Increasing reconciliation? The draft PfG’s trojan horse measure

The draft Programme for Government framework has been launched and has entered its consultation phase. Alan’s post explains how the new approach was developed while Brian has written a broadly positive piece, noting that it can be viewed “as an instrument….for building the Executive’s unity of purpose.

The aspirational and visionary setting and tone of the document can be understood if it is about steering the divided ship that is a two party coalition, composed of parties diametrically opposed on most views, in a general direction. The first paragraph of the Foreword is instructive in this regard:

The Programme for Government Framework sets out the ambition the Executive has for our society. These ambitions are generational in nature. They are intended to address the big issues facing our society and to make a difference to the things that matter most to people.

There is little to quibble about when it comes to the ‘Outcomes‘ proclaimed in the document. Seeking high quality public services, wanting to give our children the best start in life and for all in a more equal society to live longer and to be confident, outward looking and welcoming is the end goal of most ideologies across the political spectrum. This part is truly worthy of the mom and apple pie accusations levelled from many quarters.

However, the ‘Indicators’– and the specified ‘Measures’ to be used to gauge progress towards meeting the target Indicators– provide us with more scope to investigate where one party or other has managed to make a firmer imprint upon the document.

Which brings us nicely to Indicator 35.

Indicator 35: Increase Reconciliation.

Sounds noble doesn’t it? Who, in this deeply divided society, emerging from 25 years of conflict and thousands of deaths, would not be interested in increasing reconciliation?

As it stands, then, as an Indicator it will hardly raise any eyebrows.

However, let’s look a little closer at how the draft Programme for Government would have us measure an increasingly reconciled community.

The linked Measure for increasing reconciliation is the % of the population who believe their cultural identity is respected by society.

Yup.

In other words, the PfG would have us measure reconciliation by effectively empowering those who perpetually (and erroneously) complain about their cultural identity being eroded (a theme we have visited before on Slugger.)

Let me explain.

The Outcomes, Indicators and Measures model works by getting approval in the first instance for the three to be linked.

Thus, if you desire the mom and apple pie society (Outcome), you believe there should be increased reconciliation (Indicator.) However, if you concede that the manner in which this will be assessed is by gauging the percentage of people believing their cultural identity is respected by society (Measure) you are then duty bound to support policies which could be construed as likely to ensure that more people currently not believing their cultural identity is respected will come to believe that is the case.

Remarkably, in a document which purportedly seeks to address all issues related to governance and how they impact upon society, it is only in how we are to measure increased reconciliation that an explicit breakdown of circumstances or attitudes on a religious basis is employed by the DUP/SF authors of the document.

In other words, the cold, hard objective facts and statistics relating to religious background that are available to inform indicators and measures in relation to employment, housing, health, education and poverty were overlooked; it is only in the area of threat to cultural identity that religious background is to be factored in, and then, crucially, only using the inherently subjective and therefore dubious figures relating to perceptions.

Unsurprisingly, disaggregating the statistics with regard to the NI Life and Times Survey (which is to be used as the Measure to assess whether this Indicator is being met) reveals that fewer Protestants believe their cultural identity is respected by society. Consequently, were this to be incorporated into the actual PfG post-consultation as currently designed, the Executive would be obliged to take steps to ensure that situation did not continue.

That the DUP would want this Measure to be used to assess how we increase reconciliation hardly requires explaining: it empowers them to push against an equality agenda, with Executive approval via an agreed PfG, on the basis that the very same unionists the DUP preach the message to about nationalists attacking their cultural identity are believing that party line.

  • Mr Angry

    This comes as no surprise, does it?

  • It’s a really dozy measure at present and needs to be strongly challenged and augmented.

  • Teddybear

    SF/DUP have nothing to gain from reconciliation. It’s like asking psychiatrists to eliminate mental illness. They’d be out of a job

  • chrisjones2

    Absolutely right …..nothing can be allowed to slip through that might respect unionist identity

  • Brian Walker

    I had rather thought that nationalists believed their identity wasn’t sufficiently respected by the absence of an Irish Language Act.

  • Teddybear

    Mr Walker. I am what people call a unicorn ie a unionist RC. There are many of us but we don’t shout about it as it may lead to Windows being broken.

    However since I grew up in a nationalist area I can tell you honestly that no one I knew or grew up with cared a fig about the Irish language. No one spoke it as a lingua franca. It was just a subject at school (which I add was not popular or liked a subject).

    I suspect that the Irish language rise in recent times is a republican Trojan horse that wears many masks (education, culture, tradition) but belie the true agenda at play.

  • Brendan Heading

    There are many of us but we don’t shout about it as it may lead to Windows being broken.

    No windows can be broken at the ballot box, yet few unicorns show up there.

  • Jollyraj

    “No windows can be broken at the ballot box, yet few unicorns show up there”

    How do you know?

    Do you have access to privileged information on who votes for which party, and what religion (if any) they are?

  • Dan

    “Sounds noble doesn’t it? Who, in this deeply divided society, emerging from 25 years of conflict and thousands of deaths, would not be interested in increasing reconciliation?”

    To be perfectly frank, I’m not at all convinced the author of this article is.

  • Brendan Heading

    How do you know?

    The election results. Areas with lots of Catholics don’t vote for Unionist political parties. They don’t even vote Alliance.

  • Teddybear

    Not many of us vote for big U unionist parties due to their historical (and latent ) anti Catholicism but I do support the union.

  • kensei

    “No one” cared about it? I must have imagined my cousins going to a Gaelscoil. Or the people in my GCSE Irish class. Or the ones that did the Fainne. Or the people with a couple focail. Or the people that just verbally thought well of it but didn’t do much. Its almost like there was a full spectrum.

    Do you think it might just be you? And do you think, maybe, those of us here from a Nationalist background don’t need told the whisper it secret truth about the Irish Language?

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: That the DUP would want this Measure to be used to assess how we increase reconciliation hardly requires explaining: it empowers them to push against an equality agenda, with Executive approval via an agreed PfG, on the basis that the very same unionists the DUP preach the message to about nationalists attacking their cultural identity are believing that party line.
    Not really; numbers are merely numbers. All it means that if you get an extra 10 unionists on board, you can’t afford to lose more than 10 nationalists. And vice versa, of course. If you could make 100% nationalists happy without upsetting too many unionists that would still increase the measure. SF may already have a few ideas which haven’t trickled down to the troops yet.
    And anyway, don’t you already believe that a United Ireland would do that job?

  • Glenn

    So what we have here is another critic of how the DUP are out politicking the supposed masters of strategy and long term thinking those masters of propaganda Sinn Fein/IRA.

  • Teddybear

    I bet there were only single figures sitting Irish GCSE at your school but this matters not. Irish is not the first language of NI and therefore is not part of anyone’s culture unless it is artificially constructed ie English speaking homes suddenly switching to Irish seems rather artificial and reeks of…extremism

  • Granni Trixie

    Peace of mind for doing the right thing?

  • Granni Trixie

    I had same kind of experience re Irish Language in WB in 60s infact the odd person at school who spoke Irish was regarded as a bit of an outsider. I am amazed to find that Sainsbury’s on A’Town Rd has the various food isles named in Irish – but then it is just across from Felans Club.

  • Ryan

    Yeah the DUP are real geniuses….

  • Ryan

    “There are many of us but we don’t shout about it as it may lead to Windows being broken”
    Teddy, we know your a Loyalist pretending to be a Catholic lol Yes I’ve come across many on twitter. The Window being broken line was what exposed you. Better luck next time.

  • Nimn

    I think that is the more likely explanation than any trojan horse.
    Also, many of the remaining 41 measures could fit under your comment.

  • Brian Walker

    No but it’s a short answer to the claim that the DUP are the only one with grievances.

  • kensei

    There were at least 20, as far as I can recall. Not being the mother tongue does not mean it isn’t part of your culture. I was never great at languages but had basic Irish which I regret letting lapse. There were plenty more passionate about it and fair play to them.

    The only extreme views are yours.

  • kensei

    You’ll find it all along the Falls Road too as part of the Gaeltacht Quarter.

    Wait, we’re basing this in the 60s? You couldn’t fly a tricolour either.

  • Zig70

    I am legion or are you Newt? Anyway, I wonder if common garden unionists would feel uncomfortable with RC (I don’t know any Catholic that uses the Roman prefix) types diluting the water. Is the loss of loyalist identity okay to preserve the union? Let’s face it, no Catholic is going to have grown to an 18yr old and think the dup is a political home. More than likely they won’t be too keen on the OO marching or paramilitary flags or bonfires with the pope on them. Who is? Back to a minority within a minority. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth preserving.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Unfortunately Granni “Peace of Mind” does not pay the Bills that one has become accustomed too ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Why do they not vote for Alliance ?

  • chrisjones2

    Hes is.

    SF is but it defines reconciliation as Unionists being reconciled to what SF wants

  • chrisjones2

    “You’ll find it all along the Falls Road too as part of the Gaeltacht Quarter.”

    Which must make it very difficult for the 95% of the population who dont speak Irish

    Still …for those few who can I am sure its very satisifying to have come down from the promise of a ‘United Ireland by 2016’ to knowing the Irish for parsnip

  • chrisjones2

    “Irish is not the first language of NI ”

    or the Republic where I am told its beaten by Polish these days

  • chrisjones2

    I support you in that on a voluntary basis. If you feel its for you then fine. And we should respect that

  • chrisjones2

    …or the expenses to feed all those hungry mouths who otherwise might have to rob banks or launder diesel to survive

  • chrisjones2

    …dont you mean “weaponsied”

  • Ciarán

    out of interest and going by your handle… I guess you’re also one of those many Catholic Rangers fans?

  • Skibo

    “A lie told often becomes the truth”

  • Skibo

    TB could I suggest you return to the place of your youth and you will find the Irish language is growing and alive despite the actions of Unionist politicians. Not from the hatred of anything British but the love of the native language. A language persecuted in the distant past to expunge all things Irish. Can it be a fallacy to try and promote such things?

  • Skibo

    Teddybear the extremism was that which was used to expunge the Irish language from our tongue. It can hardly be describes as extremism to try and revive it.
    tell me are you still describing yourself as a RC?

  • Skibo

    Au contra ire, The Irish Language is the first official language of Eire as stated in the Irish Constitution. The English language is recognised as the second official language as per article 8.
    Perhaps NI could give status to the Irish language as over 40% of its population regard themselves as Irish of some kind.

  • Jollyraj

    Doesn’t prove anything, beyond the fact that areas with a high concentration of Catholics don’t tend to vote unionist in large numbers. If that’s your point, I think you are somewhat redundant.

    In reality, most areas are mixed, half the population don’t vote and thus you cannot say with certainty that a substantial number of people don’t vote against your sectarian assumptions. This may have been true in places like West Belfast in the old days when Sinn Fein were backed by their own personal armed goon squad who who could put the pressure on voters. These days everyone can vote for whom they choose. Nothing wrong with Catholics being pro-Union.

  • Glenn

    The DUP appear to be running rings around the shinners/provos, would you not agree.

  • Skibo

    Just as you say Brendan cannot say Catholics don’t vote for Unionists, so you cannot say they do. The argument works both ways.

  • Skibo

    Keep an eye on the long game.

  • Teddybear

    Again im being misunderstood. I’ve nothing against the Irish language I’m just pointing out the fact that it’s not a primary language in NI in the same way it is in parts of Donegal and Connacht. It is the motive behind much of the northern revival of Irish that I am hostile to, not the language itself

  • Jollyraj

    That’s my point.

  • Skibo

    Well perhaps until you can prove that Catholics vote for Unionist parties, you will refrain from such posts till you can provide evidence.

  • Skibo

    Just as Unionisms’ impression of equality is that everyone is equally British.

  • Skibo

    How can you be hostile to the promotion of a national language particularly when it is open to everyone? I accept it is not a primary language within NI. How could it be after years of persecution. To oppose its promotion is to defend its persecution.

  • Jollyraj

    Well perhaps before you get quite so sniffy with me you might actually read the posts you are commenting on. In essence, the other fellow claimed Catholics don’t vote for unionist parties. I merely said that you can’t be sure who votes for what. And moreover that Catholics, and everyone else, are entitled to vote for whomever they choose.

  • Jollyraj

    Yes. A UI by 2116.

  • Skibo

    Little too long there Lad. UK and Ireland may not even exist as independent countries by then. Possibly the federal states of Europe.

  • Croiteir

    seems to me that SF have allowed reconciliation to be defined within a partitionist definition.

  • Croiteir

    Mmm – 25 years of conflict in the week that saw the anniversary of the murder of Scullion by the UVF triggering the violence between an amalgam of fanatical unionists and the state against nationalists fifty years ago

  • kensei

    See, first official language status hasn’t halted decline in the South. It won’t help decline here. I’d like an ILA that funds online communities to connect people, or creates spaces and opportunities for people to speak it. maybe a rosetta stone approach to learning to speak it than a GCSE one. That’d help. And it shouldn’t offend anyone.

  • Skibo

    I agree, I do not expect everyone to have to learn the language. Give the option for people to converse in the language, assist people to learn as with LIofa, produce all new road signs as bilingual.
    Tap into the many tourists who want to visit the homeland. The Irish language is all around us. Embrace it rather than ignoring it.
    No need to spend a fortune, recognition is more important than anything.

  • Jollyraj

    Fair do’s. Not really worth bothering then.

  • submariner

    Because Alliance are seen as a Unionist party albeit without the sectarian bigotry.

  • Skibo

    Aye as in a previous post, we could all be speaking German then and the British will be looking for a language act to protect English!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Maybe they should chose to be a Nationalist Party ? That might help them break out of the dead end political cul-de-sac they find themselves in being unable to grow in 45 years ? They might even bring out those middle class nationalist voters who have stopped voting ?

  • Jollyraj

    Aye and the Irish language long gone..

  • Skibo

    Aye, that is unless the UK leaves and Ireland follows.

  • Jollyraj

    Surely not. Aren’t we UK folk ‘the hated oppressor’. Ireland would be unlikely to leave Europe, and lose all that funding – isn’t that the basis if the Irish economy?

  • Skibo

    News flash JR Ireland is now a net contributor. We in the wee north however are still sitting with the bowl out.
    Oppressor is a title from the past. Britain now says does not have a financial interest in NI. One we can get you to accept that the island is better united, we can look more favourable at our relationship with the UK. This is actually a relationship far removed from that of 1921. Unionism just has to catch up!

  • Jollyraj

    Have you thought of any reasons yet as to why the island is ‘better united’? I’ve asked a fair number of Irish nationalists, but no one seems to know..

  • Skibo

    Simplest one is economy of scale making it more cost effective to run a health service and other services. Policing would also improve with one body covering the whole island. Smuggling would end
    Duplication of services means reunification will result in savings in the public sector, so releasing personnel for the private sector.
    Increase in the growth of the public sector, mainly due to investment from other countries with high Irish ancestry wanting to be part of the new diaspora.
    The Souths expansion has been limited by lack of highly educated recruits, these will be available in the north.
    I foresee the high growth area of the eastern belt from Dublin through Drogheda to Dundalk extending on through Newry south and north Down, through Belfast on up the Antrim coast. It may even reach Antrim and Ballymena.
    The west has to be addressed but I assume over the next ten years we will develop two motorway or at least dual carriageway links with Derry and on through to connect in Donegal.
    It is very interesting to look at the coverage of the South by train is much better than the north with one line running up the Antrim coast slowly making its way to Derry.
    Tapping into the train system in the south could possibly justify a train link from Sligo up to Derry.
    No doubt you will find problems with some of this but unfortunately nobody has sat down and worked out a firm strategy fro uniting the island. I know of two economic papers that looked into the advantages of reunification but nobody has looked into it in physically forming a plan.

  • Jollyraj

    “Duplication of services means reunification will result in savings in the private sector, so releasing personnel for the public sector.
    Increase in the growth of the public sector”

    How big do you think the already bloated public sector in NI can become?

    As for the health service, people in NI would be reluctant in the extreme to lose the NHS.

    In a general sense, you are talking about massive public spending there. Paid for by…massive tax hikes?

    And on the last point, I agree thar nobody has seriously looked into forming concrete plans. Surely that is a quite staggering failing on the part of Republicanism over the course of the last few decades.

  • Reader

    Skibo: Duplication of services means reunification will result in savings in the private sector, so releasing personnel for the public sector.
    A couple of typos and a euphemism there, I think?

  • Reader

    Skibo: Simplest one is economy of scale making it more cost effective to run a health service and other services.
    If you want economies of scale, join the UK.

  • Skibo

    You miss the whole point.
    The health budget of NI is based on NI only, not on the rest of the UK. Perhaps you are suggesting scrap Stormont, do away with the Barnett principles and finance the health system in the NI direct from Westminster?
    Such a principle will slash our health budget and introduce privation of the health service.
    Is this what you are suggesting?

  • Skibo

    I would suggest a ten year plan to ready NI for reunification. This should give one Stormont phase to discuss the format and one Stormont phase to put the plan in action.

  • Skibo

    Would you care to expand, rather than try to look intelligent with the use of big words?

  • Skibo

    JR I am talking about reductions in the public service not increasing it. It has to be reduced to around the level of the southern economy or somewhere in the middle.
    The only reason it is the size it is at the moment is “jobs for the boys” to keep a bankrupt failed state from collapsing in on itself.
    Westminster recognises it and that is why the block grant is on an ever decreasing cycle.
    Massive tax hikes are not necessary. We have to learn to live within our means and not that of whatever we can squeeze out of Westminster.
    We need to look at the economy and services in an all Island basis and redesign them to suit all.
    Have you ever considered that the NHS is actually not all it is cracked up to be?
    Is there a better system out there that would suit us?
    Last point and yes you have hit the nail on the head and I believe this has alot to do with Nationalist apathy at the polls.
    Too long Republicanism considered the only way to a UI was by battering ram. Make NI ungovernable and the Brits (Westminster) would walk away. It did not work and merely achieved a security stalemate with too many deaths and too many young men in jail.
    We have a new political playing field and the UI project needs to be seriously discussed.
    For it to happen republicans will have to swallow some hard medicine too. Unionism can negotiate from a position of strength presently but if their vote base erodes the way most expect it to, their options will be drastically reduced.

  • Reader

    Skibo: Would you care to expand…
    You used ‘private’ instead of ‘public’, then you used ‘public’ instead of ‘private’.
    The euphemism was to say ‘releasing people’ instead of ‘making people redundant’ or ‘dismissing people’.

  • Skibo

    Thanks Reader, need to brush up on my proof reading, edited above now, but can you understand where I am coming from?
    Can you give me another way of reducing the bloated civil service?
    It has to be done at some stage..