Lessons in wooing and horse-trading

If Brown is trying to woo DUP votes on 42 days detention, the seduction does not seem to have been going too well. Mark Devenport notes that the in-out approach to Northern Ireland of Brown’s constitutional programme has not pleased. With Robinson attacking Straw’s exclusion of NI from the proposed flag regulations (An exclusion based on “best advice” (from who?) even though it has a limited impact in any of the devolved regions) and both Dodds and Campbell asking questions about the Telegraph article (Note the edited/print version had no reference to Northern Ireland but the full internet version does. it is unclear who did the editing). The second reading of the Counter-terrorism bill is scheduled for April Fools Day (Who’s idea was that?). The triple lock on policing and justice makes it look a foolish basis for a deal. However, would it be foolish for the DUP to trade votes on 42 days for NI’s full inclusion in Brown’s Britishness programme?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    FD

    Where in the Telegraph’s internet version of Brown’s article does NI get a mention?

    I saw the News Letter online this morning and they said the same thing, but having re-checked there, I didn’t see the reference. Did the paper version, which I didn’t see, contain any NI reference?

    Tell me I’m not going blind, especially after yesterday’s blog on the same subject. (I note that the News Letter article used the number of references to the other parts of the UK I quoted, so if they’re going to use my blogs as the basis of article, I’d like to know at least one of us was getting things right!)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Oh bugger, there was a second page of Brown’s article!

    *hangs head in shame*

  • CS Parnell

    Do you really think it would be sensible to fly Union Jacks from all public buildings in the North?

    Robinson’s remarks are childish in the extreme. There are actually sensible and reasonable questions unionists could ask on this matter, but heigh, ho, why bother when you can make much more noise by banging on a big orange drum?

  • fair_deal

    CS Parnell

    “Do you really think it would be sensible to fly Union Jacks from all public buildings in the North?”

    I just knew the mention of flags would lead us into a cu-de-sac and not the main question.

    The proposed regulations only apply to UK government facilities not to those under the control of devolved bodies so it would not be all public buildings. Hence my statement of “even though it has a limited impact in any of the devolved regions”.

    On the general issue, NI being part of the UK has everyday consequences that includes symbolry so I have no problem with it so no I have no problem with the suggestion.

    There are nationalist minorities in NI, Scotland and Wales and all of participating in the various governments so .

    Also part of the agenda is about integration of minority ethnic communities, this issue applies as much in NI especially with the rapid expansion in those communities.

    Also Unionism can hardly be expected to stand idly by while nationalism (and its pal Bob Collins) tries to strip the place.

  • CS Parnell

    Yes, you knew it would lead to a cul-de-sac. But like Robinson you couldn’t help yourself.

    That’s the tragedy of unionism. It never knows when to stop. So even attempts to make the place a bit more hospitable to 45%+ of the population are described as trying “to strip the place”.

  • fair_deal

    The existence of the state and the expression of this, is not inhospitablity.

    NI’s past is a warning of unfettered majoritarianism, it need provide the warning for unfettered minoritarianism.

  • fair_deal

    Correction
    “it need not”

  • George

    Do the DUP seriously think being included in the debate on Britishness is a good trade-off for voting in favour of something as contentious as 42 days’ detention.

    It could be 142 days but that seems to be irrelevant.

    Why don’t they demand something useful like more tax-raising powers, cash for infrastructure investment or the promise of a review of the corporate tax arrangements for NI.

    The DUP were screaming about how they needed more cash from Brown before moving not so long ago and now the first time they might have a bit of leverage since then it’s flags and debates about Britishness that take priority.

  • fair_deal

    George

    On the finances issues the reform programme is going to have to get to the issue of funding.(thread on the way about that) The UK exchequer cupboard is bare so it isn’t a realistic demand.

  • Bigger Picture

    “why bother when you can make much more noise by banging on a big orange drum?”

    The question for the DUP should be why NOT bang the big 0range drum it has got them to where they are and since Paisley is now on the way out, bang on I say!!

  • Dec

    Also Unionism can hardly be expected to stand idly by while nationalism (and its pal Bob Collins) tries to strip the place.

    “We’re only asking for some of our trinkets to be on display as well, Sor” tugs forelock

    But seriously, more flags is just what this place needs.

  • RepublicanStones

    they are ‘British’……just not as they ‘know’ it.

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    ““We’re only asking for some of our trinkets to be on display as well, Sor” tugs forelock ”

    That is not what was proposed in Limavady, it was removal.

  • Chris Donnelly

    That is not what was proposed in Limavady, it was removal.

    FD
    So would unionists accept an equalising of ‘trinkets’ as well as flags in Limavady and elsewhere?

    I can’t see Brown being foolish enough to do an about-face on the ‘Britishness’ nonsense here, given the inevitable reaction it would provoke.

    Oh, and I have to say the fear of ‘unfettered minoritarianism’ has me in stitches!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    George

    “Why don’t they demand something useful like more tax-raising powers, cash for infrastructure investment or the promise of a review of the corporate tax arrangements for NI. ”

    If constitutionally Non Iron has the right to opt out of the UK – then it is reasonable for them to move further along that route than at present and request ( and be granted) the right to tax raising powers.

    I cant believe that if the Irish government and all non iron parties had pushed for this as a condition to the STA deal the British government would not have granted it – even if it required legal amendment in the UK and Brussels. Surely they missed a trick there? Otherwise the UK government and more particulalry Blair would have been seen as preventing a deal.

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “So would unionists accept an equalising of ‘trinkets’ as well as flags in Limavady and elsewhere?”

    On flags no, accepting the principle of consent has consequences even ones you may not like. The Irish flag gets hoisted if you suceed in achieving a united ireland, consider it an incentive.

    As for other symbolry etc in civic buildings I have said before on the issue of councils the Belfast City Council approach seems a sensible one to me.

    “I can’t see Brown being foolish enough”

    Its probably highly likely that there is no deal on Monday. It remains speculation that either Labour or the DUP have any interest in a deal on 42 days or that the DUP has any interest in a deal on the terms I have outlined (they may very well prefer george’s suggestion).

    However, suppose for a moment all this speculation etc is true. Brown after a dodgy start has managed to get on an even keel post-Xmas but the budget has fallen flat, stumbled over the embrology bill and now he faces losing an important vote on April Fools day on a key measure of his counter-terrorism strategy – imagine the fun that could be had with that. To avoid it he has to make a deal with the DUP on symbolic and some practical matters doesn;t look so foolish.

    “the ‘Britishness’ nonsense here”

    Some of us chose not to dismiss someone else’s identity as “nonsense”. I see the Unionist outreach has really aided sensitivity.

    Leaving aside whether or not it is possible within the practices and norms of the British constituion, I would also remind you that SF wants the ILA to be pushed through Westminster. So how exactly is it A-OK for SF’s to try and get what it wants through westminster but those nasty Unionists are not allowed to try the same?

    “given the inevitable reaction it would provoke.”

    What reaction exactly?

    Also if as nationalists are keen to crow if Brown doesn’t care for NI is that not a double edged sword? If he doesn’t give a toss for Unionist opinion here why would he give a toss for Nationalist opinion here?

  • George

    Fair_deal,
    I suppose I just think there is always more you can negotiate for than being included in a debate or being allowed fly a flag. Even when the cupboard is empty.

    It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it,
    If constitutionally Non Iron has the right to opt out of the UK – then it is reasonable for them to move further along that route than at present and request ( and be granted) the right to tax raising powers.

    Not reasonable to those who don’t want to opt out of the UK under any circumstances and who realise that they will get more from a subvention than they will from controlling their own tax revenues.

    I cant believe that if the Irish government and all non iron parties had pushed for this as a condition to the STA deal the British government would not have granted it – even if it required legal amendment in the UK and Brussels. Surely they missed a trick there? Otherwise the UK government and more particulalry Blair would have been seen as preventing a deal.

    I reckon more would have been possible at the time of the original GFA in 1998 but I think that boat had well and truly sailed by the time of St. Andrews.

    I suppose we also have to remember that the corporate tax rate in the Republic a decade ago was 32% (I think), higher than it is now in the UK so the merits of that particular tax policy of lower corporate tax rates were not so clear to all back then.

  • fair_deal

    George

    “I suppose I just think there is always more you can negotiate for than being included in a debate or being allowed fly a flag. Even when the cupboard is empty.”

    A perfectly reasonable point and it rarely hurts to ask – anything is a boon particularly on infrastructure. Considering PR is Finance minister it would almost certainly be in his mind.

    It should certainly be a feature of any hung parliament considerations.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    George,

    “Not reasonable to those who don’t want to opt out of the UK under any circumstances and who realise that they will get more from a subvention than they will from controlling their own tax revenues. ”

    I meant that if the British govermnment is prepared to concede soverignity then they should be should be able to concede less than that ie fiscal policly.

    re. The boat sailing – They made other legislative changes at that time so no reason not to make more. The point being that it would have been an interesting scenario where the ‘Irish’ people (Unionist and Nationalist) were being denied (fiscal) power which the British wanted to hold on to. I dont think Blair would have liked to have been in that position.

  • CS Parnell

    Saying the principle of consent has consequences you might not like just isn’t good enough.

    It is simply a repeat of “majority rule now”.

    Northern Ireland is part of the UK. All but a minority of headbangers accept that, reluctantly or otherwise.

    Yes, that means the state flag is the UJ (and not the “Ulster banner” – please note this is a flag of nothing except sectarianism).

    So, yes that means when push comes to shove it can and should be flown in that capacity. But as the only flag and all the time? No way.

    For instance, one solution that ought to be tried a bit more is flaying the 27 flags of the EU here and there. After all we are part of that union too, and what’s more we voted to be part of it, north, south, east and west!

    But it also means that the identity of 45% of the population should also be respected and their national flag also flown on occassion and with official support.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Parnell

    “Northern Ireland is part of the UK. ” but not as much a part as Surrey and because the British have conceded that by signing the GFA/STA the extent of Britishness is up for discussion.

  • Chris Donnelly

    FD
    “I see the Unionist outreach has really aided sensitivity.”

    1. As I’ve pointed out on Slugger before, part of the problem with the Outreach initiative was the fact that it would perpetuate the MOPEish tendency within unionism, as evidenced in this quote.

    Brown’s ridiculous ‘Britishness’ campaign was a cheap attempt to gain popular support with a section of the electorate in England Brown feared losing to the Tories. Whatever proposals he decides to run with in Britain will not extend to Ireland, in spite of DUP tantrums at Westminster.

    As others have pointed out, it remains deeply ironic that unionists, who scream so much about wanting their ‘identity’ recognised through the exhibition of flags and symbols, utterly refute to countenance affording the same right in this part of Ireland to nationalists- to the extent that DUPers on North Down council want the term ‘Irish’ dropped from Marks ‘n’ Spencers Cream products!

    2. The Irish Language Act formed a part of the SAA and, therefore, the British government may be obliged to act to implement it in the absence of any moves here under Poots.

    “I have said before on the issue of councils the Belfast City Council approach seems a sensible one to me.”

    3. Now, would that be a reference to the initiative of Alex Maskey when Mayor, who displayed both the Irish Tricolour and Union Flag in his Office? Thought not….

  • George

    It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it,
    I meant that if the British govermnment is prepared to concede soverignity then they should be should be able to concede less than that ie fiscal policly.

    In theory yest but Britain has only agreed the circumstances under which it would concede sovereignty, it has not conceded sovereignty.

    If there was cross-community support for a fiscal policy idea it might be a runner as long as it doesn’t run contrary to Britain’s overall interests. For example, there is no way Westminster will agree to something that would lead to the Scots demanding the same as part of an overall move towards independence.

    Anyway I think the time for fiscal policy demands was 1998 not 2008.

    The point being that it would have been an interesting scenario where the ‘Irish’ people (Unionist and Nationalist) were being denied (fiscal) power which the British wanted to hold on to. I dont think Blair would have liked to have been in that position.

    Paisley and McGuinness both demanded more money and fiscal power from Brown ahead of the restoration of devolution and got nowhere.

    As I said, I think there were a lot more possibilities at the time of the original GFA but SF were more concerned about OTRs and the like and the UUP about cross-border bodies and the like to actually worry about economic issues.

    That boat has now sailed so as we head into a possible global recession, the politicians of Northern Ireland are left with managing a set budget from Westminster while fighting over flags, policing and the Irish language.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    George,

    “it has not conceded sovereignty” – they have altered ( watered down ) the sovereignty of non iron by inlcuding a constitutional link with ROI as non iron ministers are obliged to operate intelocking governement strucures. In practical terms they have also hollowed out the ‘benefits’ of British sovereignity by giving equal status to nationalists Irishness.

    Being British in Non Iron is not like being pregnant where your condition is clearly unambigious – that is beaUty of the GFA/STA.

  • Ian

    “That’s the tragedy of unionism. It never knows when to stop. So even attempts to make the place a bit more hospitable to 45%+ of the population are described as trying “to strip the place”.”

    At least we know what to expect. One doesn’t really have high hopes for Unionist pronouncements on such matters.

    Whereas Kate Hoey, as a Labour MP and former Minister, should know better. But here she is spouting forth on the related matter of whether NI schoolchildren (that’s ALL NI schoolchildren) should be required to swear an oath of allegience to Liz Windsor:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Oath-exclusion-is-39illadvised39.3867299.jp

    “the likely exclusion of the Province from the proposals was slammed by Ulster-born Labour MP Kate Hoey.

    Branding the proposals ill-advised, she said legislation in Great Britain should apply equally to Northern Ireland.”

    Did she miss the last 40 years or something?? Can you imagine the uproar if the Government tried to impose that on the pupils of Holy Cross in North Belfast, for example?

  • fair_deal

    CD

    “As I’ve pointed out on Slugger before, part of the problem with the Outreach initiative was the fact that it would perpetuate the MOPEish tendency within unionism, as evidenced in this quote.”

    In MOPEry we are mere children and a rather boring attempt attempt to avoid addressing your choice of language about Britishness.

    “Brown’s ridiculous ‘Britishness’ campaign was a cheap attempt to gain popular support with a section of the electorate in England Brown feared losing to the Tories.”

    For a ‘cheap’ attempt he seems to be doing a hell of a lot. The predictions that Brown was not serious about it and he would forget it when he became PM have proved incorrect.

    “Whatever proposals he decides to run with in Britain will not extend to Ireland, in spite of DUP tantrums at Westminster.”

    This may very well be Brown’s intention although with some measures we do get included but others we don’t so its a mixed bag rather than total exclusion.

    IMO central policy in the UK could often be characterised if its quiet over there let it be, its why Stormont got such a long run. However, whatever his intentions, that does not mean Unionism just shrugs and forgets about it.

    If parliamentary maths presents an opportunity that why should they not try and change it? If SF had pulled off the balance of power in the Republic would they not have been demanding their greatest hits as part of their price ie Dail representation, voting in Irish presidential elections etc? Would SF have went the majority in NI are going to be fecked off so we’ll have to forget about that?

    I can understand why some in nationalism would like Unionism to be simply inert, just as some Unionists would like nationalism to be inert. However, we both now that is not going to happen. We have still things we disagree about and we will try and create and utilise respective opportunities to our particular advantage. That’s politics.

    “it remains deeply ironic that unionists, who scream so much about wanting their ‘identity’ recognised through the exhibition of flags and symbols, utterly refute to countenance affording the same right in this part of Ireland to nationalists-”

    Oh dear I see we are back to year zero again. In Northern ireland there has been no changes at all to provide any recognition at all to the nationalist community and irish identity whatsoever. Power-sharing, north-south bodies, charter recognition, public funding, irish language strategy etc are all figments of the imagination.

    Also as I have said before if nationalism wants an ILA then what are they willing to offer? The sure way in a power-sharing arrangement to get nothing is to offer nothing.

    ” The Irish Language Act formed a part of the SAA and, therefore, the British government may be obliged to act to implement it in the absence of any moves here under Poots.”

    I see you have the good sense to use “may” and that particualr commitment did not appear in the Act of parliament. However, the principle remains SF is content to seek something it wants in westminster regardless of differing opinion here.

    “would that be a reference to the initiative of Alex Maskey when Mayor, who displayed both the Irish Tricolour and Union Flag in his Office? ”

    Indeed not. Its the initiative which got cross-party support.

    CS Parnell

    Please note the relevant comments in my response to Chris. The situation in Northern Ireland is not majority rule nor has it been that since 1972. There are fundamental and substantial changes to the way Northern Ireland operates to accomodate and recognise the presence of a political and cultural minority in Northern Ireland. There is also a distinction between the state and communal identity.