Alliance for P&J talk grows

Both the DUP and SF have comfirmed that Alliance taking the Policing and Justice Ministry is one of the options being examined. This option had previously been ruled out by Sinn Fein. However, the piece identifies two barriers, the SDLP are next in line for a Ministry under D’hondt and Alliance are demanding changes to the operation of the Executive. Whatever the ins and outs of the negotiations and whether this is the easiest way to achieve a deal, does it make longer-term electoral sense for the parties?

Alliance had a good election in 07 but have had difficulty maintaining any sort of profile. Giving them a ministry could be a substantial boost (provided the person appointed does not make a hash of it). The SDLP have their eye on two Alliance seats in East Antrim and Strangford. Unionism should be targeting 2 if not 3 of the remaining 5 seats. The UUP should be worried if Alliance’s strongest electoral performer Naomi Long gets the position. In the last Assembly election, she took Alliance to within 3% and 933 votes of putting the UUP into 3rd place in East Belfast, what impact would a successful term as P&J Minster have? Pretty much only SF have no direct electoral interest now they have their seats in South Antrim and Lagan Valley. Although they would probably prefer that Alliance remain an East Ulster electoral force as it does more harm to Unionism and the SDLP.

  • Michael Shilliday

    It makes no sense whatsoever to put Alliance in Policing and Justice.

  • 0b101010

    Not very democratic to bring in special legislation to override D’Hondt. Where’s the justice in that?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I cannot see Alliance going for this without some substantial changes to the way the executive is set up and run; equally, I cannot see the DUP/SF axis agreeing to those changes, so, as such, I don’t think this is going to happen. That aside, who would want the job of being the whipping-boy on an executive on the cusp of further cuts to the policing budget ?

    Michael, your article on everythingulster was just weird.

    After all, he is simply dressing up a party that stands for nothing more than “we’re not them and, we’re awfully nice”

    And the UUP differentiates itself from the DUP exactly how, these days ?

    That isn’t an ideology or an agenda; its political activism built on nothing more than middle class snobbery and intellectual cop-out.

    It’s about the idea that there is a way to do politics that doesn’t revolve around tribal identity. You’re more than welcome to debate the “intellectual cop-out” right here. I look forward to your intellectually-founded arguments in favour of the union. While you’re at it, you could maybe tell us about your intellectually-founded arguments in favour of a tie up with the UVF’s political wing. I hope you won’t cop out.

    But if it happens, my Party and the SDLP shouldn’t be there. We would have moved from an involuntary coalition, to a voluntary one with Alliance’s admittance to the Executive, which is a fundamental change to the situation.

    Eh ? Tweaking the rules a bit to get another party in means it’s still an involuntary coalition.

    Critically for the UUP and SDLP though, the situation with a five party Executive would be utterly untenable, a bizarre elective dictatorship where the wranglings over legislation would take place behind closed doors in the Executive, with the Assembly as a rubber stamping body

    Which is pretty much the way the executive is right now, is it not ? You mean to say that executive business is not orchestrated by the DUP/SF behind closed doors ?

  • Conquistador

    “After all, he is simply dressing up a party that stands for nothing more than “we’re not them and, we’re awfully nice”

    And the UUP differentiates itself from the DUP exactly how, these days ? ”

    That’s f**king irrelvant CS, the Alliance stands for nothing regardless of what the UUP stands for.

  • DC

    If the party had adopted a different track in terms of recognising the system as a sectarian system, accepting it as such and using it for their political advantage by discharging down both blocs to try and overcome it, they might have been able to reconcile this move under a different strategy.

    The strategy has been of ‘other’ and opposition to everything up at Stormont, with little in the way of good ideas to overcome the other problems, along with the other ‘moderate’ parties who you would think would have some views on how to moderate things to a workable ‘functioning’ level. Maybe this is a solution to one problem. If they accept this post it is to admit that the stategy didn’t work for them, but are prepared to work on behalf the people, using the establishment putting people first over policy. To be fair though no party has offered any post-98 narrative and explanation of why they accepted the GFA in part or in full, and what they intend to with it other than to get beyond the past horrors.

    The Alliance party is definitely non-sectarian linked to its visionlessness. Despite the lack of cross-community communal thinking the party’s approach to protecting the individual is well suited to that line of work. In the legal sense the system is there to protect the person; regardless of whether he or she is a good republican or Brit, etc.

    Naomi Long is well capable and would be a great choice, get it right and she tastes all the colours of the rainbow, get it badly wrong and might be the end of her and also the Alliance party too. With great power comes great responsibility. Good luck.

  • dub

    Stalin,

    Perhaps you could get off your horse and explain to us poor eejits in what ways exactly the Alliance is not a unionist party?

  • slug

    Alliance should take it, provided their minister gets equal treatment around the cabinet table. It will be good for their party and supporters to have an increased role-a very important one indeed. Naomi Long or David Ford or Anna Lo or Stephen Farry?

    The Alliance Party Minister would get a lot of profile and if it were not Ford (who has a good profile) that could help build the person’s profile for future positions such as leadership.

    I think it would be good to have more sensible people at the Executive table. Bring Alliance on.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “Alliance for P&J;talk grows”.
    Sunday Times struggles to find anything for Northern Ireland corr to write about.

    Even the “Tensions mount ahead of Marching Season ‘story’ has been put away for another year.

    Next week’s papers reviewed:

    Sunday Times: Senior republican is MI5 Agent, according to ‘sources’.

    Sunday World: Loyalist with implausible nickname that Jim McDowell has just made up is a tout/on the run from Carrick feud/gay

    Sunday Tribune: Suzanne Breen hypes a predicted ‘wave’ of (Insert dissident group du jour here) attacks (which will not materialise).

    Observer: Henry McDonald criticises Gerry Adams for the price of a barrel of Brent Crude Oil on the markets.

  • Comrade Stalin

    That’s f**king irrelvant CS, the Alliance stands for nothing regardless of what the UUP stands for.

    It’s not irrelevant. I always hear this point “Alliance doesn’t stand for anything” or “they’re just a load of wishy washy fence sitters”. The ups and downs of whether this is true or not are neither here nor there, because it is pretty clear that the people who make this criticism do not apply it with equal measure to the other parties in NI. I am quite entitled to ask how a UUP supporter can talk about other parties not standing for anything in particular when it is utterly unclear what the UUP’s position is on anything these days. Jim Allister has been able to build a party and a movement in a short space of time completely from scratch, on the basis of a single matter – opposition to powersharing, and despite his distinct lack of clarity on the precise conditions upon which powersharing with SF would be acceptable, he seems to be having no trouble recruiting support. And what does Sinn Fein stand for exactly ? They are jettisoning every single policy and principle they ever had, just to keep the DUP happy.

    There is a favourite saying of mine which is that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; so if the only way you can gauge the relevance of a political party is by considering it’s stance on the constitutional arrangements, well then yes, I guess Alliance does indeed stand for nothing in particular. The idea, though, is to try to get people to look beyond that.

    Putting all that aside, I do not agree with your assessment. I think it is reasonably clear what the party stands for – effective local powersharing; dialogue (but not at any price) rather than brinkmanship; and the disestablishment of tribalism, and that’s what it has worked to implement anywhere it has been able to do so. The rest of what the party stands for can be found by looking at the website. If you’re having trouble understanding any of it, feel free to bounce on here and we can talk about it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    dub:

    Perhaps you could get off your horse and explain to us poor eejits in what ways exactly the Alliance is not a unionist party?

    Sure. A unionist is a person with an ideological commitment to the union. Alliance does not have an ideological commitment to the union. Therefore Alliance is not a unionist party. Since it was founded, the party has held the principle of consent to be paramount. Unionists have held the principle of consent to be paramount only when it has suited their interests to do so. In the event of a constitutional referendum, I do not believe that Alliance would take a pro-union position. Individual members and elected reps may well do so, but I do not think the party would urge supporters to go out and support the union.

    It is important not to confuse an ideological commitment to the union (“the union or death – no matter what”) with believing that the union is in the best interests of the people here. Increasingly, it has become clear to many people that the union, which incorporates London’s rather unyielding control over the purse strings, does not serve the best interests of people here. There are many people who support Alliance who would favour Irish reunification. I would probably be one of them, with certain caveats. But really, I see debating the union and whether or not we should have one as a sideshow. The community strife that we have will exist no matter what changes to NI’s status occur. We all need to be working on recognizing this and fixing them. Of course, it is not in the strategic interest of either unionism or nationalism to accept that they are inherently the progenitors of cross-community strife by dint of their very existence. That is where Alliance comes in.

    Slug:

    Alliance should take it, provided their minister gets equal treatment around the cabinet table.

    It is unlikely that the Alliance minister will get equal treatment around the cabinet table given that the UUP and SDLP ministers do not even enjoy this privilege. When an SDLP minister went off and did her own thing – winning the hearts and minds of the public while doing so – the DUP and SF conspired to undermine her, and the head of the civil servants attempted to block her entry to the debating chamber! As I said, I would expect Alliance to be demanding changes in the setup first. However, I have no idea whether they are even considering this. The fact that there have been five-party talks on this matter is news to me. I am glad the party is participating in the discussions. The negotiating table must always be available.

    It will be good for their party and supporters to have an increased role-a very important one indeed. Naomi Long or David Ford or Anna Lo or Stephen Farry?

    There are two ways it could work out for the party. One way is the Margaret Ritchie scenario, where an Alliance minister takes control and starts shaking things up and captures the imagination of the public. This would not be easy, and the DUP/SF are going to work to prevent this just as they did with Ritchie, but it would be possible.

    The other way for it to work out would be for the Alliance minister to sit there and be a fall guy/gal for whatever budget cuts, abuse about police brutality, and all the rest DUP/SF want to throw at him/her. We all know that PSNI budget cuts are in the pipeline, and that these cuts are in the face of a spiralling problem of antisocial behaviour and a perception of crime. These problems may be helped or hindered by whatever way the budget is managed; will the security/justice budget be altered to form part of NI’s annual subvention or will it be covered directly by London ?

  • dub

    Stalin,

    thanks for your answer. it does rather serve to confirm my prejudices, however. you do not, you admit, actually know what official position the party would take in a referendum on the union, and admit also that many individuals in the party would go out and campaign for the union whatever the party said. what kind of a party is that? if you believe, as i do, that the union does and indeed cannot serve the interests of the vast majorirty of the people in ni, then why do you not campaign for your party to adopt this as policy? this is not incompatible with the consent principle. a reunified ireland could indeed in my view contribute greatly to reducing community tensions. sounds like alliance want to ignore the elephant in the room. has it not occurred to you that it is not the ideologies of unionism and nationalism so much as the nature of the ni statelet itself which reproduces sectarian politics?

  • ulsterfan

    Who heads the Dept of p&j;should not be important.
    Let us have legislation so weak that the Minister does not really have any power.
    The Policing Board will look after PSNI and a committee under a Minister can deal with Justice. The less power he has there is less chance of him being corrupt and we can make it a criminal offence for any politician who improperly interferes with P&J;matters.
    Many years ago politicians in the South tried to get their hands on Justice to run it any way they wished and this was the method to keep them at bay.
    It worked then. The civil service is quite capable to run the country without interference from politicians especially the ones elected by us.

  • DC

    “Jim Allister has been able to build a party and a movement in a short space of time completely from scratch, on the basis of a single matter – opposition to powersharing,”

    Most people nowadays are fed up with prejudice, that is the British and Irish people at large. Jim is just playing on a tried and tested tactic of Unionism, a dislike towards those politicians who were once militantly-minded, but who have so obviously done their best to try and get away from that in search of new thought. Much of Jim’s base is a continuation of old-DUP linked to Paisley’s religous divisive rhetoric. So it was easy to obtain.

    Jim Allister would do well to figure out how to help the loyalists run down their own operations, who are not averse to prejudice themselves, unfortunately.

    The problem with Northern Ireland is that there has been too much disconnect from both Ireland and Britain meaning much of the positive values that both have strived for over the last century have not been taken up. We have, if you like, eaten ourselves in a horribly internal fight where if we can support genuine culture together it may be possible to find out that most of the more democratic and judicial values overlap. But clearly disregarding Britain and Ireland as tribal will not assist in working out a future for people here, even though it is labelled at the political parties here. There will also be fundamental problems in building up an understanding of what it means to live here if one is stuck on how to reflect on life as it currently is.

    Rather than down play the border in terms of political thought in order to find a new way to life here, it is probably better asking this pertinent question:

    Does the border matter, if it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?

    The GFA may well pop up there in part to a more wider response, but the NHS and social welfare and Tax contributions are obvious ones. Besides some businesses border-side are happy with cheaper petrol from the South while working the UK system as well.

    Unfortunately, the only thing to come out of North-South partnerships is the notion that now drivers who speed either side of the border can be billed and punished in their residing jurisdictions. Something I think the SDLP stood or stooped over as worthy of praise.

  • Turgon

    Comrade Stalin,

    Actually I have some sympathy for you. To be fair your party does tend to try to be all things to all people but all parties tend to tailor their message somewhat.

    Alliance do have principles: they seem to believe overwhelmingly in dialogue and compromise. However, I personally feel that these quite lofty ideals tend to result in them compromising and being friendly with anyone no matter how unsavoury and dishonest they are and no matter how patently dishonest that makes the Alliance party. It is a sort of principled decision to be unprincipled if that is what is necessary.

    I sort of agree with both you and slug on taking P&J;. Taking P&J;might be a good idea in terms of helping to raise the profile of an individual Alliance member and if they did it well it would help them further. Indeed they might do it well, it is not as if they have had any less experience of government than many other NI politicians.

    However, I do think that in the long term it would damage the Alliance brand. It would look like political opportunism that they set themselves up as a principled opposition group but then jump at crumbs when offered them. It would also remind people of that rather dishonest episode when Alliance briefly designated themselves unionists in order to keep Trimble going.

    Overall, however, a difficult decision for Alliance and I suspect they would take it if offered. Still what would I know: I am an utterly reactionary tribal bigot who is now going off to eat a few babies.

  • DC

    Ya see Turgon, even you can’t find anything positive to say about yourself :o)

  • Turgon

    DC,

    At least I have some sense of humour. I do not recall much sign of one from you.

  • LURIG

    I’ve been accused of wanting the Executive to fall and stating the Provos will go back to war if Policing & Justice is not devolved WHICH I HAVE NOT. If appointing an Alliance or even a UUP/SDLP P&J;minister means the Executive survives and stabilises a bit I, and many others I assume, can live with that. I think you will find it actually would have a lot of support in both communities. Is it such a bg deal?

  • WindsorRocker

    Not very democratic to bring in special legislation to override D’Hondt. Where’s the justice in that?

    Posted by 0b101010 on Jul 27, 2008 @ 05:25 PM

    Let’s be honest the system we have is a stitch up and a carve up masquerading as a democracy. It’s just that the powers that be won’t give us anything else

  • cynic

    So Alliance lose heavily in the election but are gifted one of the most important Minsitries.

    Why?

  • Comrade Stalin

    dub:

    thanks for your answer. it does rather serve to confirm my prejudices, however. you do not, you admit, actually know what official position the party would take in a referendum on the union,

    If it was important to me I could go and find out. But it’s not.

    and admit also that many individuals in the party would go out and campaign for the union whatever the party said. what kind of a party is that?

    What’s the problem with that exactly ? There are many issues which normal political parties leave to the individual. Abortion is one example.

    if you believe, as i do, that the union does and indeed cannot serve the interests of the vast majorirty of the people in ni, then why do you not campaign for your party to adopt this as policy?

    Because I don’t think it’s the most serious issue that we’ve got at the moment. I look forward to the day when we can have a sensible and reasoned debate about the union. I would point out that, fifteen years ago, prior to the Celtic Tiger, the RoI’s economy was pathetic. I do not believe that republicans have changed their position on that basis. I don’t know whether that’s the case for yourself or not.

    this is not incompatible with the consent principle.

    You’re right, but the consent principle (which everyone has now accepted) is not really the relevant point here.

    a reunified ireland could indeed in my view contribute greatly to reducing community tensions.

    Right now, I think it’s more likely that a reunified Ireland would lead to civil war, and I find this idea that removing a line on a map will cause prods and taigs to say to each other “that was all a load of old nonsense wasn’t it ? Come round to my house in Rathcoole and we’ll have a few beers”. My vision of reunification involves rather more than kicking away the border. For example, since the constitution has never been ratified up here, my argument would be for a rewritten constitution, effectively creating a new state, and it would have to put all of the traditions and religions here at it’s core. I do not think the RoI is ready for this. I certainly do not think that republicans and nationalists are ready for this, and even among younger nationalists I’m still hearing “wait til we’re the majority, then we’ll get our own back”.

    sounds like alliance want to ignore the elephant in the room.

    The elephant in the room is the tribal divide here, aggravated by the institutionalization of sectarian politics. To believe that this will disappear overnight into thin air when the border is removed is the real fantasy here.

    has it not occurred to you that it is not the ideologies of unionism and nationalism so much as the nature of the ni statelet itself which reproduces sectarian politics?

    Given that unionism and nationalism existed prior to the NI state, no, it has not occurred to me.

  • Comrade Stalin

    On the subject of the union, I used to be a lot more pro-union than I am now. I think that things have moved on. It took me to spend a year living in Dublin about a decade ago to realize this, but I was able to witness for myself the steps taken to ensure that, for example, Protestants were treated well. I worked with a guy who was a Baptist who originally came from Coleraine. He told me that he had zero problems practicing his religion and bringing up his kids in his chosen faith, and about how the government bent over backwards to accomodate the local non-Catholic schools. I’m also attracted to the idea of being part of a modern constitutional state which has sensible foreign policies which don’t encourage people to try to kill it’s citizens. The other beneficial aspect to the RoI is that everyone there sees Sinn Fein for what they are, and utterly rejects their politics. Whatever way Irish reunification comes about, it’s damn straight it won’t be with Sinn Fein leading the charge. Ironically, Sinn Fein’s leadership is in a lot of ways an impediment to reunification.

    On the other I quite like the Brits, excluding obviously the serious mistakes they made in NI. I like the BBC, the NHS, the “fair play” attitude, and the undercurrent of progressive political attitudes that still exist despite the New Labour onslaught. However, they do not feel the same way about people in NI. Had the DUP executed their little voting trick in the Commons against a popular Prime Minister, the British press and political establishment would have turned on the flamethrowers, asking “who are these Irish people interfering in our government?”. Unionists don’t have any real friends elsewhere in the UK. They need to look at the cards on the table in front of them and think long and hard about what their options are.

  • Peat Blog

    Ti mas pravda Comrade!

    I think we have been on similar journeys (although in different places).

  • perry

    Comrade,

    I agree with all you say.

    Pro-Europe
    Pro-Treaty
    Pro-Civic institutions
    Anti-corruption
    Anti-clientelism

    Generally slightly more socially conservative than GB libdems if we’re honest.

    When do we rebrand Alliance Fine Gael?

  • slug

    “Pro-Treaty ”

    Even after the NO vote?

  • perry

    “Pro-Treaty “

    I didn’t mean that treaty! I meant the older one that endorsed the principle of consent for the six counties.

  • michadel

    This whole thing reminds me of Karl Popper (sp??), he said the the question was not ‘who should rule?’ but ‘how should we rule?’.

    If the P&J;ministry cant be appointed by the normal means of the institutions, then those the political class here are obviously not mature enough to recognise that its the institutions that are whats important, not the personalities.

    Something that seems to be apparent in this site too considering that the debate thus far has concentrated only on the merits (or lack there of) of the Alliance party.

  • dub

    Stalin,

    You have made a hell of a lot of sense there. i meant by the way a UI which incorporates the things you are talking about, not just getting rid of a line on the map. Kind of like John Robb’s New Ireland Group. i guess what i was trying to way in my original post is, if you thinkg like you do, and you have now revealed exactly what you do think, why does Allianve not say these things out aloud like John Robb does? A kind of non sectarian civic nationalism for all of the people of the island. you really could help all of us if you (i mean alliance) were to go down that road. you are right about the attitude of a lot of young nationalists, and also reluctance in the south to change what admittedly works extremely well for all of us, catholic and protestant, who live down here. alliance could perform a very valuable service here which, if you think about it, no other political party is likely to do (well maybe, just maybe, northern fianna fail…)

    dub.

  • IJP

    dub

    Alliance does say these things out loud – it’s only everyone else is too wrapped up in their sectarian prism to listen.

    I have no problem being associated, as an elected representative, with all CS‘s comments on this thread.

    I’ve also pointed out that Alliance’s heritage, logically, comes from the Home Rule Movement in the 19th century.

    I also like to challenge Unionists on precisely what they would do in the event of Scottish independence…

    Our basic problem is getting NI to a position – socially, politically and economically – where it can make the choice. Currently we are socially backward, politically unstable, and economically reliant. Overcoming these is the real challenge.

  • slug

    IJP

    In the event of Scottish independence I would argue that the current North-South bodies be widened out to incorporate Scotland.

    Constructive practical co-operation with neighbours – on issues like transport energy education etc. – makes sense.

  • Comrade Stalin

    dub,

    i guess what i was trying to way in my original post is, if you thinkg like you do, and you have now revealed exactly what you do think, why does Allianve not say these things out aloud like John Robb does? A kind of non sectarian civic nationalism for all of the people of the island. you really could help all of us if you (i mean alliance) were to go down that road.

    Thanks for the kind comments. I’ve given my opinion on the issue of reunification, but I would not say that it is representative of all of the party’s supporters; it’s just my point of view. The important point is that supporting the Alliance Party is not incompatible with any of it.

    At the moment, I don’t think there is such a thing within NI as “non-sectarianism civic nationalism”, at the moment it is a contradiction in terms. I would not be in favour of the party taking an express position on the constitutional future of NI, because that is the point where the party would become either nationalist or unionist, and the party would not be a safe place for someone with a specific opinion on the union that differed from the line that would be taken by the party.

    To me, talking about reunification now is like talking about what sort of bathroom tiles you want before you’ve decided upon the design of your house. I think the priority must be to get sustainable powersharing working and get the borders broken down between the communities here. Nationalism and unionism must be redefined much as they are in Scotland – as arguments based on a rationale, not as polarizing matters (whether the SNP’s argument is based on rationality or not is debateable, but I’ll not get into that). Once the peace lines are down and people are talking about the constitutional future in terms of the instrinsic advantages or disadvantages of it, rather than in terms of their tradition or ideology, then we’re ready to talk about all of that. And I think once that day arrives, there won’t be any need for the Alliance Party as it’s objectives will have been attained.

    Turgon:

    Actually I have some sympathy for you. To be fair your party does tend to try to be all things to all people but all parties tend to tailor their message somewhat.

    This point of view is, unfortunately, typical of the binary thinking that pervades politics here. If you’re neither unionist or nationalist, yet you have shades of both, therefore you must be all things to all people. I think you, and a lot of other people, are more comfortable dealing with nationalism since you can more clearly understand it, and because nationalism doesn’t make any serious attempt to try to embrace your point of view.

    Alliance do have principles: they seem to believe overwhelmingly in dialogue and compromise. However, I personally feel that these quite lofty ideals tend to result in them compromising and being friendly with anyone no matter how unsavoury and dishonest they are and no matter how patently dishonest that makes the Alliance party.

    Are you really in a position to talk about that, given the distinctly unsavoury alliances with loyalist paramilitarism that unionism has groomed, cultivated and maintained over the past 100 years ? Alliance is free of any paramilitary baggage. Unionism is not, and never will be. The reality is that unionism and nationalism both, in slightly different ways, have longstanding likes with unsavoury and dishonest people. It’s time for you to deal with it.

    I don’t think you’re a reactionary bigot, just that you partake of the ol’ rose-tinted glasses a bit too much.

  • dub

    CS,

    Very interesting, thanks. Funnily enough i remember one of the IRA statements around time of decommissioning, talking about unionists and nationalists being able to debate their ideas on a level playing field in an atmosphere free of violence. I also recall Davy Adams, ex UDA, saying that we need to get to a point where religion and politics are not automatically tied up. the tory/unionist link up may make unionism more rational, and if it does that, it has to be welcomed. FF could well do the same for nationalism. I detect some animus to Sinn Fein in your threads, it would be a shame if understandable aversion based on their past should blind you to a party which, in my view, has actually done quite a lot in the direction of the Scottish atmosphere that you seek.

    I still think it would be nice if what you are IJP think could be put out there a bit more, although i take your point about not becoming a unionist or nationalist party.

    Regards,

    dub.

  • Comrade Stalin

    dub,

    The thing that amuses me is that that IRA statement was probably written by Jonathan Powell who then twisted their arm to sign it. I don’t believe that Sinn Fein’s number one priority is to create the circumstances for peaceful dialogue etc, although I certainly respect the personal risks they have taken to get to where they are now. The game they are playing is a purely political one; they want to get themselves in power and the peace process is their ruse to achieving that. They’ve played the game beautifully up until now, but it seems like they didn’t really have a plan about how they would wield the power once they gained it. Take away the peace process stuff, and you’ve got a party which has been in the deep freeze, their policies and thinking are about 20 years out of date. The way Gerry Adams went on TV during the RoI election the other year talking about the need to increase corporation tax almost suggested that he was asleep during the rise of the celtic tiger. The guy didn’t even spend ten minutes thinking it over.

    I also recall Davy Adams, ex UDA, saying that we need to get to a point where religion and politics are not automatically tied up.

    Davy talks a lot of sense, and he used to contribute on here quite a lot, it’s a shame about the way the UDA ultimately hounded him.

    I think the problem is more subtle than that. Personally, I agree, religion should be removed from politics, and for that reason I support the disestablishment of the CoE, the removal of the Catholic Church from it’s unaccountable role in the education system here, and various other things such as liberalization of the laws on gambling; I’d like to be at the point where Iris Robinson would believe how evil her comments were. I’d like to see a wholly secular state, albeit one where there are no restrictions on people practicing their beliefs. However, watching the debates on education, or abortion etc, I get the feeling I’m either behind or ahead of the curve. I don’t believe that people here have sat down and properly thought about what sort of level of religion they want in their government.

    Thanks for the enjoyable discussion.

  • DC

    Alliance should talk more about the greener aspects of NI life, which are benign and beneficial. But I get the impression that Alliance is frightened to talk about a changed Britain, it’s frightened to talk about a changed Ireland and it’s frightened to talk about a changed NI. Largely because its own vote base emanates from the 70s and 80s making it immobile unless it shifts. And to get out of that it requires changed thought at leadership level. It needs a clear vision that stays in line with the better aspects of British and Irish life and not getting drawn into those sectarian arguments.

    New ideas can be founded on the liberal values that Alliance visibly holds up, but it seems to hold too dear in full this liberalism and its values completely. It may well be compromised in discussing other values not favourable with that thinking, re communal thought and political development as just one example.

    Maybe this is the reason why that party is an arrested development at this time with particular people holding power in the party muffling those kind of moves out. I find it remarkable that Alliance is supporting a civic form of nationalism, not because of its concept but because the party has never raised it.

    There are some striking contradictions too with theology versus political Liberalism versus non-Liberalism. While the party was supposed to be pro-gay rights it did little to assist that, it was supposed to be liberal but flirted at one point with getting Sylvia Hermon onboard to collapse the UUP.

    And most notably Naomi Long highlighted that Iris Robinson made a prejudiced comment yet only called on her to ‘stop it’ whenever she should have told her to resign (going light on DUP to get justice post, going light on DUP to feather the East Belfast nest allowing the DUP to run down with ridicule the UUP?). It has done nothing to build up the centre ground but stood back and watched like the socialist/moderate movement in post WWI Weimar Germany.

    Weak, weak, weak

  • IJP

    DC

    Er… but as anyone who actually followed the debate would know, the Alliance Party did tell Iris to resign, indeed it was the first party to do so…

  • DC

    ‘Long says Iris Robinson’s comments must be “retracted”‘

    “Her repeated attacks on gay people in recent weeks are harmful and dangerous and show none of the love or compassion which she claims to feel for individuals. I would appeal to her to stop.”

    There’s the substance IJP. That’s what was said after it all. You cannot effectively call for her resignation and then issue a statement saying only to ‘stop’.

  • MJB

    DC,

    What?

    Frightened to talk about a changed Northern Ireland? Alliance is ABOUT a changed Northern Ireland: one free of sectarianism and segregation, one which provides its citizens with high quality yet sustainable public services and one with a rebalanced and strong economy. Alliance has been clear on what it stands for. To say that Alliance is scared of a changed Northern Ireland is simpley ridiculous.

    I also don’t know what papers you’ve been reading which show Alliance going soft on the DUP. The Programme for Government, the Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency (or lack of), Iris’s comments, the Victims’ Commisionners… On all these issues Alliance’s position has been clear. I certainly don’t think that the DUP think Alliance has been soft on them or that Alliance have “stood back and watched like the socialist/moderate movement in post WW1 Weimar germany”.

  • IJP

    DC

    … because Gerry Lynch had already been on the radio (at least twice) calling for her resignation…

    … actually I’d have called for her dismissal…

  • DC

    MJB: I appreciate that you may be involved in the youth side of the party and I would not know what is being discussed fair enough.

    A few things, in relation to the victims’ commission, Alliance favoured a ‘Commission’ but it favoured one run by the British-Irish government and I spat out my coffee when I saw the attack on the DUP-SF. If you want me to prove that stance I can and will. Secondly, the issue with the Victims Commission is about decision-making, fair enough so long as they decide. What got me was the pay, the pay was the only problem that really bugged me badly. And further the deputy leader said she thought all who were chosen could do the job but actually failed to pick a suitable one herself.

    Secondly, much lauded for being a party of policy it has failed produce an education policy paper recently that might break the impasse.

    If it wants to build on peace and reduce sectarianism then it might be best to accept that integration cannot be tackled all at once and focus on areas that are up for it.

    The problems with peace building rest with overcoming insecurities, much of it played out on cultural grounds, driven around nationalist ways of life that are perceived less worthy at state level which should represent the life acted out in that jurisdiction; will you back an Irish language act?

    Re Gerry Lynch, will the rest of the party fall in behind him then and release a joint press release demanding that, especially given these times of DUP-SF justice post offerings?

  • slug

    DC

    Alliance has been very clear that its in favour of ending selection, i.e. it is opposed to grammar schools using academic selection. This is very courageous, given that it is unopoular with much of their electorate.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC,

    But I get the impression that Alliance is frightened to talk about a changed Britain, it’s frightened to talk about a changed Ireland and it’s frightened to talk about a changed NI.

    What gives you that impression ?

    Largely because its own vote base emanates from the 70s and 80s making it immobile unless it shifts.

    I’m not aware of Alliance tailoring it’s message for people aged between 20 and 40. That’s another slightly weird point there.

    And to get out of that it requires changed thought at leadership level. It needs a clear vision that stays in line with the better aspects of British and Irish life and not getting drawn into those sectarian arguments.

    I would say that the party does have a clear vision of agreed and functional powersharing within a Northern Ireland context. I would also say that the party sees that we have a distinct Northern Ireland identity, which combines Britishness and Irishness but plenty of unique elements of it’s own. There is a dimension beyond talking about British and Irish life that we are trying to get to here.

    Other than this, you’re a bit short on detail about what you think the problems are and where you think the party should go.

    Maybe this is the reason why that party is an arrested development at this time with particular people holding power in the party muffling those kind of moves out. I find it remarkable that Alliance is supporting a civic form of nationalism, not because of its concept but because the party has never raised it.

    At this point in your post I’m wondering if we’re occupying the same planet. I have not yet seen Alliance “supporting a civic form of nationalism”. If it did, I don’t think I could be a supporter any longer.

    And most notably Naomi Long highlighted that Iris Robinson made a prejudiced comment yet only called on her to ‘stop it’ whenever she should have told her to resign (going light on DUP to get justice post, going light on DUP to feather the East Belfast nest allowing the DUP to run down with ridicule the UUP?). It has done nothing to build up the centre ground but stood back and watched like the socialist/moderate movement in post WWI Weimar Germany.

    Deeper into the weird fantasy stuff we go. I feel like I’m talking to a brain which has been attached directly to a keyboard, allowing it’s thoughts to spill out to the world untempered and unfiltered. Alliance supporters have argued right here on Slugger, and on the airwaves, that Iris’ comments were unacceptable and that she was/is not fit to hold office. The idea that the party is backing off to placate the DUP is complete and total nonsense. It is Alliance who will be doing the DUP if it ever decides to accept a justice ministry – not the other way around.

    I think that the Irish language act thing is restricted to Sinn Fein at the moment. The SDLP seem to be, at best, lukewarm on the matter. To be honest I am not sure what Alliance’s position in this is. Personally I am not implacably opposed to it, but I think it’s a huge waste of money and a daft stunt, and nationalists are not going to see an improvement in their daily lives just because their street sign is in Irish. It’s being forced on us by people who don’t give a shit about the language, who just see it as a political football.

  • DC

    You seem to think the party is keen to talk about Northern Ireland, yet in your previous posts I get a subtle slant away from that, which is fair enough.

    But as to this here:

    Deeper into the weird fantasy stuff we go. I feel like I’m talking to a brain which has been attached directly to a keyboard, allowing it’s thoughts to spill out to the world untempered and unfiltered. Alliance supporters have argued right here on Slugger

    Funny that because supporters and statements are different and G Lynch can argue all he wants but unless the party backs him Alliance are compartmentalising on this one again, as they have done before. What’s the problem, why didn’t the deputy leader call for her resignation at the time, she clearly didn’t.

    If you cant tackle key issues concerning prejudice in an effectively clear statement then it might show just where the problems lie in tackling sectarianism…

    And your point about the language is arrogant in that you find that the language is a waste of money but it is about belonging; it’s about doing things which can benefit NI in terms of confidence building, being at ease with itself.

    You see, democracy here isn’t perfect, I appreciate that in a normal democracy the likes of the UUP and SDLP would be worthy of ignoring given previous stances on matters, especially the UUP around 2005 time and favouring the OO, same for SF.

    But it isn’t an established democracy and at times stalemate, ignorance, fundamental positions even over language can mean life or death in its own strange way. Anything that can help to build confidence, not just on SF’s terms but used to reflect a better NI as a result of doing so must come first.

    It seems to me you want a non-sectarian state on your own terms, rather than working on it together using certain other terms too.

    Another issue which I posted on Slugger was how after hearing David Ford accuse SF of playing games with P&J;criteria on Stormont TV, I posted an Alliance policy paper which proved that SF had met Alliance’s benchmarks for discussion of devolution of those powers. It was contradictory. Who was playing games there? Why didn’t the party help out in building up some confidence to say to the DUP, listen here speed things up. Cross-community…?

    Alliance having created policy seems to drop it for soundbites without the bite.

  • DC

    …By the way, from a personal point of view I oppose the Irish language in its current form and I have done on a personal level since reading Pobals approach to it; but on policy terms and for thinking about NI and people for whom it is of genuine importance, I think, if you are in politics at Executive level, faced with democratic demands you must weigh it up and act on it.

    When in politics you have to put the country first and do what is right for all the people.

  • Turgon

    Comrade Stalin,
    To be perfectly honest I would avoid arguing with DC. His posts contain mindless spin and nonsense and silly aspirational talk without any substance; it contributes nothing to debate.

    He will accuse you of x, y and z and when you point out he is incorrect just ignores it.

    Essentially it is a trolling using big words and pseudo intellectual concepts.

  • slug

    Turgon

    “To be perfectly honest I would avoid arguing with DC. His posts contain mindless spin and nonsense and silly aspirational talk without any substance; it contributes nothing to debate. ”

    Is he David Cameron 🙂

  • DC

    “He will accuse you of x, y and z and when you point out he is incorrect just ignores it.”

    Yes but there is a difference, you see that x,y and z, they are linked to policy stances that I’ve raised.

    *Victims
    *P-J
    *pro-gay rights
    *apparent ‘non-Unionist’ stance yet attempts to lure Sylvia Hermon.

    Where’s your policy? And nice bit of man playing there Turgon the wise, thumbody a wee bit dumb…

    I used to feel to guilty about raising issues against Alliance because I know people there, but they don’t own the centre ground, it isn’t theirs, it isn’t mine, votes are not bought in full but instead rented out on certain stances.

    I admire Alliance’s high policy as positive but in order to join up the dots they at least have to get their hands dirty and mark out the dots in the first instance.

  • Turgon

    DC,

    Your comment exactly illustrates my point. I have often given my views on the above issues; frequently in response to your questions. You then either dismiss or ignore them. It is fine to disagree but do not pretend that I (and indeed Comrade Stalin) have not put forward our own ideas.

    On the other hand apart from politically correct waffle I have heard nothing of substance from you at any stage. To call it an insusbstantial version of Hume speak would be excessive flattery. In your case it is just pointless waffle.

    Also accusing me of man playing is a bit rich.

    Who made these comments?

    Shove your traditional ethno-religious stuff…” and “Mick Fealty needs his head looked at for continuing to place a part of Slugger up the anus of the rotting corpse of ultra-Unionism, despite your attempt to be learned using Shakespeare and World War analogies.

    Go take a course on democracy and recent NI history and instead steal some quotes from that, which actually might inform you better as to sincere attempts to build peace and a form of democracy, albeit a poor one as currently is, but it is still better than ‘no surrender’ and ‘not a bullet’ nonsense.”

  • DC

    “On the other hand apart from politically correct waffle I have heard nothing of substance from you at any stage.”

    I’ve raised it above, if you want to cross-reference other posts in differing debates fine.

    As a person who has gone out before and put an x beside Alliance, I have raised my concerns based on opinions, policies, ways to overcome fixed ideology by accepting in part some ideas of each to move forward. With a forced power-sharing situation it is likely the only way forward together and in the hope that overall a positive image can be spoken and amplified to assist NI.

    You haven’t any policy, other than no.

    Turgon is right, I am wrong; DUP is wrong TUV is right; Alliance is right, UUP is wrong; SDLP is right Alliance is wrong.

    What would I do? Accept the Maze as a positive development, there is a positive opportunity there with potential, if it fails the fallback can rest with the UK Gov they are the one who paid for it with interest, and in terms of P-J are offering more money from army sites. Isn’t it not a powerful image that old differences can be overcome and we share and live out our sporting cultures under one roof as we are confident about the society in which we live. Making investment all the more likely, I feel.

    But to cut to the core of why I am probably raising these issues is that I perceive politics in NI to be about the personal.

    Arlene Foster for example, her cause was anti-agreement and a jump to the DUP, which in doing she never actually fixed those concerns to her cause and carried on delivering what was previously agreed, with the very smallest of operational tweaks. A career politician then.

    When I was involved in Alliance I recall putting it to a fairly senior member about the possibility of discharging down the two blocs. I was told very abruptly: ‘where are you going to put me’. With such a sharp response I sat and said nothing, but thought to myself it isn’t about you.

  • Turgon

    DC,
    Thanks for more meaningless waffle. “Discharging down both blocks.”

    Now what on earth does that mean. Sorry if I am not intelligent or educated enough to understand. Maybe the great DC will actually explain in real English what it means. Maybe the Alliance member’s respionse was in part because s/he had no real idea what you were on about

    No comment about what you called me is there? It was rather easier to understand, less intellectual and not really the contribution of someone trying to reach consensus was it? More like man playing but it was about the only substance we have ever heard from you.

  • DC

    You cant see past your own nose. Besides what did I expect from you, I admire your knowledge of theology and you have given wholesome views on that, but I should have known not to expect anything back politically.

    TUV is not involved in politics and until it does show up with some issues, I guess I am not going to waste my time trying to figure out nothing.

  • Turgon

    DC,
    I cannot see past my own nose. Ah DC never the man player.

    However, no explanation of “Discharging down both the blocs.” Best not to waste your time on someone as unintelligent as myself. I have no doubt at all that you are much cleverer and more educated than I. It is a pity you do not deign to use your vast intellect to explain some of your concepts.

    Then again maybe you are afraid that then someone might notice that in your case the emperor has no new clothes. Indeed in your case you are not the emperor and have no new clothes.

    Still what would I know I cannot see past my own nose and am just into ethno-religious stuff.

    Ah well, I may be stupid but at least I am happy.

  • DC

    “Ah well, I may be stupid but at least I am happy.”

    It was never about you.

  • Turgon

    DC,
    ”Shove your traditional ethno-religious stuff…” and “Mick Fealty needs his head looked at for continuing to place a part of Slugger up the anus of the rotting corpse of ultra-Unionism, despite your attempt to be learned using Shakespeare and World War analogies.

    Go take a course on democracy and recent NI history and instead steal some quotes from that, which actually might inform you better as to sincere attempts to build peace and a form of democracy, albeit a poor one as currently is, but it is still better than ‘no surrender’ and ‘not a bullet’ nonsense.”

    That seemed about me. It was on my thread about things I had written and bore no relationship whatsoever to the subject of the blog (except I had used Shakespeare and WWI analogies).

    So actually it was about me.

  • perry

    Regarding mergers, rebrands and such like I’ve an idea for a bit of retro-chic. What we need is five parties;

    1) A party that represents British capital and it’s attachment to empire/the UK. We would call this the Conservatives. It’s flag is the Union Flag.

    2) A party that would welcome Home Rule for Northern Ireland (with the consent of the majority of its people) within a voluntary commonwealth. At the same time this is unashemdely a party fashioned in the enlightened British political tradition; a party fond of internationalism, emancipation, free trade, personal autonomy and suchlike. We could call this the Liberal Party (or maybe the LibDems). It’s flag is the yellow canary of freedom or the flax flower of Ulster trade and industry if you prefer (as sketched by David Ford IIRC).

    3) A party of outright uncompromising Irish republicanism, unashamedly laying claim to The United Irishmens’ inheritance (although it probably belongs to the party that actually represents the decendents of the United Irishmen located immediately above). We could call this Sinn Fein. It’s flag is the Irish Tricolour.

    4) We also need a party of non-sectarian international socialism, championing the trade union cause. The Irish Labour Party’s Northern Constituency Council should to pull their fingers from their arses and set up with cross-community trade unionist northern involvement an NI Labour Party, supported by the all-Ireland party but also fraternally linked to GB’s and accepting their whip. This may be the price of representing the working men and women of all parts of Northern Ireland. I propose that we call this the Labour Party in Northern Ireland. It’s symbol is the Red Flag of revolution and the red rose of democratic international socialism.

    5) Finally we need a constitutional, traditional catholic, chistian democratic/social democratic/nationalist party, constructively engaging with British political society in the cause of Ireland, ready to prove a loyal and honourable friend in times of trouble, a champion of the church’s role in education and the rule of law. To keep things simple we could just call this The Irish Party. It’s flag could be the Harp on a Green field – the flag of the Irish Volunteers.

    I don’t know who the DUP think they take after.

    There you are – back to the future. Who said Victorian values were dead?

  • IJP

    DC

    The problem is also that among the baffling long words, there are also pure fallacies… for example, an Alliance Education Paper was presented to Assembly Committee before recess. I should know, I drafted it!

    Perry

    Ah come on now, that’s most unfair to David Ford. It was Stephen Farry…

  • perry

    I have video evidence Ian

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2637139.stm

    It’s in the blue link top right.

    I think the Liberal thing works for Alliance. As good-hearted Mr Gladstone said of Ireland in 1886;

    “She asks a blessed oblivion of the past and in that oblivion our interest is deeper than even hers. My right honourable Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) asks us to-night to abide by the traditions of which we are the heirs. What traditions? By the Irish traditions? Go into the length and breadth of the world, ransack the literature of all countries, find, if you can, a single voice, a single book, find, I would almost say, as much as a single newspaper article, unless the product of the day, in which the conduct of England towards Ireland is anywhere treated except with profound and bitter condemnation. Are these the traditions by which we are exhorted to stand? No; they are a sad exception to the glory of our country. They are a broad and black blot upon the pages of its history; and what we want to do is to stand by the traditions of which we are the heirs in all matters except our relations with Ireland, and to make our relations with Ireland to conform to the other traditions of our country. So we treat our traditions — so we hail the demand of Ireland for what I call a blessed oblivion of the past. She asks also a boon for the future; and that boon for the future, unless we are much mistaken, will be a boon to us in respect of honour, no less than a boon to her in respect of happiness, prosperity, and peace. Such, Sir, is her prayer. Think, I beseech you, think well, think wisely, think, not for the moment, but for the years that are to come, before you reject this Bill.”

    Sounds like Alliance’s attitude to me.

  • perry

    “When I was involved in Alliance I recall putting it to a fairly senior member about the possibility of discharging down the two blocs. I was told very abruptly: ‘where are you going to put me’. With such a sharp response I sat and said nothing, but thought to myself it isn’t about you.”

    Does discharging down both blocks mean every other Alliance member taking a position at either end of the the nationalist/unionist declaration see-saw?

    I don’t understand this d’hondt thing. Would that help somehow?

  • Turgon

    I am beginning to feel a bit bad for starting a bit of a group against DC.

    DC, your views are as valid as anyone elses but in all honesty it is difficult to understand what you are saying.

    I am not a stupid person, but I am not a political scientist. You need to understand that most of us are interested in politics and ideas but if it is too complex to understand people just ignore it.

    I suspect “Discharging down the two blocs” means taking the good ideas from both sides rather than finding a compromise position on each idea. That is a valid critique of how Alliance does things and might have some merit as an alternative strategy for them. However, it took me most of my drive home and tea tonight to work out that is what I think you mean.

    Remember that we all read slugger in our leisure time or in tea / lunch breaks etc. As such comments need to be easily intelligible.

    I am sorry to target you in this way but thinking about it I suspect you have some interesting things to say: just think about how you are saying them.

  • DC

    “Does discharging down both blocks mean every other Alliance member taking a position at either end of the the nationalist/unionist declaration see-saw?”

    I’m sorry if I didn’t make myself clear.

    Key decisions (for example budget allocation) are put to the green and orange sides of the house, you need to designate Nats/Unst to be counted. Alliance has said it is ‘Other’ and is opposed to the current system and has gone into the constructed Opposition because: a) their vote base = no office b) the sectarian nature of it, roughly speaking.

    But in my view, Alliance should have said we will split our vote share into both the Nationalist and Unionist designation. Perhaps they could do it on an equal basis. If for example Alliance won 10 seats, maybe do it 5 Nats 5 Unionists giving the party voting influence. The more positive influence you have the more votes you should receive, more votes more creative disruption, if you like. Designating ‘Other’ means nothing to me at all, when difficult decisions need to be taken ‘Other’ means exclusion. AP votes don’t count then. They have no influence and cannot shape the agenda.

    I believe it is easier to turn negatives into positives rather than turn nothing, such as ‘Other’, into something. It’s about public perceptions, people realise that turning up and voting along nationalist / unionist lines is negative and divisive, but a party in both might be seen as uniquely positive. But I think the picture would develop better if the Alliance party had from the outset said we will work the system best that influences decisions. I think it is easier to accept existing perceptions, as the public does, attempt to work the system to change those perceptions. The public would probably understand better a split Alliance team into nationalist / unionist designations that either gave the vote if it was worthy of it or withheld the vote if it wasnt. Better understanding then of party stances, decisions and direction.

    There is also something symbolic and recognisable if Alliance were to build up a larger electoral force. As it grows in cross-community support it can shape policy better and influence decisions more. So that they played a part rather than, as I gather, saying we’re right you’re wrong, so we are staying as ‘Other’. Hypothetically speaking if support grew strong enough it might be democratically possible to gain so much cross-community support to do away with the designation system.

    Alliance have constantly been looking for this big knock out whereas continuous poking in the eye can sometimes achieve the same effect with less effort.

  • slug

    “Discharging down both blocks” is a horrible expression.

  • Turgon

    DC,

    Credit where it is due, that is well explained. It is a very interesting idea. I am unsure how well it would work in practice but thank you for explaining it. It is worth at least thinking about as an interesting suggestion.

  • perry

    Thanks DC.

    I guessed right! What do I get? A balloon or a cigar?

  • IJP

    Perry

    Bloody awful!

    Good thing that was before I joined the party really, wasn’t it?! 🙂