Where do we go from here?

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Robert McCartney, UKUP, asks the question that the Irish and British Governments are currently contemplating – “Where do we go from here?”. He has some radical ideas of his own, but, as he acknowledges, “It is not suggested that these proposals are any more than a possible, somewhat bare, framework and a tentative answer to the question“. Few though could argue with his starting position – “The answer [to that question] depends on who you are, where you wish to go and whether you travel courtesy of the democratic process or at gun point.

His suggested re-arrangement is this:

Northern Ireland should be divided into three administrative areas – The North and West, the South and West and the Greater Belfast area.

Each area would comprise six parliamentary constituencies and the 36 MLAs within them. Such an arrangement would avoid the long process required if a Boundary Commission was to draw new areas of local government.

The 36 MLAs would initially constitute the first council for each area. The next local government elections would be postponed and the existing 26 councils would continue to operate for a further two years to allow a smooth transfer of functions.

These functions would be supplemented by moving significant responsibility for a range of matters, including education, health, planning, environment, and, possibly, housing to the new area councils.

Policy would continue to be a matter for the NIO or any future devolved government.

Local identity would be preserved by the creation of 36 voluntary ‘parish’ councils or communes chaired by one of the area council MLAs. Referrals on local issues to the area council would be through the relevant MLA.

The provision of reserved powers to the Secretary of State or some future devolved executive would ensure that a minority community in any of the three areas received equality of treatment.

Similarly, central approval for any significant capital investment project might be a matter for consultation.

The proposals could give powers to the three administrative areas largely similar to those in Scotland and would drastically cut the cost of administration by reducing the number of councils and quangos.

Locally elected representatives would be both accessible and accountable.

The speed with which the new administrations could be put in place, coupled with the use and preservation of the elected MLAs and party infrastructure would answer some of the political problems of the present situation.

Parties would be enabled to maintain their support staff and constituency advice centres. Indeed, the Assembly as a political entity separate from any Executive might be retained in the meantime as a purely consultative body to whom the Secretary of State might refer matters affecting the whole of Northern Ireland.

The commitment of the existing MLAs for a period of, say, five years until new area council elections were held would provide an opportunity for all to work together on socio/economic issues for the benefit of the entire community without the political burden of dealing with constutional issues.

It is not suggested that these proposals are any more than a possible, somewhat bare, framework and a tentative answer to the question, ‘Where do we go from here?

There is a present feeling in the whole community that, in the wake of a patently failed process, what is required is a period of stable democratically accountable and accessible administration.

Such a breathing space would allow people to take stock of the new political landscape and permit the material and social benefits enjoyed in recent years by the middle and business classes to be extended to areas of disadvantage suffering from paramilitary exploitation.

  • Keith M

    It’s certainly an interesting suggestion. I have always thought that the idea of cantonisation of Northern Ireland is something that should be considered, and three areas does not seem unreasonable. I’m not sure about these “parish” councils however. If the regional assemblies are to work, the should be on the basis of a voluntary coalition, after the introduction of a comprehensive bill of rights to ensure minorities in the cantons are protected.

  • willowfield

    All McCartney is proposing is reducing the number of councils and giving them more powers (which is basically what everyone else is also proposing).

    His main point of difference is suggesting only 3 councils – that is ridiculous. I think 8 or 9 is a more sensible number.

  • ulsterman

    What utter nonsense. The DUP would have none of this. While two councils would be Unionist the South and West one he proposes would not be. There is no way that we are handing over our brethern to Rome.

    The GFA is dead in the war. The robbery killed it off.It was the straw that broke the camels back.
    We must return to the idea of majority rule at Stormont with the Papists as leaders of Her Majestys LOYAL opposition.

    Victory is in sight,
    To the victor the spoils,
    The Pope is on the run,

    GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Actually Ulsterman, McCartney’s three councils are demographically ingenious. He advocates the division of NI into northern and southern regions, thus over-riding the real faultline in the north – which is east/west. His new boundaries, in which the usefulness of the larger eastern population – is basically the only way you could divide NI up and ensure a unionist majority everywhere.

    Which no doubt was uppermost in Bob’s mind when he drew up his new boundaries, though he doesn’t admit it. Unless he believes that there is such an unanswerable commonality of interest between Larne and Strabane, or between Bangor and Enniskillen that they belong in the same local government area. Whereas Lisburn and Antrim, or Dungannon and Cookstown do not.

    No. Bob is quite correct in his three carefully-constructed council areas. The spirit of the gerrymander lives on.

  • peteb

    To be absolutely fair to him, Mr Pilgrim, he does clearly state his position on those proposals – “It is not suggested that these proposals are any more than a possible, somewhat bare, framework and a tentative answer to the question” – that does appear to allow room for alternative suggestions.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I have an alternative. Strand one of the agreement has held things up for too long, so sideline it. Concentrate on the beefing up of strands two and three, to be worked out by the two governments. Clearly our own political class lack the necessary maturity and moral fibre to run this place. So let’s have a new Anglo-Irish agreement giving an executive veto over agreed matters of mutual concern to the Irish government.

    We could start with health, transport, education, industry, enterprise and policing.

  • Keith M

    willowfield ; “All McCartney is proposing is reducing the number of councils and giving them more powers (which is basically what everyone else is also proposing).”. Not just more power, a lot more power, enough to make Stormont redundant.

    Billy P “He advocates the division of NI into northern and southern regions, thus over-riding the real faultline in the north – which is east/west.”. Have you seen what consituencies go where? When he talk about “Greater Belfast”, he means the 4 Belfast constituencies and which others?

    Would you find three cantons , one of which had the current SDLP and SF with Westminster MPs, more acceptable? This would obviously be a more obvious homogenous demographic.

    Personally I like the idea of three cantons, one with the 7 constituencies mentions above, one for Belfast (using new more realistic city boundaries) and one for the rest. Nationalists could organise cross-border authorities to their heart’s content, as they would have all the border areas. Unionists would control the third canton, and Belfast would probably need a voluntary cross-community coalition to run it. It may not be ideal, but it’s betterr than the current impasse.

  • Keith M

    Billy P “So let’s have a new Anglo-Irish agreement giving an executive veto over agreed matters of mutual concern to the Irish government.” Do you really want to see Unionist unity re-established? That would be the only effect of this idea./ You cannot have strand two without strand 1. Strand 3 is self sustaining, but given the currently unioty of purpose of the governments, it is all but superfluous.

    I think that cantonisation is an idea who’s time may have come. The only question is where to draw lines on the map.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Keith M.

    I’m going by population figures rather than present MPs. In both northern and southern cantons the huge unionist populations of Co Antrim, north Down and east Armagh would give them majority status over nationalist populations to the west.

    North would have a substantial unionist majority, south a more marginal but steady unionist majority.

    Greater Belfast is harder to pin down by Westminster constituency. The council areas of Belfast, Castlereagh and Newtownabbey would be accurate – and again would provide a unionist majority for decades to come.

    I’m just suggesting that these facts had occurred to Bob.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Keith M.

    “Do you really want to see Unionist unity re-established?”

    Unionist unity has never gone away. Internecine rows over parliamentary matters have not weakened that essential unity on the important issues.

    So no, I do not think the governments should shy away from imposing common sense even over the heads of an unwilling populace. The governments should forge ahead with a real unity of purpose.

    If unionists want to unify against new hospitals, roads, railways and a revamped economy, let them.

  • David Vance

    The key element within Bob’s proposal is for Unionists to unite and insist that insurrectionist repubulicans have had their day. Quite right. When we read the fascist guff served up by Mr. Pilgrim (translates: impose the will of the minority on the majority) we see how corrusive the Belfast Agreement has been.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    fUKUP’s project sounds like something out of the former soviet union. “administrative regions”, indeed.

    David, how do you intend to translate “insurrectionist republicans have had their day” into some substance ? I see you still can’t wait to jump into bed with the DUP, Bob never quite could shake them off.

  • David Vance

    Hey Roger,

    First, I didn’t write Bob’s plan – he did.

    Second, I would deny the Sinn Fein/IRA brownshirts the right to any chamber of democracy. Their vile terror tinged presence corrupts it, as we all have seen since they first got into Council chambers. If the nationalist electorate continue to vote for a political party directly linked to insurrection, murder, bank robbery etc – then they lock themselves out of the democratic process. Until they grow up, then I see no reason to accommodate their insurrectionist stupidity.

    Oh, and by the way, please have a word with the DUP on my behalf. For some odd reason, they view me as a critic of their current policies! OOPS – you obviously know better Roger. The again, given your heritage, I guess you know all???

  • Brian Boru

    Mr Vance
    What’s your greatest fear about even the idea of a United Ireland ?
    Is the thought so horrid that you cannot even bring yourself to contemplate it?

  • Moses

    David Vance:

    “(translates: impose the will of the minority on the majority)”

    And thus, Northern Ireland was created…

  • Davros

    “impose the will of the minority on the majority”

    and thus NI was ended ?

  • IJP

    McCartney gets it totally the wrong way around.

    The last thing we need is cantonization.

    What we need is real agreement. That can only be based on focusing on areas where we all have commonality of interest.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    David Vance.

    You kiss your children with that mouth?

    Spare me the pieties about the sacredness of the `majority’. I’m talking about the grown-ups imposing their will on the children.

  • vespasian

    Where do we go:

    1. Accept that Parties that represent terrorists will not have any executive offices until their terrorist arm disbands as an active force for good. They have all been given their chance and they didn’t take it.

    2. Once you have accepted 1. then the decision is whether or not anyone else can hold executive office until the terrorists have disbanded. My view is that if they want disqualify themselves so be it, active terrorists and their representatives of whatever hue have no place in executive office. It should not prevent the rest of the politicians who are prepared to sign up to normal standards of democracy, not fudged ones, to proceed under d’Hondt until the others wish to catch up.

    3. If active terrorists and their representatives see this as discrimation then let them give up their non democratic activities and join in. If they decide to return to their activities they we will all know they were not serious in what they proposed in the past.

    4. We need to send out a message to all terrorists that the time for concessions is over there will be no more turing of a blind eye to their activities, they either give it ALL up or they will be pursued by the police forces of the North and South acting together – maybe even as some sort of cross border anti terrorist initiative under a common command.

    5. Will the governments face up to the terrorists or will they continue to try to buy them off with concessions and/or money that is the decision Ahern and Blair must make, for it is not in the hands of local politicians.

  • George

    Do Sinn Fein represent terrorists or do Sinn Fein represent the majority of the nationalist electorate in Northern Ireland Vespasian?

  • vespasian

    George

    Sinn Fein represent both, but that does not give them a mandate for executive office only a mandate to represent those who vote for them in the capacity for which they voted e.g. Councillor, MLA or MP.

    If you are one of those who try to distinguish between the IRA and SF I have no time for such disingenous rubbish. Those who do try are patronisining in the extreme by stating something ad nauseam which is a palpable lie.

    Since 75% of the voters in NI did not vote for them, they have the right and mandate to insist on democratic politicians in office not terrorist representatives in Armani pinstripe suits.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    What are your feelings, Vespasian, on the point that just over a month ago the IRA offered to wind itself up as part of a deal with the DUP, but unionism turned down the IRA’s winding-up over the now somewhat quaint issue of photographs?

    Don’t mean to interrupt your stream of consciousness on “terrorism,’’ especially when you’re in such fine blustering form, but I couldn’t help pointing out that unionism party could have secured the retirement of the IRA just a few weeks ago.

    I think that for all the pompous rhetoric, unionism would hate to see the IRA exit the stage.

    1. The IRA allows unionists like Vespasian to convince themselves that nationalists are basically terrorists and if they should be allowed to have any role whatsoever in government, it should only be hand-picked, nayce Ketholics who won’t be so distasteful as to talk about change.

    2. Enemies are very useful when it comes to imprisoning your own people. Bogey men are priceless.

  • George

    Vespasian,
    “Sinn Fein represent both”.
    By that statement I assume you accept there is a difference between those who vote for SF and the IRA.

    So, taking for arguement’s sake that the SF represent both the majority of nationalists and the majority of the IRA, how do you envisage disenfranchising the IRA without also disenfranchishing the majority of the nationalist population of Northern Ireland?

    “Since 75% of the voters in NI did not vote for them, they have the right and mandate to insist on democratic politicians in office not terrorist representatives in Armani pinstripe suits.”

    I wasn’t aware of the other 75% agreeing with you. Just because they disagree with SF doesn’t mean they agree with you. That’s a bit of an enormous leap. Nearly 75% did agree with the GFA by the way.

  • vespasian

    Billy

    Since you are concentrating on one group of terrorists I will reply in respect of them.

    1. Why doesn’t the IRA just wind itself up and stop all its activities and allow SF to enter talks on a level playing field with everyone else?

    2.Why do they need to worry about photographs or Unionists if it is what they want to do and are willing to do it because it is right? They can just go and get rid of all the weapons no need for inventories, quangos or photographs and then publically and unequivocally say we have no arms and will no longer commit ANY crimes.

    3. I do not speak for or represent Unionism but have to say that if the IRA had allowed an inventory in 2003 we would have had an assembly and the UUP (and David Trimble) would still be the biggest Unionist party, but the IRA didn’t seem to want that. Mabybe they needed the DUP so they didn’t need to do any deals, Paisley is the IRA bogey man. The question is would they still be comitting crimes?

  • barnshee

    Lets have 6 county councils + Derry and Belfast lets also keep the number of councillors we have and then dump the bag of shite that is the assembly in the bin

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Vespasian
    “Why doesn’t the IRA just wind itself up and stop all its activities and allow SF to enter talks on a level playing field with everyone else?’’
    They should, but I accept that to do so would be pointless outside the context of a genuine inter-communal agreement here. Put simply, if the IRA leadership tried to disband the organisation prior to an agreement, all they would succeed in doing is splitting the movement. It’s one thing to wind up the IRA, quite another to ensure that a new, different IRA does not emerge to replace it.
    Disbandment will only occur as part of an agreement because, however much unionists might like to pretend otherwise, the IRA exists in a wider context. Winding up the IRA in an unchanged context would be meaningless. However much anyone might like it to be otherwise, that is the reality. Those who eschew negotiations are ensuring the perpetuation of militant republicanism. That’s a tough reality for unionism to accept I know – and so far unionism has not been equal to the challenge. Instead unionism persists with the same old declamations about “terrorism,’’ thereby defaming a quarter of the population as a strategy for subjugating almost half.
    (I will accept that one of the great frustrations of the peace process has been its slowness. However we should also recognise that the Adams/McGuinness leadership have presided over the only seismic shift in Irish republican history that has not resulted in a major split. There have been splinters, but no major split. That has been made possible only by the long peace strategy. For example, decommissioning would have split the republican movement in 1996 or ’98. Today it might have been completed but for the DUP insistence on photographs, sackcloth and ashes.)
    You see, I WANT the end of the IRA. However, I understand that the IRA didn’t just happen, they didn’t come from nowhere and they weren’t motivated by sheer wickedness, however comforting it might be for you to believe otherwise. I understand that to a great many young nationalists the IRA offered a compelling narrative. I also understand that in the internal nationalist discourse, republicans offered a profile of the state and of political unionism that the state and political unionism seemed to bend over backwards to justify.
    This seems to me to be absolutely elementary yet it seems to escape even the very best of unionists. It is profoundly depressing to see intelligent people clinging to security blankets – which is a fair description of all the blustering about “terrorism,’’ with its childish black and white, good and evil connotations.
    I spent my youth getting stopped and searched by terrifying soldiers with foreign accents in my own local streets. I have had machine guns pointed in my face within yards of home. I have been verbally and ethnically abused and intimidated for the crime of training with my local GAA club. I know others who were assaulted for the same. I lost members of my extended family. I know people who lost people much closer than that.
    Yet I never succumbed to the temptation of hating those of my neighbours who cheered as all this went on. I never succumbed to the temptation of agreeing with the ‘Ra, though I know many who did. I may vote Sinn Fein in May, though I have not done so previously. Blustering bullshit about “terrorism’’ make me more likely to do so.
    So explain to me again why my vote would be so toxically compromised and so contaminated with “terrorism’’ that it should be excluded from the democratic process?

    “Why do they need to worry about photographs or Unionists if it is what they want to do and are willing to do it because it is right?’’
    First off, I have advocated that the IRA should unilaterally disarm and disband, though the DUP has tellingly said it opposes such a move. Secondly, what the hell does it matter why they do it, as long as they do it?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Barnshee.

    “Lets have 6 county councils + Derry and Belfast lets also keep the number of councillors we have and then dump the bag of shite that is the assembly in the bin.”

    Agreed on the councils, though they would have to have vastly increased powers in order to justify the binning of the assembly. Otherwise collecting the bin that the assembly has been put in might be the only power they would have.

  • vespasian

    George

    I’m not proposing to disenfranchise anyone, SF have a mandate to represent their voters I am not proposing that they should not do that.

    However they have no right to be in an executive office while not accepting the obligations that go with that office i.e. respecting the laws that that office represents.

    75% of the voters in Northern Ireland voted for parties that today do respect those laws and abide by them, they therefore have the right to ensure that any party that does not do so does not enter into executive office.

    I suggest that SF/IRA have finally gone a step too far in relation to that 75% and they will never again hold any office until they decide to become democrats and not arrogantly believe that they are above the laws of the countries in whose parliament they wish to hold office.

    Billy

    It is sad that you chose to live in the past and not to look to the future, whether it is 300 years or 80 years or 30 years they cannot be changed; we can change those ahead of us.

    If you want to vote for an organistaion that considers itself and it members above the law in 2 different countries and that excuses their acts in the way that they do then that is up to your conscience. You should not expect that your vote will entitle such a party to be in executive office in either of those countries.

    If the IRA only decomission for political advantage they they may as well not bother, they either want to be democrats or they don’t. I don’t really care if they disarm or not just to publically say they have done it and will never again be involved in ANY illegal activities would be enough for me as long as the right is retained to take action and remove them from office if the words prove to be false.

    I cannot accept that we have to negotiate with terrorists so that they will become democrats whilst at the same time using their guns as a lever in the negotiations. That is not a negotiation and never has been in this political process, it has from the point of view of the Irish and British governments negotiation under duress, e.g if you don’t give us what we want we will return to our old ways… I hope those days are over and that nationalists in the six counties are allowed to return to democracy and that Unionists will finally forget their bigotry and fully embrace powersharing.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    David, you’re such a critic of the DUP’s policies that on your little hotbed of Kiplingesque fantasy known as A Tangled Web you were urging them to stand in South Belfast if I remember correctly, which I guess is the closest one can come to an endorsement without actually saying it out loud.

    The bit you haven’t come to understand is that you and the rest of the unionists don’t have any say over who gets into government. Any time you did have that authority, you abused it. Unionism had the perfectly feasible option of setting up power sharing with the SDLP while they were still strong, and it refused it. They had that option right up to 1992. Unionism had lots and lots of opportunities to elect peaceful democratic nationalists on places like city and borough councils, and in almost every case I can think of it refused to take them. You can’t explain this, any more than you can satisfactorily explain why unionism’s use of violence and threats during the 1974 coup by loyalist paramilitaries was acceptable. I suggest you bang your head off the wall a couple of times, perhaps that way you’ll eventually figure this stuff out.

    Unionism isn’t going to get absolute power back. It isn’t going to get the authority to throw people out of government back. So what are you going to do about it ?

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    vespasian, if there’s one thing I hate it’s listening to unionists lecturing people about democracy. You guys don’t have the first bleeding clue about it. Unionists quite frequently express opinions that people resident in a state (namely our wee pravince) are expected to be loyal to the state, with the implication that if they aren’t they shouldn’t have any rights. But more importantly, Unionism has negotiated with terrorists and thugs throughout it’s entire history. Indeed on several occasions it has stood side by side with them when the situation was judged to have gone far enough that democratic means alone are deemed insufficient and that the situation warrants the use of the threat of violence (or actual violence). Last week on Hearts and Minds it was clear as day under pressure from Noel Thompson that Peter Robinson had an entirely different set of ideas about how to deal with the UDA, as opposed to how to deal with the IRA.

    Do you think I’d be wide of the mark if I were to speculate that quite a lot of Robinson’s constituents, such as those living under that delightful mural right along the lower N’Ards Road (where Robinson illegally blocked a few streets a year or two back so that they could have a wee party – I’ve no doubt he managed to cleverly do it while somehow avoiding talking to people in the UDA) actually quite like having the UDA around and in general aren’t too keen on them leaving the scene ? If not can you explain unionism’s silence on this recent idea that’s been floated about on £70m of shut-up cash going to that organization ?

  • David Vance

    “David Vance.

    You kiss your children with that mouth?”

    Nice to see Billy Pilgrim showing his customary high standard of debate. Ball, not man, eh?

    Roger,

    “I suggest you bang your head off the wall a couple of times, perhaps that way you’ll eventually figure this stuff out.”

    Another fine example of the republican drivel that pollutes this site.

    Keep on dreaming your anti-democratic little fantasies – I know a little site where they are demolished.

    In the meantime – sweet green dreams.

  • slug9987

    The above discussion indicates that a part of the problem is the people that are voted for.

    I suspect that people vote for Sinn Fein and DUP because of the way Blair handles things: NI as an ongoing process of negotiation between two ethnic groups.

    This advantages the more hardline parties. In the tug of war it makes sense in a crude way to vote hardline: regardless of what the other group has voted, it will advantage your group to send in tough negotiators.

    The answer to the question “where do we go from here” is for the government

    (i) to recognize where we are: an unnecessarily polarized society and party political system;

    (ii) to accept that the ethnic tug of war model has contributed to this outcome;

    (iii) to avoid the impression that everything is negotiable if only your negotiators were good enough (avoid the impression that it is only the two leading tribal parties that matter);

    (iv) to have policies that promote stability and avoid destabilizing high-wire acts and non-credible ultimata; increase the credibility and consistency of application of key government principles;

    (v) to treat the public with greater respect and earn greater trust by improving openness, reducing hype, increasing consistency, and avoiding the impression of secret deals;

    (vii) to improve moral authority by investigating claims of past wrong doing, and where found, accepting these wrongs and mistakes;

    (viii) to impose higher social standards, reducing tolerance of law-breaking, criminality, threats, sectarianism, and sectarian flags;

    (ix) to facilitate greater integration where possible in housing, education, sport, and the arts.

  • George

    Vespasian
    “I’m not proposing to disenfranchise anyone, SF have a mandate to represent their voters I am not proposing that they should not do that.”

    “However they have no right to be in an executive office while not accepting the obligations that go with that office i.e. respecting the laws that that office represents.”

    This doesn’t answer the question of how does one disenfranchise the IRA without disenfranchising the majority of the nationalist population of Northern Ireland.

    It is only the view of the majority of unionism in Northern Ireland that SF is not fit for office and unionism hardly has a shining track record when it comes to implementing democracy.

    In fact it has no track record.

    The majority of northern nationalists believe SF is fit for office.

  • willowfield

    George

    This doesn’t answer the question of how does one disenfranchise the IRA without disenfranchising the majority of the nationalist population of Northern Ireland.

    Nonsensical question. The IRA is not enfranchised. It is an illegal (or collection of illegal) organisation(s) and does not have a vote.

    Its members, if they are 18 or over, will be enfranchised. No-one is proposing to disenfranchise them. (Although – and I’m not sure about this – prisoners may not have the right to vote, in which case convicting and imprisoning IRA members would disenfranchise them. But convicted and imprisoned IRA members do not represent a majority of the nationalist community.)

    The majority of northern nationalists believe SF is fit for office.

    Maybe they do, but they are in a minority. Everyone else thinks they are unfit. Sorry.

  • Davros

    The majority of northern nationalists believe SF is fit for office.

    Have you proof of that claim George ? A majority of Northern Nationalists who voted at the last election preferred SF to the SDLP. That’s very different from a claim that a majority of Northern Nationalists believe SF is fit for office.

  • vespasian

    Roger W. Christ XVII

    So anyone who opposes SF/IRA is a Unionist and is guilty of heinous crimes against them – that’s very green sectarian thinking.

    I have already opposed in this site any money for loyalist terrorists, as well as SF/IRA, and have hoped they never get enough votes to even aspire to office.

    But is doesn’t change anything an organisation that acts illegally as SF/IRA are doing should not hold executive office in a country approved on a worlwide basis through the GFA and the referendums that followed.

  • vespasian

    George

    The IRA have no votes other than through SF as they are not mentioned on the ballot paper I would prefer that they were.

    No one is trying to disenfranchise them as Sinn Fein voters SF can represent their electorate in parliament just not in executive office until they get rid of ALL the illegal activities or declare that they no longer ave any connection with IRA and do not support their actions the choice is theirs.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    David, unlike you I am not anti-democratic as I consistently reject the use of violence under almost all circumstances. I can condemn both the IRA and the loyalists, whereas you can’t when it comes to things like UWC – straightforward really. I know it’s another one of these things which is evidently hard for you to grasp, but the fact that I point out the simple facts of unionism’s long history of paramilitarism and thuggery does not mean that I’m a republican as I’ve said many times. As of right now, my opinion is that SF should be excluded from the government of NI until either the IRA has disbanded or they have satisfactorily disconnected themselves from it. I’ve consistently argued on this site that the IRA were behind the Northern Bank robbery for example. And yes, I’d be happy to have a “debate” (if that’s the right word, I’ve seen no evidence in the last two years that you understand the meaning of the word) with you on ATW but the site is so busy with you and Andrew posting little-Englander mock-outrage on the front that discussion threads tend to quickly fly past.

    vespasian, now you’re resorting to misdirection. I never said that anyone who opposes SF is a unionist (I oppose SF, and I’m not a unionist) and I think that they should be excluded from office at the time being. My problem is that you said that 75% of the voters vote for parties which respect the law; this is completely untrue as history shows. Capital-U Unionism does not respect the law and overturns it when it is deemed expedient for it to do so.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Willow.

    “Maybe they do, but they are in a minority. Everyone else thinks they are unfit. Sorry.’’

    You need to get past this blind pre-1972 logic. It’s insane to still think of the nationalist community as the minority. It’s more accurate to think of it as the slightly smaller of two completely symbiotic blocs.

    Virtually the entire nationalist community thinks SF are fit for office, having mandated the SDLP’s inclusivity ticket as well having voted predominantly for Sinn Fein themselves. That’s the reality – sorry, didn’t say it’d be easy.

    Davros.

    “A majority of Northern Nationalists who voted at the last election preferred SF to the SDLP. That’s very different from a claim that a majority of Northern Nationalists believe SF is fit for office.’’

    Ah Davros, do you never tire of this old chestnut? As I have argued before, and as you have accepted before, representative democracy is an imperfect and crude system of government, but it’s the best we have. With universal franchise, everyone has a voice, and if they choose not to use that voice, well, they don’t count. (Until the next time, when they get another opportunity.)

    The representatives elected by the voters of any particular constituency can legitimately claim to represent that constituency – if you don’t accept that basic tenet then representative democracy grinds to a halt.

    Like it or not, Sinn Fein DID get the majority of nationalist votes last time out. They are the standard-bearers of nationalism, that’s the fact of the matter.

    It doesn’t matter if there is a critical number of SDLP-voting nationalists out there who stayed home last time – if they exist, they’ll get their chance to put things right next time. But in the meantime Sinn Fein represent a majority of nationalists – end of story.

    (I could argue that it has been some time since the majority of voters backed explicitly unionist candidates and therefore the union, but that would be fatuous nit-picking in a situation where the reality is so unarguably obvious.)

  • George

    Vespasian,
    Sinn Fein already say they have no connection to the IRA and have already condemned the Northern Bank job. That is the point. The majority of those who vote for Sinn Fein believe it is a different organisation to the IRA. It’s not proscribed like the IRA.

    Nobody is claiming Sinn Fein carried out the robbery or that Sinn Fein carries out “punishment” beatings. These are put down as the work of the IRA.

    If, as you state, any executive now formed would include the IRA in government, how do you envisage removing the IRA from the equation without disenfranchising the majority of Northern Irish nationalists?

    Or is it simply a case that a vote for Sinn Fein = a vote for the IRA so it’s okay to disenfranchise them all?

    Willowfield,
    nonsense.

  • Henry94

    Indeed you can’t be really considered a nationalist in electoral terms unless you vote for a nationalist party. Those who don’t vote deserve to have their choice respected and should be considered neither nationalist nor unionist.

    Nor anything else.

  • Davros

    Billy- I never tire of pointing out misrepresentations, evasions and dubious conclusions. Do a Majority of Northern nationalists think SF is fit for Government ? I would doubt it, but there’s no way one can reasonably extrapolate from 160,000 odd votes for SF to claiming that more than 50% of nationalists think they are fit for Governemnt.

    Think on this – I voted SDLP. Does that mean I think that the SDLP are “fit for Government” ? God help us all, no !

  • willowfield

    Billy Pilgrim

    You need to get past this blind pre-1972 logic. It’s insane to still think of the nationalist community as the minority. It’s more accurate to think of it as the slightly smaller of two completely symbiotic blocs. Virtually the entire nationalist community thinks SF are fit for office, having mandated the SDLP’s inclusivity ticket as well having voted predominantly for Sinn Fein themselves. That’s the reality – sorry, didn’t say it’d be easy.

    Well, the SDLP leadership doesn’t agree.

    The point is that most people consider PSF unfit for office, and have elected representatives of the same view. Unfortunately for PSF and their supporters, this means they won’t be going into office unless they change their ways.

  • Davros

    Another example Billy – I would have voted for Alex Maskey if he had been standing in my constituency – and that wouldn’t have meant that I think his party are fit to enter Government.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    I would have voted for Alex Maskey if he had been standing in my constituency – and that wouldn’t have meant that I think his party are fit to enter Government.

    I think you would have to accept that it is rare enough to be statistically insignificant for people to vote for someone they don’t want to see in government.

  • Davros

    I disagree Henry. You are blurring People and Party.
    Some/Many MPs are elected despite rather than because of their party 😉

    We vote for individuals. We don’t vote for Governments.

    Although SF outperformed the SDLP, what % of the antionalist electorate actually voted SF ?

    would it be as high as 40% ?

    If So How can 40% be described as a Majority of Northern Nationalists, even IF we assume that ALL those who voted SF 100% support the party rather than there being any element of personality vote ?

  • Henry94

    Davros

    The nationalist electorate is the combined vote of the nationalist parties. There is no other was of measuring it.

    We vote for individuals. We don’t vote for Governments

    We vote for individuals knowing they will form governments.

  • Davros

    Sorry Henry, It’s disingenuous of you to claim that a Majority of “Northern Nationalists” think that SF are Fit for Government on the basis of a 160,000 odd vote. You can claim that a majority of the Nationalist electorate who Voted supported SF. That’s It. Anything more is misrepresentation.

  • vespasian

    Roger W. Christ XVII

    ‘vespasian, if there’s one thing I hate it’s listening to unionists lecturing people about democracy. You guys don’t have the first bleeding clue about it.’

    What does this sentence actually mean if it is not inferring that I am a Unionist that doesn’t understand democracy because I oppose SF/IRA holding executive office. ‘You guys’ is fairly self explanatory…………..in my opinion.

  • vespasian

    George

    SF do not say they have no connection to the IRA, not that ANYONE would believe them if they did. They have have condemmned one illegal action, there is is big difference in selective condemnation of one act they say that the IRA did not do and in condemning all the the illegal acts the IRA did and are doing.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    How are people who didn’t vote part of the nationalist electorate? If they don’t choose to label themselves by voting how do you know they are nationalists?

  • willowfield

    Henry94

    We vote for individuals knowing they will form governments.

    How would anyone know that the individual will form a government?

    Do people in North Down think Robert McCartney will form a government?

    Do people in West Tyrone think Kieran Deeney will form a government?

    Do people voting in Westminster elections think ANY of the candidates will form a government?

    You’re talking nonsense.

  • George

    Vespasian,
    “SF do not say they have no connection to the IRA.”

    Actually, that’s not true. They say all the time that they have no connection to the IRA.

    As for condemning the IRA, are you saying that Sinn Fein, even if it was found to be separate from the IRA, should still not be allowed to enter an executive until it condemns all previous IRA actions considered illegal by unionism?

  • Henry94

    willowfield

    Governments are formed by the vote of the people we elect. Notwithstanding the small number of independent candidates elected it is generally believed to be a major factor in how people decide to vote.

  • Davros

    How are people who didn’t vote part of the nationalist electorate?

    You didn’t say electorate Henry.
    You claimed ” a majority of Northern Nationalists believe SF is fit for office” and are now disappearing up your own fundament in your attempts to avoid justifying that claim 😉

  • Henry94

    Davros

    You claimed ” a majority of Northern Nationalists believe SF is fit for office”

    You are attributing to me a direct quote. Please tell me where you are quoting from?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    By your reasoning it is virtually impossible to gauge the thinking of any collection of people at any given time on anything. Who do you define who you are talking about? How do you decide what constitutes a “majority” of something so nebulous.

    Party-based representative democracy is crude but it allows us to guage popular sentiment. As long as there is universal franchise then those who vote for nationalist parties may legitmately be referred to as the nationalist electorate. (Hey, welcome to the nationalist electorate!)

    Like it or not, if you vote for Maskey you are voting for Sinn Fein. By voting for a candidate you endorse his or her manifesto – Maskey’s was the SF manifesto, which was very clear in its opinion that SF ARE fit for government.

    People may vote for individuals for reasons other than the party political but as I said, representative democracy is a crude business.

    But let me applaud your recognition of Maskey – it’s rare and refreshing to see someone who can give due to a good man, regardless of his politics.

    Let me reply in turn: If I lived in west Belfast I would vote for Chris McGimpsey, a man for whom I have the utmost respect and who has consistently impressed me for many years now. The Shankill did itself a disservice by electing Mrs Dodds over such a vastly superior representative.

  • Davros

    Apologies Henry – you are running interference for George who made that claim. Therefore The quote was by George. You should have corrected me earlier when I first made the mistake at 1:51 PM.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Actually, let me abridge my previous post:

    Davros.

    I accept your distinction between the theoretical electorate and the actual voting electorate.

    Do you accept though that in reality this distinction is essentially meaningless?

  • Davros

    By your reasoning it is virtually impossible to gauge the thinking of any collection of people at any given time on anything.

    It is a FACT that it is impossible to state categorically, as George did (again apologies Henry), that a majority of Northern Nationalists believe that SF is fit for Government.

  • Davros

    Do you accept though that in reality this distinction is essentially meaningless?

    No I don’t Billy. It’s a dreadful weakness of our system.

    For example. The DUP got the support of more Unionist Voters than the UUP. However it’s farcical to extrapolate from that to claim that that means that a majority of members of the unionist community agree with everything and anything that is DUP Policy.

    Best illustrated with the Capital Punishment restoration debate.

    Time after time a majority of MPs vote against it (Thank God !) yet poll after poll confirms that a majority of voters want a limited re-introduction.

  • willowfield

    willowfield

    Governments are formed by the vote of the people we elect. Notwithstanding the small number of independent candidates elected it is generally believed to be a major factor in how people decide to vote.

    But you said “We vote for individuals knowing they will form governments”. How, then, do you explain 99% of the votes in NI Westminster general elections, SNP votes in Scotland, PC votes in Wales, etc., etc.? Are all these people so deluded that they “know” Plaid Cymru or the DUP will form a government?

  • George

    Davros,
    we have had this discussion before and I could write nationalist voting electorate if you want but I find it a meaningless exercise.

    After an election, the defeated politician usually says he/she accepts the result because “the people have spoken”. He/she never says “the voting people have spoken”.

    Why?

    Because it is a pointless differentiation to make in elections where there is no boycott and validity of the results aren’t questioned.

    Therefore “SF are the largest nationalist party” is perfectly acceptable. I could say “SF are the largest party among nationalist voters” too but both amount to the same thing in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of people (voting or otherwise) on these islands.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    OK No problem.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Billy

    “The Shankill did itself a disservice by electing Mrs Dodds over such a vastly superior representative.”

    What a load of old tosh! Diane Dodds is by far and away a superior representative to Comrade Chris McGimpsey, a man so left wing he makes Galloway look like a Thatcherite! I’m sure the people of the Shankill Road would take very well to your smug, self-righteous attitude! Are you sure you aren’t a member of the UUP?

  • Davros

    All well and good George, but remember we haven’t had an election or referendum since SF destroyed the negotiations, that Robbery, the resumption of the beatings and shootings and the offensive remarks by Mitchel and several other SF politicians about the murder of Jean McConville. So it’s a huge leap to extrapolate from 166,000 votes cast in the past to claim that a majority of the nationalist people accept that SF are “fit” for Government. I would doubt that to be the case.

  • Davros

    Actually Henry my apology looks sniffy. It wasn’t meant to come out that way.

  • George

    Davros,
    I still stand by my long-term prediction that the combined SF/SDLP vote will grow in the May General Election compared to the 2001 result with SF remaining the largest party. Did you agree to the bet?

    If the nationalist voting electorate believe SF destroyed the negotiations, knew of the robbery, were responsible for the resumption of the beatings and shootings, find Mitchel’s remarks offensive etc. then they’ll vote for someone else.

    If however, they increase SF’s mandate, then you’ll have to accept that the majority of the nationalist voting electorate don’t agree with you but rather believe that SF are fit to govern as they will be the people voted to represent northern nationalism in any future government.

    We don’t have much longer to wait.

  • willowfield

    Stalford

    What a load of old tosh! Diane Dodds is by far and away a superior representative to Comrade Chris McGimpsey, a man so left wing he makes Galloway look like a Thatcherite!

    The Shankill, as a staunchly working-class district, has a long tradition of voting for “left wing” representatives. You should learn a bit of history, instead of attributing your own political prejudices to others.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Willowfield.

    Fine – he’s a leftist and not much of a councillor either! Oh yes – the Unionist Labour Group – which produced Herbie Ditty amongst others – didn’t he serve the people of the area well? The fact is the UUP let the people of North and West Belfast down for years with their laziness and inactivity – that why they face the prospect of a complete wipe-out in May 2005.

  • Christopher Stalford

    CORRECTION:

    that is why…..

  • vespasian

    George

    I think they admit to a connection, as they keep taking to the IRA and representing their views to anyone who will listen e.g. the ‘humiliation’ statement last year.

    I don’t think it is enought to say they no longer represent the IRA, I think they have to say that they condemn illegal acts in general as defined by the rest of the population in Ireland not a narrow definition re. for example Mitchel McLaughlin and Mrs McConville.

    SF/IRA either believe in the same general definition of democracy as the rest of the people, by and large, do in Ireland or they don’t.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    “No I don’t Billy. It’s a dreadful weakness of our system.’’

    True, but that’s a completely different issue.

    It’s the only system we have right now. According to the form of representative democracy we have in place at the moment it is legitimate to say that a majority of northern nationalists believe SF are fit for government. To disagree is to make the case that the crudities of our electoral system negate the popular legitimacy it is supposed to confer.

    I agree with your point that the system has dreadful weaknesses but I will not go so far as to say that election results do not give a meaningful indication of the thinking of the population at large – to do so is to lose faith altogether in representative democracy.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chris

    “Diane Dodds is by far and away a superior representative to Comrade Chris McGimpsey, a man so left wing he makes Galloway look like a Thatcherite!”

    McGimpsey has been consistently trying to work constructively in a community that has been crumbling through nelgect and lack of leadership for decades. He might have been a far more high-profile player in unionism than he is had he ever taken the easy way and fomented sectarian poisions in the Shankill. That he has not done so was one of the factors that started me thinking that maybe unionists weren’t all bad. It’s been, and continues to be, quite a journey of discovery. I’m convinced that McGimpsey is on the side of the angels. His constituents’ real enemy is Dodds and her poisonous gang.

    “I’m sure the people of the Shankill Road would take very well to your smug, self-righteous attitude!”

    To be honest, call it what you will, but give it five or ten years of DUP representation and the Shankill will have joined Mourneview, Brownstown, Ballybeen and whole swathes of Ballymena as one of the crack dens of the north.

    “Are you sure you aren’t a member of the UUP?”

    Oh dear. Is the idea that someone from one tradition might have genuine respect for a person from the other totally beyond your grasp?

  • Christopher Stalford

    “McGimpsey has been consistently trying to work constructively in a community that has been crumbling through nelgect and lack of leadership for decades.”

    But it was his party that was supposed to be leading for decades!

    “Is the idea that someone from one tradition might have genuine respect for a person from the other totally beyond your grasp?”

    No not at all. Who you choose to respect is your concern. Where I take exception to your comments is your assertion that McGimpsey is a superior representative to Diane Dodds. He patently isn’t.

    Such was his committment to the people of the Shankill that he closed his constituency office down, when the people of the area didn’t vote for him. Furthermore, I object to your claim that the people of the Shankill were in some way foolish for casting their votes for Diane. People aren’t stupid. They made an informed choice. Get over it.

  • Christopher Stalford

    “I’m convinced that McGimpsey is on the side of the angels.”

    Hmmmm….

  • Christopher Stalford

    “I’m convinced that McGimpsey is on the side of the angels.”

    Hmmmm….

  • Christopher Stalford

    Are the IRA on the side of “the angels” also?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chris

    “Are the IRA on the side of “the angels” also?”

    Pardon? Did I miss something? How on earth have you made such a rhetorical leap?

    “Where I take exception to your comments is your assertion that McGimpsey is a superior representative to Diane Dodds. He patently isn’t.”

    He patently is. (Ad nauseum.) Okay, let’s take this forward: I’m willing to listen to Mrs Dodds’ achievements because, to be honest, I am unaware that she has ever done anything other than marry well in the DUP stratosphere.

    “I object to your claim that the people of the Shankill were in some way foolish for casting their votes for Diane.”

    Your objection is noted. My point stands. People vote stupidly all the time, and in few places more than the north of Ireland do so many people vote so stupidly so consistently. I suppose you and I can meet up for a jar in the Rex in about ten years or so, after a decade of Dianegrad, and see how DUP representation has benefited the Shankill.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Billy

    Who then are these angels, working to make society so much better?

    As for Diane’s achievements; Diane has worked consistently over the course of the last seven years for the people of the Shankill Road as a constituency case worker. Helping people with social security issues, housing concerns and other such problems. She was doing this work because the Protestant people of the Shankill, unsurprisingly felt they couldn’t turn to their MP for support.

    More recently she has opened a full time advice centre helping the people of the area. Lets look at the standard of representation that the people of North and West Belfast were provided with pre-2001.

    Pre-2001; MP: Cecil Walker. Local Councillors: Chris McGimpsey, Fraud Cobain, Fred Proctor, Davy Browne etc.

    Post-2001; MP: Nigel Dodds. Local Councillors: Elaine McMillan, Nelson McCausland, Ian Crozier etc.

    Post-2003; The Shankill turns out in force to return Diane Dodds to Stormont. The DUP now has four advice centres accross the North and West Belfast area.

    Post-2005; having experienced four years of DUP representation the people cleanly sweep the UUP out of North and West Belfast at a local government level.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their wasn’t a single UUP Councillor in either of those constituencies post-2005.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Chris.

    “Who then are these angels, working to make society so much better?”

    Seriously, are you joking?

    Have you honestly never heard that expression? About being on the side of the angels?

    “What angels…!!!!!!!”

    Priceless.

  • Davros

    I still stand by my long-term prediction that the combined SF/SDLP vote will grow in the May General Election compared to the 2001 result with SF remaining the largest party. Did you agree to the bet?

    Of course not. That’s a different issue from the point I am making. You, as with many other people, have swallowed the zero-sum model.

    If the nationalist voting electorate believe SF destroyed the negotiations, knew of the robbery, were responsible for the resumption of the beatings and shootings, find Mitchel’s remarks offensive etc. then they’ll vote for someone else.

    Not necessarily. Who else is there as a reasonable and realistic alternative ?

    If however, they increase SF’s mandate, then you’ll have to accept that the majority of the nationalist voting electorate don’t agree with you but rather believe that SF are fit to govern as they will be the people voted to represent northern nationalism in any future government.

    Finally I can agree – yes , the nationalist voting electorate 🙂 But you haven’t shown any proof that those who don’t vote would choose to accept that SF are fit for government.
    God almighty, as a member of the unionist community I cannot bring myself to vote for either the UUP or the DUP. Are you seriously suggesting that members of the nationalist community who don’t think that SF are fit for Government and who don’t want to vote either SF or SDLP will vote DUP as a protest ?

  • slug9987

    “If the nationalist voting electorate believe SF destroyed the negotiations, knew of the robbery, were responsible for the resumption of the beatings and shootings, find Mitchel’s remarks offensive etc. then they’ll vote for someone else.”

    Why does that follow? Maybe they will vote SF in spite of it. Maybe they will even vote SF because of it!

  • cg

    As long as they do vote Sinn Féin 😉