With a big deal in the making, do we need ‘local’ deals?

Arguably a reason the multi-party Belfast Agreement (pdf file) unravelled was because it was a high political deal not a ‘community’ deal. The tentative steps to sharing the space of government were not reflected on many of Ulster’s streets. Interface violence, sectarian attacks and anti-parade campaigns continued or grew. How does the potentially ‘all-party’ St Andrews Agreement (pdf file) avoid a repeat of that pitfall? How do the two main communities reach agreement on how they share the cities, towns and villages of Northern Ireland? Or with the main paramilitary groups leaving the field (at different paces) is a big political deal all that is needed this time?In Londonderry’s Guildhall on Tuesday there will be a Community Convention to discuss the recent University of Ulster report (pdf file) on Protestant alienation in the Derry City Council area. The event will include contributions from Sinn Fein and the SDLP. The event has been welcomed by Martina Anderson, SF’s Director of Unionist engagement, and sees it as a model for similar engagement with nationalist minorities:

“It is important that we develop an understanding of the Protestant population’s feelings of alienation in the city and look at ways of addressing this. The hope would be that this would also have a positive impact on other areas where there is institutionalised alienation of nationalists.”

One issue of alientation is the ongoing court case about the city’s name. Court cases provide decisions not resolutions to problems. With the St Andrews Agreement putting the re-organisation of local government back up for debate the issue has become less urgent. Should the nationalist parties take advantage of this breathing space, put the case on hold and discuss the issue with the Protestant minority of the city or at least conduct an Equality Impact Assessment of the name policy decision?

  • Little Eva

    Perhaps your promised “solution” document will give us the answers. Or, more likely, this time the deal will stick because the penny has dropped with the likes of you the DUP, Cedric, Orange Order, et al, and there won’t be such an organised campaign against it.

  • CS Parnell

    When did it unravel, then? Youse are signing up to the same things with just a bit of window dressing.

  • Observer

    This deal will not be organized over the heads of the communities like the Belfast Agreement was (to some extent). Paisley and co will rigorously test the constituency water before sigining up to anything. As someone once said, “Paisley doesn’t lead mobs, the mob leads him”.

    On the other side of things, Sinn Fein is well on its way to winding down its evil-twin and when SF moves it apparently manages to bring its community along too, something that Trimble manifestly failed to do.

    In terms of sectarian tension, the parades issue is emblematic of the whole conflict and if it was solved there might be some ground-level change.

    With some sections of the Orange Order being more practical in its approach and the republican movement apparently winding down a strategy of confrontation they might be groping their way towards some arrangments.

    In my view no relatively abstract Government agreement will effect changes in people’s psyche overnight, I think the shift will be slow coming.

  • crow

    On the subject of side deals I was fully expecting Dail representation for Northern MPs to resurface.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Fair Deal,

    The Belfast Agreement can hardly be said to have “unravelled”. The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is still in force. It will be modified slightly but the original Agreement will stand in perpetuity.

    How can you say the St Andrew’s Agreement is “all party” ? It is quite clearly a document which addresses the concerns of SF and the DUP only. The apparent push for an election (rather than a referendum) will be the nail in the coffin for the other parties.

  • CS Parnell

    Comrade Stalin,

    That is what the Duppers and the Shinners want you to think but why should that be the case?

    The SDLP have been running rings round the Shinners over all sorts of things in the last six months and if the DUP say a fair deal has been done why should anyone keep voting for a bunch of corner boys?

    The Shinners have found it is rather more difficult to kill off the SDLP than they fought – I suspect the DUP may find the same with the UUP – though it is fair to say Durkan is good at his job while Empey is cack.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    CS Parnell reckons the SDLP have been running rings around SF for the past six months. I don’t know where he gets that from or where it leaves him.

    In relation to the Irish Language Act, for instance, the SDLP’s Irish language spokesperson was left at home and today issued a statement welcoming the commitment to introduce a ‘Languages Act’. GIven that in itself is something less than what the two Governments, particularly the British, offered in the Agreement, where it specifically mentions an Irish Language Act, one would think that the SDLP aren’t doing too well.

    It was on SDLP’s watch, also, when the gutting of Patten occurred. Now given that position has been restored by the inistence and persistence of SF, we’ll see who’s running rings around whom.

  • Paul P

    Oilibhear Chromaill

    What do you make of SF’s decision to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland before Paisley shares power and also the veto given to Paisley on the devolving of justice and policing?

  • smithsonian

    Paul P
    Blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

  • exuup

    anyone heard what bob mccartneys view on things are?
    if so can you provide a link, i cant find anything at the moment

    thanks

  • Comrade Stalin

    CS Parnell :

    That is what the Duppers and the Shinners want you to think but why should that be the case?

    Um, because it is. The public statements from the two governments all talk about how they’re going to placate SF and the DUP. It’s as if the other parties did not exist, despite the fact that at the last assembly election those two parties comprise a minority of the vote.

    I don’t like that fact, as fundamentally I don’t believe that the long term solution here lies in an “arrangement” between the two tribal extremes, but rather the end of tribal politics; the agreement we’ve seen here, while not a bad thing in a lot of respects, actively encourages sectarian voting patterns and will prolong tribal politics. Still, we can’t hope for much until we persuade NI’s voters that it’s safe to vote in a “normal” fashion.

    The SDLP have been running rings round the Shinners over all sorts of things in the last six months

    The SDLP have always had a remarkable capacity for self-delusion. It’s amazing that this capacity has not been diminished, even now. Let’s be blunt here, the SDLP are absolute toast. They fought for SF to become a constitutional nationalist party, and won, and got themselves supplanted. What relevance do they have ? What’s the point in having two pro-Agreement constitutional nationalist parties ?

    Oilibhear:

    It was on SDLP’s watch, also, when the gutting of Patten occurred.

    Stop repeating this rubbish. Every time you’ve vomited up that line of crap, I’ve asked you to substantiate it, and you’ve failed. Either way it’s irrelevant; the PSNI are accepted to a not inconsiderable extent in the nationalist community. And in any case, SF have failed to secure any significant concessions in this area. There’s the thing about NI MPs getting onto the security select committee, but since SF don’t sit in Westminster this is effectively useless from their point of view.

    anyone heard what bob mccartneys view on things are?

    Who gives a damn ? The man’s brief flirtation with relevance in the NI political scene ended a long time ago.

  • exuup

    Who gives a damn ? The man’s brief flirtation with relevance in the NI political scene ended a long time ago – comrade stalin

    tut, tut comrade everyones allowed an opionion including bob

  • Comrade Stalin

    tut, tut comrade everyones allowed an opionion including bob

    Bob’s opinion changes with the wind.

  • Chris Donnelly

    “One issue of alienation is the ongoing court case about the city’s name.”

    FD
    One issue of alienation is the actual re-naming of the city in the first place!

    I actually believe nationalists have been quite conciliatory in this regard re Mitchel McLaughlin’s publicly floated proposition that the old walled city retain the name of Londonderry in respect of the unionist minority in the city.

    Now let’s contrast that approach with the latest antics of the majority unionist councillors in Lisburn.

    Clearly riled at having been ordered by the Equality Commission to stop the practice of flying the union flag from the Council HQ all year round (a decision which the Council has yet to actually enforce, btw) the DUP majority have now pushed through a policy of flying the union flag from locally designated flag poles throughout the borough. Most contentiously, these will include at a flagpole in the middle of the majority nationalist village of Dunmurry.

    Shared space, how are ya!!

    In a bitter irony, councillors opted to not pursue the initial plan to fly the flag from a Bowling Club in Lisburn after the Club management voiced fears that such a practice might alienate catholics frequenting the club (no such logic applied to the Dunmurry case however, where catholics will most certainly be in local attendance- but then that’s the intention.)

    On the gist of your post, FD, I believe local deals are essential as they involve bringing the politics of compromise and conciliation down to where it is most needed now- ie the grassroots.

    I think that unionist parties at local government level have a critical job to do now as a logical follow-up move to the first tentative acceptance of the need for compromise by the DUP heirarchy signalled in their initial acceptance of the deal on offer in St. Andrews.

    At many local councils across the north, unionist parties continue to shun power-sharing. Ending this practice would be a very positive local step forward.

    On a more positive note, Derry is also the setting for a positive round of engagements between Sinn Fein and the PUP, which has led to a number of joint public statements and press conferences which can only be welcomed as a step in the right direction.

    Clearly, a ‘big political deal’ will not suffice. Local partnerships are going to have to be forged, based on mutual respect and equality- with all that entails for the presence of flags, emblems, symbols and/ or cultural practices by both communities.

  • fair_deal

    Parnell / Comrade

    “The Belfast Agreement can hardly be said to have “unravelled”.”

    Its failure to function was its unravelling

    “How can you say the St Andrew’s Agreement is “all party” ?”

    Because it appears all parties will sign up to it.

    CD

    “One issue of alienation is the actual re-naming of the city in the first place!”

    A name that reflects both, how terribly supremacist.

    “I actually believe nationalists have been quite conciliatory in this regard re Mitchel
    McLaughlin’s publicly floated proposition that the old walled city retain the name of Londonderry in respect of the unionist minority in the city.”

    1. A SF memeber thinks a SF proposal is concilatory. Hmmmm. Do you not see something of a flaw in that?
    2. Leaving aside the blatant ignorance of his own city that proposal displays, one section of one community unilaterally decides what the compromise will be. Conciliation by dictation. Hmmmm.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Stop repeating this rubbish. Every time you’ve vomited up that line of crap, I’ve asked you to substantiate it, and you’ve failed. Either way it’s irrelevant; the PSNI are accepted to a not inconsiderable extent in the nationalist community.

    Me thinks you’re being a little defensive. But then again you’ve so much to be defensive about. After all it’s SF’s line on policing which is endorsed by the majority of nationalists each election time. And in increasing numbers too….

    So please refrain from the abuse and stick to the facts.

    And you didn’t mention the SDLP’s bargaining on the Irish language – how to come away from the negotiating table with less than what is on offer, and on paper, from the british.

  • Most contentiously, these will include at a flagpole in the middle of the majority nationalist village of Dunmurry.

    Are the Lisburn DUP going to deny the people of Twinbrook and Poleglass the right to celebrate their Britishness by not flying the Union Flag at the Dairy Farm?

  • Dec

    A name that reflects both, how terribly supremacist.

    You’ll be in favour of renaming Belfast ‘Dublinbelfast’ then?

    A SF memeber thinks a SF proposal is concilatory. Hmmmm. Do you not see something of a flaw in that?
    No, but I see a flaw in your reasoning. Debate the proposal, don’t just dismiss the proposer.

    2. Leaving aside the blatant ignorance of his own city that proposal displays, one section of one community unilaterally decides what the compromise will be. Conciliation by dictation. Hmmmm.

    It was a proposal not diktat. Your opposition is ironic since I seem to recall you proposing that a statue of Gerry Fitt, erected in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, would be an appropriate Nationalist symbol for the Non-Unionist residents of the city.

  • aquifer

    The important thing about this deal is that it licenses the security apparatus of the state to drop down hard on anyone who engages in anti-social behaviour of the ‘I’ve got a political excuse, sectarian grievance, ethnic mission etc’ sort.

    With the nastier sorts of paramilitary micro-sects boxed in or at least under seige by the ARA and PSNI, legitimate business here will probably grow like topsy, making it easier to afford the community sweetners that will doubtless accompany any deal.

    There probably will be a deal, because the community are signalling strongly to do one, by simply not paying our post-dated politicians very much attention.

  • Greenflag

    ‘because the community are signalling strongly to do one, by simply not paying our post-dated politicians very much attention. ‘

    Can you blame them ? The political snouts are all lining up at the trough hoping that the English and Irish taxpayers will forgive them for wasting everybody’s time and money for 40 years 🙁

    It’s their only hope. The worldwide ‘investment’ horse has moved on to greener pastures to East Asia , India and South America .

    Northern Ireland parties missed the political boat in 1974. In terms of large scale private sector investment the boat has already departed .