Where’s the pressure for agreement?

Newton Emerson, writing in yesterday’s subscription bound Irish News, but available via the excellent Newshound, makes the not unreasonable point that for all the public posturing in his MacGill Summer School speech, or for that matter his subsequent speech to the press on Monday, the stick waving by the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, has produced little tangible evidence of any real pressure on the DUP to change their current position on forming an executive.. or, for that matter, on Sinn Féin on policing..From Newton’s article:

Meanwhile, Mr Hain’s wide-ranging reforms will continue – because they are necessary to the long-term viability of Northern Ireland.

So why shouldn’t the DUP sit on the sidelines in comfortable, complaining opposition while others take the hard choices, rather than sitting in Stormont taking the blame?

A viable Northern Ireland is what unionism wants and Ian Paisley can step forward to inherit its government once the real work is done. If Mr Hain has any idea how to make him step forward one moment sooner, then he has certainly yet to reveal it.

The only additional points I’d make is that, firstly, in the same speech, Peter Hain attempted to relax rather than continue the pressure on Sinn Féin to make the necessary moves on policing.

That fitted in with previous comments on this issue from both governments, namely that there is an expectation of a “clearer message”, and “an understanding that there is a move toward full acceptance of policing” from Sinn Féin.. but let’s not talk about it in the meantime..

The other point is that, while Peter Hain may talk about joint stewardship, the British government’s NI spokesman in the Lords has been making clear that such an arrangement will be strictly limited

Meanwhile, negotiations with the UDA continue

, , ,

  • Fanny

    Pete, that’s some opening sentence up there, with more subordinate clauses than Santa himself.

    Many thanks for the link.

  • Pete Baker

    Sorry about that.. it’s the nature of writing in this format.. editing and re-editing.. hope it still makes sense.

    btw, I think it’s the record 😉

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I think I will decare that the townland of ‘Ballywhatever’ should become an Independent state within Northern Ireland. When no one listens then I will get some guns and bombs and shoot a few polictians, police and innocent bystanders and blow up the local bank or two to relieve them of a few million to subsidse my campaign. When I have caused enough damage and done enough murders, I will then form a political wing the ‘IndBally’ which I will lead.

    The magic bit is that Tony Blair and his mates will send me an invitation to visit Downing street to ask what I really will accept to stop shooting and bombing and when they falter in their handouts I will shoot a few more and bomb another bank or two.

    Will I stop my campaign? No why should I am important, I have lots of money and am feted around the world, write books and newspaper articles, in fact I think I have beome an important world statesman. I will however pretend to persuade my ‘friends’ to quiet things down a bit from time to time and then rachet the activity up by forming another new pretend group called ‘IndBally2’ which I will blame for the new atrocities. Of course I will deny any direct connection with any of the groups.

    Does this all sound familiar?

    Did Tony Blair really fall for this?

  • voyager

    “They’re not exactly a grammar school crowd. DUP voters only object to the abolition of selection because Martin McGuinness signed the order.

    Apart from that, they’ll hardly miss an exam they all failed anyway.”

    Two points on Emerson’s latest.

    First: He can never hide his contempt for the working class, who he believes form the vast bulk of the DUP’s electorate. The above is only the latest in a long line of superior, condescending side-swipes at those who, unlike himself, weren’t fortunate enough to be born into a moneyed, business-owning family.
    In a snobbish, juvenile way, he thinks money and “breeding” equate with intellect. Perhaps he got slapped on the way home from school every day and has nursed a deep hatred of the working class ever since.
    Second: What he has to say about the chances for November 24 is old hat. Serious commentators have been saying the same for months on end. But now the penny has dropped with Newt so he simply hangs it on the MacGill Summer School and presents it as some kind of revelation.

    He should stick to the Portadown News where his juvenilia at least could masquerade as satirical comment.

  • Pete Baker


    Play the ball!

  • Greenflag

    Newt is on the ball here . Northern Nationalists and Republicans awaiting some deliverance post Nov 24th should think again .

    As for a viable Northern Ireland being desired by Unionism ? Nothing wrong with the desire until you look at the economic numbers and the demographic facts.

    Friable seems more likely with Paisley’s approach.

    Thanks for the link.

  • voyager

    Pete Baker
    Emerson sets the tone in that regard himself when he makes a smart-arse generalisation about tens of thousands of voters.
    You have to admit, as well, as ever he is miles late in his ‘analysis’.

  • lib2016

    Given the history of unionist rebellions against the government they claim to be loyal to it seems sensible and in everyone’s interest that unionism is destroyed.

    It’s probably mere coincidence that the B Specials, the RIR, the RUC, the UUP, the UDA, the UVF and the OO are gone or a mere shadow of their former selves.

    Those nice Nu-Labor people couldn’t possibly have decided to sort NI out for good this time, could they?

  • John Maynard

    I think the point that DUP voters won’t really care about the abolition of selection is quite valid, and widely overlooked.
    Scrapping the 11+ will mostly annoy UUP voters, and what’s the point of that?

  • voyager

    “I think the point that DUP voters won’t really care about the abolition of selection is quite valid, and widely overlooked.”

    Why? On what grounds do you make that claim?

    You couldn’t be more wrong, by the way.
    The inference that the DUP gets all or even a majority of its support from a lumpen underclass and the more “respectable” UUP from middle and upper class shows you know nothing of unionist politics.
    Even if that were the case, your other assumption is that such an underclass has no interest in education and particularly the educational betterment of its children.
    That is close to fascist-type untermenschen thinking.

  • John Maynard

    I disagree. Any analysis of unionist voting patterns shows the DUP draws a highly disproportionate degree of support from areas of consistently low academic achievement – which suggests that either its voters won’t care about the abolition of selection at all or (if they do care about education) they will actually welcome the demise of the present system, which has clearly failed them.
    So it is surely a mistake for Peter Hain to use the current education reforms as a stick to beat the DUP. It won’t have any effect on them at all.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pete said: Sorry about that.. it’s the nature of writing in this format.. editing and re-editing.. hope it still makes sense.

    btw, I think it’s the record 😉

    It could be the longest, as the previous recorded was 73, whereas the first line in the blog entry above – which could have been split into smaller, more digestible sentences – was 90, although I remain to be convinced that it is “the nature of writing in this format” that lends itself to long, drawn-out sentences (which are actually harder to make easy sense of, as they are, by nature, more demanding on the reader and thus perhaps diminish the significance of the entry), since it is clear that virtually all the other bloggers on the site don’t constantly resort to measures like the unnecessary use of multiple sub-clauses, such as this, to get their point across.

    Well, most of the time anyway.


  • Peking

    “Any analysis of unionist voting patterns shows the DUP draws a highly disproportionate degree of support from areas of consistently low academic achievement …”

    What total nonsense.
    Any analysis of unionist voting patterns shows that the DUP over the course of decades has gradually reached a position where the great mass of its votes now come from middle-class areas with good academic achievment.
    The outcome of a slow and deliberate build of support in those areas became obvious in the last Westminster elections. But anyone studying council elections re. vote share, specific electoral area trends and transfers over the past couple of decades could, allowing for an ocassional setback, see where the DUP was deliberately and successfully heading.

  • Pete Baker

    as they are, by nature, more demanding on the reader

    Just because everyone else underestimates the intelligence of the commentariat, Gonzo, doesn’t mean that I should as well ;op

    But I’ll rephrase… “It’s the nature of my writing, particularly in this format..” ;o)

  • John Maynard

    Peking – I believe that is the DUP’s chosen narrative, but it is certainly not borne out by a ward-by-ward analysis of the electoral returns.
    The middle class has not switched to the DUP – it has simply switched off. Please see Nicholas Whyte’s excellent website for the full facts and figures.

  • Jacko

    Gonzo must be jealous.
    If it’s any consolation, yours are always the most interesting and pertinent threads. In fact, besides Mick’s own, they are rapidly becoming the only ones worth reading or engaging with.

    The rest seems now to be little more than a competition between certain contributors to see who can cast “the other side” in the worst possible light. The ordinary posters have been all but relegated to bystanders.

    Over the past few months, Slugger has been all about quantity with little or no regard for quality.

  • harpo

    ‘Given the history of unionist rebellions against the government they claim to be loyal to’


    When did unionists ever claim to be loyal to any particular government?

    You don’t understand unionism at all, and use a lazy cliche. Unionists are loyal to the country (the UK). And if that means that some government has to be opposed because of the damage that they are doing to the country, then so be it.

    That’s why for example arms were imported into Ulster in 1914. This was done not to bring down the country but to oppose the policy of a government that did not respect the right of unionists to stay in the country. Understand? Loyal to the country – not to the government of the time.

    The same can be said for the British Army officers at the Curragh camp at that time. Their loyalty was to the country and not to be whims of a government that was prepared to abandon loyal British people.

    That has been the position since back in the 1800s.

    Maybe before you start attributing characteristics to people you could understand what their actual characteristics are. And not what you assume them to be.

  • Peking

    John Maynard
    I have done a ward by ward analysis myself. And while a number of unionist voters have switched off, it is by no means exclusive to middle class areas. This growing trend is actually closer to being evenly spread across the entire unionist social strata.
    This becomes really evident when a finer study is undertaken by looking at individual box returns from specific polling stations within wards.

    Do not kid yourself that the only reason the DUP is in the driving seat is because of a combination of “garden centre” prods and higher turnouts in working class unionist areas.
    The hard to swallow fact for some is that the DUP now gets the great majority of its votes from the unionist middle class.

  • John Maynard

    So what you’re saying is – Peter Hain’s pressure WILL work on the DUP?

  • Peking

    No, what I’m saying is you are wrong to claim that the DUP gets most of its support from academic underachieving areas.
    You are equally wrong to claim that most DUP supporters do not care about academic selection.

    It does not naturally follow from that at all, however, that just because the DUP and a majority of its electors prefer to retain academic selection this issue can be used to force them to agree to a power sharing arrangement with Sinn Fein.

    In fact the attempts by Hain to blackmail with a host of issues looks more likely to have the opposite effect.

  • lib2016

    After Blair and Berty’s experience with Trimble, which included him standing them up in Belfast not once but at what seemed like regular intervals, I think you can take it that dependence on unionist co-operation is not part of anybody’s plans.

  • John Maynard

    So DUP voters do care about the abolition of selection – but they don’t care enough for it to make a difference?
    With reasoning like that, no wonder they all failed the 11+!

  • Peking

    John Maynard
    Don’t be so stupid and childish!
    A large majority of them certainly do care but, for them, sharing government with Sinn Fein is about an awful lot more than the 11+.
    You were totally wrong in your original point. You took a punt with someone you didn’t realise actually knows an awful lot more about the subject you were pontificating blindly on.
    So what, get over it.
    Your last comment shows your real view – that all working class Protestants are stupid so they vote DUP. Or it can only be stupid people who vote DUP so they must be working class.
    Take it somewhere else.

  • John Maynard

    Have we considered the assumption almost everyone here seems to be making that working class = thick?

  • Peking

    John Maynard
    No, but then you have made it about working class unionists.

  • Pete Baker


    Thanks for that 🙂

    Although I would point out that there have also been some interesting and worthwhile contributions from other bloggers here in recent times.


    In regard to the isolated line in Newt’s article which has attracted the focus of most comments to date.

    While I can understand the focus on that particular tree – and Newt can always clarify whether it was intended to be a satirical comment on the characterisation we’ve seen on Slugger recently of DUP supporters – the wood of the original post covers a much larger area.

  • John Maynard

    Pete, there is something else that needs to be said to Voyager and Peking here, although I realise it is not the direction in which you or Mick would want this thread to go.
    Nevertheless, Voyager and Peking – aren’t you being just a little bit touchy over a throwaway insult for supporters of a party whose leader has spent the past 50 years spewing out sectarian hatred?
    If only ‘thick’ was the worst the good doctor had ever called me and mine…

  • Peking

    John Maynard
    Though I must say something purposely written in a column is hardly a “throwaway” remark, I took no issue with Newton Emerson’s remarks.

    I took issue only with your nonsense about where the bulk of the DUP’s support now lies.

  • Red Paul

    Being working class and/or failing the 11 plus doesn’t make you thick. The 11 plus fails kids and the Unionist parties fail they’re constituents by supporting it or opposing changes to selection. Plenty of bright lads went to jail.

  • Red Paul

    Spot the terrible mistake above and I passed the 11 plus…


  • barnshee

    “So why shouldn’t the DUP sit on the sidelines in comfortable, complaining opposition while others take the hard choices, rather than sitting in Stormont taking the blame”

    And that is the nub of the situation. Let somebody else take the shit decisions because in truth the local politicos can do sweet fuck all about it. Sit tight and blame it on direct rule

  • T.Ruth

    Dear,dear Newton.
    How condescending can one get.
    I am sure your upper class upbringing protected and isolated you from those like the members of my family who were brought up in the lower reaches of the Newtownards Road.
    Via the “new” post war system which in the late forties began the process of offering free secondary education to all the community,all four of us escaped from from the relative deprivation of our urban village.
    This was due in no small measure to the vision and sacrifice of our working class parents and the dedicated teaching staff in Beechfield Primary School,Model Boys’ Primary and Methodist College,Belfast which was full of working class children in those days. For what it is worth my familiy members have collectively more academic and other qualifications than “you could shake a stick at.”
    I speak for myself in saying that I am a DUP voter and party member,opposed to selection at eleven years,favouring an 11-14 junior high school system that offers an empowering curriculum with people of all faiths and none educated together.I would like this 11-14 period to be followed by pupils having guided free choice in a a system that retains all that academic excellence that characterises many of our better grammar schools and builds on the outstanding work done in our many excellent secondary schools and FE Colleges.All this would ideally happen in the context of an economic rationalisation of the entire system with a commitment to all children receiving free education in an integrated state system.
    We need a total rational,well reasoned change in the education system ,much greater than anything our erstwhile Minister of Education could envision.
    The point Newton is that there are many DUP voters who have the ability to think for themselves;who are well educated;who respect all people equally;who can indentify problems in our society and develop and articulate individual solutions on a range of matters.That is the great strength of the DUP and why it has swept the UUP close to oblivion.

    Please,when you are developing your argumemnts, keep in check your obvious resentment of those who have a genuine concern for those from deprived communities and hold a Democratic Unionist position

    Meanwhile please check out the academic qualifications of our various MP’s;and MLA’s;party by party and you may find that indeed the DUP might indeed win any competition based on academic qualifications.

  • T..Rubble

    “Meanwhile please check out the academic qualifications of our various MP’s;and MLA’s;party by party and you may find that indeed the DUP might indeed win any competition based on academic qualifications.”

    Thats an interesting claim, has anyone out there done any research on this???

    It is just that on my local Council (Larne) all the DUP councillors went to Secondary schools and the UUP are all from the Grammar.
    Is this an aberration??

  • John Maynard

    I think the DUP posters here have stupidly (ironically) responded as intended to a very deliberate wind-up.
    If Newton Emerson went to school in Portadown then he didn’t pass the 11+ either. They’ve had a comprehensive system down there for 30 years.