Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Profile for Better Together

Centre-Right Conservative and Unionist.

Latest posts from Better Together (see all)

Better Together has posted 12 times (0 in the last month).

Returning to the Problem of Incentives: An Ardoyne Twelfth

Tue 16 July 2013, 5:57pm

Tweet Last year, I wrote a piece in relation to the apparatus of the Parades Commission, arguing that the fundamental flaw of its operation lay in its core assumptions concerning the parading issue and its lack of a coherent regulatory framework in taking decisions. That piece detailed how the process of regulating parades focused entirely on parade participants […] more »

Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality

Sun 6 January 2013, 10:10pm

Tweet Much discussions over the past month in Northern Ireland has centred around the aftermath of the decision of Belfast City Council to move away from its 106-year old tradition of flying the Union flag every day, to one of only flying it on a maximum of twenty designated days. Whilst much has been written, […] more »

The murder of David Black

Sat 3 November 2012, 10:20am

Tweet The brutal murder of David Black on Thursday morning was another chilling reminder, if one was needed, of the potential of dissident strains of Irish Republicanism to cause mayhem, destruction and unjustified grief to a family circle and the rest of the community. David was a Prison Officer, a well liked member of his […] more »

Sinn Fein and the permanent process

Mon 29 October 2012, 2:35pm

Tweet Declan Kearney has been at it again, this time in Westminster. Alex Kane is out quickly in the News Letter today, rounding on Kearney: “Here’s my other difficulty with Sinn Fein’s reconciliation project: described by Mr Kearney as “calling for an all-inclusive national discussion on reconciliation leading to the development of a national reconciliation […] more »

DUP: Unravelling the Irreconcilable

Wed 17 October 2012, 2:38pm

Tweet Peter Robinson has been unusually vocal in a party political sense in the weeks following the Convenant celebrations. The predictable appeal for the somewhat elastic and elusive concept of unionist unity on the eve of the Covenant was sound party politics, trying to frighten horses in the UUP. The mischief continued with a public […] more »

Parliamentary dogfights: A new tactic for the small parties?

Thu 11 October 2012, 11:07am

Tweet Over the course of the last few weeks, the SDLP have used parliamentary mechanisms in order to attempt to embarrass their political opponents in Sinn Fein.  Their motion to exclude Nelson McCausland, although doomed to failure, forced Sinn Fein into open confrontation with their close colleagues in the executive, the DUP. The gap between principle and pragmatism has […] more »

Permanent Cantons or Effective Government?

Thu 27 September 2012, 5:35pm

Tweet Newton Emerson, writing in today’s Irish News, speculates on the future direction of Northern Ireland’s political spectrum: A poll published last weekend shows Alliance overtaking the UUP for the first time, on 13 per cent compared to the UUP’s 10 per cent. The SDLP is on 9 per cent. The poll had a small […] more »

Sinn Fein: Reconciliation, Logic and Future Direction

Thu 13 September 2012, 5:06pm

Tweet Monday’s edition of the Irish News carred quotations from Sinn Fein Chairman, Declan Kearney. Speaking at the party’s summer school in West Cork on the subject of reconciliation, Kearney said there was “no excuse” for the devastation wrought by the Shankill bomb and in addition made several substantive claims as well: “….no right thinking […] more »

Parades: A question of morals and incentives….

Wed 5 September 2012, 2:40pm

Tweet Much has been written about events around parading over the past number of weeks, in the wake of the incident at St. Patrick’s church, the Black Saturday and the recent rioting and serious public disorder on the streets of north Belfast. Disputes about the line between civil disobedience as a form of public protest […] more »

“They have a mutual desire to maintain and build peace but little in common beyond that ideal”.

Tue 21 August 2012, 1:48pm

Tweet Ed Curran, writing in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, outlined how the Secretary the State, with his open consultation on reforming Stormont, is playing the only hand open to him, appealing above the heads of Stormont to wider civic society to have their say: “The UK government is blamed for imposing austerity cuts here but rarely  applauded […] more »

Latest comments from Better Together (see all)

Better Together has commented 81 times (0 in the last month).

  1. Comment on Returning to the Problem of Incentives: An Ardoyne Twelfth
    on 19 July 2013 at 6:20 pm


    I don’t think we are seriously going to compare two armies on a seventeenth century battlefield to twentieth century terrorists shooting police officers in the back of the head and blowing up civilians. Remembering the latter is the driving feature of republican commemoration parades.

    Once again, you fail to offer a definition of what constitutes a contentious parade, if such sources of contention can be removed to allow a peaceful procession. Not only that, you fail to acknowledge that protestors themselves play a significant role in causing contention and mutual recrimination. If your solution is no orange feet when we say so, then perhaps we ought to let others decide how reasonable that assertion is.

    What is it that nationalists have to fear from a fair system of managing parades? If it is the case that all is sought is respectful assembly, I have no doubt that bargain could be struck. If what is sought is an ethnic victory, I suspect this will go on as a protracted dispute.

    If you want to attribute a supremacy complex to your neighbours, then perhaps you would accept others may question your own motivations. Let’s set some principles, design a fair system to assess them and move forward in that manner.

    We all want to resolve this, don’t we?

    Go to comment

  2. Comment on Returning to the Problem of Incentives: An Ardoyne Twelfth
    on 18 July 2013 at 7:28 pm

    You refer to the Brian Robinson linked band and I understand the argument, a proper system of reward and sanction could discourage and punish thaT type of behaviour. That type of thing is limited even in Belfast (once is once too many) however, and nonexistent in the bulk of orange parades in rural Ulster. Incidentally, carrying anything illegal sould be a negative on any scoresheet.

    You fail once again to address the politics of parading contention, preferring to list sectarian incidents by loyalist communities, whilst completely ignoring those of your own community.

    Celebrating murder, dressing up children in balaclavas and replica guns is okay as long as it is in a “republican area”? I think you know that many rural republican parades are conducting in areas where members of the community, both nationalist and unionist would find them distasteful. If it’s wrong on one road, it’s wrong on another. The correct comparison is with the AOH or more widely in a cultural and political sense, the GAA.

    I suppose banners comparing the OO the KKK that have been seen are in no sense inflammatory, or indeed the sectarian chants often emanating from those opposing parades of “up the ra” and the like don’t contribute at all to parading contention if we follow your logic.

    If the politics isn’t there, I suppose selective anti-sectarianism is put in its place. Proof, if more was needed, that the incentives of all interested parties in the parading issue require examination.

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  3. Comment on Returning to the Problem of Incentives: An Ardoyne Twelfth
    on 17 July 2013 at 7:08 pm


    You lay the blame with the institution for choosing “contentious” routes, yet choose to gloss over the problem that was is deemed to be contentious varies in line with political expediency.

    Actually the piece did talk about the dangers of moral relativism and ceding control to the mob, you chose not to acknowledge that. My point is not that any side has a monopoly on sectarian action, simply that one side does not see these intentions scrutinised quite as intensely of the protesting side.

    This continual red herring of a republican parade in a Protestant area is apples and oranges- the Order holds traditional processions that are not comparable to parades with machine guns on the bass drums of some of the bands. Yes btw, I unreservedly condemn UVF banners and like many others would argue they have no place in an orange parade.

    However, for your argument, such instances prove to be the exception rather than the norm and do not suffice to sustain a comparison between orangeism and republican paramilitarism.

    In relation to glossing over bonfires, I don’t deny ugly sectarianism can occur in loyalist communities- your problem is that the linkage of this to Orangeism is tenuous. In terms of selection and omission, I notice you don’t mention the local man who returned the statue of Mary to Father Donegan’s parish.

    All of this overlooks the fundamental flaw in the “supremacism” argument is that it misreads the motivations of Ulster Protestants. Seeking security is not the same as seeking ascendency and it is this feeling of security and confidence which is at times lacking within a “PUL” community. Many proponents of Irish Nationalism appear to think that dislocation helps their cause as Mitchell McLaughlin famously let slip. Time will tell.

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  4. Comment on Returning to the Problem of Incentives: An Ardoyne Twelfth
    on 16 July 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Anything on the wider politics of the piece, folks?

    Go to comment

  5. Comment on Now here’s a thought. The Union Jack is not the flag of Unionism
    on 9 January 2013 at 1:20 pm


    The problem is that there was no concord that designated days is an appropriate solution- if in Belfast, then why not in Derry City Council and Omagh? My argument for the flag is that it is not the symbol of one sect, it is the soveriegn symbol- putting it into a cultural stew with other contested issues devalues it.

    Republicans/Nationalists have chosen to do this, preferring short-term gain over a sensible long-term position. The reality that demography is not going to carry the day for them has yet to sink in, they seem to cling to the hopes that death by a thousand cuts is still, if it ever was, a viable strategy.

    Go to comment

  6. Comment on Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality
    on 7 January 2013 at 5:12 pm


    Interesting- are oyu now endorsing that in any proposed transfer of soveriegnty, Northern Ireland must remain a distinct entity? That appears close to what I understand to b SDLP policy.

    Once again- you miss my point. I accept that many Irish nationalists have asprations to consttutional change and do not regard themselves in any sense as endorsing Northern Ireland or a British identity. My point is that the British Unionist/Irish Nationalist binary you pose is inadequate to capture the complexity of identity and constituional preference in Northern Ireland today.

    My point is that Unionism has an opportunity to expand the coalition in favour of the status quo, the conditions are there, whether or not this is admitted to by political nationalism. Nationalist strategy appears caught in a ‘wind up the prods’ approach in order to disguise their lack of an appetite for serious politics- this is a disservice to their own constituency as much as unionists.

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  7. Comment on Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality
    on 7 January 2013 at 12:04 am


    Thanks for the generous comments. I think you understand, as a nationalist, the weaknesses in such an approach- it shows little appetite for building an inclusive form of nationalism. It’s rather like the bankruptcy of the foaming at the mouth that goes on in the event of a Census. I noticed many on the Republican side were very quiet after the publication of the Census results, as they painted a much more nuanced picture than their assumptions.

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  8. Comment on Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality
    on 6 January 2013 at 11:55 pm


    I said unionism ought not to concede that the Union flag is a trival symbol, simply because that is the perception of others. I did not deny there are many nationalists who feel this way, but I also note that in the EQIA by BCC 56% of Catholics surveyed had no strong feelings one way or the other on the Union flag flying. People who dismiss the possibilities for social and economic conditions to bring about change ought to see Irish Presbyterians between 1798 and 1885. The Union has the advantages of incumbency and a tested bout of power-sharing.

    Again, I make the point- Joint Sovereignty was not the deal. One has to distinguish between cultural and constitutional symbols- the respective flags are constitutional symbols of different states. Cultural symbols to me relate to parading, sports, music etc- this is an area in which equality of access and esteem was geared towards.

    I respect people’s right to aspire towards a single Irish Republic- but that is not where we are and the Tricolour, whilst having emotional appeal to many, has no legal status in this jurisdiction. This was accepted by nationalists in 1998, that is not the same as asking someone to stop being nationalists. It’s a specious argument.

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  9. Comment on Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality
    on 6 January 2013 at 11:00 pm


    My point was that the spirit of the Agreement was a recognition of the constitutional status of NI and conditions for any change therein, in exchange for a guaranteed role for nationalists in our governance arrangements and clear equality screening mechanisms to ensure everyone has an equal stake in our society socially and economically.

    Pursuing low-level campaigns of ‘cleansing’ British symbols undermines the pretensions to a Republicanism of Tone, preferring instead an exclusionary little Irelander approach. Otherwise, what was the compromise?

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  10. Comment on Flags, Nationalists and the Contested Law of Equality
    on 6 January 2013 at 10:52 pm


    The premise is that you cannot equate a reality with an aspiration- if you sign up to the constitutional reality, yet seek to move at all times to undermine its visibility, how do you suppose that helps community relations?

    Similarly, I note you don’t take much time to address the nationalist record on equality or your view of using public money to fund terrorist memorials. Actually, my argument is that council chambers can and should reflect a variety of our culture, with the flag standing above this as a symbol of what was accepted in 1998.

    Would it hurt nationalist majority councils to have a policy of designated days to counter-balance their policy of using Irish exclusively on council property/publications? Or do you enjoy majority rule when its the ‘right sort’ of majority rule?

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