Ominous rumble emerges from Leargas (clear the decks for an election?)….

Well folks this is politics… and Northern Irish politics only seems to know it is alive when it’s teetering on the brink of disaster… First of all the Unionists corral with the Tories in London, and now Gerry Adams is beating the sectarian drum… This is what the Sinn Fein leader has this to say on his blog:

The power sharing institutions have demonstrated their capacity to work, make local government more accountable and accessible and change peoples lives for the better.

But no one should underestimate the determination of unionism, allied to the political system – the so-called permanent government – which is still mainly unionist at its most senior levels – to prevaricate and stall and delay. To oppose change.

So, where are we now? There has been no product thus far as a result of the negotiations.

The Ard Chomahirle meets tomorrow and will hear a report on all this. The time has long passed for the transfer of powers on policing and justice. There can be no preconditions to that. Not on the Parades Commission; not on marches; not on equality and partnership government.

Have the institutions of this indigenous deal proved they can work? Or is this just another re-run of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe? More fun to follow tomorrow’s Ard Chomhairle meeting… When we can play more quess what happens next? And what’s to become of the SDLP, now riderless courtesy of Mark Durkan’s five month farewell promenade?

In the round, the call for fresh elections would be a good move for Sinn Fein who’ve fought to stand still with the DUP trying to wriggle out of the legal trap set for them in that ‘indigenous deal’ that Mr Adams told us no one should interfere with St Andrews Agreement…

But we’ll wait till Monday to see what actually happens…. I’ll be on Evening Extra around six with some of my initial thoughts… Alisdair McD is on after five presumably trying to explain away his own party’s now precarious position, should an election take place…

Just remember Barney Rowan’s sage government insider who warned that if Sinn Fein do what people think they are going to do (ir call an election to split unionism and soak up a few seats themselves) they risk winning the battle but losing the war…

There are no risk free strategies for anyone from here on in…

  • Jimmy_Sands

    “Would you agree that Jews should allow nazi sympathizers to parade with bands named after Hitler or Hess, through their areas whilst they are put under house arrest,”

    I call Godwin.

    Thanks for playing,

  • tacapall

    I call Godwin.

    Thanks for playing,
    Posted by Jimmy_Sands on Jan 22, 2010 @ 11:20 PM

    Quirk’s Exception

    Good man for trying

  • West Sider

    I’m late to this party, but will add my voice to those perplexed by the blogger’s colouring of Adams’ piece as ‘sectarian’.

    I could be harsh and honest here, but I won’t, being a guest on his blog and all.

    But he’s not very good, is he?

  • Mick Fealty

    Ooooh, the rapier wit WS…

    Look lads, this is a website for political grown ups of all stripes. We don’t pull our punches with anyone (just go and read the other threads), nor do we pretend to get it right on every occasion.

    Why do I think Gerry’s banging the sectarian drum (and btw, whoever said he may have the pulse of the nationalist people might be right, but that does not contradict my point)?

    Follow the link and look at it… It’s an eloquent line laced with a single meme “it was themuns that done it/fecked it up…”

    Here’s how the word frequency in his speech stack up:

    Unionist (10)
    Orange (8)
    DUP (7)
    Unionism (5)
    Delay (4)
    Politics (4)

    Now, I am not surprised. There is not much left in this for SF but the blame game. We’re also being treated to that old line about May 2008 being the deadline. As Eamonn McCann so eloquently put it what the party actually got (as opposed to what it told its support) was “a semantic mile short of a deadline”… Semantics don’t matter on the street, but they do when you are charged with administrative responsibility…

    In these circumstances banging the sectarian drum is not a stupid thing to do. It’s about as smart as it gets at this end of the bottle. One thing that sustains them is the utter incompetence of the SDLP. The first trick in politics is to be ‘plausible’, and the stoops have yet to acquire that habit.

    There’s an old saw about tackling in rugby: the harder you go in the less likely you are to get hurt.

    It sounds counter intuitive to anyone who has never played rugby, but in New Zealand they understand the importance of matching weights rather than ages in schoolboy rugby. As result they bred fearless ball players.

    It is that fearlessness that both the SDLP and UUs lack and that Sinn Fein and the DUP have in bundles. And at the moment they are the parties which deserve to be where they are: in the driving seat.

    That they keep crashing the car (and blaming their co-driver) may just be down to inexperience or the poor design of the ‘indigenous’ vehicle.

    To close (it’s way too late even to be commenting on your own blog), here’s a nostalgic piece from Newton Emerson the last time the Assembly crashed as a going concern (when Slugger was a mere five months old (aaahhh…) back in October 2002:

    “I’m only supposed to be here to observe, but as the speeches wear on I can’t resist asking Adams a question myself. It’s not like I’m going to bump into him in Portadown any time soon, now is it?

    “‘Do you think your party bears any responsibility for this situation?’, I ask. ‘We all share a responsibility, the media for example,’ he replies, quickly, expressionlessly.

    “‘I’m not asking about the media’s responsibility,’ I rudely interrupt, ‘I’m asking about your party’s responsibility.’ There is an imperceptible instant of quiet. My blood runs cold. He stares right through me, blankly.

    “‘I’m trying to answer your question,’ he says. ‘You can make up your own answer if you like.’ A smile switches on, then off. ‘My answer is that we all have a responsibility, especially people in the media.’ Then Pat Doherty shouts ‘No more questions’, and off they scuttle away back up the stairs.

    “So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Devolution has collapsed – and apparently it’s my fault. On behalf of myself, I’d like to apologise to you all for the interruption. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.”

    [It took five years and SF came back with a worse deal than they (and we) had in the Belfast Agreement…]

  • Kevsterino

    I just want to make sure I understand you, Mick.

    Gerry Adams was beating the sectarian drum because he was blaming every other party but his own for the failure to resolve these matters.

    Is that what you mean or am I still not seeing it?

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, sort of Kev.

    There are lots of reasons we have come to this pass. Some of it rightly resides with unionism, and some of the things Adams says about unionism persistent negative bias viz a viz are indisputable.

    But this is not a clear eyed critique of what went wrong to be read alongside the [possibly false] assurance of the days when Paisley and McGuinness prayed alongside one another and people were giddily talking of the end of Irish history.

    At least it is a move. And, as I have said above, given the reduced circumstances Irish nationalism in Northern Ireland finds itself in, not exactly a stupid one. Yet in cultural terms it is ultimately playing the Green card and blaming the ‘stupid unionists’.

  • Kevsterino

    Ok, Mick, and thanks for the clarification, in the parlance of our times.

    This sectarian business is something that I’ve had a hard time understanding for as long as I’ve been interested in Irish politics. That goes back a ways, as I’m an old fart of 53 years. Racism I understand pretty deeply, as I live in one of the most segregated urban areas in the USA. It is no less reprehensible than sectarianism, but is expressed differently in these days of de jure equality. I would expect sectarian behavior to be similarly muted where you live.

    I suppose, if I may use a little imagination and picture a black leader explaining the collapse of my government, say of Missouri, by blaming every white institution he could think of, I could conclude he was being racist.

    Does that sound like what you’re talking about?

  • Henry94


    Yet in cultural terms it is ultimately playing the Green card and blaming the ‘stupid unionists’.

    The unionist strategy certainly looks stupid to me but I am open to having it explained to me how it contributes to progress and stability.

    Sinn Fein will be judged to have failed too of course and no amount of pointing the finger will cover up the fact that they have miscalculated badly. That is assuming there is no deal.

    As someone who was a supporter of every concession SF made along the way I believe there are two key points to remember. First it was right to try and second violence didn’t achieve anything either.

    You term “reduced circumstances” stings because it is accurate. Nationalists have a lot of thinking to do and all strands have to be included in that.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nothing much to disagree with there Henry.

    A leader needs to emerge from nationalism who has sufficient ‘height’ to see across the whole ‘territory’ and act in the interest of all rather than just some of the people.

    That’s what Robbo promised when he took on the office of FM, but has been unable to provide (and not entirely through his own fault either). Cameron promised it too, but just 18 months later is in full tilt retreat having just lost two women and two Catholic candidates on the rumour of rounding up the unionist wagons.

    From me that imaginary nationalist leader needs to be two things: confident in his/her own sense of patriotism: have no hang ups about dealing with unionists.

    Currently BOTH nationalist parties are indulging in tokenistic attacks on Unionism, when they really need to be getting tough on the causes of unionism.

    Hume was a fool to his own party’s fortunes, but he was right about one thing in that single transferable speech: this is a battle for hearts and minds. And Irish nationalism has, thus far, not even begun to see the importance of that to its own ends.

    What gets wrecked this time round will have to be re-built again. More patiently and more thoughtfully next time. But it is long been my view that for nationalism there is no escape from Hades without part taking of those tricky pomegranate seeds.

    That will take courage and vision. A courage and vision I have yet to see emerge from any quarter.

  • Mick Fealty


    Yep, that’s about the height of it. And of course it is safer for black leader to make that charge in the US than a white one. Though, I get a very vague sense this subtly changing. No?

  • Mick Fealty

    On Adams: he is a traumatised survivor of his own history. I’m not making a point about his horrific personal history so much as the history of his west Belfast Catholic community. That urban community probably contains a higher proportion of traumatised people than almost anywhere else.

    From they call the pogroms of early troubles to the lethal cat and mouse games played between the IRA and the British Army to the tit for tat kidnappings, torturing and killing by sadistic loyalist murder gangs, it was not an easy place to grow up prosper and survive in, as many clearly did and have.

    Adams has been a perfect totem for that survival story and which is one reason why the people of that constituency have remained so resolutely loyal to him through all his ups and downs and the residual distrust held for him in *some* parts of the liberal media.

    But the sectarianism engendered by that is less raw hatred and more residual distrust and resentment. That, for me, as a non WB resident, is the DNA running through that otherwise marvellous piece of rhetoric above.

  • Henry94


    The imaginary nationalist leader will have as his first priority uniting nationalism in the north because that’s the only way to get the south interested enough to support a new strategy. Hume’s ideas brought us so far. Unionism was in the end willing to share office but not power.

    We need to unite a spectrum that includes the intelligent elements in the dissident camp (and there are some) all of Sinn Fein and most of the SDLP around a post-Agreement plan in the absence of the Assembly.

    If the Assembly falls (as appears likely now) I don’t think they will be any serious demand for its return from the public. That’s the real failure.

  • Kevsterino


    At this time in the US, the politicians have not found any way to even talk about race, although racism remains pervasive. I thought we might begin the dialogue after Obama was elected, him being half African and all. But no.

    You can pass laws forbidding outward acts of racism (or sectarianism), but that leaves the job half done. It is all about the attitudes of the common people, and nobody can legislate that in a free society.

    Big difference here though. A black leader can’t get national executive power without massive white support. African-Americans still only account for about 12% of the population.

    The Stormont D’Hondt system for distributing executive power would not go over real big here. Power sharing looks like a higher evolution of democracy to me, and I hope it eventually works for Stormont. But the wrinkles and warts are still on it as far as I can see. And with the way the DUP and SF contorted it when it came to P & J made it look like there was no real commitment to it if the Ministry up for grabs was deemed vital.

    At any rate, thanks for taking the time to answer a dim Yank’s questions at a time when were I in your place I can’t honestly say I would bother.

  • John O’Connell


    On Adams: he is a traumatised survivor of his own history. I’m not making a point about his horrific personal history so much as the history of his west Belfast Catholic community.

    The two histories are inseparable. When Adams says that he is coming from a personal position of abuse and acrimony, he is telling us about his father. The unionists were never that bad if you left them to their own devices.

    I’m just slightly younger than Adams and I saw nothing of the so-called trauma. “They treated us like animals,” Adams used to say. But that was his father and not the unionists, who were political savages but only brutal if you challended their authority.

  • John O’Connell


    Power sharing looks like a higher evolution of democracy to me, and I hope it eventually works for Stormont.

    Power-sharing is a child of the minds of the SDLP and Alliance. It works for them but it cannot work for the egomaniacs in SF and the DUP by definition. An egomaniacs is always trying to win and simply cannot share.