Hain: if you don’t like it, get back to work

Gerry Moriarty on the front page of the Irish Times finds some resonance in the idea that the outline proposals are a not so subtle challenge to the DUP to get back to the Assembly. If this is a stick, it’s a medium term one. These proposals don’t take effect until 2009, although the preparations will need to be put in place well before that time. If the speculation is right, it may a canny strategic move to bring the Sisyphean taskof bringing viable democracy to Northern Ireland to a close. DUP may let this round go to Sinn Fein, but will they be in a position to meet the next challenge: the boundary commission? Can the British government afford for Unionists to take many more direct hits?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • In the absence of a cattle-prod, ( pun intended )
    what else can mr.hain do to get the DUP bums on seats 😉

  • George

    “Can the British government afford for Unionists to take many more direct hits?”

    Well, unless unionists resort to violence they can hit them all they they like. Or do you mean something else?

    They are after all the sovereign British government and have a mandate to rule the UK, which includes Northern Ireland.

    If the DUP are to be believed, the days of pushover unionism are over and it doesn’t matter how many times they hit them they won’t fall over.

    But where does that leave unionism in the current climate, where it appears to me the British have just side-stepped them and moved on up the road?

    If the UUP were the largest unionist party, we’d have ever DUPer across the country screaming that this was another sop to republicanism to go with OTRs and the disbandment of the RIR.

    Hain is putting it up to them as so many people said he would.

    The unionist electorate will either withdraw further or realise that voting DUP won’t stop anything.

    The problem is that with the implosion of the UUP there seems no alternative to the DUP so the change will have to come from there.

    I don’t believe the DUP will be able to justify violent protest in the long run so the only other choice is engagement with those pulling the strings.

    If the price of getting devolution up and running is the DUP painting some deal with the Boundary Commission (unionists dealing with boundary commissions, who’d have thought) as a victory, then I’m sure the British government will play ball.

    Seems a small price to pay.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Peter Hain should resign after criticizing Northern Ireland’s economy to potential investors, declaring that it was “unsustainable in the long term”.

    He has more front than Southend pier by challenging the DUP to go into government with SF/IRA, when he clearly does not have our country’s best interests at heart…In all honesty, I didn’t like him before he made those derogatory remarks about our economy, but I despise him now.

  • Addie Rose

    Thanks to George for a rational, logical comment. For years, economists and businesspeople have been discussing the opportunities in an all-Ireland economy, and doing studies on the possibilities. The political rhetoric of the DUP is just demogoguery; even the DUP realizes they cannot stop forward progress. This is political posturing. Grousing about Hain or wasting breath on calling for him to be fired is just not on. Everyone in the North will be persuaded eventually to seek their own political positions on this issue–but those political positions will be within the context of increased cross-border opportunities and relationships. When DUP voters eventually get the picture, they’ll realize they’ve been had, of course, but it was ever thus anyway.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “increased cross-border…relationships”

    We have enough cross-border co-operation as it is. Why do Tourism Ireland constantly promote Dublin, but rarely Belfast? I feel anything that is beneficiary to our economy should be welcomed, but anything that would undermine our role within the United Kingdom by the Republic should be given a wide berth.

    Going back to the issue of tourism. I agree with all-Ireland tourism co-operation if Northern Ireland and it’s major tourist attractions are given the same promotion as the South’s, but I would like it made clear in the advertisements etc that Northern Ireland is a separate, independent entity to the Republic, with an individual identity and different culture.

  • Crataegus


    The Secretary of State should administer this place to the best of his ability, and in the interests of the population here, and just forget about the DUP. If they won’t co-operate with the Assembly fine, let them all sit it out and stop paying any of them. However making decisions that affect everyone to provoke or cajole is no way to proceed.

    The proposal for local government is asinine. In my opinion the cost of disruption will exceed any likely saving and that will be my view until someone produces some detailed costings to prove otherwise.

  • George

    what Hain has done is he has focussed minds that things aren’t going to stand still and that direct rule is not going to be a hammock for unionists who don’t want any change/are afraid of change. (not passing judgement on whether the fear is justified)

    Six months ago, I would say the majority of unionists were quite content with the idea of indefinite direct rule. They didn’t listen to those who said it was bad for unionism. Bet that number is plummeting by the day.

    The ones lying in the hammock want Hain to administer.

    For others, Hain’s job is to effect change that makes the elected representatives of Northern Ireland start doing the administering.

    Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omlette and I’m sure once the Assembly is back up and running the local politicians can tweak things so as to make these councils work for the people.

  • slug

    George – but might be be over-egging the pudding?

  • slug,
    why can’t we have jam today 😉

  • slug

    Spirit level: We are having jam today….

    Log Jam. BOOM BOOM!

  • George

    I don’t know what attachment northerners have to their councils and how this will change their everyday lives. I suspect very little.

    I suppose Hain is concentrating on the main course so isn’t too bothered about the starter.

    He can always be asked to get out of the kitchen so people can cook their own meals.

  • Adrian

    Newsflash: concerned loyalist and the rest of them take note. If the GFA was Sunningdale for slow learners, then this was the spongers speech for retards.

    The Brits aren’t going to pay for your games any more. It’s over. The IRA have given up and the British were telling the truth when they said they had no selfish strategic interest (or any interest at all) in Ireland.

    That means that the days when whinging, gurning and whining would do for a political strategy are over. The Brits did not surrender to the IRA – that’s whgat you wanted. They paid in blood and treasure to stop them. But they aren’t in the business of writing blank cheques to the likes of Paisley.

    If Paisley wants to have influence then he has only two choices: submit to a united Ireland where protestants would be 1/6th of the electorate or engage with the mechanisms of the GFA where proestants will control 4/6ths of the mechanics. There is no other choice, so wake up and smell the coffee boys.

  • seabhac siulach

    Imagine that…if you leave power to an unaccountable english minister then eventually you get shafted. Who’s have thought it? From those ‘even-handed’ and ‘fair’ english folk…
    First with water charges, rates, schools, etc. and now with the councils…the hits just keep on coming.

    Maybe a lesson in there for unionists? (Historically slow learners as they are…).
    Seems that you are not (in the end) willing to actually be treated like the rest of your ‘countrymen/women’ in the UK. The public sector gravy-train is coming to an end (one of those awful peace dividends! Or is this another ‘concession’ to Sinn Fein?) and soon the cold wind of economic reality will start blowing about the place…
    This attachment to ‘britishness’ is really starting to hurt, being now to unionists’ political, economic and social disadvantage.

    What future in the union if all it brings is further disadvantage? There is a short-term alternative, of course. Get Stormont back up and running. At least in Stormont Irish ministers (i.e., unionists, nationalists, etc.) could decide all these matters to their own satisfaction, without too much outside interference…
    (The future ideal, of course, would be Irish unity where Irishmen/women alone would decide all matters solely relating to Irishpeople…)

    Or are unionists secretly afraid to share power, happily willing to let all the tough decisions be taken by english ministers? That way, they can whinge and throw tantrums without any of the electoral liability the exercise of real power would entail. How popular would the DUP be if they, as the largest party, had had to make these necessary public sector reforms? Who would they blame then?

    The days of having your cake and eating it would seem to be over for unionists. How sad.

    So, anyway, explain to me again…why are we still waiting for Stormont (that stepping stone to unity) to be up and running again? Because the DUP will not share power with Sinn Fein?
    And yet, in these super-councils they will likely be forced to do just that anyway…at least, in 4-5 out of the 7…

  • Crataegus


    “I don’t know what attachment northerners have to their councils and how this will change their everyday lives. I suspect very little”.

    As a multiple rate payer in these parts the last thing I want is to have to pay for some failed and daft local government reorganisation. As I have said on other threads;
    1 The cost and disruption of reorganisation will be enormous.
    2 Local councils only spend 4% of total government expenditure and much of that is in collecting bins and maintaining parks and leisure centres. Where are the savings to be made?
    3The make up of the proposed councils bear no relationship to actual physical criteria, transport corridors, hinterlands, county boundaries, judicial boundaries or any other governmental carve up. How are some of the super councils going to produce development plans when they are simply incompatible partners forced together?
    4It will destroy any local identity. The average council size here will be well in excess of a quarter million whereas in the south I believe the average somewhat less. 7 councils in the North 34 in the Republic

    In my experience I have always found the local councils to provide very efficient services which are in marked contrast to my experience of many of the services provided by Government.

    I am happy for things to move on and for some difficult decisions but this one is a bad mistake which will need to be revisited. I also agree with Molloy it is blatant gerrymandering.

  • Adrian

    Peter Hain may be lots of things. But the one thing he is not is English.

  • Scotsman

    The elected government of the UK is doing what it has done elsewhere- trying to ensure efficient and effective local government. The local politicians have an opportunity to change government policy by returning to Stormont, but that would involve compromise and agreement.
    The 7 council solution seems perfectly reasonable and cost effective to me.

  • George

    I think you are going to have to pay, no matter what. Liam Clarke put a figure of the British support being worth £60 a week in Sunday’s Times.

    Your points are valid but they probably don’t even register on the British radar.

    1. The cost is miniscule compared to what the British exchequer is shelling out at the moment for the everyday running of the place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the RIR redundancy package costs more than this business.

    For the British government, it’s a small price to pay to focus minds/placate SF/force DUP hand/assign IRA to history (take your pick).

    2. The savings are to be made by politicians in Northern Ireland finally running the place/ explaining the future cuts on the way. This is just the start of a process.

    3. These councils don’t have much power so I assume the Assembly will be the forum for producing development plans and the like. These councils will be organising bin collection and the like. Am I wrong?

    4. Is local identity really tied up with your local council? I don’t agree. The only thing that annoys me about my council is that my bin charges are higher than anywhere else. I couldn’t care less where it begins or ends.

    There is no reason why these seven councils can’t function as efficiently as the 26. None whatsover.

    It’s up to the partners to work together. If they don’t want to work together, they pay extra for the privelege of having nothing to do with the other side.

    If bin charges are lower in one council area than another, you’ll soon see how fickle local identity is.

    I don’t know if it’s blatant gerrymandering but if it is that’s what happens when both sides vote in parties that won’t work with each other.

    I’m being fatalistic I know but most people in the Irish Republic and Britain are sick to the back teeth of this and want a deal done.

    No lives will be lost by this and people in Northern Ireland will be paying more no matter what.

    Can all this not be revisited by the Assembly?

  • Crataegus


    “people in the Irish Republic and Britain are sick to the back teeth of this and want a deal done”.

    You have no idea how pissed off many of us in the North feel!*!*!*!* but there can be no excuse for bad and vindictive government, which is what your analysis implies. It is malice to punish people generally because their elected representatives are slow on the up take. At times my own personal view of both SF and the DUP brings visions of Mussolini’s demise racing through my mind. There have been a lot of careers and profit made out of people’s misery.

    I would question the wisdom of pernicious government as this place is not stable just yet. Don’t give anyone a rallying cry or cause. Push and cagoule Unionists and you may get a response that you don’t want. Just leave them and give them a bit of space and time. After all it took PIRA long enough to disarm. Get on with it without local politicians, but do it fairly without malice and bile! They will come round eventually, in the scheme of things what difference would another year make?

    Do I have to pay well in the short term yes, but like many others, selling up and leaving this place becomes more attractive with each passing day. I am considering setting up a new business anyway and frankly it does not stack up forming a company in either Britain or Ireland. We live in a global village and increasingly we really do not have to put up with this crap.

  • Cahal

    “people in the Irish Republic and Britain are sick to the back teeth of this and want a deal done”

    You can add Northern Nationalists too. That just leaves….

  • Comrade Stalin (Commissar for Software Engineering

    Concerned loyalist :

    Peter Hain should resign after criticizing Northern Ireland’s economy to potential investors, declaring that it was “unsustainable in the long term”

    Being a loyalist and hence supporter of paramilitarism or at least loyalist paramilitary involvement in our political structures, you are part of the reason why it is unsustainable. You are also part of the reason why tourist boards have a hard job promoting Belfast rather than Dublin, because you think that having a parade stopped for public order reasons is a good reason to go on the rampage.

  • Comrade Stalin (Commissar for Software Engineering

    Push and cagoule Unionists and you may get a response that you don’t want.

    The pragmatic part of me is inclined to agree with this. But another part of me says, well, unionists keep saying they are squeaky-clean democrats who support the union and political means. What have we got to fear from such peace-loving people ?

  • Crataegus


    “unionists keep saying they are squeaky-clean democrats”

    All Unionists are little sweeties and the armed guys are figments of an over active imagination. Members of SF have nothing to do with the PIRA and Alice in Wonderland is an accurate travel log.

    Stick to pragmatism and don’t poke a bull with a sharp stick. OK it is utterly frustrating watching it wallow around, but its harmless unless provoked.

    The best lever the Secretary of state has is the personal ambitions of our local politicians. Punishing people who are not supporters of the DUP simply alienates and risks raising a common cause. There is enough negativity here without the Secretary of State creating more.

    Direct rule does not suit Unionists. It runs counter to their basic psyche. Unionists feel victimised; they need hope and a positive and constructive sense of purpose. The Secretary of State is creating a spiteful administration to seek to have a ground swell to remove it but surely better to create a dynamic and imaginative administration that people want to be part of, but perhaps that is beyond their capabilities.