Time to grasp the nettle

Seumas Milne, the Guardian’s most left wing senior staffer is the first London -based commentator I’ve noticed to pay serious attention to the state of our politics for a long time. Today he discusses the links between the rise of republican violence and the Stormont stasis. He begins with an excellent point about why current events should command wider attention.

“From the way terrorism is discussed in the British media you might easily imagine that most political violence in the United Kingdom is the work of would-be jihadists in England. In fact, the overwhelming majority of armed attacks are being carried out by dissident republican groups in Northern Ireland – and they’re multiplying…. But while the dissident campaign has flared, political advance has again been held to ransom by unionists’ intransigence, with no sign of the British pressure necessary to bring them to heel“.

Whatever you think of Milne’s analysis, another bout of “British pressure” looks about to happen. The DUP insist that J&P won’t devolve until “we get it right”. How can they get it right if the DUP and Sinn Fein don’t thrash it out together, with input from all the other parties? It’s not good enough to leave it to the stately progress of the Assembly’s executive committtee or the odd bad tempered debate in the chamber. This failure to address others in earnest leaves them on the back foot with the two governments and looking weak as a party. I’m glad to see that this week Brian Feeney addresses Peter Robinson’s political problems. He fairly requiries Peter to live up to his own conference rhetoric and face down his own dissidents and the TUV. It’s tempting to stall until after the election, but will delay really strengthen his hand against internal and external opposition? On the wider canvas, Brian hits a big nail on the head over unionism’s responsibility for making the new Northern Ireland succeed.

“The ( The DUP) don’t seem to realise that it’s up to unionists to prove to nationalists that the north is a viable political entity. If unionists refuse to work it, as DUP ministers at present refuse, then there’s no reason for nationalists to shore it up. Nationalists hold no brief for the north.” .The last sentence in this passage underplays the responsibilities of nationalists. I assume by “ the north” Brian means the Northern Ireland state, the statelet, partitioned Ireland, whatever. But nationalists voted for the “brief “ in the referendum often invoked by them to guarantee powersharing. Brian can’t have it both ways. The shared experience of everyone in the north gives all of us a huge stake.

  • Mick Fealty

    Underplays it by some considerable way. You gotta love liberal journos… Dissident republicans start acting off the required script and it is somehow the fault of unionists?

    Of course the DUP has got a problem: a marriage partner shouting (quite fraudulently of course) to the rooftops “Breach of Promise”.

    Call for the stick to applied to the party that’s remained faithful to the agreement might appeal to a liberal utilitarianism, but it’s a corrosion of the political compact that was supposed to get us away from the nod and wink politics (and journalism) of the Peace Process era.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Underplays it by some considerable way. You gotta love liberal journos… Dissident republicans start acting off the required script and it is somehow the fault of unionists?

    Of course, nothing the DUP does has any impact Mick. Perhaps bringing it down to a blame game is a childish repsonse. Cos then right, you agrue over whose fault it is rather than looking at the problem.

    But hey, nice batting for the DUP. Aain.

  • Mayoman

    Mick, while ‘fault’ will always lie with the one who pulls the trigger, or presses the button, surely the failure of unionism is to not deal with the ‘real world’ situation? This is the classic ‘you wouldn’t put a paedophile in a classroom of children’ scenario. Why do unionists feel the need to provide the oxygen to these groups? Its true that you don’t have to act (in the case of dissidents massively beyond any sense of proportion)on a reason, but isn’t it better for that reason not to exist?

    And that ‘reason’ is the seeming inability of unionists to cope with any sort of politics and democracy.

  • DC

    It’s like this, the DUP are asked to take regional leadership in tune with public opinion and sentiment which agrees with simple notions of devolving policing and justice so as sustain a bit of goodwill momentum.

    What happens, unsurprisingly – the DUP gets hamstrung by *party-politics*.

    There was a while back when this did seem like a SF demand but public opinion has overtaken that stance and it seemingly makes sense.

    It was after all the DUP that made the most noise back in 1998 whenever 72%, a dignified majority, gave expression at the ballot box to move on politically via democratic politics.

    No surprise that that party, the DUP, fails to supply regional leadership and collapses into the mud of grubby party politics for fear of losing a few seats.

    Weak, weak, weak.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    But, seemingly, Mayoman *would* slap said unfortunate kids for having being so attractive to the absuer in the first place. Wonderful, wonderful analogy, and clear evidence of both a Christian Brothers education *and* Stockholm syndrome – a real twofer. Plus MOPEing. Sometimes I could just hug Republicans. Don’t bother watching Curb tonight folks, just tune into your nearest Slugger thread for all the laughs you’ll ever need . . .

  • Mayoman

    I think your comment says more about your mind than mine, but then you are a tory. Back to your whips and oranges, good man!

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    And back to you saying that when Unionists are murdered by Republicans it’s their own fault for you.

  • Mayoman

    Pure case of reading what you want to read, rather than what is written. To make it clear, and I have already said in the previous post, those who pull triggers, and direct those to pull triggers, are to blame for any death/injury. But everybody has a duty to create the conditions where there are no reasons to pull a trigger. While the reason exists, the oxygen for these groups is there. I state again (for those who can’t read), the current reason that exists is nowhere near enough to warrant violence, although it is a reason serious enough to warrant protest and action from the governments.

  • Pedant

    I state again (for those who can’t read),

    Silliest statement of 2009 nominee foe sure.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Actually, you lying liar, here’s what you said on that other thread [http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/mcguinness-calls-on-british-and-irish-governments-to-intervene/P25/]: ‘It will, therefore, be the unionists’ fault if it [peace] breaks down’. No room for doubt there: if Republicans start murdering Unionists, it will be Unionists’ own fault. So lie away Mayoman, you’ll be joining a merry crew here on HMS Slugger, but you’ll also be caught out.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Pedant, so close, but no, uh, cigae – trust me, I feel your pain. Though I blame my mistakes on being new to the world of being a speccy git.

  • Mick Fealty

    Any chance of debating the point….?

  • Seimi

    “‘It will, therefore, be the unionists’ fault if it [peace] breaks down’. No room for doubt there: if Republicans start murdering Unionists, it will be Unionists’ own fault.”

    Actually, there’s loads of room for doubt there: One statement does NOT mean the same as the other. Who’s a liar?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    The point being that Brian reads something in the Guardian and is impressed? Colour me public sector. The point being that DG’s wain is an infatuated with ‘post’ Provos as he was with Provos? The point being that there’s non-existent, inapplicable ‘pressure’ slaveringly sought by London Friends of Sinn Five, as a fantastical means of hauling SF out of the hole they’ve so energetically dug themselves into? I’m as boring as anyone who reads Slugger, but even I struggle to see what the point of Brian is. Here, again, he appears to be saying: SF have a problem, therefore the Punt has one. And while good ole liberal boys like Brian might wish that be true, it ain’t. SF, having lost the ‘war’ are now neatly losing the peace. Good.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Seimi, wriggle all you want, but when Reublicans murder people, it’s not the fault of the people they murder that they’ve been murdered. Still, it’s always interesting to see who’s shameless enough to try it on like this.

  • Seimi

    Who is wriggling? Tell you what, you tell me how this:

    ‘It will, therefore, be the unionists’ fault if it [peace] breaks down’

    means the same as this:

    ‘if Republicans start murdering Unionists, it will be Unionists’ own fault.’

    Go on. Tell me. Bet you can’t. Because they DON’T mean the same thing.
    Again, who is the liar?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mayoman: “To make it clear, and I have already said in the previous post, those who pull triggers, and direct those to pull triggers, are to blame for any death/injury. But everybody has a duty to create the conditions where there are no reasons to pull a trigger.”

    Sure, an’ if that stupid girl hadn’t worn that short skirt and lace blouse out on Saturday night, that whole unpleasantness with the pool table could have been avoided…

  • Dewi

    “You gotta love liberal journos…”

    Milne more of a tankie….

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    You’re wriggling. When you posted that post you were wriggling. When you posted the one before it you were wriggling. Wriggling’s what you do. And, natch, parse murder. Or perhaps when ‘peace’ euphemistically ‘breaks down’, you mean to suggest that it will do so because rainbows and buttercups and daisies explode unionists and soldiers and policemen, and innocent civilians, and utterly blameless catholics, agnostics, and ‘eathen ‘indoo? Though suggesting that would of course require such a lot of wriggling indeed. Good thing you’ve limbered into shape for it.

  • Sean

    Seimi I don’t know why you bother trying to argue logic with the barking mad yorkshireman, reality divorced his intelect years ago

    There is so much talk about “community Confidence” But what bozo means by that is Duper confidence the wider community of nIreland is confidant that P+J should be devolved, problem is the wider community does not vote for the dupes just the dimmer community

  • Seimi

    ‘You’re wriggling. When you posted that post you were wriggling. When you posted the one before it you were wriggling. Wriggling’s what you do. And, natch, parse murder. Or perhaps when ‘peace’ euphemistically ‘breaks down’, you mean to suggest that it will do so because rainbows and buttercups and daisies explode unionists and soldiers and policemen, and innocent civilians, and utterly blameless catholics, agnostics, and ‘eathen ‘indoo? Though suggesting that would of course require such a lot of wriggling indeed. Good thing you’ve limbered into shape for it.’

    Did you answer my question in there somewhere? Can you point out to me where?
    Again, WHO is the liar?

    ‘Wriggling’s what you do.’ – What are you talking about?

    ‘And, natch, parse murder.’ – Think you need to be careful about what you imply…

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    I’m not implying anything, I’m saying it. You’re not capable of saying that when republicans murder people, the people responsible for that aren’t the people murdered, but the people doing the murdering. So, to conclude: you’re the wriggler, you’re taking the part of liars (ould Mayoboy up there, who’s oddly absent), and, you’re utterly unwillingly to simply say that murder is murder.

  • Seimi

    ‘I’m not implying anything, I’m saying it. You’re not capable of saying that when republicans murder people, the people responsible for that aren’t the people murdered, but the people doing the murdering. So, to conclude: you’re the wriggler, you’re taking the part of liars (ould Mayoboy up there, who’s oddly absent), and, you’re utterly unwillingly to simply say that murder is murder.’

    Actually, I am capable of it. And, I agree with what you wrote. Murder is murder, and the guilty party is the murderer, never the victim. I never said otherwise. So, how about you apologise for the lies you have written about me?

    Now, as I had the courtesy to answer you, you do the same for me.

    How does this:

    ‘It will, therefore, be the unionists’ fault if it [peace] breaks down’

    mean the same as this:

    ‘if Republicans start murdering Unionists, it will be Unionists’ own fault.’

    I’ll give you a clue:- it doesn’t mean the same thing. You, sir, are a liar. And no amount of wriggling will get you out of that.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Nah, you’re a logic-chopping, wriggling liar. But *do* keep up your frantic efforts to determine that what Mayoman said wasn’t him blaming Unionists for having the effrontery to provoke poor blameless Republicans into murdering them. It’s really doing your bona fides, as per your opening statement, no end of good, no end at all.

  • So far as I can see the devolution of Policing and Justice is more of a politician’s spat than something that the wider community has much emotional investment in. I don’t think that many in the wider community are that bothered either way, seeing the current impasse as cynical political wrangling rather than a real clash of community interests.

    The republican dissidents seem fairly keen to attack (quite literally) nationalists who participate in the existing local policing structures, it seems unlikely that devolution of policing and justice would do anything to assuage them.

    Milne’s invocation of “British pressure” to bring the naughty unionists “to heel” seems to reflect the power relations of a bygone era. I don’t see Brown doing much to pressurise unionists and Cameron will do even less.

    The main pressure that could break the current impasse is the growing cynicism amongst the NI electorate, but thanks to the rigidity of the “power sharing” structures it is unlikely that this can be translated into a force for change. All government and no opposition is being proved unworkable yet again, yet the Feeny wing of nationalism would rather blame the Prods than face up to this fact.

  • Seimi

    ‘Nah, you’re a logic-chopping, wriggling liar.’

    Pathetic.

  • Mayoman

    Thanks Seimi, I’ll try explaining why my two statements are not contradictory in a way even tories can understand!

    Before the IRA decommissioned, the loyalists used to claim that their existence provided the ‘reason’ for their sectarian killings. It was widely reported that the IRA ‘going away’ removed the oxygen of that claim, and put pressure on the loyalists to follow suit. Do you deny this was true? You see laughing boy? The removal of a ‘reason’ put pressure on another group to stop their killing? Now unless you are claiming that the existence of the IRA did actually give a legitimate reason to kill random catholics, you have to admit that you can be at fault for providing the oxygen (in this case, the misguided premise that violence is an acceptable response to the fact that the DUP are proving that unionists are institutioally incapabale of dealing with politics)but not at fault for pulling a trigger, as this lies with the guman and his masters. Geddit?? Or has there been a little too much autoasphixiation lately?

    In short, deal with the reasons, remove the oxygen, and those postulating violence on all sides will find it hearder to breathe.

    That is almost on topic too, I think!

    ps. have to give you that one pedant!

  • joeCanuck

    Methinks Mick should introduce his ban on “unparliamentary language” and simple name calling sooner rather than later.

    Submit word is “talk”.

  • Brian Walker

    Back in the world, laughing T of course I’m not impressed that the Guardian has opined, just makring the fact that it’s the first to take notice of the latest ruckus.As usual it’s the upsurge of violence that sparks the interest – worhty of note.

    Mick, I’ve some sympathy with nationalist exasperation with unionist foot-dragging over catch-up, just as unionists deserved (and didn’t get enough) understanding over broken undertakings re IRA decomm. I understand the politics as I hope I’ve shown and I hope the logjam is broken after the election. But that’s a long wait. There’s a lot of hope there but it’s better than the other stuff.

  • kensei

    Brian

    I hope the logjam is broken after the election

    Then the next council, assembly election looms. If electioneering is the problem, I doubt there is any escape.

  • Mr Brightside

    The idea that devolving P&J will somehow dissolve the dissident threat seems to me hopelessly naive.

    Unfortunately we will always have a collection of nutters willing to impose their view with a gun.

    The reason for the increase in activity is probably that they now fully realise SF have signed up to the legitimacy of the NI state, middle class Catholics are now going to vote for the Tories and that the 100 year anniversaries of the Rising and even Partition will no doubt pass with Carson still giving the fingers up at Stormont.

  • Mayoman

    “The idea that devolving P&J will somehow dissolve the dissident threat seems to me hopelessly naive.”

    On its own,you are right. But you have to start somewehere, and the longer the attitude to things like p&j remain the default position of unionism, than the more time and space the extremes will have to breed.

  • i wonder

    There is no third party right of appeal in the planning system in Northern Ireland yet no politician from any party wants it, even though a lot of voters have asked for it. They wont even discuss it at Storment in case they have to approve it because their is no sectarian reason not to.Ok boys keep the voters eye of the real issues back to marching and peace and fukin justice.

  • Sean

    Mr Brightside

    Either you are being hopelessly naive or you do not understand the argurement for devolving P+J, The arguement is that when it is devolved it will rob the dissidents of some support. Right now there is a part of the nationalist community that see the non-devolvement as a patern of returning to pre-GFA situations. And that is the part of the population who had very bad expieriences at the hands of the unionist and english controled state terrorists.

    Perhaps if they become nIreland contolled state forces these same people might start to report dissident activities to the PSNI and rob them of their seeming tacit approval

    The Nationalist community still needs to build confidence that they will be protected against the unionist paramilitaries and their political representatives(and no I do not mean Dawn Purvis)

  • Sam Thompson

    think its worth pointing out that the dissidents are not fighting this campaign to achieve the devolution of policing and justice, if it were devolved tomorrow they would still carry on with their attacks. so using this as a reason for dissident attacks is scrote. the problem is basically a political problem for SF, they made a large investment in persuading republicans that P&J was a political gain. to be seen to be held to the DUP’s terms again wont look for them, thats where the big issue is

  • Brian Walker

    kensei,
    you suggest that elections are an excuse for inaction. Sometimes they’ve had a chilling effect but not in 1998 and 2007. Take heart. Unionists have waited for republicans at cost to themselves. I doubt if either side will pay such a cost this time, in spite of increased fears over dissidents. I also think the DUP can’t evade J&P devo for very long.

  • Mr Brightside

    Sean, this is 2009. I would have thought the nationalist community need more protecting from dirty hospital wards, poor flood defences and rising unemployment than unionist paramilitaries and English sponsored terrorists.

  • Sean

    Mr Brightside

    They probably do but 8o years of attack are not fast forgotten

  • Sam Thompson

    a perfect excuse for unionists also to reject nationalist demands… attacks were two way remember. we could play that game all day

  • Sean

    Sam

    For most of the 890 years they were’nt