggesting limiting free speech?

    As for the bitter harvest – Who are these propagandists and who should this lost generation listen to to ‘correct’ their views?

  • Slater

    Try to realise what would happen if People Before Profit advanced beyond singing the Internationale.
    Think Chavez and today’s chaos in Venezuela and then realise how snooty liberals are about working people, especially those not in the public sector’s labour aristocracy.

  • Jane

    Progressive politics might not actually appeal to large swathes of those who do not vote. I have heard, anecdotally, of people not voting because 1) there’s no one worth voting for; 2) their preferred candidate ‘doesn’t have a hope’ and 3) their preferred candidate will ‘get in anyway. There are also the group who don’t really give a damn about voting or politics. While there are people out there wishing and hoping for the right progressive party/candidate to represent them, I don’t think they make up anything like the total numbers who don’t vote.

  • Jane

    If you believe the world that posts online is wholly liberal or left wing, you clearly haven’t been on Britain First’s facebook page or perused the comment sections of most tabloids/papers.

  • Brendan Heading

    I wouldn’t be too sure about that. There may not be direct support, but there’s an absence of a security and/or criminal justice strategy to deal with the paramilitaries – and that suits some people just fine.

  • Brendan Heading

    On the contrary, a lot of traditionalists interact online, like this crowd.

  • Brendan Heading

    You’re adding to the cognitive dissonance with this one. I know women who have had abortions, in some cases decades ago, and of course the thought of the whole thing stays with them. That does not mean that they think they made the wrong decision.

  • Brendan Heading

    Being self righteous does not cause you to lose elections. Peter Robinson was self righteous, sanctimonous, preachy and a whole bunch of other things, and topped the poll almost every time.

  • Msiegnaro

    Well except that one time.

  • kensei

    Which is completely irrelevant to the point I’m making.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I wouldn’t laugh about the declining bee population. Without bees we will have no crops. Then we have no food and die. You should consider this a very important issue for local farming.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I doubt it stays with them as a pleasant memory.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    So, Teddybear, everyone is paid what they are worth in this best of all possible worlds. And the management of money in such a way as to create a n almost world shattering meltdown of banking was worth the many millions the top bankers were paid. What would they have been worth then had they actually not almost crashed the system.

    Of course people are not “forced at gun point against their will do jobs they didn’t like”, but they are forced by the monthly necessity for mortgage and credit card repayments to their banks, all to pay for goods they might be able to do entirely without had they not been driven to consume useless extras by the stimulation of greed and envy (two cardinal sins, note) by profit driven “economic growth”. Education used to be considered as a great deal more than simply getting the “tick box” degrees that would ensure better pay and keep the whole rotten “profit” machine trundling along and deforming people’s characters as it markets things to them. There’s a reason that the contrast between two masters in Matthew ch. 6, v.24 uses Mammon (the Aramaic word for “money”, there used as a personification) as the contrast! Think about it.