“Waiting for the wheels to come off”

One of the duties incumbent on any director is to make sure that all your actors are performing in the same play. Not that the programme team is anyway responsible, but tonight’s edition of Hearts and Minds hosts a strangely dysfunctional discussion on the St Andrews Agreement. Five individuals, five differently referenced realities, with little sign of any mutual reference. Quote of the night comes from Naomi Long: “The things that you leave out tell their own story. When we get to the First bump in the road, the wheels will come off”.

  • Julian Robertson

    I don’t usually pay much attention to Naomi (nor her to me to be fair!) but in this she is probably correct.

  • IJP

    Julian

    Pay more attention and you might learn something!

  • kensei

    Neat line, but the Alliance’s whole position is fundamentally wrong. You cannot force people together. To do is counter productive, because people resent it and the thought of it might be enough to break the deal. The way forward is to create a solutions where people can move together by themselves, at their own pace.

    It is not up to this Agreement to solve these problems. The Agreement is there to put in place structures where these problems can be solved – in other words some kind of working local government. Forcing a lot of extra preconditions helps no one on that.

    The Agreement is brittle because people do not trust each other, and do not trust each other’s representatives to do the things they have said. That remains the case regardless of what is in the document.

  • kensei
    spot on, parties seem to want to solve all norn iron’s problems prior to as Assembley, forgeting that that’s exactly what the Assembly is for.
    Its trust though, that ‘s the biggie, and that has to be built.

  • Kingbean

    I thought Alastair McDonnell made the most interesting contributions of the evening with regard Sinn Feins dysfunctional attitude to policing – ie. its ok when it do with something like a parking tickets but beaten up grannie and raped teenagers are another case and the police should not be involved.

    He put Michelle Gildernew on the back foot. It was refreshing to see nationalists bickering for a change altho Gregory Campbell clearly felt left out as he then picked a fight with Alan McFarland

    In terms of the poll results, for Ian Paisley Jnr to have done so well was a surprise. I’d say the brood of ex YU workers at DUP headquarters weren’t too pleased about that!

    One final point – are DUP representatives told to deal with any questions about future leaders of the DUP with a big grin? I have noticed this a few times before and then last night when asked about the poll results in terms of the next leader of the DUP, Campbell stretched his mouth into a cheesy grin. Slightly disconcerting.

  • Overhere

    Perhaps the DUP is taking its cue from the old Russian Communist Party, after all most of their old leaders were dead for a few years before any one was told/noticed. Do you think Ian will end up like Lennin pickled on the Ravenhill Road !!

  • Hrvatska

    I usually enjoy Hearts and Minds but last night’s edition was mind-numbingly boring, consisting of will never bees from each of the parties. Interesting to see that Alan McFarland, lacking any serious comments to make, was reduced to taunting the DUP about the Irish language section of the Agreement. This follows on from comments in a simliar vein by Michael McGimpsey. It was ham-fisted and ineffective as Campbell was able to dismiss it out of hand. What in the name of God are we paying these idiots for?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I think people in NI are finally starting to see what the DUP are, a party who can only succeed when they have something to attack – first the UUP now SF, taking decisions is not what they do.

    They have made a complete and utter mess of the negotiations and Blair and Aherne have run rings around them……….the awful thought of these people being in power is second only to continued direct rule by the NIO and the biggest megalomaniac of all Hain.

    A rock and a hard place come to mind!

  • Henry94

    Hrvatska

    I usually enjoy Hearts and Minds but last night’s edition was mind-numbingly boring

    I know what you mean. I went to bed half way through. I think it was because all the parties had the B team out so everything was predictable and scripted. One sensed the real action and reaction to the poll was elsewhere.

  • “strangely dysfunctional”

    What’s the problem?

    That’s the province’s strong suit.

  • IJP

    Kensei

    No one’s trying to force people together. Alliance is a Liberal party, “forcing” people to do anything is fundamentally opposite to what we believe in.

    Problem is, the current deal is trying to force people apart. That cannot work.

  • Julian Robertson

    IJP

    I shall pay rapt attention henceforth.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Perhaps the DUP is taking its cue from the old Russian Communist Party, after all most of their old leaders were dead for a few years before any one was told/noticed. Do you think Ian will end up like Lennin pickled on the Ravenhill Road !!

    They tried to pickle me a while ago, but fortunately I had a miraculous recovery at one of Kim Il-Sung’s private hospitals, at the expense of the CIA.

    Neat line, but the Alliance’s whole position is fundamentally wrong. You cannot force people together.

    Kensei, as IJP has said, this is not the policy.

    The idea is to try to persuade people to stop thinking of themselves as being apart in the first place.

    Compare this with the policy essentially being pursued by the governments and the four largest policies, which is is a kind of forced accomodation between people who are being actively encouraged to regard each other as different and irreconcilable. What they are all about is “separate but equal”. That can’t work, and anyone who says that it is the basis for a sustainable future is lying to you. However, despite stacks of successive failures of power sharing built on this model, the politicians still don’t seem to get it.

  • Balloo

    As stated by Kensei the key issue is trust. Not just among the parties doing the dancing, but with their electorate as well.

    It was quite a boring edition last night, McFarland could have got more stuck into the Campbell over the DUP u-turn and got him a bit hot under the collar.

    The exchange between McDonnell and Gildernew was the highlight of the night.

  • kensei

    “No one’s trying to force people together. Alliance is a Liberal party, “forcing” people to do anything is fundamentally opposite to what we believe in.”

    Ok. I’ve never heard an Alliance person come up with any solution that deals with the reality on the ground, but let’s see. What was missing from the StAA that the Alliance would like in there? What is Alliances solution to tackling those problems?

    “The idea is to try to persuade people to stop thinking of themselves as being apart in the first place.”

    We are apart. Ignoring reality doesn’t change it one bit.

  • Nevin

    ‘Trust’ is a red herring, IMO. It’s the constitutional question, stupid.

    As the unionist/nationalist percentages have come closer together the political arteries have hardened and the paramilitary godfathers have intensified their control over local communities. Apartheid rules, KO.

    It’s likely that the two governments will continue to pay more attention to the demands of the godfathers than to politicians from the UUP-SDLP spectrum; the victims will be left with the scraps.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ok. I’ve never heard an Alliance person come up with any solution that deals with the reality on the ground, but let’s see.

    (1) None of the large parties have come up with a sustainable, comprehensive solution that deals with any of our problems in Northern Ireland. The latest one, the St Andrew’s “Agreement” (not an agreement at all, but a position paper from the governments) is just about to fail as well. Why hold Alliance to standards that you’re not holding the other parties to ?

    (2) You’re approaching the problem from the wrong direction. The whole idea is not to “deal with” it, but change it. The reality on the ground is a divided people, led astray by tribalist politicians who have no vested interest in seeing the community united. We need to unite people and break down the tribal barriers. Without that, there cannot be a solution.

    What was missing from the StAA that the Alliance would like in there? What is Alliances solution to tackling those problems?

    Forgive me for avoiding the question, but the StAA is dead. Neither the SF nor the DUP are prepared to move upon it.

    You can read all about the Alliance alternative on their website.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s likely that the two governments will continue to pay more attention to the demands of the godfathers than to politicians from the UUP-SDLP spectrum; the victims will be left with the scraps.

    Nevin, the paramilitaries cannot exist without support on the ground. That support can be broken by application of a balanced mix between politics, and law and order.

  • sean

    …the paramilitaries cannot exist without support on the ground…

    The paramilitries only need one or two numb-nuts to carry out a campaign of terror, e.g. the recent fire bomb attacks not needing a huge organisation behind them. Such people were attracted to the Provos for years, when SF and the bhoys had a minority level of support and, as we all know, that didn’t stop their treason.

  • Ziznivy

    “Interesting to see that Alan McFarland, lacking any serious comments to make, was reduced to taunting the DUP about the Irish language section of the Agreement. This follows on from comments in a simliar vein by Michael McGimpsey. It was ham-fisted and ineffective as Campbell was able to dismiss it out of hand. What in the name of God are we paying these idiots for?”

    And why not? It has been sneeked in under the noses of the DUP and is essential to the way life will be lived in this part of the country. Not only will the Irish Language be a huge waste of money, it is an attempt to alienate unionist people from the mainstream of civic society here.

  • kensei

    “(1) None of the large parties have come up with a sustainable, comprehensive solution that deals with any of our problems in Northern Ireland. The latest one, the St Andrew’s “Agreement” (not an agreement at all, but a position paper from the governments) is just about to fail as well. Why hold Alliance to standards that you’re not holding the other parties to ?”

    The StAA is not, and I don’t think it claims to be, a solution to all our problems. No such document could exist. It is trying to set up a framework in which those problems can be solved. So my question is valid.

    “(2) You’re approaching the problem from the wrong direction. The whole idea is not to “deal with” it, but change it. The reality on the ground is a divided people, led astray by tribalist politicians who have no vested interest in seeing the community united. We need to unite people and break down the tribal barriers. Without that, there cannot be a solution.”

    What lovely sentiments unfortunately they are meaningless gibberish. The first step to creating change is accepting the current reality. If you don’t do that and just wish hard that people could just come together, you’ll get nothing done. A lot like the Alliance Party.

    “Forgive me for avoiding the question, but the StAA is dead. Neither the SF nor the DUP are prepared to move upon it.”

    We’re not quite there yet. Though I think I just moved into the “No” camp after reading more on The DUPers position on devolution of justice powers:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/story.jsp?story=713642

    There is no way any sane Republican could support this.

    “You can read all about the Alliance alternative on their website.”

    I’d prefer is someone gave me the abridged version, thanks.

  • Greenflag

    parsifal ,

    ‘spot on, parties seem to want to solve all norn iron’s problems prior to as Assembley, forgeting that that’s exactly what the Assembly is for.’

    So that’s what it’s for then ? I though it was just to keep local do nothing politicians on the public payroll so that instead of doing nothing and getting half pay they will be able to do more nothing on full pay ?

    It’s already been established that a devolved NI two part Government will have no power to legislate on economic policy for NI or change it’s tax structure .

    Question :

    ‘Who do prefer as Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice ?’

    Answer :

    Paul Goggins ( The present Minister flown in from England to do the necesary )

  • Greenflag

    Kensei,

    ‘It is not up to this Agreement to solve these problems. The Agreement is there to put in place structures where these problems can be solved – in other words some kind of working local government. Forcing a lot of extra preconditions helps no one on that. ‘

    On the face of it your post makes absolute sense .
    The question which has to be asked is can any ‘structure’ solve these problems in the context of a 6 county NI State ? I would say No . For the very State itself is dysfunctional from a ‘normal democracy’ point of view .

    It’s not as if both Governments haven’t tried for the past 40 years or so ? You can call them preconditions or qualifications but at the end of the day they mean the same thing . There is no trust between the politicians on both sides. When one side is determined to maintain the State and the other to end the State’s existence preferably sooner rather than later then all you have is a two legged bar stool that will never get off the ground without third party support .

    A permanent politically and economically handicapped State with a future barely less bleak than it’s past . A ‘Nowhere” State a public sector dominated ‘utopia ‘ for losers .

    Irish Nationalists and Republicans are making a huge mistake in thinking that the SAA is anything more than another narrow political cul de sac , from which sooner or later they will be forced to retreat

  • Greenflag

    parsifal ,

    Correction .

    Question :

    ‘Who do prefer as Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice ?’ Gerry Kelly (SF) or Ian Paisley Junior (DUP) ?

    Answer :

    Paul Goggins ( The present Minister flown in from England to do the necesary )

  • Nevin

    CS, I think it’s more likely that the governments will ‘legitimize’ the control that the paramilitary godfathers exert in their fiefdoms. As a friend of mine once graphically described it: “baseball bats with blue flashing lights”.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    What Alan McFarland’s comments regarding the Irish Language Act display is the core contradiction within unionism. Mainland, I use the term advisedly, regard all Northern Irish as Irish. Depends on whom you speak with but most unionists would regard themselves as Irish without compromising their Britishness. As far as I can tell they regard Irishness as part of the British mix. Yet, when it comes to the issue of the Irish language, Alan McFarland sees no space for that in the British identity – the ‘Simply British’ tag they applied to themselves at the last election – Why not? No doubt he supports the Irish rugby team, even against England, or the Northern Irish soccer team? Yet he – and his fellow unionists turn green when they have to engage with the Irish language. Don’t they think that a British culture which accomodates Bangladeshi, Indian, West Indian etc influences, can accomodate the Irish language? Or is this a ‘simply British’ blind spot?

  • mook

    “Not only will the Irish Language be a huge waste of money, it is an attempt to alienate unionist people from the mainstream of civic society here.” – Ziznivy

    The Irish language is not aimed at alienating unionists from the mainstream (tribal politics). It would, however, be a huge waste of money better spent elsewhere (real politics).

  • kensei

    “Irish Nationalists and Republicans are making a huge mistake in thinking that the SAA is anything more than another narrow political cul de sac , from which sooner or later they will be forced to retreat”

    I don’t believe anything other than unification could give a framework to sort all the problems out ;P

    But it’s an improvement from rule by decree from our colonial overlord, and at least gives the potential of some moves forward.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    The Irish language is not aimed at alienating unionists from the mainstream (tribal politics). It would, however, be a huge waste of money better spent elsewhere (real politics).

    Mook is playing at tribal politics himself here – what evidence does he offer that the Irish language would cost a ‘fortune better spent elsewhere’.

    What fortune? And how could it be better spent than taking resolute action to promote the Irish langauge in public life – as per the GFA – and thus recognising the legitimate aspirations of a significant portion of the population, perfectly peaceable aspirations and ‘a small price to pay’ as Noel Thompson rightly pointed out?

  • páid

    Yeah, last night, how depressing. McFarland (Gaelic name) and Campbell (Gaelic name) opposing the Gaelic language and how it was irrelevant in east Belfast (Gaelic name), Rathcoole (Gaelic name) and Ards (Gaelic name).

    For them to deny and belittle their own heritage is sad, most of all for them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The StAA is not, and I don’t think it claims to be, a solution to all our problems. No such document could exist.

    So why are you asking for such solutions from Alliance then ?

    What lovely sentiments unfortunately they are meaningless gibberish. The first step to creating change is accepting the current reality. If you don’t do that and just wish hard that people could just come together,

    Who said anything about wishing hard ? Not that it isn’t fashionable in NI. Republicans wished hard for a long time that unionism would simply go away, or unionists would simply be persuaded to stop being unionists. Unionism wished nationalism would go away, and tried to make that happen by classifying our problems as a security solution. Is this what “accepting the current reality” leads to ? Looks a hell of a lot that way.

    you’ll get nothing done. A lot like the Alliance Party.

    Tell me the great achievements of our local parties in NI. All I can see over the past thirty years is violence, death, sectarianism and tribalism, and a society getting more sectarian and more polarized as time goes on.

    You’re still judging Alliance by standards that you are not judging the other parties on.

    There is no way any sane Republican could support this.

    You’re criticizing republicans for refusing to accept reality on the ground, and here you are refusing to do just that yourself.

    Nevin :

    CS, I think it’s more likely that the governments will ‘legitimize’ the control that the paramilitary godfathers exert in their fiefdoms.

    None of the main parties support that idea at the moment, not even (on the face of it) SF.

  • kensei

    “So why are you asking for such solutions from Alliance then ?”

    They said things are missing in the Agreement. I’m asking what they were. And I want their solutions so I can judge if they are as liberal as they think they are, or secret paternalists. k?

    “Is this what “accepting the current reality” leads to ? Looks a hell of a lot that way.”

    Accepting the current reality is that people are divided. Not in just a mental sense, but an actual literal physical sense. And all honesty, probably don’t want to engage others if it causes them hassle.

    Start from their, and work out your answers. Anything else is bollocks.

  • Ziznivy

    Mook and OC.

    Unionists certainly do not have a problem with the Irish Language. The right to speak Irish, teaching Irish in schools, funding Irish through the Assembly when it’s up and running – all these elements are accepted by unionists and supported by the UUP. Accepting a type Irishness or indeed Britishness which includes the Irish language is not an issue for most unionists.

    Where there is a problem is institutionalising the language in a society where it is a minority pursuit and where the vast ,vast majority speak English as their first language. That is where money is wasted, where people are alienated by it and where spectre of the language’s political past arises.

  • Nevin

    CS, SF is the political wing of one of the paramilitary organisations. I’d expect the SF parapoliticians and their opposite numbers ‘on the other side’ to lobby the governments for the ‘legitimization’ of ‘civic policing’ and ‘civic justice’.

  • Hrvatska

    “Interesting to see that Alan McFarland, lacking any serious comments to make, was reduced to taunting the DUP about the Irish language section of the Agreement. This follows on from comments in a simliar vein by Michael McGimpsey. It was ham-fisted and ineffective as Campbell was able to dismiss it out of hand. What in the name of God are we paying these idiots for?”

    And why not? It has been sneeked in under the noses of the DUP and is essential to the way life will be lived in this part of the country. Not only will the Irish Language be a huge waste of money, it is an attempt to alienate unionist people from the mainstream of civic society here.

    Wrong on a few points here my friend. The Irish Language is a net contributor to the overall economy in terms of linguisic and cultural tourism and many other areas of society. It is a language that is open to all and in fact the revival of Irish in Ulster was funded and supported to a high degree by Protestants. Far from alienating anyone, the Irish language seeks to widen the appeal to all and sundry. The idea is not to replace English but offer an alternative to those who wish to live their their lives in an enriching and positive way. Failte!

  • Ziznivy

    Really? I seem to have missed the bus tours of folk arriving in Northern Ireland to hear the locals parleying in fluent Irish.

  • páid

    So is your position Ziz….

    a)Irish is small and marginal so it’s not worth supporting

    or

    b)Irish shouldn’t be supported because it’s small and marginal

    or

    c) a+b?

  • Ziznivy

    “It is a language that is open to all”
    So are Polish and Russian. They would also be substantially more helpful in communicating with other residents of this country who couldn’t otherwise understand you.

    “and in fact the revival of Irish in Ulster was funded and supported to a high degree by Protestants.”

    How many Protestants keep it up? Gusty Spence not withstanding.

    “Far from alienating anyone, the Irish language seeks to widen the appeal to all and sundry.”

    It’s a language. I doubt it does much active appealing. If you mean the Irish language lobby, I’ve never seen them in the Fairhill Centre of a Saturday morning outreaching to my community. I’ve also heard them do very little to distance themselves from the republican movement.

    “The idea is not to replace English but offer an alternative to those who wish to live their their lives in an enriching and positive way. Failte!”

    We don’t need an alternative to English where 100% of those born and brought up here speak it. Quotidian tasks like feeling in a form, going to a hospital or reading a road-sign shouldn’t be vehicles for cultural expression. They should be performed in the most efficient, economical way possible.

  • Ziznivy

    “So is your position Ziz….

    a)Irish is small and marginal so it’s not worth supporting

    or

    b)Irish shouldn’t be supported because it’s small and marginal

    or

    c) a+b? ”

    My position is that Irish should be supported as a cultural / arts pursuit, but not brought unecessarily in the public sphere of every day life. I thought that was fairly clear.

    I support giving Irish Language groups funding. I support it being taught as a subject in schools.

  • páid

    Fair enough Ziz.

    But Irish language enthusiasts usually want more. We want Irish to be a living, community language.

    We feel that it was marginalised and ruthlessly suppressed as a community language in Ireland and we don’t accept that as endgame. To do so would be to say – OK England you won, we are forever tied to your language, and as a consequence of that, your cultural leadership.

    We don’t, and we won’t.

    Neither will Welsh and Scottish language supporters.

    And our struggle, essentially one of our identity, has lasted for generations and will last as long as it takes.

    This does not mean that English speakers should ever be marginalised.

  • Crataegus

    Oilibhear Chromaill

    Don’t they think that a British culture which accommodates Bangladeshi, Indian, West Indian etc influences, can accommodate the Irish language?

    Perhaps they simply see it as a complete waste of time, something irrelevant to them and the more others promote it and try to force it on them the more they resent it? Bit like going out for a meal and someone insisting you should have a dessert no matter how many times you say not for me. But its worse than that it is more equivalent to being force feed; for it will do you good! I’m no Unionist but I can tell you that I would have deeply resented time spent on a language which few speak. Never in my life have I had need of the language and that is not something I could say about many other languages. If you want to learn it fine and as an optional subject at school fine but if you don’t have interest you really shouldn’t have to. Foie Gras anyone?

    The truth is Irish has become part of an exclusive and preconceived notion of what being Irish actually is. It has become associated with a philosophy, born from deep insecurity where diversity is not tolerated. Perhaps the motivation behind insisting that all must learn it is the problem, and not people’s reluctance to do so.

  • Ziznivy

    “We feel that it was marginalised and ruthlessly suppressed as a community language in Ireland and we don’t accept that as endgame. To do so would be to say – OK England you won, we are forever tied to your language, and as a consequence of that, your cultural leadership.”

    I fully accept you point Páid but you must admit, that is a statement that sounds fairly political. It sets the Irish Language in direct opposition to England and presumably the British Parliament. I actually accept that as a more honest appraisal.

  • Greenflag

    McFarland in Irish or Scots Gaelic is Mac Pharlan (Son of Partholon)/Parthalonians , the presumed earliest inhabitants of Ireland according to the Annals . The Annals say the Parthalonians were wiped out by too much partying (sorry ) by a plague on the plain of Teamhlach (modern Tallaght near Dublin) .Obviously a few have survived 🙂

    The McFarlanes like the McGregors were one of those clans who lost out in the Highland clearances and who were scattered to Canada and places colonial leaving just a few in Scotland . The McFarlanes were more fortunate than the McGregors who were proscribed from using their name under pain of death during the Hanoverian reign .

    Campbell is an anglicisation of Caim Beal (wry/twisted /misshapen mouth . Caim Shroin (Cameron ) applies the same defects to the nose 🙂

    I don’t know how many languages there are now in the EU but I read recently that the number of ‘translations’ required is greater now than ever and that at 12 euro a word the whole business is a Babelian abyss.

    German is spoken as a first language by the greatest number of people in the EU some 100 million in several countries and also widely in eastern europe . English is already a ‘world language ‘ and so too is Spanish . Between those 3 and French you can probably converse with half the worlds population . Add in Chinese and Hindu and you more or less cover the entire world .

    In the meantime I’m still trying to learn Polish and Chinese so I can converse all the better with my fellow Dubliners 🙂

  • Did anyone else spot Alastair McDonnell’s striking resemblance to Australian cultural attache Sir Les Patterson? Are they by chance related?

  • Crataegus

    When will the penny drop that side deals and duplicity in the long run destabilise and are counterproductive. They undermine confidence and credibility. There seems to be a belief that any deal should be treated as something of no permanence and work in progress. This is a poor reflection of the character of those involved.

    I believe that the British governments (this and previous) handling of affairs has generally been inept. They have viewed the place in a patronising fashion, ‘the revolting locals are hopelessly divided’ and proceeded accordingly. They have institutionalised sectarianism, are up to their necks in gerrymandering and are doing everything possible to maintain division. They continually convey the message that only the main players matter and have tried to placate the extremes with whatever nonsense and side deals they require. They have bought off thugs and ignored victims. To me this just isn’t the way to do business, any wonder we are having problems?

  • Comrade Stalin

    kensei:

    They said things are missing in the Agreement. I’m asking what they were. And I want their solutions so I can judge if they are as liberal as they think they are, or secret paternalists. k?

    We’re starting to go around in circles here. Perhaps one of us is being obtuse. Aren’t people entitled to expect solutions from the other political parties ?

    What is missing are proposals that address the divisions in our society. Instead, that document contains sticky tape and glue. Where, for example, are the proposals to improve community relations with a view to getting rid of the peacelines ?

    Note the news this week about a new mixed housing development where new residents are required to sign up to a community understanding. This is the kind of thing any Agreement should be promoting and encouraging. Yet, there’s nary a mention of it. NONE of the major political parties came out to welcome this development.

    It’s obvious why this is. The existing large political parties have no vested interest in getting the peacelines down. They’ve no interest in healing the divisions and getting people to work together. As soon as the divisions heal, their power bases go away. Does that make sense to you ?

    Accepting the current reality is that people are divided.

    Here is what I said in an earlier contribution :

    “The reality on the ground is a divided people, led astray by tribalist politicians who have no vested interest in seeing the community united”

    So why are you making accusations about denying reality, when by your own definition I accept it ?

    There’s no point in me explaining where I stand if you choose to ignore bits of what I’m writing.

    Not in just a mental sense, but an actual literal physical sense. And all honesty, probably don’t want to engage others if it causes them hassle.

    Start from their, and work out your answers. Anything else is bollocks.

    Reasonable enough. The StAA doesn’t contain any answers. Therefore it is bollocks.

  • Greenflag

    Crataegus,

    ‘When will the penny drop ‘

    When the square becomes a circle.

    ‘ There seems to be a belief that any deal should be treated as something of no permanence and work in progress. This is a poor reflection of the character of those involved. ‘

    This is just a reflection of the ‘temporary’ status accorded to NI in 1920 and it’s many subsequent failed attempts at political rehabilitation since 1972 . Not a poor reflection -just a truthful one.

    ‘I believe that the British governments (this and previous) handling of affairs has generally been inept. ‘

    Well nothing new here . Your view here is /was shared by generations of Irish nationalists and republicans since the late 18th century. Apart from a a few brief periods when one British PM or another took a few moments out of a very busy and world wide interest Empire to actually ‘pay ‘attention to matters Irish . Other than Gladstone and Blair the record is generally one of disinterest and most others have taken any real action only when they had little choice e.g Lloyd George in 1920, James Callaghan in 1969, and Ted Heath in 1972. Ireland and especially Northern Ireland is not I’m afraid the centre of the British cosmos or indeed any cosmos .

    ‘They have viewed the place in a patronising fashion,’

    He who pays the piper etc etc . Yes this used to get up the nose of the Irish in pre Free State days . We got over it . It took independence and self-government though . Real self government however, not the bag of convolutions that constitute the proposed devolved Assembly .

    ‘ ‘the revolting locals are hopelessly divided’ and proceeded accordingly.’

    Dealing with the political reality as it is I’d have thought . You can’t unite people who for whatever reason feel divided .

    ‘They have institutionalised sectarianism, are up to their necks in gerrymandering and are doing everything possible to maintain division. ‘

    They are only following in the wake of the UUP 1920 to 1972 and the DUP /SF stand off since 1981 . It doesn’t matter when ‘sectariansim ‘ started i.e after 1690 or 1790 or 1820 all that matters is that ‘sectarianism’ is the rock on which Northern Ireland was built .

    ‘They continually convey the message that only the main players matter and have tried to placate the extremes with whatever nonsense and side deals they require. They have bought off thugs and ignored victims. To me this just isn’t the way to do business, any wonder we are having problems? ‘

    Welcome to the real world of ‘dirty ‘ politics . What else would you suggest they do ?

    The fact is that no matter who rules the 6 county NI State as it’s presently constituted will have the same problems .

    All the SAA tries to do is to shelve the major issue of the States present format and existence in the hope that if both antagonistic main players work together long enough, NI might be made to work as a devolved political entity even if it continues to maintain an almost totally public sector dominated economy.

    Unionism is stuck between no place and no place and Republicanism in Northern Ireland is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  • inuit_goddess

    Oilibhear,

    It’s not that unionists go green at “anything to do with the Irish language” – but there is a lot of genuine concern on the part of moderate well-meaning people, at some of the implications of the Irish Language Act.

    We haven’t yet seen the detail of what this involves. If it’s about ensuring the right of every citizen to communicate with public bodies through Irish, that’s fair enough.

    But proposals such as bilingual road signs, or making Irish a core curriculum subject for unionist schoolchildren – these would very much alienate many unionists and create a strong “cold house” effect.

    Bilingual Road signs were dealt with in 1998 – they are welcome in areas where they are welcome and not in areas where they are not. That’s seem fair to me.

    As for Irish as a core curriculum subject – well this is even being challenged in the south now, where compulsory Irish has, for decades, been an expensive and failing policy. It sure ain’t going to work here.

    Unionists should be sensible about the Irish language, and be clear about what aspects of any proposed legislation are the most important to get stopped. It’s counterproductive to just sit there and oppose everything on instinct alone.

    We must bear in mind the cultural importance of Irish to the minority community here – for instance, you can take a bus ride down the Falls and see Irish signs on wee shops that mean things like “tobacconist” – signs that have long died out across much of the south.

    But just as gaelgoirs here should have the right to engage with the public sector through Irish, so too unionists and non-Irish speakers should not have the language shoved down their throat – which is what bilingual road signs and compulsory Irish education would amount to.

  • Reader

    paid: For them to deny and belittle their own heritage is sad, most of all for them.
    But there isn’t the continuity through the generations for it to be a ‘heritage’. It’s a ‘history’ at most. And you can’t wind back the clock. Or at least, you can leave my clock alone, anyway.

  • Greenflag

    ‘they are welcome in areas where they are welcome and not in areas where they are not. ‘

    Same as the Orange Order – then ?

    ‘ Unionists should be sensible about the Irish language, and be clear about what aspects of any proposed legislation are the most important to get stopped. ‘

    Probably the best course for Unionists is to say nothing – other than ensuring that any lack of Irish language skills does not debar anyone from employment in either the public or private sectors apart from those comparatively few places in Gaeltacht areas where no knowledge of the language would prevent someone being effective in a job etc.

    Unionists other than the academically or linguistically interested should allow irish language issues to be argued among those Nationalists and Republicans who choose to argue . Sadly most of that argument will be conducted in ‘English’ so that the people can understand what’s going on !

  • Crataegus

    Greenflag

    Welcome to the real world of ‘dirty ‘ politics.

    I know, but the sad question is, does it really have to be like this? I am one of those strange people who prefer to be told the truth. Spin, half truths, sycophants and lies really don’t impress me, and in my opinion are often counter productive and ultimately discredit. In business you can’t build on a pack of lies and avoidance (unless you are deliberately trying to defraud) and I have a feeling that ultimately the same applies to politics. You make a deal you stick to it and eventually people respect you, wriggle and twist and eventually no one will trust a word you say.

  • willowfield

    OLOIBHER CHROMWAILL

    What Alan McFarland’s comments regarding the Irish Language Act display is the core contradiction within unionism. Mainland, I use the term advisedly, regard all Northern Irish as Irish. Depends on whom you speak with but most unionists would regard themselves as Irish without compromising their Britishness. As far as I can tell they regard Irishness as part of the British mix. Yet, when it comes to the issue of the Irish language, Alan McFarland sees no space for that in the British identity – the ‘Simply British’ tag they applied to themselves at the last election – Why not? No doubt he supports the Irish rugby team, even against England, or the Northern Irish soccer team? Yet he – and his fellow unionists turn green when they have to engage with the Irish language. Don’t they think that a British culture which accomodates Bangladeshi, Indian, West Indian etc influences, can accomodate the Irish language? Or is this a ‘simply British’ blind spot?

    On the face of it, that is reasonable comment. Unfortunately, though, the Gaelic language is used by Irish nationalists as a marker to try and make themselves culturally distinct from the British (in the loosest, most apolitical sense) mainstream. It is used as a badge of ethnic and political identity. That is why unionists are so wary of it.

  • kensei

    “Instead, that document contains sticky tape and glue. Where, for example, are the proposals to improve community relations with a view to getting rid of the peacelines ?”

    Why should it be there? It isn’t the job of the StAA. It’s job is to get local government working, and it’s local government’s job to tackle those problems.

    “Note the news this week about a new mixed housing development where new residents are required to sign up to a community understanding. This is the kind of thing any Agreement should be promoting and encouraging. Yet, there’s nary a mention of it. NONE of the major political parties came out to welcome this development. ”

    You see, I find that nonsense appalling. The correct is answer is not to ban all flags, all symbols and pretend we are all the same. We haven’t won when no one dares to stick their flag up anywhere, we’ve won when people can display whatever symbols (within reason) they like and no one gets offended.

    Obviously, there are some caveats; I’m against sticking things on public property and marking territory. But if some wants a flag or such in their garden, that should absolutely be their right.

  • Greenflag

    Crataegus,

    ‘I know, but the sad question is, does it really have to be like this?’

    Look around the world at political behaviour in countries which don’t have a constitutionnally divided population as in Northern Ireland . Look for the incorruptible republic or constitutional moarchy without it’s ‘dirt’ ? Not a one. Admittedly some are worse than others .

    ‘I am one of those strange people who prefer to be told the truth.’

    In theory and in practice so do I . I accept however that in divided societies of the type that NI is , there is no ‘truth’. One man’s truth is often another man’s lie particularly in the political world. The Orangeman beating his drum as a symbol of his adherence to democracy , civil and religious liberty for all etc is seen as an unreconstructed hypocrite by Republicans . Likewise the Republican freedom fighter is seen as a militant terrorist by Orangemen . Is the truth both or neither ? Is the truth orange or green or grey ?

    ‘In business you can’t build on a pack of lies and avoidance (unless you are deliberately trying to defraud) and I have a feeling that ultimately the same applies to politics. ‘

    Ultimately -certainly . Ultimately in the world of politics can mean anything from a few weeks to decades . We have seen in the modern world for instance the example of Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Kim Il Sung in North Korea? During this ‘ultimate ‘period -wars are fought -genocides committed -countries partitioned -new countries formed etc etc etc .

    ‘You make a deal you stick to it and eventually people respect you, wriggle and twist and eventually no one will trust a word you say.’

    While I agree with this comment I’m also aware that in a divided society like NI there has to be ‘wriggle’ room within which political leaders can find the space to make a compromise with the other side .

    Without that ‘room’ you might as well condemn such a society to a permanent state of warfare between it ‘s divided groups . The ‘failed ‘ state syndrome .

    Politics in ‘normal’ successful democracies always leaves enough ‘wriggle’ room for political opposites to form voluntary coalitions or have a changeover of political power without the disintegration of the State .

    Northern Ireland is not there yet . The fact that if it ever gets a devolved ‘government ‘ it will be between parties SF/DUP) who are being ‘forced’ into a coalition of the unwilling .

    Not a recipe for longer term stability IMO.