Hillsborough to provide Sinn Fein with a plausible escape from their own dismal Ministerial record?

Excellent piece by Malachi O’Doherty on the latest extravaganza from Peace Process™ Productions: Hillsborough Castle: the sequel to countless other sequels…

The republicans sold the acceptance of the police to their rank and file on the argument that control would shift to Stormont, and this was a hard step for them to take. But further than that, Sinn Féin needs a victory in this assembly, having lost face on several other fronts.

They wanted an Irish Language Act and didn’t get it; they wanted a sports stadium with a museum of the Troubles attached at the old Maze prison site, and they didn’t get that; they wanted to abolish academic selection and have produced, instead, chaos in the school system.

So Sinn Féin’s choice is either to go for an election now, with a stance of strong confrontation with the DUP, having a case against them for obstructing devolution, or to go next year, at the due time, and to campaign then on their record in power – knowing that that record is abysmal.

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  • wee slabber

    So the DUP putting a block on Sinn Fein’s wants translates in to a “dismal ministerial record”. And who said SF ever wanted a stadium – that was suggested by unionists as a quid pro quo. Malachi’s poison pen at it again.

  • Mick, I think Malachi’s ending is more significant:

    His [Brown’s] best argument back to them, then, will be that if they force an election now, they will still have to come back after it – to the same deadlock and the same arguments.

  • wee slabber

    And the argument back to Brown is we’ll walk away again, and again and… until this thing is settled in an equitable way.

  • Mick Fealty

    Guys, try to play the ball… If you don’t like what’s written walk away from the screen, count to ten and tell us what you ‘think’, not what you ‘feel’…

  • danielmoran

    ‘to the same deadlock and the same arguments’

    Nevin. But surely not to have to deal with the DUP anymore. As stated on UTV last night, by jim dougal, the unionists won’t be able to join up to prevent Marty as FM, because they won’t be able to change their party names, and will therefore be listed on election results as DUP and UUP.

  • “Sinn Féin will fight this election, if it comes, on the charge that the DUP needs to be taught a basic lesson in nationalist equality.”

    Nationalist equality is a strange phrase. Nationalists seek a United Ireland where Unionists would have little or no say, not equality within the United Kingdom.

  • Daniel, presumably they’d have to stand in an election under the same label and it would be just a matter of registering that name. Also, I doubt if they would enter OFMDFM with MMcG as FM; it probably would be a bridge too far and certainly one that southern parties would not run with in the Dáil.

  • Henry94


    Nationalists seek a United Ireland where Unionists would have little or no say, not equality within the United Kingdom.

    Why would unionists have little or no say in a united Ireland? There is a broad consensus within nationalism that power-sharing would be a necessary part of any united Ireland.

  • That’s just blarney, Henry 94. There’s no way that Unionists would get a 50/50 call on decisions pertaining to the allocation of resources.

  • Scaramoosh

    “Nationalists seek a United Ireland where Unionists would have little or no say, not equality within the United Kingdom.”

    They would have a say equivalent to their proportional share of the vote, as in any democracy; as would Sinn Fein.

  • Exactly, Scaramoosh, no say at all in the distribution of resources.

  • abc123

    Henry94, actions like this show why Unionists would have no say if taken over by Eire. That has been the history of the state – Protestants have had to keep their heads down and conform, or else …

  • Kensei


    Given the nature of coalitions in the Republic, there’s a fair chance they might have outsized importance.

    Or they might just vote for FF, FG or Labour.

  • JohnM

    Nevin, as opposed to the massive influence that Unionists exert in the UK, making up a WHOPPING 2% of the population. You’d think that by sticking a 0 on the end of that 2% you would have more of a say in a united Ireland.

    Nationalist equality means equality in the current assembly. The DUP do not appear to be very keen on honouring this.

  • Kensei, there’s no way Unionists would be given the power of veto.

    I suspect there would be a speedy realignment of parties if Unionists were permanent power-brokers in coalitions.

    I like your equivalent notion of Nationalists here voting UUP, DUP or TUV 🙂

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Does anyone believe that the present leadership of the Dup are interested in

    a) moving forward

    b) know how to move forward even if they were interested.

  • JohnM, 20% is still a minority.

    None of the parties are up for equality in the assembly, apart from the largely impotent Alliance Party. And it seems that the Committees are unable to hold Ministers to account.

  • danielmoran

    Nevin msg 7. I should have written that neither UUP nor DUP would be prepared to ditch their identities [the speakers ruling on Ervine is the precedent] just for the sake of preventing MMcG getting FM, especially since it’s purely a superficial title and their potential voters surely know they’re the same. they wouldn’t want to be seen to taking their voters for idiots, would they?

  • tacapall

    Nationalists have shown time and again throughout the various councils here that they are quite willing to share power with Unionists. Unionists on the other hand are quite the opposite.

  • Panic, the 1998 Agreement embedded a tug-of-war constitutional ‘settlement’. How is ‘moving forward’ an option?

  • JohnM

    Nevin, what I actually think should happen, would be for the establishment of four provincial assemblies/governments, with the Dáil acting more like an umbrella parliament.

    This would give present-day unionists at least 40% representation in an Ulster parliament based in Belfast.

  • Daniel, considering who the voters put into the assembly ‘idiot’ is an apposite epithet.

    Can you elaborate on the Ervine precedent, please?

    I agree that the two titles are essentially equivalent but the symbolism might be a bridge too far. Dublin’s hypocrisy on the desirability of organisations like SF in government doesn’t help.

  • John, what you are calling for was stated by Sinn Féin (before it went all leftist) in its Eire Nua document.


    Left wing republicanism has always been a disaster. Adams and McGuinness campaigned against the policy (‘sop to unionism’) and acheived its destruction.

    See here how unionists received the Eire Nua policy:

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Nevin said

    “20.Panic, the 1998 Agreement embedded a tug-of-war constitutional ‘settlement’. How is ‘moving forward’ an option? ”

    If the will and know how was there, progress could certainly be made on devolution.

    Unionist intransigence shows a devastating insecurity with regard to the Union.

    Any movement, particularly progressive devolution and their Union Edifice is in peril.

    In my opinion this “rabbit in the headlights” approach is certainly doomed.

  • JohnM, that’s a very reasonable offer from a Nationalist perspective but it doesn’t really resolve the Unionist/Nationalist conundrum. Nationalists had 30%+ representation in the old Stormont.

  • Tacapall, what power do committee chairs or council mayors have? The allocation of resources comes down to the number of seats various parties have and the deals they do with each other. For example, the presence of a UUP or SF chair in Moyle District Council will not affect the overall budget allocations.

  • Panic, the will and know-how isn’t there and even if it were the tug-of-war scenario would still nullify it. Also, I don’t think it helps to portray one aspiration as more or less valid than the other and its exponents as more or less committed to their respective causes.

  • Any true democrat would support SF on this, the spirit of devolved policing was clearly in the GFA, otherwise the UK state would not have invested so much time in getting SF to sign up to it.

    The whole history of the six counties has been one of the sectarian use of the police, hence the DUP’s unwillingness to publicly give this up. Yet Mick cries opportunism at SF.

    Mick Fealty
    You pose as a liberal, but in fact you increasingly resemble a reactionary tory, you accuse SF of creating chaos in the school system. Yet in truth you seem to prefer that to the DUP stepping up to the plate and ending the inequalities inherent in selective education.

    Better a bit of chaos than to endorse the continuos exploitation of working class children and the failure to give them a fair crack at life’s chances.

    Any civilised society would willing endorse an Irish Language Act , a museum of the Troubles attached at the old Maze prison site, and the abolition of academic selection and come to that devolved policing. Yet you attack SF, do you not think it is time to place the blame where it belongs for this blockage in the system?

  • Kensei


    Kensei, there’s no way Unionists would be given the power of veto.

    No. I don’t believe I suggested anywhere that they would. They would have some constitutionally protected rights though, and votes on things like Europe and th elike they don’t get now.

    I suspect there would be a speedy realignment of parties if Unionists were permanent power-brokers in coalitions.

    That doesn’t make sense. If Unionists were power brokers, it implies that the big parties are competing for their votes. Unionism have more in common economically with FF and FG than SF does. Given that in the event of a United Ireland, there is realisitically zip chance of it ever being undone, exactly what grounds would parties “realign” over?

    So I suspect you are talking through your hat.
    I like your equivalent notion of Nationalists here voting UUP, DUP or TUV 🙂

    Except that isn’t an equivalent comparison.

  • danielmoran

    Nevin msg 22. I’ve only just heard the Ervine case explained last night by Jim Dougall on UTV news, it goes, some time ago, Reg Empey wanted [and tried] to bring Ervine in the UUP group in assembly AFTER an election, and the speaker willie Hay ruled it out, saying that new groups had to be established before votes cast, so now any pact btwn DUP and UUP, which left their original party names intact, would only count as votes for the seperate parties, therefore cannot overtake SF votes. I think that puts the Kybosh to that cosy cartel after Reg Empty in News letter [today 26/01] ruled out any formal merger with DUP.

  • Kensei, I produced a very clear parallel: Nationalists voting for Unionist parties vis-a-vis Unionists voting for Nationalist parties. That hat you’re wearing is obviously too large!!

    Just love that EU reference and Ireland’s opportunity to vote until it got the right answer – on two occasions.

    The realignment would take place to prevent Unionists acting as power-brokers.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Surely all this discussion of Unionists in the Dail etc is purely academic? My understanding of the GFA was that NI would remain part of the UK until a NI majority voted to leave. Given the deafening lack of a SF call for a border poll, it would seem fair to assume that this will not be the case for the forseeable future.

    Why however is a border poll not planned, if only to clarify the electorates position? If one were held imminently and resulted in say a third in favour OF UI, would this not be enough to put the constitutional issue to bed for at least a decade, allowing the local parties to concentrate on bread & butter issues rather than the tedious zero sum games they constantly indulge in? Or am I being idealistic?

  • danielmoran

    Nevin msg 22. You may recall that some time ago, Reg Empty wanted to co opt David Ervine into UUP ranks for voting purpose at assembly, AFTER an election, but speaker willie Hay ruled it out because such a link up would have to be already formal BEFORE an election. Last night on UTV news, Jim Dougal confirm what i already thought, that this Ervine ruling set a precedent for the pact envisaged by UUP/DUP to sabotage marty getting FM now. The supposed arrangement btwn UUP/DUP would have to be formal for their combined votes in stormont to be merged, and bring them the bulk needed to overtake SF.
    Now, Reg EMPty strikes again, in a piece in News letter today, [26/01], Empey rules out any formal merger with duppers, to make a mockery of Sammy Wilson’s item in yesterday’s edition of same paper extolling virtues of pact.
    I think that puts the kybosh on that cosy arrangement for assembly election, if one is still allowed by govts. that is.

  • Daniel, the declaration of the name would have to be in place prior to the convening of a new assembly.

  • Mick Fealty


    You are accepting the false premise that what we had was a public debate on education reform.

    When we get to a point when we have two parties prepared to talk about education reform properly, I would love to facilitate an inclusive public debate on the matter.

    And BTW, how did SF not create chaos in the school system, with what was a cast off piece of legislation from a direct rule minister?

  • Kensei


    Kensei, I produced a very clear parallel: Nationalists voting for Unionist parties vis-a-vis Unionists voting for Nationalist parties. That hat you’re wearing is obviously too large!!

    Southern Nationalism is differnet from Northern Nationalism as a consequence fo partition. Similarly Unionist parties in London are different tot he local ones. Plus in a United Ireland the context is different; is there real prospect of it ever being rolled back? I would guess no due to inertia and the difficult of say extracting Derry or Newry or West Belfast from the new settlement. That may concentrate minds on day to day issues.

    May not. Just flying kites, which is all this could ever be at this juncture.

    Just love that EU reference and Ireland’s opportunity to vote until it got the right answer – on two occasions.

    Had it not been for the economic crisis, Ireland could well have voted it down again. I dislike it t in a short space myself, but there is no reason democratic societies can’t return to a question. No one forced people to vote yes the second time.

    The realignment would take place to prevent Unionists acting as power-brokers.

    On what grounds?

  • On the grounds of more or less a Unionist veto, Kensei. Also, the end of NI’s membership of the UK could easily lead to a realignment as the constitutional geometry would have changed.

  • danielmoran

    nevin msg 9. from what Empey says, and wiuth the well pulic nature of the bad blood between the two parties, it’s hard to see them getting any new party and logistics in place before an election here, unless of course that election is much delayed beyond the present parliament in london. they could have an arrangement to agrre candidates for westminster, but taking back Ferm/sth Tyr, and/or Sth Belfast would be hollow victory for Dup, if they get hammered at Stormont.

  • Daniel, it’s all very open-ended at the moment. The ‘scandals’ surrounding the leaders of DUP and SF may have unpredictable political consequences.

  • Mick F

    I think you as owner of slugger are being slightly disingenuous by saying there has been no education debate, you were in a prime position to kick start such a debate when the ending of selection was first proposed. You could have offered space for the SF minister to put into place there parties programe and asked the other parties to contribute etc.

    You are well aware that a large section of the unionist middle class, along with the Roman Catholic hierarchy will not accept ‘reform’ that does not include the continuation of selective education. It is not reform they wish for but SF’s submission.

    I note you have not attempted to deal with my claim that any civilised society would willing endorse an Irish Language Act, a museum of the Troubles on the site of the old Maze prison, the abolition of academic selection and devolved policing. Do you consider all or any of these outrageous demands?

    At least three of these or something very similar are part of every day life elsewhere in the UK and it seems to me a museum of the troubles in which all parties are represented/etc, would help future generations understand their recent past and arm them against a rerun of the troubles.

    I am puzzled why IMO you keep placing the blame for the deadlock at SF’s door, christ there is much that can be laid at the SF leadership’s door, but the stagnation at Stormont is not one of them..

  • Reader

    Mickhall: Any civilised society would willing endorse…
    … the things I favour.

  • “Mickhall: Any civilised society would willing endorse…

    … the things I favour.”


    No, that is not what I mean, as it happens I do not believe devolved policing is worth diddly squat, but the fact is a majority of nationalist do. My point was none of the points I mentioned are consider outrageous in the rest of the UK or elsewhere.

    Parts of the UK already have language acts of one type or another, non selective education is the order of the day within most of the UK, devolved policing, not that dissimilar to what is suggested for the North, police committees etc is already in use in the rest of the UK.

    As to the troubles museum, the opposition to it reminds me of people who decades ago opposed black history, or in the US museums of slavery or the native americans.

    Today they are regarded as nutter’s, once established, for good or bad such museums become a tiny particle of every day life.

    The problem with the ‘peace process’ is the unionists have refused to deal with their past, whilst demanding republicans do so. It is shameful and pitiful behaviour. Why sign up to devolved government if you are not prepared to share power with your neighbours.

    None of these issues are major questions of principle, if you believe they are please enlighten me. Unionist simply see them as a means to beat SF with.

    Mick Fealty,

    Your silence on the questions I raised is deafening, I ask again, are any of the following questions unreasonable within a civilised society.

    An Irish Language Act, a museum of the Troubles on the site of the old Maze prison, the abolition of academic selection and devolved policing.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Mickhall — from a Unionist standpoint, rightly or wrongly, your points above are regarded, as with so much in NI, in absolute reverse.

    Where exactly is the need for an Irish language act? No-one is prevented from learning, writing or speaking Irish (though in terms of using it in everyday discourse pitifully few do, in either part of the island). What would it achieve?

    Non-selective education is a noble idea, but formulating a viable alternative with cross-party agreement might be an idea before tearing up the present system. By failing to do so, the minister has merely created chaos and stress for everyone’s children.

    I’ll confess to not entirely understanding what the devolving of P&J will mean to the average person in everyday life. Suspecting I’m not alone in this.

    The ‘troubles museum’ would almost certainly be a bitter bone of contention for decades. How exactly for instance do you square approx half the population regarding the hunger strikers as self-sacrificing martyrs while the rest regard them as deluded suicides who achieved absolutely nothing other than SF electoral advantage?
    Having recently visited the refurbished Ulster museum, there is a decent and largely unbiased display of the ‘troubles’ for all to see. Why do we need another?

    I notice that you compare the proposed ‘troubles museum’ to slavery and the native Americans — if you really think that the experience of NI Nationalists can be compared in any way to the above, I rather doubt we as communities will ever be able to reach agreement on anything.

    ‘The problem with the ‘peace process’ is the unionists have refused to deal with their past, whilst demanding republicans do so.’

    Interesting that SF actively seek to retrospectively portray the provos as a group of selfless freedom fighters whilst most Unionists rightly regard the UDA et al as a bunch of thugs. Who is having problems with the truth of their past?

    ‘Unionist simply see them as a means to beat SF with.’

    Conversely Unionists see them as a means for SF to beat Unionism.

    We have to face the fact that diametric opposites are going to agree on very very little if anything, and IMHO until the border question is put to bed via a poll ASAP, the assembly will remain in a permanent state of inertia.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Thank you for replying to my questions, I really appreciate you taking the trouble. Firstly let me say I do not regard the experiences of the nationalist community as being on a par with the native Americans, etc, although I do believe they were in the past treated as second class in the northern statelet. My point is, what matters is what members of an oppressed group think, and nationalists clearly believe in the first four or five decades of the statelet they belonged to an oppressed group.

    You make a fair point about the display at the Ulster Museum, however the nationalists elected representatives believe a museum of the troubles would be beneficial, in truth I do not see this as a detrimental step, despite all the water which has flowed under the bridge. I would stress it must be unbiased and must express the opinions, hurt and history of all sections who experienced the troubles. Including both communities, the British army, prison officers, prisoners and para militaries, etc.

    It will not be long when most folk in the north will have little memory of the troubles. [hopefully] This is why I feel such a museum could be beneficial. Better future generations get the truth than some old wives tale.

    I doubt you will agree with me, but I do not believe it is correct to compare the PIRA with the UDA/UVF, as they imo were mere conduits of the UK security forces. A better comparison would be with the British army in Ireland.

    Whether I like it or not I feel the issue of the border has been put to bed, and it will be a future generation that deals with it, more of a curse that a blessing to will ones children. In the meantime perhaps it is time politicians from both sides dealt with issues which have been put to bed elsewhere long ago, and made an attempt to stop this continuos points scoring.

    As I have already said, I doubt these issues would become of great importance any where else but the north. Sad but true.

    All the best.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Mick — I would agree with you that Nationalists were to a certain extent treated as second class citizens in NI, a situation that was both shameful and small minded. Neither can the Republic be proud of much of it’s 20th century history, both in terms of it’s alarming loss of Protestant minority (for various reasons best left to another day) and failure to protect it’s own citizens from a dictatorial and abusive church.

    Although I wasn’t around at the time, there seems little doubt that NI Nationalists were discriminated against in terms of jobs, housing and local government. Whilst lamentable, I really don’t see how this justifies a museum any more than it justified a murder campaign spanning three decades.

    As for the idea of a ‘troubles museum’, your contention that it should ‘express the opinions, hurt and history of all sections who experienced the troubles’ may be a noble one, but would also be a recipe for endless wrangling, endless committees and bottomless funding. Most of us could think of a hundred better ways to spend that kind of money.
    The Ulster museum display gives a decent overview of the conflict for the casual observer — should their interest be sparked, there are endless books and online resources on the subject for both the tourist and the next NI generation.

    Not surprisingly I don’t agree with your summation of the paramilitaries. A reasonable case could be made that as the PIRA was riddled with informers and agents at every level, they too were conduits of the UK security forces/govt.

    In either case, it is difficult to see how the protestant paramilitaries were utilised for anything other than informing on their own, since their ‘campaign’ was largely one of random sectarian murder. Had they been genuine ‘conduits of the UK security forces’ I think it might be fair to assume they could have been used to target members of SF and the PIRA, something which with very few exceptions they simply did not do.

    Your comparison with the British army in Ireland is similarly flawed. The army were brought into NI as protectors of the Nationalist community, quickly demonised and targeted by the IRA.
    They suffered considerable losses and can be said to have ‘held the line’ at various times against paramilitarism and civil unrest. Their NI role was at times controversial, not least on Bloody Sunday, but it would be entirely wrong to equate them with PIRA who explicitly went out to murder others, whether they were security forces, civilians or members of their own community.

    I’m glad you agree that the border issue has been ‘put to bed.’ Personally I feel that a firm border poll figure could help the assembly business move forward, away from the constant hope/spectre of a UI which seems highly unlikely to occur for many decades, if indeed at all.

    In the meantime, many Unionists feel (rightly or wrongly) that SF calls for language acts, contentious museums, P&J devolution etc are merely small steps designed to isolate NI from the rest of the UK.

    Your assertion of ‘continuous points scoring’ and ‘anywhere else but the north’ are sadly spot on. Both the DUP and SF have archaic but dangerous dinosaurs breathing down their necks in the forms of the TUV and dissident republicans.
    In this atmosphere neither can be seen to concede ground, but equally require progess for their electorate, resulting in potentially permanent stasis.

    My contention that a border poll could ‘cool the air’ and hopefully neuter the extremes has no doubt been considered. Failing this I have to say we can expect a future of at best no progess and little trust.

  • danielmoran

    I wonder if the PMs in their paper given at hillboro the other night, insert the date for transfer of P&J as May 4th, and before the westminster election, knowing the DUP couldn’t dispute this date without giving the game away that the stalling was all aboutthe GE, and avoiding this date to prevent TUV having that stick campaign, and nothing to do with parades, as Marty said, most SF voters believe that was the intention all along. in

  • danielmoran

    Continuation of msg 21
    Most SF voters believe that was the intention all along in delaying assent to the P&J transfer. Now, if the DUP decide to give their assent now, it will only be because the Govts have called their bluff by giving a SF date for transfer, and they [DUP] have realised their stalling has been called, and hasn’t a hope of delaying things till after the westminster poll. So much for Robbo’s reputation as a canny strategist. ‘canny’ as in canny cut it as a leader, lol.