“The truth of the matter is that the truth does not matter..”

In the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Peter Shirlow expands on his comment, reported by Henry McDonald on Sunday, about “the emergence of two political movements rather than parties” and paints a less than rosy picture of the political landscape the Process™ has presented us with.From the Belfast Telegraph

Firstly a clarification of the political movements

Sinn Fein and the DUP are not political parties, but political movements that seek to develop broad electorates around popular and uncomplicated ideas.

The SDLP’s flirtation with post-nationalism and the Ulster Unionists’ promotion of multi-ethnic Britishness was admirable, but too complicated, in a society emerging from conflict. Ditching more vociferous notions of identity politics meant that they undoubtedly did the lifting work needed to get us to the political place that we are now in.

But taking political risks early was not appreciated by the electorate, or more accurately, those who vote. Both should now reject ministerial posts and stand in opposition. This will provide a more normal government and possibly ensure that somewhere down the line we will have politics that is about governance, as opposed to the sterility of electoral tribalism.

Neither can we, as most commentators do, explain the rise of Sinn Fein and the DUP by simply studying their effective vote management, as it obviously helps if you have a vote to manage in the first place.

More important is the reality that the Big Two have shown that there is no effective opposition to them from those trapped in less fashionable ideas of democratic unionism or Irish patriotism.

Independent republicans, UK Unionists, and other angry former friends who stood against them, came nowhere close to denting their combined electoral good fortune.

And the political landscape ahead

In trying to ‘control’ Sinn Fein the unionist electorate has put Sinn Fein in a premier position concerning Unionist support for devolution. If Sinn Fein does not whistle to the DUP’s required tune, and devolution is not restored, then we are in a position in which Sinn Fein can simply state that unionists do not wish to share power.

The DUP, on the other hand, will state that Sinn Fein is not a true democratic party, and its electorate will be happy enough with that. If, on the other hand, it enters power with Sinn Fein, it will present itself as having put manners on Sinn Fein and its electorate will be happy enough with that.

The truth of the matter is that the truth does not matter, and that suspicion and mistrust remain as politics in Northern Ireland.

Can such politics ever be more important than better social services, not paying for our water twice, challenging the growth in drug use, challenging failing schools, working against social exclusion, stopping a private housing market that is stretching beyond first time buyers, helping the elderly who have to sell their homes to pay for care and repairing a society dislocated by a violent past?

We know that the British state is unlikely to enforce deadlines as it seeks a local solution to what it sees as a parochial problem. An Assembly dominated by Sinn Fein and the DUP is the only way that devolution can be restored.

Ultimately, they are intertwined until the end, whatever that end may be.

, ,

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    The SDLP’s flirtation with post-nationalism and the Ulster Unionists’ promotion of multi-ethnic Britishness was admirable

    It’s laughable to see the UU’s ‘Simply Not Irish’ policy described as ‘multi ethnic Britishness’. They had their manifesto in Polish, Arabic, Chinese and Portugese on their website – but not in Irish. Because they want to celebrate diversity? NO! Because they want to make a puerile point that their ‘for all of us’ slogan does not include the Irish.

    As for the SDLP’s ‘post nationalist’ flirtation, that would be credible if it meant that they were turning their backs on the most backward elements of nationalism, this slavish adherence to “Faith and Fatherland” almost akin to Gerry McGeough. Both the UUP and the SDLP are stuck in the past and that is the reason they’ve lost control and are spiralling out of existence. It’s nothing to do with this “Centre’ does not hold – the centre is now where SF and the DUP are at. They’re the parties of the centre because that’s where the power resides, the power vested in them in the people and its no use for so-called liberals and centrists and ivory tower academics to bemoan the decline of two middle of the road and less than modern parties and blame the people a la Brecht and his observations about the people having lost the confidence of the Government thus prompting a vote by the Government to abolish the people!

    I can’t say I don’t take pleasure in their passing….

  • DK

    Yes they are doing well and it is no surprise as both the DUP have moderated (“We say Never to Sinn Fein/IRA” to “we will share power with Sinn Fein if they…”) and so have Sinn Fein.

    Meanwhile, as the centre ground is squeezed, there is nothing at the extremes to emerge to take votes from the DUP and Sinn Fein, as the failure of the dissidents has shown.

    The UUP and the SDLP have had an easy ride from a DUP saddled with a negative attitude and a Sinn Fein encumbered with the IRA. Now they find themselves with weak structures and an inability to react. Their only hope is that their opponents do something to push themselves out of the centre ground, such as a return to war by the IRA. Failing that, they could try and take the extremes themselves, but their attempts at that have been laughable and have only served to alienate their own middle ground – to the delight of Alliance.

    I can only see years of wilderness, like the tory party is just emerging from when New Labour stole the centre ground.

    But neither Sinn Fein nor DUP can afford to be complacent. Demographics show that the fastest growing groups are those least interested in the constitutional squabble: immigrants and secular. These are Alliance’s natural voters – maybe Alliance will rise over time to eclipse both Sinn Fein and DUP.

  • páid

    Very much doubt it, dk.

    The thing about immigrants is that they are minorities that quickly lose their separate identities. (And call me a racist if you want, but my experience of life tells me this happens all the faster when the immigrants are the same colour as the host society).

    The Ulster plantation is an example of what happens when an overwhelming number of immigrants take over a patch of ground, but merging is happening here also. It just takes longer.

    There is Polish spoken on the streets of Belfast, Galway and Cardiff today, just as it was spoken in Baltimore and Chicago 50 years ago.

    But assimilation will happen, and young Artur and Magda will soon attach themselves to one of the dreary steeples.

  • DK

    “But assimilation will happen, and young Artur and Magda will soon attach themselves to one of the dreary steeples.”

    But which dreary steeple? 3 Factors I can see are:

    Chose to live in Northern Ireland = Unionist
    Mostly Catholic by religion = Nationalist
    Tend to live in unionist areas = Unionist

    But I can’t see any of these factors appealing much to an immigrant, or even their children. During the election only the Alliance and Greens had ethnic minorities as candidates and of all the election material that was shoved through my door, only Alliance had bits in immigrant languages (polish and chinese).

    Northern Ireland doens’t have much eperience of immigrants to see whether they would be nationalist or unionist so its all entirely conjecture. One thing about those poles in Chicago and Baltimore though is that their descendents are fiercely pro-American now – maybe the immigrants will drive a third way, an independent Northern Ireland?????

  • Paul

    Yeah if you are British you are hard;y going to bring stuff out in Irish. I don’t think Shirlow was making that point, but was talking about the dabbling in alternative ideas/politics and teh promotion of less than simple ideas for our beloved voters.

    Shirlow is always close to the truth but not in an arrogant or pointed way. he says it the way he sees it but without judgment or polemic.

    I think the way he illustrated the intertwined nature of the BIG Two is important. he is the only one who had the b**ls to point out that 80% of the electorate didn’t vote for the BIG TWO. He is also saying why it happened the way it did whilst others are going on about what happened. We know what heppened d’oh.

    Maybe we should all read this again and think about the implications of waht he said……

    Let’s all emigrate

  • páid

    Well, dk,

    indeed the poles are as american as anyone.

    In this, they followed the locals. I can think of no smallscale immigration to any country in modern times which led to a political shift in the old order.

    So the immigrants will not, methinks, lead a third way for NI.

  • homer

    Sorry to cut in on the history lessons about the stone age. It’s the 21st century, and everything has changed in many and various ways, but one thing will always remain unchanged. The nature of man and above all his mind.

    Bigotry is still lodged in the hard wired section of the Ulster mind. Not every Ulster mind, by any means, but enough to have sustained Paisley long enough to see him rise to power at last.

    There are undertones of Hitler about Mr Paisleys rise to power. That is his irrational obsession with Catholiscism, his need to remove all who stood in his path, etc etc. This one man who probably did more to stoke the fires of intolerance than any other in the last fifty years.

    He did not invent bigotry, it was already there on very fertile ground so he just put the spade in and started digging. He is still at it and for him to agree to bring the IRA in to run the place is just simply another example of his irrational mind.

    Paisley knows far better than any of you out there, in this intellectual wasteland, that he is not bringing Sinn Fein in from the cold but offering places at the cabinet table to the IRA Army Council.

    So the IRA will have him by the throat and can strangle him. If you doubt this last bit then you can reflect on what happened over a certain MI5 agent who was outed so the last unstable Stormont can of worms would spill it’s filth all over the place.

    Bear this in mind in view of what Paisley said yesterday about Sinn Fein having a go at the fuzz for arresting an IRA suspect at an election count. He said if he was in his new Government position he would have had to pull out of office.

    Shades of the last unstable Stormont set up. The new Stormont regime to be will be so unstable it could collapse in a few weeks. Probably sooner rather than later, So then it will be good bye to Stormont hello to that sexy young tiger doll Eireann.. Let the good times roll then, the sooner the better. She is so rich that this St Paddys week Tesco can hand out booze at half price by the lorry load.

    I digress, back to the fuss about the arrest of the IRA suspect at the election count.

    The Shinners were only complaining about a bit of the old rough and tumble political policing. As the man himself was no longer one of theirs, it was no odds to them. They still thought they had to make a point as they always have to do.

    Paisleys threat to pull out of government over such a minor matter is yet another example of his irrational mind .So don’t look too far into the rosy future Paisley has in mind for you.

    Keep all of this in mind if you care to cast your mind back to the last failed Assembly. For example, take the drama which toppled that Assembly .It was not Sinn Fein nor the IRA who betrayed the MI5 agent Dennis Donaldson, nor was it Paisley or Trimble. It was Donaldsons masters in London. Sinn Fein, on the day Stormont was raided, said it was a set up. They were spot on but they were not to know that day that Donaldson would be the one who would cost them all their places. The raid by the police was just the smoke screen which would allow the Brits to out the MI5 agent a few days later. Why you might ask? It’s simple enough. They wanted to shut up shop at Stormont. Why would the Brits do this? Think about it.

    I hope I have given you enough to chew on for now. Mind you this is all just the tip of the iceberg which is headed Paisleys way right now. Same as the fabulous liner built in the old Satanic quarter which met a grim fate in 1912. The very same year the guns were landed at Larne thereby setting our dear old tub Ulster on the collision course it now finds itself set on with another unstoppable force the IRA. Is that enough history for you, my dear reader?

    Ask yourself a few logical questions about all the drama at Stormont last time and then you might just get to grips with what the future might look like in a year or two. Not too rosy that’s for sure.

    All of you people out there trying to make sense of the irrational mind of Paisley up against the cunning of perfidious Albion need only expect one winner and it won’t be Poor old Papa Doc Paisley. He has used his old weapon, fear, one time too many. Fear will not serve him well in this battle with superior forces .He is away out on the limb now ready for the noose which the Brits and IRA will use to string him up.

  • Spinster

    “If Sinn Fein does not whistle to the DUP’s required tune, and devolution is not restored, then we are in a position in which Sinn Fein can simply state that unionists do not wish to share power.”

    Well spotted Peter. Unionists performing to stereotype will be deadly to their cause.

    Which Wizard of Oz character used to say:

    “If I only had a brain”?

  • couple

    If only more of us had brains. We read the Shirlow article which was good. Shirlow plugs away at challenging sectarianism and unlike most commentators doesn’t simply pretend its all about politics.

    If only more people like Shirlow would take a public stand against sectarianism then we might form a shared ground. A radical shared ground. Not a nonesense like a middle ground. We need a radical alternative that accepts the principle of consent but which is anti-sectraian and strong on being anti-racist, pro-rights. Maybe Shirlow should lead it.

    The only socialist in the Assembly is Dawn Purvis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Doesn’t that say something!!!!!!!!!!!!!!