Wake up centre parties. Your big break could be coming

Product. Game Up. But not over. The President sounds terse, even hip as he walks –out but not away. But hip as in beat or hip as in arthritis? In a round of comment on the “crisis” as Pete would punctuate it, I like Jim Fitzpatrick’s irreverent take best. Not bad for the Beeb. Is Sinn Fein sulking because the DUP are widening out to the other parties or is that a DUP stalling move? Btw the line in Gerry Adams’s encyclical that most intrigued me was

“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.

What has the civil service done to deserve this? Earlier this week it looked as if they all might be wising up. Now that they haven’t, they owe us explanations – but pigs might fly. Surely somewhere in those ample egos lurks the thought that they’re now looking very silly. The centre parties should be poised to seize the initiative. Fat chance. They look like hanging on to their mini-me roles rather than striking out for a vote-spreading, cross community, non sectarian initiative. Why on earth does it take the SDLP longer than the Labour party to elect a new leader? And shouldn’t we be told straight about the range of Conservative –unionist ambitions? It would be good to say the centre hasn’t gone away you know. If the coalition collapses they should be ready to grasp the chance to say Tiocfaidh ár lá.
But well, are they?

  • Mark McGregor

    Christ. I do blog while having had few but frig this reads as pissed out of the head gibberish to me.

  • And we still dont know what exactly the DUP want from the parading issue? Nor do we know if the UUP support that position?

    I find it diffiucult to believe that a majority of Unionists, or the Conservative Party for that matter, would want to dissolve the parades commission, however imperfect it is, given that it provides a case by case sensible means of arbitration.

  • Mark McGregor

    MU, I am lost I can’t see where Parades were mentioned in this blog. But I admit I have no iidea what fuck he is going on about.

  • Mark,

    Brian is clearly the best writer on this site, he’s entitled to occasionally drop down to the level of his peers.

  • “to prevaricate and stall and delay. To oppose change.”

    The Permanent Secretaries must have had a great laugh when they saw our MLAs riding up the hill. “I wonder how long they’ll stay this time!!”

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Those who can ,,,DO…….those who cant….TEACH.

    I am not quite sure what the post was all about either.
    “northern Ireland” journos are a bit like the Guardian readers mentioned in “Yes Minister”.

    Guardian readers believe we have the brains to run the country. Likewise local journalists contrive to see themselves as intellectual giants surrounded by political pygmies who are rather unfortunately elected by…..people.

  • Echos

    Can anyone explain why the Newsletter or Bel Tel don’t run an online poll to assess the lever of ‘community confidence’ within unionism? This would establish, tout suite, whether it’s a red herring or just another DUP fig-leaf.

  • Alias

    “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.”

    Repeating the new election slogan “End Unionist Rule! Down with Stormont!”? looks like it is designed to place the blame for their own political ineptitude onto others.

    Gerry and Martin sold the return of Stormont to the sheep as the end of Unionist Rule. Martin even had a lovely catch phrase about replacing Orange rule with Orange and Green rule. They’ll look a right pair of tits now if we admit to the mup… err… loyal supporters that they were frontmen administering unionist rule at Stormont all along. Still, unionist rule probably sounds more indigenous to the muppets than British rule.

    But it’s a risk worth taking. If those muppets can be persuaded that there is a perfidious enemy of their dreams that requires the solidarity of the green herd to defeat, then they’ll likely herd together – usually expressed as votes for Shinners – to defeat it. That way the Shinners go back to administrating British rule on behalf of their paymasters with more sheep behind them.

    Essentially the Shinners can emphasis their pose as the outsiders changing the system from within, so that useful paradox between those who claim to be opposed to British rule endorsing its constitutional legitimacy and assisting in its administration can be used to continue the integration of their supporters into the British state by presenting that establishment policy as radicalism. Creative ambiguity and all that…

    To borrow a catchphrase from Martin Ingram, “Ding! Ding!”

  • Alias

    “Can anyone explain why the Newsletter or Bel Tel don’t run an online poll to assess the lever of ‘community confidence’ within unionism?”

    Because only the DUP can supply the applicable definition under St. Andrews. It basically means whatever the DUP says it means, and not that the media or the public think it means.

  • Echos

    Alias:

    re:
    “Because only the DUP can supply the applicable definition under St. Andrews. It basically means whatever the DUP says it means, and not that the media or the public think it means. ”

    Can not SF do so? In fact, is that not what they’re doing? There were 4 parties involved, DUP, SF, London and Dublin.

    But why not the poll in the Newsletter / Telegraph? Are they loathe to put pressure on the major unionist party?

  • Henry94

    The point that people miss is that Sinn Fein are a centre party. There is a larger constituency they could lose to the dissidents than they could lose to the SDLP. I don’t really understand why unionism is willing to take that chance.

    Is not a stable Northern Ireland key to the unionist agenda? It should be.

    I wonder have the Tories played the Orange card again and promised to back unionism in return for votes in the House of Commons?

    If so then then we won’t get a deal on Justice, the institutions will fall and pointless violence will be back to fill the void. In that event SF and the SDLP will have to stick together and talk to the Irish government with one voice. Northern TDs will have to be seated in the Dail and there can be no security agenda without a political agenda.

  • Cynic2

    ” The point that people miss is that Sinn Fein are a centre party”

    Funny I had missed that somehow. It must be something they said or did that misled me.

  • Cynic2

    ” I wonder have the Tories played the Orange card again and promised to back unionism in return for votes in the House of Commons?”

    Why would they do that? They seem almost certain to have a strong working majority after the next election. They dont need this block of votes and would probably pick up say 5 seats from the UUP anyway when the voters hammer the DUP for Irisgate. Furthermore they are likely to want to avoid any connection to the right wing nutters of the DUP at local and national level.

    But building a centerist party in NI, as they promised to do, means reaching out to both sides. Bringing in the middle part of the DUPs as well as trying to reach out to the widest spectrum of people who have a conservative and unionist outlook. Perhaps one day there will be a merger – but it’s some time off and if the Conservaites are involved will probabaly mean clear vetting of members / candidates to ensure the extremists are shunted off. That realignment will be painful but necessary and from a Unionist position offers real hope of stability and creating a Party that can manage the extremes and work in real partnership with nationalists.

    The short term problem is that for Nationalists the DUP is almost as big a bogeyman as SF is for the Unionists. If we have learned anything form the last 40 years surely it is that it’s always better talking and promoting change rather than standing by, shouting slogans, seeking narrow political advantage and watching a fragile government collapse.

  • Henry94

    Cynic2

    The logic of a single pro-agreement unionist party make perfect sense in terms of the institutions. But without the institutions it probably makes little difference.

    It will lead to agreed nationalist candidates in General Elections so in the end the results will stay the same.

    probabaly mean clear vetting of members / candidates to ensure the extremists are shunted off.

    Welcome to the next split. Excluding people doesn’t work.If the unionist parties united on that basis they would find the whole to be less than the sum of the parts. If the only political salaries going are for Commons seats there will be plenty of competition one way or another.

  • Scaramoosh

    “I find it diffiucult to believe that a majority of Unionists, or the Conservative Party for that matter, would want to dissolve the parades commission..”

    I find it difficult to believe that the future of a government could seemingly (allegedly) rest upon the right of a troop of sectarian bowler hatted men to march where they like; irrepetive of consequences. Once again this makes the Unionist people the laughing stock of the world.

    Brian

    Apart from the tea sipping Alliance, it would seem that there is no other party capable of reaching out across the divide.

    On the Unionist side, this has probably got to do with the fact that the existentialist threat is so embedded in the psyche, that when it comes to the polling booth, voting against the Shinners is more important than voting for genuine progress.

    The Shinners are equally caught up in their underdog role; forever going to lead the risen people to the promised land. The SDLP are too caught up with playing the part of the Good Catholic Party.

    Dysfunctional state = dysfucntional parties.

  • wild turkey

    ‘Why on earth does it take the SDLP longer than the Labour party to elect a new leader? ‘

    ah, c’mon brian. how long you been in the business? it is just another manifestation of the manana mentality, in this instance combined with the self-conferred preciousness of the middle classes.

    it is the standard issue 19th hole approach to political and civic issues of urgency. it wouldn’t be surprising if at the next SDLP conference there is someone named marie, someone name antoinette… and that cake is served.

  • “This Blog had told Peter Robinson late the evening before that that phase of our discussions was over.” .. GA blog

    Right. And PR would be sitting up especially to read GA’s blog!!!

  • “With a ballot box in one hand and a blog in the other”

  • To start Gerry Adams is a bit thick to be calling himself ‘this Blog’. He may as well call himself a bog. But it’s pretty clear from the statements of Peter Robinson that he did read, on this occasion, Gerry Adams’ blog. It’s worth mentioning that the name of the blog is ‘léargas’ – meaning insight – but the BBC is so loathe to use Irish that it refers to it only as Gerry Adams’ blog!

  • JohnM

    Nevin,
    Are you serious?

    Of course Robbo doesn’t read Léargas. Gerry refers to himself personally as “This Blog.” Kind of strange, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Stop stirring 🙂

  • Comrade Stalin

    “Earbash” would be more like it. I found Gerry’s latest blog to be a regression back into the old republican ideological stereotypes.

    Seriously though, I am wondering what SF are going to say on the doorsteps. “Hello, yes. That thing we tried for the past 10 years ? We’re now admitting that we weren’t able to make it work because of the unionists. But be sure to vote us back in again, so that we can do .. something.”

    Personally I think Gerry has been itching to pull out of Stormont for some time. He has no personal commitment to the place (he is almost never in his seat and seldom participates in debates, except when the stranger’s gallery is packed) and, right now, he is keen to find a distraction. I think Gerry and Martin had an argument and, for the first time in ages, Martin lost.

  • iluvni

    Maybe, after an Assembly election, Adams’ vanity will be such that he will be like Paisley and find himself unable to resist the opportunity to be nominated First Minister.

  • tacapall

    The DUP are trying to drag these negotiations on as long as possible, asking the two government to intervene, “government facilitation” this way they could get a few weeks more mileage out of it. What happened to the line “interfering in our internal affairs” about the Irish Government, they are groping about in the dark, looking for side deals here and there, with anyone, within the Unionist community of course, to ensure Unionist dominance rather than inclusive partnership with Nationalism. Why should they be rewarded with “Direct Rule” or “Voluntary Coalation with weighed majority”. Plan B should be implemented, “Joint Authority” the DUP refuse to treat Nationalists as equals, they refuse to honour the agreements they made 3 years ago, time to shut up shop. Implement the very “reason” they were trying to avoid, when they went into government with Sinn Fein in the first place.

  • jack

    iluvni, you may have something there ,he wont be uachtaran na hEireann now.

  • aquifer

    The centre parties really are pussycats. Holier than thou polite Alliance, the Orange Undermine the Union Party, Greens only winghing about the environment, The Shinner Democratic faciLitation Party, and the not quite Labour enough to bother standing movement.

    They should all be locked into a room until they have agreed a programme for government and a new settlement.

    SFDUP will take the programme for fear of a new settlement that will put the centre back in power for ever.

    And once we have well functioning government people will ask what are SFDUP for.

    The dustbin of history.

  • Sammy Morse

    The UUP are so committed to the idea of a centre alternative that they’re looking to merge with the DUP to stop Marty McG First Minister.

    Civil society wants the ‘centre parties’ to get together but don’t want to get their hands dirty by actually being involved in politics. If you want political change in this society, you’re actually going to have to get involved in changing politics. Sipping lattés in BT9 conference centres isn’t going to do the trick.

  • jack

    Was bishop Gerry sent for too.

  • padraig

    it seems ironic reading this on the same day that the enlightened, middle class, well educated Sir ‘Angry’ Reg Empey has done some kind of electoral deal with the DUP barbarians.

  • tacapall

    So where does society in this region of Ireland go now. It seems there are no Political parties around that are good enough or trusted by all. Lets be blunt and honest 45%, if not more, of the population here cannot be ignored. There is no getting away from that fact. One side of the community cannot have the power to dictate the direction of politics, what is there left to do, powersharing has been tried and failed through ambiguity or bad faith, it just depends on what side of the fence you’re on. whilst trying to be impartial on these issues it seems both Governments have been landed with a political paradox, someone has to come up with a new formula to solve it.

  • Vote for the centre parties? If they got 90% of the vote they still could not elect a First Minister/Deputy First Minister, as only the Orange and Green votes count for that, so why bother?

  • “Lets be blunt and honest 45%, if not more, of the population here cannot be ignored.”

    You mean 35% and growing of the population that cannot be ignored- that’s the % of the electorate who don’t vote. They’re probably the biggest power bloc now.

  • Wabbits

    How can a group who don’t bother to vote be said to be a “power block” in the political sphere ? Thta’s patently a nonesense.

    If you don’t vote in elections you are, in effect, saying nothing about how you want to be governed.

  • Sammy Morse: ‘Civil society wants the ‘centre parties’ to get together but don’t want to get their hands dirty by actually being involved in politics. If you want political change in this society, you’re actually going to have to get involved in changing politics’.

    Absobloodylutely.

    Second point – the reason that the ‘centre’ is so weak is because there is no ‘centre’. UUP leans towards the Tories (recent events notwithstanding) and remains unionist. SDLP is sort of centre left and remains nationalist. Alliance is liberal and kind of not bothered on territory but very keen on community relations. What exactly do they have in common, how exactly do they form a ‘centre’, and why on earth do some commentators expect them to be able to work together?

  • DisgustedinDERRY

    I think we need a football match

  • “7.How can a group who don’t bother to vote be said to be a “power block” in the political sphere ? Thta’s patently a nonesense”

    What is the difference in % terms between the total pro-Union and the nationalist/republican vote?

  • Cynic2

    “Excluding people doesn’t work”

    Depends on who does the excluding. You set out your staff as a party and only accept those who can subscribe to some core principle. Those that can’t self exclude.

    One of the problems of NI Politics for the last 20 + years has been the absence of principle – at least in the centre

  • tacapall

    “Lets be blunt and honest 45%, if not more, of the population here cannot be ignored.”

    You mean 35% and growing of the population that cannot be ignored- that’s the % of the electorate who don’t vote. They’re probably the biggest power bloc now.
    Posted by oneill on Jan 23, 2010 @ 01:17 PM

    Ok then, “Catholics” are 45% if not more of the population, that cannot be ignored, when Unionists talk about majority, they do not mean in terms of how many voted.

  • “Ok then, “Catholics” are 45% if not more of the population, that cannot be ignored, when Unionists talk about majority, they do not mean in terms of how many voted”

    If you feel 45% of the population are being ignored by the representatives of the 35% of the electorate who voted pro-Union that’s surely the fault of those “Catholics” (btw at least you’re honest, the pseudo post-sectarian on here would have probably said “nationalists”)who don’t vote or the “Catholic” parties for not presenting a strong enough case to persuade more of the non-voters over to their cause?

  • Brian Walker

    Mark McGregor, I was having a little rant. Everybody else understood, even if not eveybody agreed. I’ve no problem with the criticism obviously, but if I was introduced to you face to face would you speak so rudely to me?

  • Brian Walker

    fitzjames.. I don’t mind being called a local journo but I have spent 25 years in London from where I now blog..

  • OscarTheGrouch

    I think we need a football match
    Posted by DisgustedinDERRY on Jan 23, 2010 @ 01:27 PM

    Made me think of the old Jimmy Young song – “The non-sectarian football team”

    “Their shirts and socks were orange, but their shorts they were bright green”

  • danielmoran

    echos msg 7… I think you’ve got the answer in the question, because both those papers are on the unionist [with small u ] side, but while the news letter is at least honest about their support, the Bel Tel has pretensions to being impartial. That’s a joke and a half as you’ll find if you read the editorial in the tele, the day after SF walk out.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Mr Walker,
    I understand ompletely. Being resident in London might explain a lot.
    You have perhaps as they say……gone native.

  • Alias

    Brian, I hope the unpleasantness of a few posters doesn’t diminish your interest in sharing your political analysis – which is what, I suspect, it is designed to do.

  • There are a few things you should know about me, Turgon. One, I used to think along the lines of the unionists should go back to their own country but my thinking has evolved beyond that. I don’t mind sharing Ireland with whoever wants to live here – and if Ireland is partitioned for the meantime, then so be it, everything is temporary in a way when weighed against eternity.

    The problem is that unionist politicians – and let me emphasise politicians – have badly led those who vote for them for years and continue to act as if they own the place and that others have a lesser right. This is displayed most vividly by the negative attitude of unionist politicians towards the Irish language and culture. I don’t doubt that SF has contributed to the hardening of this attitude but there’s no point in denying that it wasn’t there to begin with.

    So where do we go from here? If unionis politicians want to see any degree of acceptance of the devolved government within the UK scenario, they need to realise that it won’t happen without showing a bit of respect towards Irish culture and language. They could start by realising that the irish language and culture is actually part of British languages and culture. And, simultaneously, we Irish could be as generous as to acknowledge that unionist/British culture is an important and vital element in Irish culture. I think you will be surprised to find that this process is well advanced among Irish people.

    In the meantime I believe that the DUP/TUV and UUP AND Sinn Féin and the SDLP deserve each other.

  • DisgustedinDERRY

    Concubhar,

    Never a more honest word has been said about this ‘place’.

    If only we all had your outlook.

    Just thinking back now, reading your post, about the TV adds 15 years ago promoting peace.

    We were in a better position 15 years ago than where we are now. We had a lot more optimism. If only we knew the truth.

    It is my opinion though, that unionist politicians are reluctant to change. They cant let go of the cliché in fear of losing power, in fear of a minority of backwoods men, in fear of right wing Christians.

    Let those minority’s on both sides ‘drift’ like ‘wood’ on a river and let the rest of us live – in peace.

  • Sammy Morse

    They could start by realising that the irish language and culture is actually part of British languages and culture

    An interesting and hopeful (in the good sense) bit of lateral thinking Concubhar!