“By merely daring to gaze into the future..”

In the Guardian Henry McDonald makes some good points about the difficulties in discussing the “ugly scaffolding”, and hints at why the [long-term] conversation about it is worth having.

In essence, the criticism, much of it venomous, directed at Durkan illuminates the power of tribal politics in Northern Ireland. By merely daring to gaze into the future and hint that perhaps one day there could be sufficient respect and trust to produce a government of volunteer parties Durkan faced accusations that he was not only naive but in addition disloyal to his own tribe.

The tidal pull of tribalism makes it perilous for politicians to even float the idea of a voluntary cross-community coalition. Because they will inevitably face charges from cynics and sceptics within their own tribe that you could never trust the other side to willingly enter into a power sharing arrangement without compulsion.

In that sense leaders such as Durkan are as much prisoners of history and memory as those residents on either side of the so-called “peace walls” who have consistently said in opinion polls that they would like the barriers to come down but are so fearful of the “other” that they will remain huddled behind them for decades to come.

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  • Carson’s Cat

    “The tidal pull of tribalism makes it perilous for politicians to even float the idea of a voluntary cross-community coalition”

    Errr, that doesn’t explain why no unionist has a problem with a voluntary cross-community coalition. It would appear that only nationalists oppose working together through choice these days.

    Durkan’s problem wasn’t the fact that he raised the issue – its that appears to have been wooly and vague about it and now he’s appearing to backtrack. If he was going to raise the issue then he should have had the swingers to run with it.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Project reviews don’t normally take place until after implementation – and as the STA project has not been implemented yet. Jibber jabbering from the sidelines in the days leading up to important project deadlines is merely a distraction and should be postponed until a more sensible date – irrespective of the merit of Durker’s musings.

    Lets see what the wild men from both sides give birth to at Stormo – over the next few weeks -before changing the foundations or the scaffolding.

  • … that doesn’t explain why no unionist has a problem with a voluntary cross-community coalition.

    Its all about the numbers, I suppose. If the threshold is 65%, and unionists already hold, say, 55% of the seats, then they know that no voluntary coalition could come about without both major parties being involved.

    Imagine, though, if it were nationalists on 55%.

    At present about 40% of the seats are ‘nationalist’ – so if unionists could ‘attract’ even a few of these over to their ‘voluntary coalition’ (by the usual offers of juicy jobs or spending), then nationalism is largely frozen out of power.

    Its a simple fear of being excluded through the disloyalty of a small number of ‘your’ people. It would afflict unionists too if their numbers were smaller.

  • barnshee

    Jasus real politics might break out. That would never do, tho with a bit of luck and the looming crash/ recession fuel bills rates etc it just might speedmit up.

  • Briso

    “In that sense leaders such as Durkan are as much prisoners of history and memory as those residents on either side of the so-called “peace walls” who have consistently said in opinion polls that they would like the barriers to come down but are so fearful of the “other” that they will remain huddled behind them for decades to come.”

    What? Because they won’t agree to exclude Sinn Fein? Unionists (and Alliance) are in favour of this because they hate Sinn Fein’s guts. Break down barriers my arse. They are dying to put one up between Sinn Fein and the executive and that’s what this is about. Durkan knows his own voters object to removing Marty by any other means than outscoring them in an election. Siding with the Unionists try to permanently exclude SF from government is about the only think Mark could do which would alienate the long-suffering core of SDLP voters still loyal to the party. So enough of the condescending crap from small ‘u’ unionists. A bit of honesty wouldn’t go amiss.

  • Sink sink

    Sinn Fein? Unionists (and Alliance) are in favour of this because they hate Sinn Fein’s guts

    Come come. The DUP love the shinners now

  • DC

    “The tidal pull of tribalism makes it perilous for politicians to even float the idea of a voluntary cross-community coalition.”

    Same shit, different day, repeat – ad infinitum.

    For those in the SDLP that were furious at Durkan, I would say that as a ‘social democratic’ party they should try boiling their heads, that should remove the green stains.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    It’s an obvious future direction. It was always the case that the current structure was designed to be temporary. A consociational structure is designed to assist in moving out of conflict by bringing the political elites together but it’s not a long term solution to good government. Of course those who think that a move to voluntary coalitions would mean a return to a unionist majority or locking out the Sinners while a compliant SDLP played along are deluded. Any change will still need to be structured in such a way that the larger of the parties from each community form the government so if nationalism returns the Sinners as their majority representatives then they are the nationalist half of government. The unfortunate reality for unionists is that Sinn Fein are going to be in power for a long while yet because the nationalist community wants them to be and one day that might even dawn on the know nothings of the TUV and a ‘Tangled Web’(actually no reality on a Tangled web might be expecting just too much!)

  • perry

    Oh good, we get to do this again.

    Problem

    1) Unionists claim they’re happy with simple majority government.

    2) Alliance don’t trust unionists not to abuse a majority but don’t like having to say whether they’re nationalists or unionists. Alliance reckon that as a 65% majority would give the same protection as the 40% minimum community acceptance we should just use that.

    3) Nationalists like designation because they have the 40% guarantee and the vindication that a consociational government structure gives to their sense of Irishness. They also like always having at least the DFM if not the FM.

    Answer

    Give everyone what they want. Approve legislation by simple majority subject agreement of at least 40% of the nationalist designation.

    Don’t even have a unionist designation – just have nationalist and undeclared. That way Alliance types can be nationalists without having to show off about it.

    This would mean that Sinn Fein + SDLP + Alliance + Greens + Dr Deeney + Dawn + 1 treasonous unionist could pass schools reform on a simple majority – which unionists claim is the right way to do things, but no-one could do all those horrible things to nationalists that we’re told unionists are just dying to do unless 40% of nationalists said yes please.

    So by all means keep the equality commission, patten, d’hondt etc but let’s get on with making some laws ffs!

    FMs and their deputies.

    Elect the first minister by a simple run-off in the assembly. If he’s a nationalist great. He’s been elected by simple majority which is what unionists want. If he’s a unionist then the nationalists get to elect a deputy amongst their group.

    All this may sound a bit one-sided but it just ensures that any coalition or program for government has the support of at least 40% of the nationalist block (which is why it makes sense that a nationalist is deputy). As the US elections show, big popular parties and coalitions need to reach across many constituencies. We just need to ensure that our government includes a good chunk of the nationalist constituency.

    PS

    I’m still at a loss to what’s stopping all the unionists declaring as nationalists anyway and just returning us to majority rule. Surely not a lack of imagination. Anyone got an answer?

  • aquifer

    “Approve legislation by simple majority subject to agreement of at least 40% of the nationalist designation.”

    Why should it be as much as 40% of either side?

    If a party with 25% betrays its tribe very heinously by joining with the other in government it will be gone soon enough, but if the electorate find they like this lop sided coalition that party could be back up to 40%.

    Parties should be allowed to take political risks.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “Henry McDonald makes some good points”
    Really?