Election set to deepen community divide

Brian Feeney may have lost a bit of his dramatic edge since the IRA officially denied its alleged role in Europe’s biggest bank robbery in December last years. Nevertheless, he captures the significance of the probable outcome of this election, in the last paragraph of this week’s column in the Irish News.

He sees an increasingly stringent division becoming deeper:

Unionists are quite happy with direct rule because its default position is unionism. For unionists change always means change for the worse. For their part, nationalists are quite happy to vote in increasing numbers for Sinn Féin in the full knowledge that for the foreseeable future no unionist will sit down at a table with SF to cut a deal and that no Irish government will expect them to do so. Whatever the election outcome the two communities here remain further apart than in April 1998.

So a veritable vacuum lies ahead? Something that nature (and journalism) deplores. We’re not so sure. Undoubtedly there will be more process ahead to some end. We wait to see what end precisely.

  • Dessertspoon

    I don’t think divisions among people are becoming deeper – quite the opposite. That said more and more people are not voting and they tend to represent the “middle ground”. By that I mean people who want to get on with their lives and whose concerns are never addressed by the local polticians. We’ve had 7 elections of one sort and or another in Norn Iron is a relatively short space of time and not one has produced any lasting solution of development towards it so it isn’t surprising we have voter apathy. This allows the extremes to have a greater say because they will always vote in large numbers.

    The only bright spot is a bit of hope that Gerry meant what he said yesterday and that the IRA will do what is needed and put the ball back to the DUPs court. Only then will we see if the DUP really is a real poltical party who are prepared to do a real job for Norn Iron.

  • Occasional Commenter

    What about compulsory voting in Northern Ireland? Would that change results? Although it wouldn’t go down well to change the rules because the result isn’t approved of by the Government!

  • Colm

    And what do you do to those who won’t vote – Kneecap them ?

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    Colm, in Australia and other countries there is a degree of compulsary voting. I think there’s a fine for those who don’t vote.

  • kitty

    “And what do you do to those who won’t vote – Kneecap them ?”

    Ah that’s no way to be talking about the DUP.

  • NeilMcCamphill

    Punish people for not voting? Bit extreme considering who you’d have to vote for, don’t you think? In the North, there’s no point in voting for anyone other than the main Nationalist and Unionist parties, that is, Sinn Fein, DUP, UUP and SDLP. That means you’re suggesting compulsory voting for, most likely, a violent sociopath on early release.

    Billy Connolly said it best when he said, “Don’t vote, it only encourages them.”

  • GavBelfast

    It’s not really compulsory voting as such – you are obliged to use your vote, so if you want to abstain, you have to do it actively rather than passively.

    Personally, I would agree with it. Few things annoy me more than perennial stay-at-homes who are then the first to complain about who is elected. These are often otherwise sane, rational people who don’t seem to be able to make 1 and 1 equal 2 in this case.

    Australia is probably quoted most often in relation to “compulsory voting” (by advocates of it) because it is seen as a modern, open and liberal society, and if such a place can have a law enshrining the promotion (enforsement?) of the exercise of franchise, why shouldn’t any other modern, open and liberal society.

    What? Like Northern Ireland?

    As ever, I could only see it working if the UK as a whole and Republic adopted same. Is this likely?

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    No it’s not likely but I’d still like to see it. Sometimes I wonder if it would make much difference but I think it would see a turn in the decline of the UUP and SDLP. DUP/SF supporters tend by their nature to be more fanatical and therefore more inclined to go out of their way to make their X. I think if the stayathomes are doing so because they hate all the fighting the likes of the SDLP/UUP/Alliance and minority parties would all benefit. The mass of the (non-voting) population are sick to the back teeth of all the pointless bickering.

  • Occasional Commenter

    beano, I think I agree with you but I can’t help but think that many stay-at-homes would automatically vote for the most successful parties without giving it any thought. Something to do with enjoying being on the winning side.

  • Colm

    My comment about kneecapping was only meant tongue-in-cheek but seriously I don’t think compulsory voting is either feasible or justifiable.

    If I’m not mistaken Australia has virtually no higher turnouts than other advanced democracies and the authorities rarely prosecute offenders, and besides it is up to politicians to encourage us to vote not order us to.

  • fair_deal


    “If I’m not mistaken Australia has virtually no higher turnouts than other advanced democracies”

    You are mistaken “the normal turnout for Australian elections is around 95%.” (Source Australian Broadcating Corporation website)

  • Whistleblower

    Michael Shilliday is the editor of the YU weblog!

  • Colm

    fair deal

    I stand corrected then. I was just remembering an article I had read where someone had mentioned average turnouts of 70% in Aussie elections, but if the facts are different so be it.

    It still doesn’t alter my view that politicians have no right to legislate for compulsory voting .

  • fair_deal

    Under the Aussie system you must register to vote and attend a polling station but you don;t have to vote. They also make it easier for people to get postal votes etc that may assist in turnout too.

  • patMcLarnon

    The usual modus operandi for this type of statement is for Adams to float the idea via Mc Laughlin or some other underling and then let it run for long enough that it is then accepted as having been a fact all along.
    The fact that Adams has made the statement himself indicates that a done deal is on the way.

  • Pronsias

    The fact that Adams has made the statement himself indicates that a done deal is on the way.

    Im with you on that one but are others going to follow suit? Is this something you think they will ask for?

    Otherwise id say they should not be in agreement with a dibandment or disarmament.

  • Gonzo


    Maybe you’ve said it elsewhere (tell me where to look if you have), but what do you think the IRA might now do?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Regarding compulsory voting, I used to be against the idea but recently I’ve warmed to it.

    It should of course always be legal to spoil the ballot paper. But additionally I’d add a couple of extra options, such as “The above candidates are all morons and none are worthy of my support” and “I don’t want to vote”. I wonder how many would opt for these alternatives. From a constitutional point of view, it would be interesting if the “none of the above” option got a majority of the votes cast.

  • PatMcLarnon


    I think they will do what is being asked of them. Complete and viable decommissioning (pictures probably included) will occur in the months ahead.
    I believe it really is all over for this generation of armed republicans.

  • Gonzo

    Thanks Pat.

    In your opinion should that mean an end to all paramilitary and criminal activity (let’s not argue about the definition of a ‘crime’ here) by IRA members?

    How will republicans square the need for better policing in their areas if the PSNI is not welcome and there is no paramilitary ‘policing’?

    Anyway, I’m more concerned about the unionist terrorists going away. Wonder how they’ll respond…

  • PatMcLarnon


    that should be an end to anything that could be construed as an illegal act.
    On the subject of policing although the Mc Cartneys have not found any joy the significance of the Adams call for people to contact whoever they felt comfortable with has by passed a lot of commentators.
    I predict that events will move very quickly here. SF have stated they will call a special Ard Fheis on policing once Justice and Policing are delegated to the Assembly. Again I believe that once a very visible IRA move on weapons and a cast iron committment is given on illegality then the British Government will move on this.

    I was surprised that some commentators were so pessimistic over recent events and predicted no movement here until next year or even longer.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    I don’t know how reliable this is, but apparently the idea of joining the policing board (and presumably, by proxy, supporting the police?) has been mooted within the provisional republican movement.

    I do find it strange that something so significant would get such a small article in one newspaper though. A late April Fool?

  • aquifer

    The Brits have not the guts to alter the voting systems (the current ones were not actually in the GFA) to enable a cross-community voluntary coalition to be formed, nor to reward agreed approaches.

    Maybe they need to make some hard decisions to show what politics is about. e.g. School and hospital closures, public sector job cuts, take stolen pallets out of bonfires, broadcast RTE, jail some race attackers and failed parents, zone the Malone Road and land along the Bangor railway line for high density housing development. The last two should get them out of the garden centres and onto the streets.

  • IJP

    An excellent post, aquifier.

  • Dessertspoon

    “zone the Malone Road and land along the Bangor railway line for high density housing development.”

    There already is high density housing being planned in these areas it’s just it is a high density of luxury executive homes and apartments that no-one can afford.

    As I understand public sector job cuts are on the way, Health and Education is already pretty screwed up and a lot of people can get RTE (why is this political I can get German TV too I won’t be voting for the Christian Democrats anytime soon!!??). What is political about pallets?

    Norn Iron people, people of the North, people of the 6 counties whatever you call yourselves – you have no say in the vast majority of decisions taken and are just expected to live with the consequences. You can talk until you are blue in the face to your MPs no-one listens to them and some of them don’t even try to be heard. Your MLAs have nowhere to take your problems, your councils can empty your bins and sweep your streets and that’s about it.

    You wouldn’t know real politics if you bit you on the ass! You get what you vote (or don’t vote) for so think about your vote and don’t whine afterwards.