Dithering? Preparations? Progress?

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd doesn’t believe progress has been made between the parties:
“So are we preparing for government? At this stage, I would say no, we’re not.”

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell, speaking at the Glencree Summer School, agrees that little has been resolved but that issues have been identified and the priorities clear:
“…the committee has provided the opportunity to identify which particular issues parties feel most strongly about, and which will be the most difficult to address in subsequent negotiations.” He adds there is major work ahead:
“The broad range of issues discussed by the PFG Committee illustrates the raft of matters that still have to be settled.”

  • ciaran damery

    When the notion of an election to a Home Rule type parliament was first touted, it was by Unionists. In fact the first elections to Stormont were deemed a sop to Unionism who demanded that a legislative body be created if they (unionist supremacists) were to participate
    in the Irish Peace Process. When Major announced it in the commons the orangies were dancing with glee. Isn’t it ironic that Unionism no longer wants to partake in a legislature in occupied Ireland. As a Republican, I think Stormont would be a waste of time. Paisleyites are not intellectually or spiritually capable of sharing power with mandated Iris politicians. Abandon the idea of stormont but both governments need to continue to implement all other aspects of the GFA and if, at that stage (with a new police service, dominant executive British/Irish governmental bodies in place etc)Unionists want to change their minds then great! If not, the road to reunification should continue via the Joint Authority Way.

  • Greenflag

    69 not a good time
    Deja vu in 72
    Closed the door in 74
    24 years of hiberhate
    Opened again in 98
    2002 closed the zoo
    2006 the people wait
    For Peter H to close the gate.

    Soonest better
    The political farce
    Becomes deadletter.

  • gg

    ciaran damery

    “Paisleyites are not intellectually or spiritually capable of sharing power with mandated Iris politicians.”

    Were the DUP ministers in the power sharing executive until 2002 just mirages at ministerial desks, or were they really Morrow, Dodds, Robinson etc? They may not have sat around the cabinet table, but they were powersharing.

  • ciaran damery

    gg – Despite the paucity of political savvy within Unionist/Orange fundamentalism and their obstinate, condescending nature, even they know that they had to participate in the leslative
    assembly,with evolving power. But even Trimble was gone like a light after SS/RUC raided Sinn Feins offices and claimed that The IRA were spying. Never mind that subsequent events proved that the spy-allegations were manufactured by pro-Orange little englanders (otherwise known as “securocrats”). Paisleyites will do whatever their British Masters tell them cuz they have no choice. In the real world all they can do is make a rumpus and a few threats. But as the governance of the six counties continues to merge it will become glaringly clear that life doesn’t end after their next Hate parade or the next election. Unionists just cannot see the big picture….luckily.

  • Glen Taisie

    Has anyone any notice of Sean Farren’s speech to the Glencree Summer School ?

    Likely to be a more of an honest and objective critique

  • Philip McNeill

    ciaran i never knew the RUC committed crimes against humanity on a par with the SS. Maybe you should enlighten us.

    I was once asked to start a new political party in this country. In was in zest of course but i wonder what me the Bill of Rights of this Party….

  • ciaran damery

    Not only did SS/RUC collude with Unionist fascists. SS/RUC collaborated with, nurtured, enticed and facilitated the Unionist Terrorists to bomb and murder hundreds of Irish People, simply because the victims were viewed as individuals from the Irish celtic and catholic tradition. The aforementioned attributes were deemed sufficient as SS/RUC and other facets of the British War machine sought to defeat the IRA by terrorizing the Irish community. SS/RUC and it’s protege Special Branch remain intact and armed. It is a fascist Unionist militia. It was created specifically to subjugate the Irish community and to enforce the sectarian and discriminatory laws that the British colonizer allowed their Unionist puppets to enact, from partition to today. Despite some cosmetic alterations, SS/RUC still haunts the Irish Peace Process and will remain an impediment to real peace and justice until it is replaced with a genuine service that has the support of the polulation of Ireland as a whole.

  • Nevin
  • Hidden Gem

    “Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd doesn’t believe progress has been made between the parties:”

    The Shinners and the Duppers can’t agree – now there’s a surprise! But whose fault will it be? The DUP will blame SF maybe even the UUP. SF will blame the DUP, “the two governments” or even the SDLP, who knows…? But we know who won’t be at fault and who get the blame!

    I think Sean Farren is spot on when he said, “Those who would be responsible for us not being able to move to this position would rightly earn the very strong condemnation of this and succeeding generations.”

  • Glen Taisie

    More of Farren’s speech.

    The greatest political challenge for all of us in public life in the North is to recover the vision and the sense of hope that the Good Friday Agreement generated right across the communities North and South. More importantly we need to imbue the political process with a fresh generosity of spirit that will facilitate more positive relationships and without which our political institutions will find it difficult to function and the poison of sectarianism will not be drawn.

    The GFA has provided the means whereby we can begin leaving the past behind and a better future carved out for all by local representatives working together. The agreement’s constitutional, institutional, policing, justice and human rights provisions are of a very robust kind. It was not any fundamental weaknesses in the agreement itself that brought suspension about but a failure to live up to commitments, especially those on decommissioning that caused a crisis of confidence between the parties

    But after such a prolonged suspension of the institutions created by the GFA the sense of hope and the spirit of generosity it generated have been virtually sucked out of the political process. Consequently sectarianism remains alive and well and is now feeding racist attitudes in the North.

    Several factors have contributed to this situation. But the provisional republican movement’s failure for so long to deliver on decommissioning was undoubtedly one of the most damaging. Its claims that decommissioning was a red herring, that decommissioning wouldn’t happen while at the same time conducting an extensive criminal campaign that climaxed in the Northern Bank robbery served only to strengthen those unionists opposed to the Agreement and weakened support for those who remained committed to it.

    Loyalist paramilitaries who never felt bound by the GFA took full advantage of this situation to persist in their criminal activities, in their vendettas and in their attacks on the Catholic community.

    I have no hesitation in saying that the paramilitaries, especially the IRA who, ironically, loudly proclaim that their aim is to unite Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, carry the most blame for the prolonged suspension which envelopes the process. Add to that the indulgence afforded paramilitaries and their political backers by both governments – no sanctions for their prevarication and procrastination. Instead both governments have offered further attempts to buy them off with such foolish proposals as those for community restorative justice and for dealing with the so-called ‘on-the-runs’. The first would have created a justice system paralleling the official system and so would have perpetuated paramilitary control of local communities. The second would have seen those alleged to have committed crime avoid even the most minimum judicial process.

    It’s not difficult, therefore, to understand the sense of cynicism that now informs attitudes to the political process in the North.

    At last the approach that ignored the truth and that however well intentioned its motives has by concentrating exclusively on the so-called problem parties, effectively rewarded those who bear the greatest responsibility for the paralysis that has passed for politics in the North, is now being abandoned.

    In its place a new approach is being tried, one that the SDLP has longed since championed. That approach is the obvious one of involving all of the parties with a mandate. So, for the past few weeks and for the very first time in the history of conflict resolution in the North those parties have been meeting to address and try to resolve their outstanding differences.

    So if we’re not to go down in history as the politicians who spurned the best means ever to build a new Ireland, to create harmonious relations between Orange and Green within the North and across Ireland as a whole, we need to openly and honestly grasp the opportunity we now have to restore the GFA, an opportunity which will only last until the 24 November.

    Current discussions in the PfG committee have after a bad start got down to work at least in a business like way and with less of the acrimony between SF and the DUP that characterised that start.

    But whether or not all the issues will be resolved in a manner that will make restoration possible is difficult to say. Even if all of the practical issues to do with how the Assembly, the NSMC, the BIC etc are to work, and what the arrangements should be for the administration of policing and justice, the Bill of Rights etc., the key issue is whether the DUP will see it to be in their interest to agree to enter and lead an administration with SF. It is part of the challenge we face that we convince the DUP that it is in their interest and indeed in the interest of all of the people of Northern Ireland that they do so.

  • Glen Taisie

    The rest of Farren’s speech

    Practically this means creating confidence between all of the parties that the following commitments are being honoured –

    ·That partnership will be exercised in a genuine spirit of cooperation, not in one that seeks to constrain developments whether within the North, between North and South or between East and West;

    ·That paramilitarism has clearly been abandoned and that exclusively democratic means will be used in order to promote political causes;

    ·That policing and justice systems have the full endorsement of all political parties.

    The days when any party should have to move to meet its commitments before others have moved to meet theirs are over. There is no possibility of that ever happening again. So we all need to pledge to meet our commitments together and so create the mutual confidence essential to sustaining the political institutions.

    Should all of that happen then we can move very quickly to re-establish the institutions, to complete arrangements for the devolution of justice and policing and then set about tackling the day-to-day social and economic challenges that politicians in and out of government everywhere are in business to do.

    In the North the challenge is to develop a more dynamic economy that moves us to a better balance between wealth creation and wealth consumption (we consume much more wealth than we produce by a factor of approx 50%); to fast forward infrastructural investment; to develop programmes to more effectively tackle social disadvantage. And above all to tackle the sectarianism that continues to poison relationships in our society; that takes the lives of young teenagers like Michael McIlveen and many, many others and that constructs so-called peace walls and creates no-go areas in our cities, twins and villages.

    Those who would be responsible for us not being able to move to this position would rightly earn the very strong condemnation of this and succeeding generations. They would have betrayed the tremendous efforts that have been made by friends and supporters of a peaceful and democratic way forward. Such friends are here today, they have been with us throughout the past ten years, and they have come from here at home and from abroad. But above all it will be our own people whose hopes and expectations from what we could do together who will have been betrayed.

  • Nevin

    [i]The agreement’s constitutional, institutional, policing, justice and human rights provisions are of a very robust kind.[/i]

    IMO the constitutional arrangement was a recipe for continuing conflict; the 50%+1 deal was an incentive that encouraged the Athboy strategy and the reaction to it. They should have gone for shared sovereignty with maximum devolution, merged strands 2 and 3 and left no hiding places for the paramilitary godfathers.

    Strand 1 represents the common ground between Unionists and Nationalists and all the ‘external’ relationships need to be developed so that neither tribe feels short-changed.

    My proposal permits the politicians to work the common ground together; sadly, Sean’s approach will continue the tussle over strand 2.

    The Governments’ appeasement strategies have given us the likes of the Finaghy Crossroads Group where the paramilitary godfathers are eulogised and presented as role models and constitutional politicians and state agencies play second fiddle.

  • lib2016

    “Shared sovereignty with maximum devolution” is a recipe for continuing instability, a return to the failed policies of 1920 with Northern Ireland having yet another chance at becoming a self-governing dominion.

    That solution has been tried and failed – in fact it was only tried because the Conservative Party found it useful to play the Orange Card. There is no Orange Card left, the unionist population is declining and those parts of it which could have resisted democratic change have been sidelined. In mainland Britain accusations of anti-Catholicism are the last thing the Conservatives need. They will not back the Orange mob this time.

    On the other hand the nationalist share of the vote is increasing, we are rapidly becoming a multicultural society and the power of the Catholic church has declined markedly. A re-united Ireland does not present the same fears to Protestants.

    Unionists are guaranteed their Human Rights through our membership of the EU and a small percentage of them are even beginning to see advantages to voting for the EU’s foremost supporter the SDLP if only to oppose Sinn Fein.

    Once we get the border out of the way normal politics will follow. Sectarianism has had it’s day and those parties committed to it won’t last much longer.

  • Nevin

    Lib, er, we’ve had continuing instability and you’re proposing a nationalist solution to a Unionist-nationalism problem.

  • lib2016

    Most of our ‘continuing instability’ has been a result of the British liquidating their assets. Their retreat from Ireland will continue to cause instability but not for long and with the removal of the threats to public order from Orangeism we will have peace in Ireland at long last.

    The unionist problem is resolving itself as their community continues slowly fading away, a process which has been going on for the last two hundred years. The context is changing and as unionists become just another Irish minority group they can no longer expect their community to receive special treatment.

    Polish-Irish and Chinese-Irish have exactly the same rights as British-Irish. Should we set up little homelands for them too?

  • lib2016

    BTW – I’m proposing ‘an Irish solution for an Irish problem’. Let the ballotbox decide!

  • abucs


    isn’t it a little provocative to speak of a community ‘fading away’ ?

    i understand where you are coming from with the ‘homelands’ comment but don’t you think descibing the situaton as ‘the unionist problem’ is a bit counter productive ?

    Isn’t the first step in any sort of shared future a ‘coming together’ in respect for eachother ?

    Otherwise i agree with much of your usual posting.

  • fair_deal

    “On the other hand the nationalist share of the vote is increasing”

    Is it?

    Westminster 2005
    SF/SDLP vote 41.8% (drop of 0.9%)
    Westminster 2001
    SF/SDLP vote 42.7%

    European 2004
    SF/SDLP 41.2% (drop of 3.2%)
    European 1999
    SF/SDLP 45.4%

    LG elections were pretty stable 40.6% and 40.3% in 2005 and 2001 respectively.

    Even the 1% growth in the Assembly elections of 39.5% in 1998 to 40.5% in 2005, the percentage remains low in the range of nationalist voting.

  • lib2016


    I have unionist and loyalist friends and have spent most of my working life in ‘mixed’ offices. I respect them as people but detest their political ideals, though probably not as much as I detest the political ideals of ‘Green’ Tories such as Fine Gael. 😉

    You are quite right that in pointing out I am intentionally dismissive of the idea that the Northern unionists form a strong cohesive community. If that was ever true it is no longer.

  • lib2016


    Unionists have nothing to worry about then? We’ll see in 2011! 😉

  • abucs


    do you see any change in your unionist friends attitude towards the 26 counties over the last few years ?

    If the unionist people ever do embrace the idea of a UI we might have to accept that the ranks of Fine Gael would swell somewhat. :o)

    Fair Deal,

    it does seem that the previous automatic nationalist rise in the vote has slowed. (stopped / reversed ?) Perhaps this is a good thing in that the fear of being overun has faded so that potential emotions leading to ‘certain actions’ have also faded allowing rational discussion rather than seige and paralysis.

    Do you think ?

    Here’s hoping anyway.

  • Nevin

    Lib, it’s still a nationalist solution to a unionist-nationalist problem no matter how you try to spin it. 1880s revisited?

  • Hidden Gem


    “Once we get the border out of the way normal politics will follow. Sectarianism has had it’s day and those parties committed to it won’t last much longer.”

    Oh if it were just that simple! I think it’s just a fanciful idea that sectarianism has gone for good and will never show it’s head ever again. It is naïve to think that all those who were prepared to use deadly force would not do so again. Our society needs much more than jingoistic, fanciful ideas that will be lapped up by the naïve and easily lead. Our society needs effective politics dealing primarily, above all else, with bread and butter issues. After that will come trust. How long that will take, I don’t think anybody knows but once there is trust, I think we will start to see respect. But hey, why bother when we can just remove the border and wait for another blood bath and get back to the bombs and bullets!

  • Nevin

    [i]That solution has been tried and failed[/i]


  • fair_deal


    “Perhaps this is a good thing in that the fear of being overun has faded so that potential emotions leading to ‘certain actions’ have also faded allowing rational discussion rather than seige and paralysis.”

    1. Most people I mention this too are unaware of it. Many equate a growth for Sinn Fein as a growth in the nationalist vote.
    2. Also as lib2016 shows many nationalists keep repeating it as a maxim regardless of the latest results. Many are trapped in a pre-2001 census mindset.
    3. I think the 2001 census did have an impact on Unionist voting. The line of “Make your deal now else we’ll remember it when we are in the majority” did have an impact on some within the Unionist community. However when the 2001 census undermined that argument they were willing to consider a tougher approach.
    4. Hopefully it will lead to a more rational debate although nationalism/identity politics appeals to the heart not the head so that always needs to be rememebered BUT if/when devolution returns IMO the ability to use scare politics will be much more limited than before.
    5. There is also one health warning. If this stall continues where does that leave republican strategy which was based on the prediction of an ever-increasing nationalist community delivering Unity within a generation.

  • abucs

    Fair Deal,

    i think from a Republican perspective it would of course be easier if we were moving towards a 50% + 1 situation.

    Although i think the stats are close enough (which looks likely not to change for at least a while) for a shared northern politics with a double veto to be the only sensible local option in the medium term.

    i guess you disagree but i’m thinking a harder line by unionists means a stalemate and hence no NI assembly.

    I think Republcans are looking south and the non-assembly northern outcome is really up their alley in some ways in that the approach doesn’t need to change, and their political expression can continue via the south.

    In essence the ‘hard reality’ of changing mindsets (on both sides) in the political arena will not be pushed without a NI forum IMHO.

    But i guess you’re thinking that the DUP’s approach will gain a more ‘classic’ form of politics where unionists will have the only veto ?

  • fair_deal


    My comment about tougher was the shift fron UUP to DUP and seeking changes to the agreement. It did not mean not making a deal.

  • abucs

    Apologies if i insinuated what you were referring to meant ‘not making a deal’.

    Rather i tried t mean that the result of taking a harder line may well ‘result in no deal’.

    What kind of deal do you think the DUP will settle for, assuming there is to be a deal ?

    And what sort of veto situation could be agreed by the party ?

  • Butterknife

    Couldn’t find the open thread so forgive me for this but it has been confirmed that Daewoo in Antrim are to axe 205 jobs. As you know this area is surrounded by low income estates etc. so i rather suspect that the impact will come as a bitter body blow to the community.

  • lib2016

    The results of the 2001 Census were dependent on it’s assumptions about the number of people from a nationalist background attending state schools. The election results depend on an aging unionist population and a franchise which was deliberately designed to weaken Sinn Fein by excluding the younger and poorer section of the population.

    It’s no accident that the electoral boundaries are being redrawn now and the voter lists rewritten, just as the British Army are being withdrawn and transitional political arrangements are about to be imposed since we have proven, yet again, unable to govern ourselves. The long war ended a decade ago, now the long wait is nearly over.

    In theory unionists may have three more months to persuade their electorate that compromise is necessary. In practice the Sinn Fein leadership are already preparing their supporters for a nationalist withdrawal from talks about Strand One.

    Unionists continue to talk about another 30 years of Direct Rule. In their dreams!

  • fair_deal

    I can’t give an insight to the DUP’s inner thinking I am afraid.

    Hopefully the DUP will negotiate the best deal they can get.

    IMO the December 2004 deal the provos ran away from is the bare bones (my key concern about that one is that the ministerial accountability/collectivity stuff was still a bit weak).

    However since then the decommisioning bullet has basically been bitten (primarily because of the Northern Bank and McCartney holes the RM jumped into). My assessment is that in Dec 2004 the price for devolution was decommissioning, the robbery and murder made decommissioning the price for SF to get back to the table.

    Since 2004 the issues that have came into focus since then are paramilitary crime, policing and parades and these are the ones that need to be resolved. The IMC and ARA can potentially deal with the first. The others will be the subject of the serious haggling.

    Plus I am sure the parties will try and squeeze the government for as many ‘confidence building’ measures aka sweetners but I doubt if these will be deal breakers.

  • > Westminster 2005
    > SF/SDLP vote 41.8% (drop of 0.9%)
    > Westminster 2001
    > SF/SDLP vote 42.7%
    > European 2004
    > SF/SDLP 41.2% (drop of 3.2%)
    > European 1999
    > SF/SDLP 45.4%

    Westminster 2005 Unionist parties 51.45%
    Westminster 2001 Unionist parties 52.83%
    Drop of 1.38%

    European 2004 Unionist parties 48.60%
    European 1999 Unionist parties 52.45%
    Drop of 3.85%

    In both instances the drop in Onionist vote was greater than Nationalist vote. It is underhanded, selective quoting like this that gives truth the saying “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

    Tut, tut, tut Fair Deal, I expected better from y ou than this sleight of hand.

  • lib2016


    The figures have been posted on this board so often that Fair Deal knows them by heart, as do the rest of the regular readership.

    Unionists have never believed in the ‘integrity thing’ and their supporters don’t expect it from them, that’s why so many loyalists and the UDA in particular can vote for the DUP while still laughing publicly at ‘the grand old Duke of York’.

    It is yet another expression of our many cultural differences and one that explains why so much unionist and British propaganda misses it’s target – for example many unionists still believe that republicans were engaged in dealing drugs and terrorising their areas because their propaganda told them so.

    The fact that Bishop Daly (a declared enemy of Sinn Fein) could say in the 80’s that the ‘brightest and best’ were joining Sinn Fein, that Sinn Fein leaders are welcomed internationally and that Sinn Fein can win elections in all nationalist areas doesn’t change that perception.

    A better example might be that although there is photographic evidence all over the net of the ties between the Orange Order, the unionist parties and the loyalist paramilitaries unionists here compete to discredit themselves by denying those same links.

  • fair_deal


    On the euro vote Gilliand muddies the waters. The % including Gilliand is 54.2% in 2004 and the Unionist vote Alliance in 1999 was 54.2%. A noteworthy near coincidence

    You attack me for incompleteness yet you don’t include the assembly results in which Unionism’s share increased
    1998 50.6
    2003 52.4
    An increase of 1.8% and larger than the growth in the nationalist vote.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    I see you are still living in your fantasy world, take off the blindfold and take out the ear plugs.

    SF made a mistake in demographics and now the UK is here to stay for a very very long time and no amount of your saying the opposite will make any difference.

    When you can back up your statements with facts instead of republican rhetoric then you might just have a point to make.

  • lib2016

    Lies, damn lies and statistics – there are seven local council areas of which nationalists will soon, possibly immediatly control four.

    We are dealing with Nu Labor and we can be sure that the elections will deliver the required results. Geesh – I thought that unionists were cynical even if their grip on political reality is a bit tenuous.

    Unionism has been shafted, from a height as Brendan Behan put it. Trimble thought he played it clever by humiliating Blair and Bertie repeatedly….then the DUP failed to complete the deal in Nov ’04.

    It won’t happen again.

  • Frustrated Democrat


    Facts, facts we wants facts.

  • FD,

    attack is far too strong a word, you should perhaps be a tad less sensitive.

    As to completeness, you selected the elections but only provided SF/SDLP figures. There was a similar percentage decrease in the Unionist figures, information which had you included would have completely destroyed your point. Can we at least agree that your original conclusion, based on one partial data, is without merit?

    If you had wanted to cite the assembly elections you should have done so. To forestall you accusing me of incompleteness again here’s the trend in Unionist and Nationalist voting for the last 33 years.

    I don’t fully comprehend the point you are making about Gilliand would you kindly expand on the thrust of your statement please?

  • abucs

    Ah, the beauty of statistics.

    On the one hand the figures say the voting Unionist majority has been decreasing for a period of 33 years, on the other that it has stayed much the same over the last 9 years.

    Please insert your belief system where required.

    Personally i think it is close enough and will be close enough for a very long time that most people can agree on shared political structure.

  • fair_deal


    Nicholson was a weak candidate whom the UUP should have ditched. The centre found a decent candidate and some UUP voters punished them. Essentially that there was no particular shift in the total vote just the centre got a bigger bite.