Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Profile for Mainland Ulsterman

Born in Belfast, 1969. Worked in qualitative market and social research for 15 years and was until recently a research director at a leading UK research agency. Now working freelance. Formerly qualified and worked as a lawyer for several years in the 90s, having done a degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford University. Married and living in the UK, with two children.

Latest posts from Mainland Ulsterman (see all)

Mainland Ulsterman has posted 1 times (0 in the last month).

Understanding Bloody Sunday: Is it time to teach CAIN?

Mon 14 June 2010, 12:13pm

Tweet The debates around the forthcoming publication of the Saville findings raise an old complaint: that focusing on individual incidents in the Troubles distorts our overall understanding of what happened. Is it time we all got a bit more statistically literate – what about making the study of the CAIN stats compulsory in schools? Debates […] more »

Latest comments from Mainland Ulsterman (see all)

Mainland Ulsterman has commented 744 times (23 in the last month).

  1. Comment on Was Ireland fatally wounded in 1916?
    on 20 April 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Good point. I don’t think either the dead of Dublin or the Somme (or in my great uncles’ case, Warlincourt [Charles] and Murmansk [William]) would be particularly impressed by the Class of 2014.

    It is odd isn’t it that the Republican Movement favours an event that divided Irish and British so much. Plus ca change.

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  2. Comment on A tale of two wars (well two divergent accounts of the same war)…
    on 20 April 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Back to your OP, to address your point on the two views. It’s clear Dodds’s statement is a better summary of the Troubles. He covers the main action i.e. the killings, and talks directly about who did what. Hard to argue with what he says.

    Kelly, knowing he’s on a loser if he ever has to talk about how many people the IRA killed, and having no remorse for what he did, chooses to avoid that subject in order to create diversionary discourses around the lateral moraine of the “Armed Struggle” glacier, such as prison conditions etc. And then he gives data that suggests a huge injustice but which is much less convincing on closer inspection. The fact that 15,000 terrorist organisation members were caught, tried, found guilty and imprisoned over 30 years is surely a good thing, if you care for human life. It is not out of proportion to the scale of terrorist crime that was going on; indeed, the clear up rate for Republican murders was very low, compared for example to Loyalist murders. It may well be true that crimes done by British state forces were under-prosecuted during this time. But remember also that unlike Republicans, British state forces saved way, way, way more lives than they took; while Republicans, killing 6 for every life taken by the State forces, offered nothing but more terrorism. British state forces were heroic on the whole during the Troubles but of course killers like Kelly want to focus their mistakes (I wonder why) – mistakes dwarfed by the scale of the slaughter being carried out by his Republican machine. He has a nerve. He really has no place in public life and should step down.

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  3. Comment on A tale of two wars (well two divergent accounts of the same war)…
    on 20 April 2014 at 7:48 pm

    On Thomas Aquinas – I read him at university – and have to say I did wonder why he was on the syllabus. He was no stranger to assertions utterly unsupported by rational principles.

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  4. Comment on 1916 Rising and how it inspired me 78 years later.
    on 20 April 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Nice story David, nicely told – even if the legacy of the Easter Rising is considerably less nice for Northern Ireland.

    I wish I could add a story but despite being a republican myself, I have never felt inspired by the Easter Rising. It established that combo of high-sounding liberal rhetoric with vicious anti-British violence for which we all know and love Irish Republicanism. I don’t think it has much constructive to say about sharing these islands and mutual British-Irish respect.

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  5. Comment on Belfast Telegraph’s Are you voting for the wrong party poll, and other political anomalies?
    on 19 April 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Mick, you’re right they aren’t putting up candidates, due to lack of support from the mainland leadership for their own party. “One Nation” indeed.

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  6. Comment on A tale of two wars (well two divergent accounts of the same war)…
    on 19 April 2014 at 11:59 am

    The thing that finishes off the Republican argument on this is that violence for them was demonstrably not a last resort:
    - other nationalists did not resort to violence, so other choices were available
    - Republican ideology, pre-1969 and afterwards, openly asserted the IRA’s right to initiate armed attacks to bring about a united Ireland by force
    - the IRA was involved in some of the earliest violent street disturbances of the Troubles, including attacks on police stations that precipitated the larger scale inter-ethnic fighting
    - the decision to embark on a concerted IRA campaign of was made in January 1970. It is hard to argue that all non-violent courses of action had been exhausted.

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  7. Comment on McGuinness trying to assure ordinary unionists that he recognises their Britishness?
    on 19 April 2014 at 11:42 am

    The crisis within unionism is real and you describe it well but you miss that there is also a crisis within traditional Irish nationalism, which is less visible but is apparent every time there is a survey or poll on a putative future secession of NI from the UK – people simply don’t want it. The 2012 Life and Times Survey has it at 16 per cent. The numbers do fluctuate but rarely get near even 30 per cent.

    So maybe unionist disarray really doesn’t matter that much. It pleases some nationalists who enjoy sectarian sneering – but they are welcome to it, it doesn’t get them anywhere. The truth from all the polls is, the bulk of the people of NI are as solidly pro-Union as they ever were. It is no longer manifested in terms of strong adherence to political parties, but that reflects the wider disenchantment with politics in the wider UK and the West in general. Those predicting an imminent end to Northern Ireland as a UK unit have to reflect on the fact that not only does their campaign start from a low base, but its chief champions have zero credibility among most of the population, Protestant and Catholic.

    They once said Bloody Sunday was the best recruiting sergeant for the IRA. But now, SF-IRA’s “Armed Struggle” has effectively guaranteed that the British flag will fly over Northern Ireland for generations to come. SF’s continued prominence is a gift to the Union, every bit as much as Paisley was a gift to Irish nationalism.

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  8. Comment on A tale of two wars (well two divergent accounts of the same war)…
    on 19 April 2014 at 10:58 am

    “At all times during the troubles the IRA was available for talks to end the fighting, which meets the third criteria of “Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence””
    So honestly here, you are offering that as evidence this was not terrorism but a “just war”? Really? You do realise that by that test, any aggressor willing to consider the surrender of their enemy would be “just”? Which doesn’t work does it.
    I’m not even going to start on the other spurious grounds as they are thinner than Charles Hawtrey after a bout of dysentery.

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  9. Comment on Belfast Telegraph’s Are you voting for the wrong party poll, and other political anomalies?
    on 19 April 2014 at 10:47 am

    90 per cent match with PUP, 75 per cent with UUP – and SF was third! DUP last. Had it asked “would you ever vote for a party with paramilitary connections” they might have got a more accurate result. My preferred option,, wasn’t on there – not many options to cater for left-of-centre unionists.

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  10. Comment on “That’s the only way I can put,” he said “they sleep with the victims.”
    on 18 April 2014 at 1:42 pm

    But Michael, I’m not into a dopey “blame game” but nor am I into the dopier “lack of blame game.”

    2 points:

    1. You missed something important I emphasised: “Crimes, remember, can be committed by anyone, including state forces, so this same standard applies fairly to everyone.” I don’t see a “blame game” there, other than that the people who did most wrong should get the most blame. You seem uncomfortable with that proposition. Why?

    2. There are big problems with the “we were all guilty” approach: (1) it is unfair, as it effectively shifts a lot of the guilt onto people who did nothing wrong other than be in Northern Ireland, and away from those who maimed and killed. (2) it renders human experience ultimately meaningless by pretending underlying moral hierarchies don’t exist.

    The end result is that the guilty are comforted that they were victims of circumstance rather than active agents, many innocent victims are made to feel their suffering was their fault, and the rest of us are left feeling our society is without a moral compass.

    This latter point is the big one – and I think there is a growing sense that the silent majority, Protestant and Catholic, have reached the end of their tether on that. We need an end to the moral obfuscating. I get that it’s complex – I’ve studied legal philosophy among other things to a decent level – but we need a basic reconnection between justice and the people over the Troubles.

    What I’m arguing for is, unapologetically, is for us to come together as a society to make objective moral judgements. Not on every little thing, but on the big things that, if we’re honest, are beyond real moral argument. And what I’m saying is that we don’t need to think too hard about what’s in or out – the law has a framework for deciding which activities society outlaws and it also identifies which are the most serious.

    The dopey thing, I’m afraid, is to misunderstand post-modern, relativist conceptions of justice to mean that some kind of objectively recognised justice is unachievable. Clearly this cannot be the case, as we have, for example, a criminal justice system which is able to make absolute decisions and these are broadly accepted. Northern Ireland has its own history – everywhere does – but it is not of another world. Moral standards apply in NI as much as anywhere. The criminal law reflects the very least that we expect of each other morally – it is not ambitious – and there are many wrongs that it does not cover. But it does identify and deal with the most serious ones. So this is why I think its principles are a good starting point for identifying what the major wrong were, who did wrong, to what extent. (I’m not talking about court here, just legal reasoning, applied to the kind of historical facts established by the kind of historical commission recommended by Arkiv). Morality can be contested, the criminal law less so, hence the latter can perhaps serve as a proxy, to help us at least talk about the wrongs that were done and who was responsible for them.

    Don’t think that because morality is “subjective” that there can be no objective moral standards we hold fellow citizens to. That is simply bogus and ultimately a gospel of despair and a dead end. Hope lies in clear, precise facts and individual responsibility here. Everyone must look at themselves but it’s clear that some ought to have considerably more soul-searching to do than others. We’ve been ducking that for 15 years and it’s time for a proper reckoning. We have nothing to lose. The only people that do are SF and they will no doubt try everything in their power to stop it happening. But I think this time they are up against powerful social forces they cannot control – the writing is on the wall for them. They are played out.

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