Close: the onus is on Blair

Nice sound bite from Seamus Close when he argues that: “it is time for democrats to move on. If we do not, it will prove that politically, Tony Blair is as bankrupt as a Northern Bank vault.” That he is not likely to do so, may be why many Sinn Fein activists appear confident that their party will not take anything other than a shortlived PR hit over this latest crisis.

From Seamus Close:

“People are angry that that the return of their Assembly is being held hostage by paramilitary groups and those involved in criminality. If Tony Blair is serious when he says that the Assembly can only be restored when paramilitary and criminal activity by those involved ends, he needs to get real and quit abdicating his responsibility.

“Are democrats going to continue to be held to ransom because the IRA can’t keep its fingers out of the till? Surely now it is time to consider a voluntary coalition of parties that, while they may disagree on many things, are committed to democratic means and do not engage in criminality.

“This robbery was obviously being planned during the recent political
negotiations, at a time when parties were in talks with republicans. Whatever confidence there was in republicans to bring an end to riminal activity has evaporated. If other parties who trust each other and represent the majority of the electorate are prepared to move forward together, would it not be wrong for the Government to stop them?

“As an elected politician, I am now being prevented from doing my job
because of a bank heist. It is time for democrats to move on. If we o not, it will prove that politically, Tony Blair is as bankrupt as a Northern Bank vault.”

  • J Kelly

    Seamus Close represents a party with less than 4% support at the last election and now he calls for a party with a mandate of over 26% of the electorate to be excluded. This is an example of someone getting too big for his boots. The reality is that SF are the largest nationalist political party and at the forthcoming elections will become larger and if the largely irrevelant Alliance party do not understand what this means I will spell it out for them. Politics in the north of Ireland cannot move on without SF as it cannot move on without the DUP.

    The Alliance Party can call all day for movement but both governments know the craic SF are central to the peace process and this is built solidly on the massive mandate they have. The SDLP will never form an executive without SF. They are on their knees at present but to isolate SF would be political suicide. So for the forseeable future much as it annoys the likes of Seamus Close Sinn Fein are here to stay.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    So if the IRA were guilty, are you seriously suggesting we just carry on as though nothing has happened? What other democratic fundamentals would you be prepared to sacrifice? – I certainly didn’t realise that a large mandate was a license to carry out criminal acts.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi JK,

    “Politics in the north of Ireland cannot move on without SF as it cannot move on without the DUP”

    For years the DUP were ostracised. Why not do the same with SF? Possibly because they haven’t the same capability for murder and mayhem?

    “SF are central to the peace process and this is built solidly on the massive mandate they have”

    Even when the SDLP vote was larger than SF’s everything was held up waiting on SF. This had nothing to do with their mandate. More on their little friends in the Ra. If SF relied on their mandate, how comes things like Canary Wharf took place?

    “The SDLP will never form an executive without SF. They are on their knees at present but to isolate SF would be political suicide.”

    This is a Godsend for the SDLP. Doing nothing would be more likely to commit political suicide. Having said that, I’m not too confident of anyone in the SDLP grasping the opportunity.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    If the SDLP were prepared to enter a voluntary coalition, but on their own terms, since they would be essential for such a deal to work, they would be in a very powerful position for extracting much from the two governments.

    If they’re going down anyway, they should do so fighting!

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “for a party with a mandate of over 26% of the electorate to be excluded”

    26% of the electorate eh ? Hmm, let’s see. In the assembly election here are the numbers :

    Electorate : 1097526
    Sinn Fein votes : 162758

    I make that 14.8%.

    Can you tell us where you’re getting this “26% of the electorate” arse from ?

  • Henry94

    Roger

    You should proportionately reduce the Alliance total from the 4% mentioned in J Kelly’s post or you could just accept the percentage figures as they are used everywhere in the world.

    Only on Slugger have I ever seen anybody trying to include non voters when calculating percentage mandate and only when they are talking about SF.

    Never for example when taking about the unionist majority which isn’t a majority at all if you count non-voters.

  • J Kelly

    Congal Claen it must be to SF’s credit even when they were not the largest nationalist party that they were able to exact more at negotiations than the SDLP ever were. Everyone knows that the SDLP attitiude to talks is take what is given and dont cause a fuss.

    Gonzo the thought of Mark Durkan and Alex Attwood fighting is not a pretty sight hand bags at twenty paces. The SDLP are out on their feet and come the General Election they will be gone.

    Does anyone on here honestly think that the SDLP will make a decisive stance one way or another over this latest crisis. I will take any bets they will huff and puff and then sit on their hands. Durkan is probably the most ineffective leader I have ever witnessed he makes Ian Duncan Smith (remember him)look strong

  • Congal Claen

    Hi JK,

    “Congal Claen it must be to SF’s credit even when they were not the largest nationalist party that they were able to exact more at negotiations than the SDLP ever were.”

    Don’t think so. SF’s “negotiating” has nothing to do with skill. If it had why don’t they get rid of the arms or why did Canary Wharf happen?

  • J Kelly

    SF have no arms but they have helped the process of taking the gun out of Irish politics. More than can be said of other parties. Canary Wharf 1996 pre any negotiations.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi JK,

    “SF have no arms but they have helped the process of taking the gun out of Irish politics. “

    I don’t believe you are naive enough to believe that. If you are, there’s no point debating this any further…

    Furthermore, no negotiations before 96 ???

  • willowfield

    J Kelly

    Seamus Close represents a party with less than 4% support at the last election and now he calls for a party with a mandate of over 26% of the electorate [sic] to be excluded.

    But the candidate supported by Seamus Close’s party together with all the other non-criminal parties had 74% support at the last election.

    Why should one-quarter of the electorate be allowed to veto the other three-quarters?

    SF have no arms but they have helped the process of taking the gun out of Irish politics. More than can be said of other parties. Canary Wharf 1996 pre any negotiations.

    Other parties, aside from PUP and UDP/UPRG, don’t have any guns to be taken out out of politics!

    Henry94

    Only on Slugger have I ever seen anybody trying to include non voters when calculating percentage mandate and only when they are talking about SF.

    Apparently only Provo supporters on Slugger claim that the Provos have won x% support from the electorate. Everyone else realises that % figures are given as a % of the valid vote, not of the electorate.

  • Davros

    WF you destroy a fair point by slinging in athe provo-supporter insult.

    Henry, it’s misleading to suggest that those who don’t would be reflecting the patters of those who DO vote. SF have a better track record at getting their voters out. Therefore it’s reasonable to assume that of those who don’t vote a smaller % would vote SF if forced to choose.

  • IJP

    The above responses are correct.

    We will show respect for SF’s ‘democratic mandate’ once SF shows respect for ‘democracy’, and for the fact that with a democratic mandate comes democratic responsibility – responsibility to the people, not to a terrorist mafia organization.

    SF has disqualified and ostracized itself. Those who gave them a chance – whether at the polls or through talks – have every right to feel thoroughly let down and fed up.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    Henry, it’s misleading to suggest that those who don’t would be reflecting the patters of those who DO vote.

    I make no such claim. In normal political discourse throughouhe world percentage of the vote means percentage of the vaild poll as it does here except when some posters are discussing the Sinn Fein vote. Either do it in all situations or stop being silly.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Poor old Seamus it is highly embarrassing seeing someone rooting about at the base of the table for the odd crumbs.

    Note to Alliance, The Brooke Talks are history never to be repeated. The halcyon days when Alliance could pretend that they are relevant are also history.

    To see and hear unionists of every hue hanging on the word of Orde, a man they have publicly berated is quite amusing. Anyone seen that white van yet lol.

  • Davros

    percentage of the vote

    Therein lies the problem…You weren’t talking about
    the percentage of the vote you extrapolated it to percentage of the electorate. Dubious.

  • Davros

    To see and hear unionists of every hue hanging on the word of Orde, a man they have publicly berated

    Actually Pat you could laugh it off if Unionists usually fawned over Orde’s pronouncements, but the fact that they aren’t terribly keen on the man undermines the point you are trying to make here.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Actually strengthens it Davros, so desperate are the unionist lynch mob for a patsy they turn to Orde, it makes them look ridiculous.

  • Davros

    Actually strengthens it Davros, so desperate are the unionist lynch mob for a patsy they turn to Orde, it makes them look ridiculous.

    I don’t see it that way Pat 😉

  • willowfield

    Henry94

    In normal political discourse throughouhe world percentage of the vote means percentage of the vaild poll as it does here except when some posters are discussing the Sinn Fein vote. Either do it in all situations or stop being silly.

    It means that here, too. But J Kelly was talking about the percentage of the electorate, not the percentage of the vote, so maybe you should stop being silly.

    Pat McLarnon

    To see and hear unionists of every hue hanging on the word of Orde, a man they have publicly berated is quite amusing.

    I have never berated Orde, publicly or privately.

  • alex s

    Belfast Gonzo is correct, an electoral mandate of 25% dosn’t license a politicial party to carry out criminal acts. The reality is that the people of the province have a choice, either elect politicians fit to govern or be governed from England for the forseeable future.

  • IJP

    Pat

    The halcyon days when Alliance could pretend that they are relevant are also history.

    If that’s true, it’s to the detriment of it all.

    This is yet another occasion – and there have been plenty since the 70s – when the Alliance analysis has proved spot on and everyone else’s has proved wrong.

    It was Alliance – and Alliance alone – that called for complete cessation of all paramilitary criminal activity to be evidenced by the cessation itself, not by political punishments (which punish some groups and not others), nor by decommissioning (which is now clearly irrelevant as it would make one jot of difference to the IRA’s or any else’s ability to carry out huge bank robberies and such like). It was Alliance also that led the way in calling for voluntary coalition, now clearly the only way NI can achieve devolution even in the medium term.

    Harp on about irrelevance all you like, but history has consistently showed you ignore the Alliance analysis at your peril.

    Alliance doesn’t get everything right, but its proud heritage of anti-violence and anti-sectarianism coupled with progressive thinking would be a sadder loss to this process than most ‘relevant’ groups!

  • Davros

    The Times has an obituary for one of those involved in the formation of the Alliance Party, Gay Firth

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Henry, I’m just bothered by the way people say things like 26% *of the electorate* which isn’t true. SF got just over 24% of the *votes cast*. I still haven’t figured out where the other 2% came from. It’s just as silly as this rubbish of “1 million unionists”. In the last assembly election there were just approx. 360,000 +/- about 2000 depending on your estimation of the innumerable independents.

    J Kelly wibbles on : “Congal Claen it must be to SF’s credit even when they were not the largest nationalist party that they were able to exact more at negotiations than the SDLP ever were.”

    Mr Kelly, you don’t happen to think this might just be a tad to do with the fact the SDLP didn’t have an armed and active paramilitary wing, which at one point during the present phase of the political process abandoned it’s ceasefire to force the hand of the governments and the parties?

    SF have no arms

    But they have legs. And they even have mouths. So let’s see Sinn Fein and the IRA issuing simultaneous statements completely and totally disassociating themselves, one from the other. Would you support that ? Surely the way this process is going it is a logical move.

    Let’s talk about the main subject. Is it possible to exclude SF ? Oh yes, just like it was possible to exclude the DUP. Every single other player in this entire political process is united in the view that they were behind that bank robbery. It’s not about evidence – it’s because SF are the only party in the process which are linked to an organization which was *capable* of the robbery. For the same reason, SF’s electoral ambitions in the RoI – where accusations about securocrats and MI5 are going to look very silly indeed – are going to be constantly thwarted in consistent and united efforts by their opposition. Whether this is honourable behaviour or not is beside the point – it’s cold hard politics.

    SF can bypass this problem in quite easily – by removing their link with the IRA. It disarms their critics at a stroke.

    On a general point, I’d remind republicans in particular that following the IRA ceasefire in 1994, John Alderdice and the Alliance Party were the only non-nationalists consistently calling for all-party talks on condition that the ceasefire held while the UUP and DUP resisted, and I think Gerry Adams recognized the party in that respect. I don’t understand why you so pathologically seek to destroy a party which every step of the way has respected your right to hold your views and legitimately express them (clue : the unionists until recently have not; if you read A Tangled Web, you’ll hear from unionists who still do not) and is probably never going to compete with you for votes. Instead you’d rather deal with Paisley, believing in that old Vulcan proverb, “Only Nixon could go to China” (bzzt – wrong). Republicans talk about taking risks for peace – Alliance’s electoral status today is a sign of risks which were taken and expenses which have been incurred, in several instances keeping the process as it was alive for just a touch longer than before.

  • smcgiff

    Ah! A flagpole. Now, let me see…

    The DUP headed by Ian Paisley are meeting with Tony Blair today to seek a way to get devolved government up and running. Their options are bleak to say the least. Below are two options that have so far been considered and a third (Nuclear option): –

    First Option – Include SF –

    No need to discuss the possibility of this any further under the current climate.

    Second Option – Exclude SF and hope the currently decimated SDLP can represent all nationalism –

    Nope – Too many nationalists opted not to vote for the SDLP for this to be credible.

    Third option –

    Exclude SF and include representatives from the Republic of Ireland’s government in its place. Along with the SDLP this would balance the two unionist parties. This arrangement would be temporary until SF came to an agreement supported by the other parties. In effect the ROI representatives would slot in and take up SF’s mandate received at the last election, and the number of minister’s that implied.

    Yeah, I can see this would not necessarily be the most palatable option for unionists, but is it worse than the prospect of sharing power with SF?

  • Keith M

    There’s some merit in smcgiff’s but I wouldn’t like to see people who are unelected just handed a ministry. If the SDLP aren’t prepared to take the seats, then perhaps APNI (who have made some very positive contributions in recent statements) should be offered one or both. What about giving Kieran Deeney health?

  • smcgiff

    Keith M,

    That is certainly a problem, but giving seats to APNI is unlikely to satisfy nationalists.

    Of course unionists could be forgiven for thinking my idea is a UI by stealth or the slow road to same. I would imagine it would be a step too far for unionists.

    However, it would be intended as temporary and should, giving their electoral ambitions, concentrate SF minds.