Gerry Fitt 1926-2005

Sadly today we mark the passing of one of Northern Ireland’s more substantial figures.

  • bertie

    Gerry’s thread hits the centuary and most of it was about him!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Keith, to me “moral ambiguity” is saying that you oppose terrorists while taking a podium with them, like William McCrea did (and who did not suffer at the polls either). Or, describing acts of intimidation by loyalists as “understandable” as Martin Smyth did. Or, claiming that you oppose terrorism while setting up a terrorist organization. Vanguard, Ulster Resistance, the Third Force, the thug-sponsored 1974 and 1978 strikes – you cannot take those on one hand and say that unionism is unambiguous about paramilitarism on the other.

    It’s funny though, how all these unionists are coming out to say what a decent sap Fitt was. If that really was the case, why did they fight tooth and nail to keep him out of power ? They refused to even talk to him about a deal. They preferred to pull down their own devolved administration rather than see him and his electorate get a say in the running of things.

  • circles

    I think it might be because at the end of the day he became a good old uncle Tom, accepted his Lordship and made the right noises whenever called upon by HMG.
    At the end of the day Lord Fitt proved that he was a good oul croppy – a cap in hand and tug of the fore-lock sort.

  • Keith M

    Comrade Stalin, context is everything and taking isolated acts or parts of much longer statements, out of context, doesn’t really help further the arguement. Vanguard, Ulster Resistance and the Third Force were not a terrorist organisations, they may have had the trimmings of paramilitary organisations but they never resorted to killing or other acts of terrorism.

    Thinking that someone is decent, and wanting them in power are two very separate things. I happen to think that the Irish Labour party is full of decent and responsible people, but I will do my utmost to make sure they never get into power in this country, because their philosophy is opposed to mine. Such is the case with Fitt and the Unionists. Any kind of coalition or power sharing executive can only work in the long term if trust exists and let’s not forget what brought down Sunningdale; the “all Ireland” dimension. This killed any trust that Unionists might have had in the deal.

  • bertie

    Comrade
    “why did they fight tooth and nail to keep him out of power”

    Speaking as a unionist, I was then (I was still at school) and am now opposed to compulsory power-sharing as I consider it bad government. This is in no way at odds with my affection for Gerry and feeling priviledged to have known him.

    Most other unionists seem to be in favour of or prepared to accept compulsory powersharing. They have changed their minds. That is surely allowed (even if it is in error).

  • Comrade Stalin

    Keith, there’s nothing isolated about the tacit support that unionists have given paramilitarism. It is consistent right from partition onwards. I find that it helps the argument perfectly well to remind ourselves that, in spite of the dearth of electoral support, paramilitary murals still remain in unionist areas and senior unionist politicians make no efforts to have them taken down. Unionism has long-established arms-length links with the paramilitary organizations and recent events surrounding the loyalist feud remind us of that.

    You say that the organizations involved never actually killed anyone. People get mugged, burgled and ripped-off all the time at knifepoint or gunpoint without a shot being fired. The distinction between threatening to pull the trigger and actually doing it does exist, but is not significant enough to get unionists off the hook of using paramilitarism to get their own way when they felt like it.

    Sunningdale wasn’t brought down by the Irish dimension. It was brought down for the same reason everything, including the original Stormont government, was brought down. A lot of unionists just don’t want to share power with taigs.

  • bertie

    Comrade

    I haven’t done a scientific study, but despite my opposition to enforced powersharing, the all Ireland stuff was by far and away the biggest problem and was the main subject of conversation around kitchen tables in the living room.

    Gerry himself did his best to get that dropped as he realised that that was what was going to scupper the whole deal.

  • bertie

    ooops meant to say “kitchen tables in the neighbourhood”

  • DCB

    Circles

    Its rubbish to say that Gerry Fitt was an uncle tom just because many unionists are sad to see him go. Most of them are sad because he was a very decent man and on a personal level great crack.

    It is also ironic that some of the same unionists (John Taylor for instance – who’s another politican who I like despite thinking that his views are generally a bit bonkers) refused to share power in 1974.

    I would have little time for left wing politics but I can still see that Fitt and the early SDLP were trying their best to do what was right for our country.

  • circles

    DCB:
    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. I’m not saying that he was an uncle tom just because many unionists are sad to see him go, but rather they are sad to see him go because he was an uncle tom (which is something else entirely).

    Among the nationalist (not republican) community that I know Lord Fitt in his latter years (from the late 70s actually) was an object of derision who shod his principals with increasing speed the warmer the welcome for him “on the mainland” became. His early work was of course very much acknowledged, but so was the fact that he readily lay down when her majesty called.

  • bertie

    DCB
    I wonder if, to some, it is to the detriment of Gerry’s standing that he was the object of respect and affection by so many of us unionists. Perhaps his reputation would be enhanced if we pretended that we despised him or perhaps it would just be that that would be more readily beleived.

  • circles

    bertie:
    As my post above indicates – I have absolutely no problem believing that Gerry Fitt was an object of respect and affection for many unionists, in fact anything else would have been surprising. He was after all a loyal subject of the queen – what else could a unionist ask for?

  • bertie

    I don’t really know what Gerry thought of the Queen. I am more interested in his abhorance of terrorism. What more could I ask for?

  • circles

    bertie:
    I abhor terrorism too – but that does not necessarily make me palatable to unionists.
    I’m not convinced that the reason unionists respected Fitt was his stance on terrorists (although I accept that that is your personal reason bertie) – after all, Ian Paisley, the leader of unionism, could still rake in the votes despite his silence on the ongoing loyalist violence, and his occassional turns sporting the beret.

  • mickhall

    Mr Fitt was a man who proudly claimed he was an Irish nationalist and a socialist to boot. Yet he took a gong from a English monarch and sat in the British House of Lords. Which if you think about it calmly is about as unprincipled as a politician can be. It is as if Ian Paisley took a seat in the Dail for Sinn Fein, unthinkable for most Unionists but what Mr Fitt did was for most of his former constituents equal to this. Is it any wonder the majority of the praise for the man has come from the Unionist community in the north and the British political and media establishment.

    On a personal level he may have been a nice man, I hope so for his families sake, but politically due to the hot house atmosphere of the 1980s, he crossed a line and by doing so went against the interests of those he represented, for what they needed at that time, was comfort and solidarity from those who represented them. The difference between John Hume and Gerrry Fitt was the former understood, even if you disagree with the mood of your community, you have to stand with it in times of great difficulty. To put it bluntly Fitt sided with the enemy and payed the price.

    In truth, like many before him the English establishment flattered him and massaged his ego to such an extent he became a shadow of his former self. Indeed this flattery is still going on, one reads it in many of the obituaries and comments from the so called great and good.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    The complaint of taking “a gong from an English monarch”, is a smear with no rela basis. It confuses form with substance. He was, od course, a Labour nominee rather than as the accusation suggests, the personal choice of Mrs. Von Battenburg. Those who bemoan the absence of “real” politics in NI ignore the fact that Belfast effectively had a Labour MP for four years and showed how much they appreciated the fact. Having been driven out he sought the only remaining platform available to him and indeed I would suggest was a more objectively useful act than accepting a nomination to the Seanad, as others have done withut criticism.

    As for claiming to be a nationalist, had he done so his house would still be standing.

  • bertie

    What is the essential difference between taking a seat in the Upper House and taking one in the Lower House at Westminster?

  • curious

    Jimmy_Sands,

    “He was, od [sic] course, a Labour nominee rather than as the accusation suggests, the personal choice of Mrs. Von Battenburg.”

    Are you sure about this? I could swear that I read in the paper that he was originally Michael Foot’s nomination but then actually became Thatcher’s nomination

  • curious

    Bertie,

    “What is the essential difference between taking a seat in the Upper House and taking one in the Lower House at Westminster?”

    The essential difference is that one is elected to the lower house but appointed to the upper house

  • Jimmy_Sands

    Curious,

    I think the confusion arises (sometimes deliberately) because the nominations go through the PM. There was some opposition in the party to the nomination because of Fitt’s decision to vote for the no confidence motion in 79 in protest at Labour’s deal with the UUP, but Foot took the view that he had given his word and also that Fitt had earned it. In fact Fitt did not take the Labour whip but canvassed for the party during subsequent elections.

  • bertie

    Circles

    I appreciate the acceptance of my motives, but in defence of my fellow unionists, I don’t think that any of us thought that we had converted Gerry to unionism. I considered him a Nationalist, I think others did too. It’s just that he was a lot of other things as well.

    (Don’t forget I’m one of the bad guys, a unionist still opposed to compulsory power-sharing!)

  • curious

    Bertie,

    “Don’t forget I’m one of the bad guys, a unionist still opposed to compulsory power-sharing!)”

    How do you propose to restore government to Northern Ireland if not through some form of power sharing executive? I’m not being flippant or antagonistic, I’m genuinely interested. I don’t think that a “normal” devolved government in NI is possible, i.e. one formed on the return of a party with a majority of the votes cast. Unionists have proved in the past that they were incapable of governing fairly and given that the DUP does not have a proven track record of promoting equality, I don’t see how anything other than power sharing will work. Direct rule promotes a democratic deficit and decisions are taken for which the electorate here cannot hold the minister accountable at the polls.

  • Jo

    “went against the interests of those he represented”..very very subjective judgement.

    How was it remotely in the class interests of Belfast workers to support a hunger strike to polarise and divide workers on an unprecedented scale?

    In truth, whatever socialist and RED elements of the coalition of different interests that was the civil rights movement became greener and greener as time went on.

    Gerry and Paddy and Ivan were the main “SD” and “L” parts of the SDLP – when John Hume took over Eddie McAteer’s Nationalist constituency machine, the writing was on the wall that this was another Nationalist Party and no radical non-sectarian alternative.

    The Nationalist element was probably essential to take along the rural vote – only thing suprises me is that Gerry and Paddy stuck it in the party for so long!

  • bertie

    Curious

    “Unionists have proved in the past that they were incapable of governing fairly”

    I’ll avoid further reference to that as it will get us nowhere.

    I have bored people on this topic many times before, but you asked for it. I am against compulsory power-sharing, especially as practiced in the assembly because I consider it bad government. If everyone is in government, then how do you vote the buggers out. This being one of the most important features of any sort of democratic government. I further hate the institutionalised sectarianism of the current (or recent) set up where you designate youself unionist/nationalist or other.

    My answer is that we have a radical overhaul of politics in NI and that the nation parties organise. Those whose key political aim is a united Ireland can opt out as the Scottish nationalists do, (or still vote for the national parties but work outside and restrict your voting for independance to referendum/border poll. I am as strong a unionist as anyone but I don’t see that constitutional preference has to come into every blessed thing in NI life. You could get a situation where a national party would choose to form a coalition goverment with a minor nationalist party. There’s a thought to conjour with!

    I know that this desire and view of the future puts me in a minority in NI and the circumstances for this to happen are not there yet. I also think that compulsory power-sharing as well as being a bad idea in itself will put my vision even further away.

  • curious

    Bertie,

    I appreciate you engaging with me on this and apologise if you’re having to rehearse old arguments a nouveau. I’m probably in the minority of people in NI insofar as I really don’t have a position on the constitutional question. I was brought up Catholic and my parents are moderate nationalists. My own preference is to look at the bigger picture which is fundamentally this: we’re on this planet for, say 70 years for the sake of argument. Is it really worthwhile arguing over something which is so insignificant in the greater scheme of things? It’s like people who obsess over cleaning their houses – it’s going to be there a long time after we’re gone. Why not just get on with life, forget about religion and politics and just enjoy what time we have whilst we’re here, because as we’re all aware, 70 years REALLY isn’t that long?

  • bertie

    Curious,

    A pleasure, engaging with others, especially those not in your “tribe”, is the value of Slugger. Otherwise you tend to debate in a bubble of intellectual incest. I wasn’t really complaining. I was just forstalling someone else complaining about banging on on one of my pet notions. There is no reason that you or anyone else should feel that they have to get up to speed on my opinions before questioning me.

    I have a lot of sympathy with your point. In my defence, although as I say I am as strong a unionist as anyone, it is not all that defines me. I will not even argue that it is important (even if it is to me). I do argue that it is important that it is not wrested from me by force. It is important that the rule of law is respected and that terrorism is not appeased and thus encouraged, not just here but on the wider world arena. These are all questions of politics. As I say I would like us to be able to break out of the notion that our constitutional preference being all that defines us. On the other hand I would not like to see a situation where we cannot have our loyalties, for fear that we are so immature that we cannot hold them without bigotry and automatic hatred for them’uns.

    It’s not important if people don’t have a firm constitutional preference – but then it doesn’t matter if they do. What their view is of terrorism, upholding the rights of all and, how they treat other people is. That is worth arguing over. However that doesn’t stop us enjoying ourselves as well!

    Don’t remind me of the 70 years. I suspect I’m much further to the wrong end than you are 😉

  • curious

    Cheers Bertie,

    The thing for me is, and it’s probably a heresy for me to espouse this, but it’s only a piece of land really when push comes to shove. Is a piece of land really worth even one life? I blame the Greeks and the Romans. They started imperialism

  • curious

    Cheers Bertie,

    The thing for me is, and it’s probably a heresy for me to espouse this, but it’s only a piece of land really when push comes to shove. Is a piece of land really worth even one life? I blame the Greeks and the Romans. They started imperialism

  • curious

    Cheers Bertie,

    The thing for me is, and it’s probably a heresy for me to espouse this, but it’s only a piece of land really when push comes to shove. Is a piece of land really worth even one life? I blame the Greeks and the Romans. They started imperialism

  • bertie

    never adverse to having someone else to blame!

  • DCB

    Mickhall

    I think Jo makes a very valid point – where was the class interest in supporting hungar strikers. Surely from a left-wing perspective the hunger strikes helped the capitalists to divide and rule (of course with no economy it was a case of divide and rule f’k all)

    Is taking a gong any more of a sell out than copper fastening partition by administering British rule in Stormount (I know your no fan of SF) but the points the same. At least Fitt was no hypocrite.

    It’s also worth pointing out that he did a lot of lobbying for the Guildford 4 and the Birmingham 6. Going to the house of lords allowed him to continue his political career.

    Circles

    Doesn’t it all really boil down to the fact that Fitt didn’t support the hunger strikes. I still think that you feel he’s an uncle tom just because many unionists are fond of him.

    It’s a very myopic view of nationalism if you think that you can’t be an Irish nationalist and sit in the house of lords or commons.

  • DCB

    curious

    But what did the Romans ever do for us….

  • curious

    there’s a programme on BBC2 entitled exactly that DCB, why not watch it some night?? ;-P

  • Jo

    I think GF had a moral as well as a left wing view of the hunger strikes – they were going to cause trouble and there was no point pretending otherwise or that the trouble was just going to be down to a few hoods and a few tense Prods.

    If you’re left wing (as SF claim to be) and think the hunger strikes were justified from that perspective, you’ve a problem.

    It was interesting to hear GF talk about Connolly, (although I realise that might make some posters retch.) Whereas Connolly threw his weight behind a nationalist rebellion, and his legacy has been forever tainted by his association with people like Pearse, who were as left wing as Pope Joe Ratzinger, Gerry Fitt did not and the two men share a reputation of heroic failure.

  • Comrade Stalin

    bertie, yes, I know the story about the all-Ireland dimension, but I don’t buy it. Unionists consistently opposed giving any kind of basic concessions on equality and civil rights when they were in power, even when the all-Ireland thing was nowhere near the table. I don’t believe that they suddenly reversed the position they held for 50 years, and decided that yes, they would love to share power but couldn’t stomach the all-Ireland aspect required. Nope, call me a cynic, but it sounds like revisionism to me.

    Before the all-Ireland idea had been motivated, unionists block things just based on the fact that they didn’t want to share power with taigs. When O’Neill tried to give very basic concessions on equality he got sidelined and then ousted. The simple truth is that any unionist leader who give anything to the taigs paid for it dearly.

    Recently, I think the language has been tempered, although the underlying motiviation has not. The latest excuse is the fact that some of the people who want to share power possess guns (as if unionists have a problem with guns), and I’ve even heard people right here telling me that unionists would be only too happy to share power with non-paramilitary nationalists, as if I’d came up the Lagan in the bubble and was unaware that unionists were breaking down the door desperately searching for nationalists to share power with when the non-paramilitary ones were ascendant (anytime prior to 1994).

    All the way through the history of the past 40 years, there has been some reason, some excuse, some sort of justification or other not to have powersharing. The reason that is given always seems to change, but the outcome is always the same – no taigs in power. I’m sure that’s not the view of all unionists, but it’s the view of plenty of them – sufficient numbers of them that it directly motivates strategic decisions taken by unionist parties.

    Regarding your opposition to powersharing, I’ve got two comments. The first is that you are in a minority. 71% of those who voted in the GFA referendum support the concept of powersharing. There is a separate debate about whether they got want they wanted or were sold a pup, but I think we’d agree that everyone knew that powersharing was going to happen if the deal went through, and they voted for it with that knowledge. Now, you might say “well hold on, a majority of unionists did not vote for that” – but if you did, you would be conceding that things in Northern Ireland have to be done in a shared and equitable way where everyone gets a say, and not through straight majorities.

    I think that it’s crucial that unionists start getting used to the powersharing idea. I don’t want to get into a debate about whether a UI is likely or not, but I think it’s reasonable to say there’s a chance of a sort that it could happen in the next 50 years. An absence of powersharing in that scenario is going to be a total disaster for the interests of unionists, and unionists who fell back on the rhetoric of “all power to whoever wins the most votes” will end up looking very silly. I’m well aware that republicans are far less than committed to powersharing than they say they are, and I don’t for a second believe they envisage powersharing in a 32-county scenario, so unionists would do well to get them nailed down on this point now. Unfortunately they’re not clever enough for that.

    The second point is that the British model of democracy – first past the post, winner takes all – works more or less well when people play the game fairly, in the way that they more or less do in the rest of the UK. The Labour Party at the moment has absolute power, but through the usual parliamentary traditions and customs it exercises that power in a careful way that allows the Opposition and other small parties to get involved. If the Labour govt decided it was going to throw all that away – and really there’s very little to stop it – in the way that unionist parties did when Stormont was in operation, then the UK would quickly become highly unstable, in the way that NI did.

  • bertie

    Comrade

    You’re a cynic! 😉

    But there are worse things to be and so I am not inclined to hold that against you.

    I’m not ducking but I’m tired and your post deserves a btter response that I am capable of at the moment. (I am not saying that it will set you alight when it comes!).

  • DCB

    CS

    There’s a lot of truth in that. The anti-O’Neil Unionists would say in one breath that there was no anti-catholic discrimination but that it was fine for any business man not to employ catholics.

    Your right any unionist leader who gave anything paid very dearly. The irony is that all of them fell to Paisley’s sword – the same Paisley who may very well end up in government with the “godfathers of the IRA”.

  • circles

    Bertie:
    I realise that many unionists considered Gerry Fitt to be a nationalist – the flip side of that is though that not many nationalists (if any) actually did – they considered him a unionist (hence “Fitt the Brit”).

    DCB:
    “Doesn’t it all really boil down to the fact that Fitt didn’t support the hunger strikes” ?
    No it doesn’t. There were many other people in natinalist circles at the time who opposed the hunger strikes. Fitt had already lost any credibility he had with nationalist voters by then as it becamw clear that he wasn’t a nationalist.

    “I still think that you feel he’s an uncle tom just because many unionists are fond of him.” What you think I feel is of absolutely no relevance here DCB. I don’t particularly feel anything regarding Gerr Fitt – uncle tom or not. What tarnished his reputation among natinalists (and perhaps rescued it among unionists) has already been covered in this post.

  • Valenciano

    Bigwhitedove: “Gerry Adams still receives a substantial vote from the Shankill also, although someone like you woulnt accept that because it would destroy all your preconcieved ideas about Republicans.”

    I wouldn’t accept it either and not because of any preconceived notions but plainly because it’s utter bollocks. Any Sinn Fein vote on the Shankill has ranged from negligible to non-existent you can tell this from individual ballot box figures, from Westminster elections where the protestant vote as per the census correlates to that received by Unionist parties (minus a wee bit for the SDLP.)

    Or how about local elections for Court DEA: a tiny Shinner vote in Mountainview but otherwise none and half the time they don’t even waste time putting up even a paper candidate. Or you can look at the transfer patterns in the Assembly elections of 1982, 1998 and 2003 where on the latter occasion of 1505 votes transferred from Adams a whole 6 went to the UUP+PUP. 0.4% “substantial” ?! Don’t think so!

    Jimmy Sands, Fitt didn’t vote against the Labour government in 1979, he abstained as did the Republican MP Frank Maguire.

  • bigwhitedove

    Valenciano,
    I still contend that Gerry Adams recieves as substantial a vote from the Shankill as did Gerry Fitt, can anyone disprove this?, given the number of his constituents from the Shankill who use his office I imagine he receives a personal vote from “protestant Shankill” as evidenced from the ballot boxes ” Bollix”, I think not” remember the Frank McCoubrey court case?
    Why let the facts get in the way of an anti-republican rant

  • Valenciano

    Bigwhitedove you can contend all you like but since you provide absolutely no evidence to back it up your contention has about as much worth as contending that UFOs are regularly landing in Turf Lodge.

    “given the number of his constituents from the Shankill who use his office I imagine he receives a personal vote from “protestant Shankill” “

    With the emphasis on the word “imagine.” By which spectacular reasoning you would also imagine that the catholics in S.Antrim who use the services of Willie McCrea must therefore be supporters of his. The reason they do is that they don’t have any choice as they only have one MP. People all over the UK often have to approach an MP that they dislike. That’s the system.

    “as evidenced from the ballot boxes”

    You mean the same ballot boxes that show that the Sinn Fein vote in the Council area which includes the Shankill is a paltry 248 votes or 3% ? All of this by the way can be explained by the presence of Mountainview in that district.

    The ballot boxes from the council elections this year and any other year also show that the Unionist turnout is lower than the Nationalist. In 2005:
    Lower Falls 68%
    Upper Falls 68%
    Court 57%

    The census puts the protestant population of West Belfast at 16% and Unionist parties last Assembly election got 15%. Spot the connection? Remember what I said about lower turnouts as well before you make an eejit out of yourself by insisting that that 1% vote for Gerry.

    Adams transfers from those beloved ballot boxes of yours went almost exclusively to other Nationalists – as I said before 0.4% went to Unionists! Wow! Substantial eh? So seems fairly obvious, given all that, that neither the SDLP or Sinn Fein get much protestant support. Otherwise if your weird and laughable theory does hold true and there is substantial Nationalist voting on the Shankill then the Unionist vote must be made up of Catholics on the Falls voting for Unionists.

    “Why let the facts get in the way of an anti-republican rant”

    Facts are not exactly your strong point, especially since you fail to provide any in the first place! But why should I impose reality on your own delusions?

  • bertie

    Comrade

    Apologies to all for the length of the post – I need to get out more!

    I am back refreshed and ready for the fray (and, I warn you, in expansive mood!)

    “bertie, yes, I know the story about the all-Ireland dimension, but I don’t buy it.”

    I don’t reckon you “buy” much of what I say and I doubt that you will buy much of this post. Having said that, there is absolutely no reason why you should! 😉

    I can just reiterate that for me and from what I heard others talk about, the All Ireland Dimension (AID) was by far and away the most repugnant element of Suningdale. Whether you believe me or not is not something I can demand. The Power-Sharing (PS) was unpalatable but the AID struck more at the emotional core in terms of our sense of Britishness. There was an element of this in PS (a most un-British device) but not to the some degree. I feel that I am probably one of the oldest posters in the town of Slugger, but even I was still at school at this time. However, in response to the AID, it would have taken little encouragement to have had me charging to the border at Pettico, emitting blood-curdling yells of “ils ne passeron pas! And of course “no surrender” as I rattled my, well not sabre, – more likely a blunt HB pencil and a butter curler, to defend my country from the invader. Re PS. If there had been a demo in Enniskillen, yes I would have gone, provided there was transport to and from and I wasn’t missing Top of the Pops or Monty Python (this was before I had access to video recorders). On second thoughts I may have been prepared to give up Top of the Pops and not being able to pass comment on what Pans People were almost wearing but the social exclusion of not being able to recreate, say the dead parrot sketch, with my peers the next day, would have been too great a sacrifice.

    Taking that as how I read the mood at the time, if you ask me would Sunningdale have fallen, if it had just been PS. I would have to say that on balance, I doubt it. It’s a close call. I think Sunningdale deserved to fall, but IMHO, I don’t think it would have had the sufficient power as a rallying cry without the AID.

    In the thinking of the present it seems that opposition to Powersharing puts one on a par with the anti-Christ. I can accept that you can advocate it without having a black soul. No-one holds it against Blair that he didn’t appoint Ken Clarke as Chancellor. I was disgusted with Blair’s comments on NI to the effect that republicans would have to give up terrorism and unionists would have to share power with nationalists as if the two were morally equivalent. In fact, it actually seemed as if the real crime against humanity was advocating majority rule, and terrorism as merely an alternative lifestyle. There was not the same standard held up for Scotland, but there had been no SRA! It is the business of political parties to get into power, not to hand it over when they do.

    To be perfectly honest I do not know much about politics before the Sunningdale Agreement, so it would be meaningless for me to got into it to any degree. By the same token, many current unionist politicians can neither be praised of held to account for “unionism” back then. As I said, I was still at school, Arlene Foster, if she had even been born, would not have been much past the challenges of mastering the art of the potty.

    Regarding O’Neill, my memories are hazy. My mother was a supporter and my father not, as his judgement was that he tried to do the right thing but failed to make enough effort in bring his party with him. I remember that I took my father’s line but I can’t remember if I thought it out for myself! I suspect not.

    “Regarding your opposition to powersharing, I’ve got two comments. The first is that you are in a minority.”

    I have freely acknowledged this. I have on occasion been a minority within unionism. We are not sheep. Another related example is that I was one of the few unionist (that I knew of anyway) that did not mourn the demise of the old Stormont. Not for any reason that would make me popular (or even palatable), but because I have been an integrationist since well before I knew that there was a name for it, or even that I was not the only one.

    “All the way through the history of the past 40 years, there has been some reason, some excuse, some sort of justification or other not to have powersharing. The reason that is given always seems to change, but the outcome is always the same – no taigs in power.”

    That may well be the outcome. However my objection to PS is not because it would have that outcome.

    “The latest excuse is the fact that some of the people who want to share power possess guns.” Again that to me is more than an excuse, but we have debated this to death before. All I can say, as someone who still does not advocate PS, that what I hear from unionists I know, some of them very prominent, is that they are indeed willing to share power but not with those who “possess guns”. I do not think I am nearly important enough for them to be bothered to lie to me.

    To me democracy is not about the majority imposing its will on a minority, but it is about preventing the minority from imposing its will on the majority.
    If I was to form a new unionist party tomorrow, (which would be a paradox, considering my integrationist bent), it would be a party of one. However, taking a parallel universe, where Bertie’s Unionist Supper Party (BURP) win a landslide victory, I would not expect to have to usurp the will of the people and share power. That being said, and mindful of the subject of the thread, I would have been delighted to make Gerry Fitt my Minster for Health and Social Services, Social Justice and Stuff. I would just have told him to make it clear that when he talked about the constitution, he was speaking in a purely personnel capacity. That option no longer available, I might have offered it to you ;).

    [I would also have Fair-Deal as Culture Minister, with Curious as his deputy, with special responsibilities for ensuring we don’t take ourselves too seriously and enjoy ourselves – Minister for Craic. Beano can have a technology portfolio, Jo can be Minister for Woman as long as she doesn’t worry her pretty head by interfering in anything important. She could even appoint her own deputy, some chirpy filly, biding her time before marriage. If they have any spare time, they can do a bit of typing. On second thought, it is public money so perhaps I should appoint Colm to keep an eye on her and curb the worst of her excesses *ducks and runs for cover*) – perhaps Mick should start a thread on the virtual Slugger exectutive!)

    “71% of those who voted in the GFA referendum support the concept of powersharing. There is a separate debate about whether they got want they wanted or were sold a pup, but I think we’d agree that everyone knew that powersharing was going to happen if the deal went through, and they voted for it with that knowledge. Now, you might say “well hold on, a majority of unionists did not vote for that” – but if you did, you would be conceding that things in Northern Ireland have to be done in a shared and equitable way where everyone gets a say, and not through straight majorities.”

    I believe that many unionist who voted for it (and so accepting PS – so we appear to agree here), did so, not because they actually supported the concept but to get peace – for me a version of protection money. However I consider that the threat was not so immediate, within the ballot booth, that they could not have resisted. So I accept that they voted for it (if they were not prepared to defend their rights, I don’t feel moved to). It doesn’t mean that I have to consider it good government.

    BTW if my vision of mainland parties organising here was to be realised, considering that the only party, that I have ever joined was the Labour Party, and that NI is a socially conservative place (IMO), there would be a chance that I would be in the position where the party I would tend to support, had no hope of being in power. I would still have the same opinion of PS. If the Tory party won an outright majority, I would consider that their voters would have legitimate grounds for complaint if I and the other, to them, loony left had to be accommodated in the cabinet.

    “I think that it’s crucial that unionists start getting used to the powersharing idea. I don’t want to get into a debate about whether a UI is likely or not, but I think it’s reasonable to say there’s a chance of a sort that it could happen in the next 50 years. An absence of powersharing in that scenario is going to be a total disaster for the interests of unionists, and unionists who fell back on the rhetoric of “all power to whoever wins the most votes” will end up looking very silly. I’m well aware that republicans are far less than committed to powersharing than they say they are, and I don’t for a second believe they envisage powersharing in a 32-county scenario, so unionists would do well to get them nailed down on this point now. Unfortunately they’re not clever enough for that.”

    Re a hypothetical UI, in future – there is a lot merit in what you say. I would still have to say that although I would be on the “losing” end of the argument in terms of self interest, it does not change my view of PS as a concept, even if it makes me look silly. I do not work out what I believe in by starting at what best caters to my self interest and working back from that to establish my belief system. Viewed one way that stance is indeed far from clever.

    Re the bit about first the post (which I’m not in favour of – I’m a STV advocate) winner take all – Again Comrade I understand your point here. I do have to say that perhaps Blair is a not the best illustration! His attitude to parliament, including his own backbenchers I find similar to Charles I!

    I don’t know if this addresses your points suficiently, if not feel free to come back to me. As long as you understand that my views are not the basis for the best litmus test for unionist opinion.

  • Jo

    Bertie:

    Very entertaining stuff. I balk a bit at having only one deputy, though, as a team of least 4 plus myself would be required in order that any work of substance by completed while the men run around, as usual, like headless chickens.

    The 5 of us would probably achieve more in 6 months than all the 106 MLAs have since 1999.

  • Jo

    …OOPS! 108.

  • London Irishman

    I was at Gerry Fitt’s funeral at Westminster Cathedral yesterday morning. As Gerry Fitt MP, he was once Northern Ireland’s only Roman Catholic MP in the House of Commons and he became the first leader of the SDLP in 1970, being the pre-eminent anti-Unionist politician at the time.

    Prior to going into politics, he served in the Merchant Navy for 12 years, including taking part in the convoys to Russia during the Second World War. He was great campaigner for civil rights, for peace and for justice. I remember him making very impressive speeches in the early 1970’s. Both the loyalists and the so-called IRA tried to kill him and Sinn Fein/IRA forced him and his family to leave Belfast and Northern Ireland in 1983.He effectively retired from active party politics in 1983 when he accepted a seat in the House of Lords. In view of his treatment by the nationalists who came to dominate the SDLP and by Sinn Fein, this is understandable.

    He was a great man to tell a story, have a dance and sing a song.

    As the funeral we were sitting just behind John Hume, David Trimble, Mark Durcan,Kate Hoey MP ,Conor Lenihan TD Irish Minister of state for Foreign Affairs (since when was Gerry Fitt a fooreigner in Ireland ?), Shaun Woodward MP British Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office, Ronnie Flanagan (the former Chief Constable of the RUC), Frank Carson (the comedian) etc and various other leading figures connected with North-Eastern Ireland.

    I was surprised that the Irish and British Governments were not represented by more senior figures than Conor Lenihan and Shaun Woodward, who are merely Ministers of State. I was very happy that Gerry Adams did not turn up as quite franklt Mr Adams is not fit to tie Gerry Fitt’s bootlaces.

    Frank Carson wore the cocked hat, the sword and green uniform and the medals of a papal knight – I am sure Gerry would have appreciated that ! One of Frank Carson’s best lines was “The trouble with Ireland is that there are too many Catholics and too many Protestants and not enough Christians.” I suspect that Gerry Fitt may have told him that one.

    It was very good to see Mark Durcan, the present leader of the SDLP to make a point of going over to sit beside David Trimble, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. Chris Ryder, the journalist, and Austin Currie, the former SDLP MP and Fine Gael MP, gave very moving and witty addresses. Some of Gerry’s grandchildren led the intercessions and his daughter Geraldine recited WB Yeats’ “Lake Isle of Inishfree”, a violinist played “Danny Boy”, we all sang the old Irish hymn “Be thou my vision”and a piper from the Irish Guards played a lament.

    At least one Protestant mourner defied the rules of the Roman Catholic Church by taking Holy Communion – thus remaining true to Gerry’s strong anti-sectarian beliefs.

    We shall not see the likes of him again.A true republican and a true socialist.

  • Baluba

    LORD Fitt – a true republican and socialist. LORD Fitt was his name – LORD.

    Would you ever wake up to yourself man!

    He didn’t even have the decency to thank the IRA for giving him his first political job either.

    The man was a tit with a wit and that’s it. (Excuse the unintended crappy rhyme). Good riddance to a useless lúdramán.

  • London Irishman

    The name Baluba was once synonymous with the primitive Congolese tribesmen who massacred Irish UN troops in the Congo in the early 1960’s.It appears that one of them or their irish equivalent may have managed to emigrate to this forum.

    Gerry Fitt always Gerry Fitt. Always a republican and a socialist and never a Lord.He was a life peer which simply means that he was nominated to be a member of the second chamber of the UK parliament- much the same way as senators are nominated by the Taoiseach to sit in An Seanad in Dublin.

    The life peerage was given to him when he lost his seat in the House of Commons in 1983 to Gerry Adams who since then – for 22 years – has drawn his MP’s salary and expenses but who has never shown up in the debating chamber to speak or vote on behalf of his constituents. A classic case of profiting from taxation without giving representation in return.

    Baluba’s claim that the so-called IRA gave Gerry Fitt his first political job is news to me. Gerry Fitt went into politics in 1956 when Jerry Adams was just out of nappies and the so-called IRA was mounting a really stupid, sectarian and futile campaign of terror which like all so-called IRA campaigns resulted in the deepening of partition and sectarian divisions and the tragic loss of life on all sides.

    He went into politics as a socialist republican and not as a sectarian nationalists and to this day the working class people of Belfast – both Catholic and Protestant – are grateful that he did.

    What is well known is that Sinn Fein/IRA attacked Gerry and his family on numerous occasions and eventually made it impossible for them to live in their native Belfast. The Fitts were of course only one of the many thousands of Catholic working-class families whose lives have been made a misery by Sinn Fein/IRA and other paramilitaries.

    Sinn Fein/IRA have killed far more Irish Catholics than were killed by the Protestant paramilitaries, the British Army or the RUC.

    Gerry Fitt was a hero.

    I have received the following email from a prominent London councillor of Irish descent this afternoon:

    “I am glad to hear that you went. He was heroicly brave in taking such a stand against all the odds. I know I could not have done it. It is a tragedy that his sacrifice has been in vain, and the vicious swine who chased him out of his home have been so richly rewarded.

    Will we see any more people of his stamp emerging from the working class now that schools and libraries have been destroyed?”

    Amen to that.

  • bertie


    “What is the essential difference between taking a seat in the Upper House and taking one in the Lower House at Westminster?”

    The essential difference is that one is elected to the lower house but appointed to the upper house”

    I meant what was the essential moral difference.