Unionism under the DUP: Firmer, bolder but still much too short sighted…

First of all, one of the things the DUP have miscalculated is that being right about something is never going to be enough. Especially not in a society in which a warm smile and the stale whiff of cordite goes much further than all the earnest work in the world. As we counselled unionism in general back in May 2003:

Ultimately, this is a battle for people and not for land. 1066 and All That tells us that the English Civil War was ‘an extremely memorable struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Romantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).’ In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer, bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed.

By no imaginable measure is the DUP an attractive project to anyone but its core support. For all the protests from within that party, it is still held to be repulsive even by fellow unionis. Putting the blame on some of the liberal biases we’ve seen the media indulge themselves in over the last few weeks misses the point.

Some of those biases have been pretty horrendous. Take, for instance, last week when Gerry Adams gently chided reporter Conor McAuley for not investigating or even reporting in outline a rape victim’s accusations of cover up against two IRA , whose denials (of the unreported allegations) were nevertheless carried by the BBC two days previously.

I’ve heard some plausible reasons why the victim’s side of the story was not covered by the theoretically impartial BBC: sheer cock up is the most credible of them. It sits uncomfortably with the Corporation’s tally ho chase of the First Minister and his wife across the fields of scandal and controversy only the week before.

As Pete outlined in his piece for Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Sinn Fein’s part in this issue of policing and justice has been questionable from the start. The DUP will be given no credit for their firm standing on the murder of Paul Quinn so early on. Nor for the fact that that generous financial deal that Robinson got for Unionism has been continuously discounted too.

Within the Peace Process™ plausible deniability is a concept reserved entirely for dissembling Cavaliers who have a ton real life skeletons (some of them still very much alive) in their cupboards: and not for antsy Roundheads with tendency to tell like it is. You need charm to lie in public and get away with it. Whilst the DUP may have many strong assets, charm is not one of them. Neither are they terribly convincing liars.

Which brings me back to the underlying problem political unionism finds itself returning to. The St Andrews Agreement was supposed to be about the triumph of politics. Ian Paisley’s last great closing move was to force Sinn Fein (along with the decisive backing of Bush’s State Department) to recognise the PSNI. Many in the party may feel the long coda of whether to approve devolution of policing and justice was a card worth playing. But like Sinn Fein’s IRA arms it has become more of a burden the longer they’ve carried it on.

The challenge for any unionist leader remains what it was seven years ago. Do they have the determination to lead? The DUP may have been firmer and bolder than any of their predecessors. But hardly any more far-sighted. When this mess clears, there will be another series of engagements. For all the pious talk of the dangers of going back to war (and the killings), there is little appetite for it in the streets.

Instead, Stormont Castle and Parliament Buildings either await a return of incumbents, or a new dispensation that allows a nationalist party and a unionist party to actually achieve something for their voters instead of constantly looking over their shoulders at whomever is lined up to stab them in the back. As I argued a few weeks ago on the Guardian site, the DUP is checkmated on P&J and will sooner or later have to roll over and concede.

Political unionism as a whole (the UUs and Tories as well as the DUP) has been taught some pretty tough lessons in the last few weeks. It will need to draw the right conclusions and find plausible ways to consolidate under single interest. But it cannot be under the old inward looking Protestant only terms. They need to cultivate friends and influence more than they need to piss off even more of those nice liberal ladies and gentlemen of the press.

And next time they find themselves in the right, maybe someone somewhere (other than the odd disreputable blog) will actually believe that they mean what they say for once.

  • Scaramoosh

    As times changes, and matters evolve, not least P&J, the DUP grow more anachronistic by the day. The hardball masonic lodge/orange card that sings of Ulster as British and Protestant grows less practical and less potent by the day (as does the Shinners “we are the oppressed people card”). It is time to stand up and be counted; time to lead.

    What the present/recent crisis has revealed is that people on the ground are bored of status quo politics, that was put in place to stop the Provos blowing up the City of London.

    A United Ireland may indeed come about some day, but that should only be because it makes economic sense for it to happen.

    The UUP, for all of their faults, are moving into new ground, through trying to diffuse the negative
    images and thoughts that are associated with the Union. They are outflanking the hard men of the DUP, who more and more look as though they are getting stuck in the mud.

    If you are looking for a reason as to why Sinn Fein seem to be so popular; look no further than the DUP and the TUV.

  • joeCanuck

    Repost from E.M.’s thread.


    People, especially the DUP would do well to remember that once great political parties can disappear virtually overnight.
    Remember the once great UK Party called the Liberals. In recent times the then Conservative Party in Canada was reduced from a comfortable parliamentary majority to 2 seats in the early 1990s. They split hopelessly and had to constitute a new Party eventually 15 years or so later.
    Posted by joeCanuck on Feb 04, 2010 @ 09:15 AM

  • jtwo

    Mick, like all media studies quasi-experts, gets excited about things like Bias, Ideology, Structure and betrays the fact he knows the square root of fuck all about the contingencies and practicalities of managing a complex story to publication in an consequence-rich environment.

    The BBC went hell for leather on Robbo as they held all the cards: they were in command of the facts and the nuance. They had the legal advice based on primary sources. They were sure of their ground.

    With Cahill et al they had none of these so could hardly indulge in a “tally ho chase”.

    As I understand they did nothing on Cahill till they had a signed waiver – which was probably prudent seeing as an allied story, which we all know about turned into a clusterfuck on the issue of identification.

    An issue the various barrack room lawyers here assured us wasn’t actually an issue, based on third hand assurances and a cavalier approach to the rights of victims.

  • union mack

    ‘What the present/recent crisis has revealed is that people on the ground are bored of status quo politics’

    i hope this is borne out in a swing away from the two main parties at the next election. but i wont hold my breath

  • joeCanuck

    union mack,

    I suspect that SF will actually pick up votes by appearing to have acted reasonably, not collapsing the Assembly, staying around and diligently negotiating, even “giving away” things etc.

  • joeCanuck

    Forgot to mention the pleasure that some people take in kicking a dog when it is down, especially if the dog previously bit them.

  • granni trixie

    Joe:SF picking up extra votes is a spin too far.
    Look at the different kinds of voices including some from their heartlands that are now criticising GA for many reasons and SF culture of cover up. You would not have heard those voices previously.The genie is out of the bottle.

  • danielmoran

    JoeCanuck Msg2 It would all the better from a nationalist standpoint were the DUP to be wiped out while it’s creator was still alive to see it for himself. The Policing and Justice powers WILL be brought here either from the deal now on offer, or if that falls, then after the assembly election that would result. So the balance of the three year term of this assembly is; DUP decided not to try to advance unionist cause, knowing it could be vetoed, so they decided on a strategy of denying SF at everything the shinners wanted, but now the smoke has cleared, all they were doing was delaying, which, whatever they claim, is not prevention. Now the DUP have nothing to show for their 3 years, and not likely to get a second bite at it any time soon. While the SF agenda is alive and well, and might even eat further into the SDLP vote since that party’s time has run it’s course.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Yeah your right The Orange Order is repulsive !

  • If you want to know why Sinn Fein are so popular, look to the consciences of those who knowingly support an organisation that has murdered thousands and maimed tens of thousands. If you can turn a blind eye to a systematic campaign of bloody terror, you can swallow any old guff. That is the essence of Sinn Fein’s “popularity”.

  • joeCanuck

    Your orange slip is showing, David. There are lots of people on both sides with blood on their hands or, at least, blind eyes.
    Saying that themmuns were worse ignores the elephant.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Political unionism as a whole (the UUs and Tories as well as the DUP) has been taught some pretty tough lessons in the last few weeks.’

    Problem being they’ve been taught some tougher lessons in the past -Anglo-Irish agreement being just one and they choose not to learn -Their call . if they can’t adapt to a changed political landscape they’ve only themselves to blame .

    What SF need to do now is to reach out to those ‘unionists ‘ who favour neither UCUNF nor TUV and who are somewhat queasy about the FP wing of the DUP .

    SF can maintain their Irish Unity aspiration while at the same time taking their seats at Westminster and offer their support to Gordon Brown’s Labour. In this way they could be seen to support the economic and social interests of ‘liberal’ or left unionists who are now ‘disenfranchised ‘ at Westminster .

    To those who would see such a move as a betrayal of Republican principles I would point out that the voters have long since given up on so called ‘principled’ politicians for two reasons
    a) very few if any exist and b) they have not been unknown to change their principles when opportune .

    With the dual mandate ending for the Assembly and Westminster a move to Westminster would surely sharpen SF’s parliamentary skills for the future and presumably with a an extra couple of SF MLA’s would strengthen the party and enable them to move on to the post Adams era stronger rather than weaker .

    Such a reach out might even help SF win an extra seat at Westminster -it would also strengthen the GFA .

    It would also enable some ‘unionists ‘ to vote for SF candidates WITHOUT putting the ‘union’ at risk .

    SF probably have a better chance of picking up that extra Westminster seat than the SDLP and/or Alliance given their base support .

    If the Tories can stick their noses into NI politics and upset the ‘applecart ‘ why should’nt SF do the same at Westminster ??

  • joeCanuck


    Granni, above, said that I was going a spin to far. If so, you must be revolving at an incredible rate.

  • danielmoran

    David Vance msg 10
    Your theory only works as long as you leave out any historical fsacts that don’t suit your bias. such as the fact that nats voted only for SDLP up until the late 80s and unionists refused to recognise that mandate, in the belief the british would secure a one sided set up to go on with but the british govt rejected that constirtutional convention report because unionists were only suggesting another Stormont. So nationalists then started voting SF. It wouldn’t help your post to include those stubborn facts in it. The days of unionist majority rule are over DV. so get over it.

  • Brian Walker

    Pete’s is a fine exegesis and a useful corrective to sloppy thinking (I don’t know about “liberal”). For me, Sinn Fein’s stance towards the DUP resembles David Trimble’s serial departures from the first Executive because the IRA did not observe the pledge? aspiration? in Tony Blair’s dashed-off letter to him, to bring about disarmament within two years. Not in the Agreement you see sport. The rational person would have supported Trimble; and today, I think SF has – not a clincing case – but a point. We know all about contructive ambiguity. There’s little doubt that the thrust of the St Andrews Agreement was in the direction of a deal on J&P, and an agenda the DUP rejected with roundheaded contempt. This showed a lack of understanding of the consociational balance that sooner or later, was bound to rebound against them. SF were able to act with greater impunity after McGuinness’s momentous ” traitors” branding of the dissidents. The best that can be said for either of them is that it took Sinn Fein/IRA ( I think the slash works here) 8 – was it? – years to disarm and the DUP three years and counting to agree to the billed completion of devolution. So the DUP has the better of it in a woeful competition of negatives. Moving on from the exegesis, the abiding secrecy of the political process shields both sides from public pressure. Isn’t it quite fantastic that in this small community, neither party can be bothered to frame clear answers to basic questions, such as : what would satisfy the DUP and is it in SF’s gift to award it? Why are SF so insistent, apparently to the point of rupture? I would want them to say it in person, not leave partial versions of it to the much maligned media. We should be told. A small symptom of their arrogance was McGuinness walking away from the press in the Great Hall, without saying thank you. The press are mere mike holders and the people outside the party machines are even less. All I can is a plague on both their houses for their infantilism (with apologies to infants), if between them, they bring down the Assembly.

  • Greenflag

    joe canuck .

    When you are dealing with the Tories you can never spin fast enough -ditto for the others –

    Seriously what would SF have to lose . It’s obvious to all but the thickos that Westminster holds the purse strings for the province . In view of a probable 5 year period ahead of economic ‘dislocation’ facing NI and the UK and ROI why would SF ‘disenfranchise ‘ their voters over a ‘principle ‘ which has been conceded in any event in the GFA i.e Irish Unity by consent and NOT by the gun.

    If nothing else such a move by SF would set the cat among the pigeons among the unionist parties as each would try to ‘recover’ votes . Right now the UUP are written up for the Tories and the DUP are likewise identified with the Tories if not directly then by economic policies ?

    SF could of course make their commitment to support of Labour for one term of Government and reassess the situation again at the next election .

    Time to be pragmatic .

  • Impartial Reporter


    The thought of Sinn Fein taking their Westminster seats would make me very happy. One step closer to real democracy

  • Greenflag

    David Vance ,

    ‘look to the consciences of those who knowingly support an organisation that has murdered thousands and maimed tens of thousands. If you can turn a blind eye to a systematic campaign of bloody terror, you can swallow any old guff.’

    Well you must be the world champion guff swallower then . For I found an organisation /organisations that murdered not just tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of people on this island both Catholic and Protestant over the centuries .

    Happens to be HMG and a succession of tyrant Kings and a degenerate aristocracy and their collaborators on this island .

    I’m not suggesting SF or their military wing were angels -far from it – but in the records of killings over the long period of the troubles I believe the socio and psychopathic element were far better represented among those ‘loyal’ to the crown than those opposed to it .

  • Greenflag

    impartial reporter ,

    A big step for SF but you are right it would be
    a step closer to real democracy. And you never know . Some ‘unionists’ might even get used to voting SF not just in Westminster elections 🙂

  • Marcionite

    The Tories would shudder at Sinn Fein taking their seats. This would mean at least 4 more active oppposition MP’s threatening what might be a very wafer thin majority for them.

    Perhaps ceding half a county to the RoI once every 5 years to ease the absorption might be a solution. Noone would really notice once the amputation arrived at Bushmills/Glengormly fault-line.

    I remember when even the SDLP were untouchables to Unionism because their loyalty to the crown was suspect (oh the naivity of the early 70s.)That’s why nationalists over the years decided to turn to the pitbull SF to see if they could deliver.

    My concern is that what if a TUV become the main unionist party and do to the DUP what the DUP did to the UUP? Are we seeing a Dr Who-like generational handing over off the baton from Once-No-But-Now-Yes Unionist Party to a spanking brand new NO-NO-NO Unionist Party?

    What if all those in the assembly SF team who ever had any personal conviction or involvement with the IRA to voluntarily resign and replace themselves with a lilywhite team? Noone could reasonably object to this as such a team would comprise noone with an IRA history.

    It could be the necessary culling of the old branches that could help the SF plant to evolve into something like a northern Fianna Fail.

    On another topic, I am sorry to hear of the passing of Tomas Mac Giolla, ex Worker’s Party president. May he rest in peace and my sympathies to his family.

  • tacapall

    What if all those in the assembly SF team who ever had any personal conviction or involvement with the IRA to voluntarily resign and replace themselves with a lilywhite team? Noone could reasonably object to this as such a team would comprise noone with an IRA history.
    Posted by Marcionite on Feb 04, 2010 @ 04:49 PM

    Why should they. Unionism has got away with loyalist paramilitary connections for decades, the present DUP leadership included.

  • Marcionite

    Tacapall I apply the same principle to any old war horse of any party, including the DUP. I take your point.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    David V: ‘If you can turn a blind eye to a systematic campaign of bloody terror, you can swallow any old guff.’

    David whilst the TUV line may (and I stress may) be a noble one, it’s every bit as practical as refusing to speak to the Germans since WW2 — morally correct but politically useless.

    The fact is that SF/IRA stopped killing people, decommissioned, signed up to the consent principle, recognised the PSNI and are set to sit in Stormont administering British rule for decades.

    Whether you agree or not, Republicans have come a very long way and whilst their objective of a UI remains unchanged, they’re at least attempting to make politics work.
    Sometimes you have to swallow your principles and move on.

    As for the TUV, as a Unionist I have every expectation that they will go the way of Bob McCartney and the dodo, but not before fracturing the Unionist vote and likely giving SF an electoral triumph in the form of largest NI party. Other than joint authority, your party has nothing to offer.

    Greenflag: Whilst I admire your optimism re ‘Unionists for SF’, I think it’s fair to say that Billy Leonard aside, precious few turkeys vote for Christmas. If 90+% of the ROI electorate CBA to vote SF, I kind of doubt many in Unionism will either.

  • Greenflag

    marcionite ,

    ‘My concern is that what if a TUV become the main unionist party and do to the DUP what the DUP did to the UUP?’

    I would’nt be that concerned unless of course I was a DUP supporter . Remember it took the DUP the better part of three decades to ‘overthrow’ the UUP as Unionism’s official voice . And the DUP had the charismatic Paisley brand to beat the tom toms loud and clear . So if the former ‘never ever never ‘ brand of ultra unionism were forced to eat umble pie and accept power sharing etc why would anyone think that the TUV could be any different ?

    The TUV have nothing to offer ‘unionist ‘ NI except deja vu . I suspect many unionists right now are getting sick of deja vu being served up not just as soup de jour but soup de ‘decade’ 😉

    If the TUV make an electoral breakthrough this time around it will still take them a decade or more to realise any significant ‘voting ‘ power and even then as they have pledged not to share power with SF are they going to abstain from the Assembly or ‘collapse ‘ it ?

    The more I think about the TUV the more I see it as a ‘neurotic’ political phenomenon that has ‘instability’ built in . Allister can carry them for a while but they are howling at the wind .

    SF’s old guard will in time move away but not before they have ‘competent’ replacements . Where better to train them than at Westminster especially if the Assembly is once more suspended ?

  • tacapall

    Excellent analysis Greenflag, Sinn Fein would have done this long ago except it would have been a step too far for the old guard. If you use the principle that you cannot change anything outside the door in politics here, agreeing to take their seats in a British administered Stormont, whats the difference with Westminister execept the Oath, which is only words at the end of the day. Just like when Gerry Adams says he was never in the IRA. Tongue in cheek if you like. If it moves Republicanism forward it will happen especially if the time is right.

  • Greenflag

    gerry lvs castro ,

    ‘I think it’s fair to say that Billy Leonard aside, precious few turkeys vote for Christmas.

    That’s because ‘turkeys ‘ don’t vote and they are not allowed to abstain from Christmas . They know their duty is to provide festive fare for hungry Christians (and also atheists ) .

    Given the economic outlook and giiven the make up of the NI economy it would /could make sense for some and I repeat ‘some ‘ unionists to support a Labour Government via the SF mechanism in selected constituencies given the the British Labour party is not represented in NI except via the SDLP who have little chance of winning any extra Westminster seats and who are instead hard pressed to hold what they have .

    ”If 90+% of the ROI electorate CBA to vote SF, I kind of doubt many in Unionism will either.’

    You are here comparing apples and oranges . The people in ROI have a wide variety of political choices and they mercifully don’t have too consider religious or ethnic affiliations in their voting choice, which is not the case and probably never will be the case in NI as long as the State exists .

    However back to the pragmatics I’m not suggesting that ‘many’ unionists would vote for SF at a Westminster election’ . There must be at least a minority of all unionists whose ‘economic and social interests’ will probably not be served by a new ‘unknown ‘ Tory administration if one is elected in the UK . These ‘unionists ‘ already know that UCUNF is not for them. They also know that the DUP and TUV are pro Tory . They also know that the AP and SDLP struggle to hold what they have .

    It’s not as if they would be voting themselves out of the union -far from it . They could see it as voting SF into the Union at least in respect of defending and protecting the interests of this much neglected section of the population within ‘unionism’ .

    After all the ‘constitutional ‘issue can only be settled by a referendum established for that purpose . So what would such ‘unionists ‘ have to lose . They can easily vote SF at a Westminster election and vote NO to Irish unity ?

    Could such people be called hypocrites or traitors ?

    Not a bit of it . They would be voting in their own economic and social interest at least from a conventional political perspective -i.e no different than what all the politicians of NI and elsewhere have been doing since the year dot ?

  • Kevsterino

    The DUP gained a preponderance of unionist votes by advertising themselves as “your best guarantee” of stopping the Sinn Fein agenda, concessions, what have you.

    The best they could manage was to delay the agenda for about 3 years. During that time, if their website is anything to go by, they counted no P&J devolution and no ILA as their proof they were “smashing Sinn Fein”. It was foolish. They should have negotiated an ILA they could live with and dealt with Policing and Justice devolution as an Unionist project.

    I had hoped that the responsibilities of holding high office would mature the DUP.

  • Greenflag

    tacapall ,

    ‘whats the difference with Westminister execept the Oath, which is only words at the end of the day. ‘

    Indeed – We had a civil war which cost thousands of Irish lives in the early Free State over a ‘stupid ‘ Oath . There’s no need for any repeat performance .

    SF can maintain their aspiration to their UI while in the meantime being seen to reach out to their fellow ‘provincials’ in NI to offer them some ‘respite ‘ from the vagaries Tory led ‘unionism ‘

    Sometimes you have to retreat in order to advance and if Irish republicanism in NI is to advance to it’s goal it has to stop beating it’s head against the same wall in the same way and always getting the same results .

    I think SF might have considered such a move a long ago but as you say the time was not opportune . But I believe the time might now be opportune especially given the possibility of a ‘hung ‘ parliament . Given a changing political landscape across some constituencies in NI due to demographic shifts now is the time for SF to reach out in a ‘practical ‘ way to those who would under a ‘normal ‘ left right political dispensation be their natural supporters but who because of NI’s particular political history could never vote for somebody who would not even take their seat at parliament .

    The SDLP could of course adopt a similar approach to Westminster elections but I’m guessing that the payback for them in terms of potential extra seats might not be as great ? I’m open to correction on that call btw .

  • ardmaj55

    ‘I had hoped that the responsibilities of holding high office would mature the DUP’
    Kevestrino the old saying about taking the bog out of the man apply here.
    The whole raison d’etre and default setting of the DUP is sectarian bigotry. They were set up in 1971 and paisley himself was a generation older than most of the top table. they [including Robbo] were reared on his ranting speeches. They could no more get out of that mindset than learn to fly. And what have they to show on unionism’s behalf for their three years? zilch.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Interesting argument Greenflag — but we need to remember that economically and socially SF are hard left. Their vision of a socialist Ireland remains undimmed and is at least one reason why they keep hitting a brick wall in the ROI.

    Precious few NI voters take economics into account in the polling booth — the terms ‘sectarian headcount’, and ‘keeping them-uns out’ spring all too depressingly to mind.

    Given SF’s past record of lethal violence against Unionism, their extreme Republicanism and rabidly anti-British stance on just about everything, it’s incredibly difficult to see why any Unionist would even consider giving them a vote. I consider myself a moderate Unionist who has no time for the OO and accept power sharing with SF as a price worth paying for peace, but I would no more give them even a tenth preference vote than I’d attend a hunger strike commemeration.

    As for the new ‘unknown’ Tory administration, there really isn’t much to choose between Labour & the Tories these days. Comparing the differences between say Callaghan & Thatcher and Brown & Cameron is like comparing night and day. In any case NI is way down both their agendas and I can’t see it making much difference which party gets in.

    The only certainty is that Unionist votes for SF and Republican votes for the DUP are likely to cancel each other out.

  • tacapall

    but we need to remember that economically and socially SF are hard left. Their vision of a socialist Ireland remains undimmed and is at least one reason why they keep hitting a brick wall in the ROI.
    Posted by Gerry Lvs castro on Feb 04, 2010 @ 06:11 PM

    Gerry when is the last time you heard Sinn Fein saying anything about a Socialist Republic, that went long ago when they ventured over to America and met the multinationalist capitalists like Chuck Feeney. The fall of the Berlin wall and communist Russia rendered that dream unhelpful.

  • Rory Carr

    “We had a civil war which cost thousands of Irish lives in the early Free State over a ‘stupid ’ Oath . There’s no need for any repeat performance.”

    No need indeed, Greenflag, which is why Sinn Féin will not be taking the oath. It was the willingness of some to take the oath in the teeth of all that had been fought for that created the bitterness, not the principled rejection of such abjection.

  • Greenflag

    Gerry Lvs Castro ,

    ‘ we need to remember that economically and socially SF are hard left. ‘

    Given today’s economic climate that may be no bad thing although as you correctly state it’s a bar to them ever winning more than minority support in ROI.
    While it’s true to say that up to now precious few voters have taken ‘economics’ particularly their own self economic interest into account in NI other than on a broad (the union is better for usuns financially ) that simple pattern may be open to fracturing in the post GFA era . Also any ‘unionist ‘ voting SF at a Westminster election assuming SF undertook to support a Labour Government -would not be voting for hard left government but a centre or moderate left Labour government . Sf would not have the representative numbers at Westminster to become for instance another ‘militant tendency ‘ and in any event their brief would be to support rather than undermine a UK Labour Government .

    While on the surface I can agree that there may not be much to choose between the main British parties nevertheless Gordon Brown has an impressive track record as Chancellor whereas Cameron’s old Etonians seem very thin and somewhat confused and indefinite in how they propose to put the country right ?

    Brown like all western leaders is suffering from the aftermath of the Wall St financial meltdown .
    To me he’s a steadier pair of hands and I would trust him to make less of a hames of the next few years than I would Cameron . I can see why people might feel a need for change but these are ‘strange times ‘ The financial and politcal gurus are still in contemplative mode as to a way out of the current malaise . It may not be the same malaise that afflicted the western world in the run up to World War 2 but imo it’s of a not dissimilar order .

    I think Prime Minister Brown is more clued in on the international ramifications of economic policy changes and I just don’t see anything from the conservatives bar ‘big government is bad -the private sector will save us etc etc etc ‘ the usual rigmarole .

    For SF longer term they will have to come in from the hard left unless of course we have a complete economic meltdown worldwide and what we call ‘capitalism ‘ fails to reform itself in the coming few years . We see already some cracks in the democratic consensus taking place in Greece and though for now the Irish Republic is relatively stable I’m not sure how much more ‘recession’ the country will absorb before mass public disorder becomes a possibility -ditto for some other countries .

  • tacapall

    Republicanism has moved on from struggling to defeat the British using the 1916 proclamation, fight the cause with honour, principle, etc. This is a new era with different rules, a Malcolm X strategy is in its place, by any means neccessary, peacefully of course. This is not an abandonment of republican values it is mearly changing the rules of engagement to suit the environment and the times.

  • Greenflag

    Rory ,

    The non oath takers i.e the Irregulars /anti Free State forces fought a civil war and ended up taking the oath anyway ? Thousands dead for what gain ? None ! De Valera came in from the cold in 1932 and took the oath /form of words anyway .

    If Dev could backtrack on the oath in 1932 why not SF in 2010 ? The idealists lost out to the pragnmatists in the Irish Civil War and eventually the idealists went on to become the new pragmatists under Sean Lemass .

    Rather than focus on a medieval ‘oath’ SF need to focus on practical ways of serving their (all of their constituent’s interests and that includes unionists ) They can do better by not abstaining from Westminster . When and if the day comes that NI votes itself out of the UK into a UI then SF can follow the voter’s directions .

    I’ve no particular ‘gra’ for the British Monarchy but

  • Greenflag


    ‘to suit the environment and the times.’

    Biologists would call it evolutionary adaptation 🙂 . The poor old dinosaurs never got a chance to adapt because of that huge asteroid impact circa 65 million years ago into the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan coast .

    I think it would be a mistake for SF to rest on their laurels and wait for another asteroidal impact to remove NI’s current political ‘dinosaurs’.

    We’ve had a few mini asteroids these past few weeks impacting ‘unionism ‘ but there are still several wheels left on the wagon and although it’s presently lurching to one side with several passengers trying vainly to decide which way to jump if the chassis breaks under them -it’s not a foregone conclusion that the wagon is a goner !

  • Greenflag

    I’ve started so I’ll finish

    ‘I’ve no particular ‘gra’ for the British Monarchy but SF need to become more pragmatic and less ideological in their policies . That doesn’t mean they can’t be left wing or pro socialist. But they’ll never win an election in ROI promising an Albanian future . IF they would prefer the Scandinavian ‘socialist / model or some other they need to clearly expound the hows and wherefore’s such a society could be ‘imported’ into theie vision of a Republic – And lest we forget those societies are coming up against some tough economic walls now as well although they have a lot more social cohesion going for them than either Britain or Ireland (North or South )

  • tacapall

    Unionism and the DUP are now licking their wounds their prevarication has been their own undoing, but the British have give them a get out of jail free card for Peter Robinson, paid for by an agreement on P+J, its announcement is imminent. The DUP can limp on untill the Westminister elections with Robinson cleared of misdeeds try and convince their electorate this is best for Unionism, Sinn Fein are equal partners in a British controlled assembly.

  • Mick,

    You asked me on an earlier Blog what was ‘wrong’ with the Slugger (Baker and Fealty Productions) analysis in realtion to Police and Justice but I had some trouble with my best herd of cattle breaking out onto the public road and couldn’t answer until now. Luckily the situation is now back under control.

    The margin between and ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ in politics, as in sport, is often narrow and often difficult to predict. The DUP, as could be witnessed by the constant posting on Slugger from DUP enthusiasts seemed (to them) to be playing their hand very well and successfully frustrating SF attempts to secure a date for the devolution of police ever since the signing of the STA. The Smash-SF policy looked (to some) to be very much game on.

    The Slugger line as per Pete Baker’s article in the BT was that the DUP’s interpetation of the STA was correct and one might assume that reading the many, many Slugger blogs on the topic, that the DUP would continue to cruise through the game and SF would be forced to admit they had ‘lied’ to their supporters about the presence of a deadline in the STA in order to get support for the Police from their rank and file.

    But this was, as pointed out times by dissenting voices on Slugger, far, far too narrow an analysis and was incorrectly based on an assumption of elephantine living room proportions. It should have been clear to anyone not blinded by ideological dislike for SF that the British and Irish and American governments would not allow the DUP to hold up progress on the Peace Process purely on the basis of the conviently elusive Unionist confidence – no matter how many bits of legal paper it was written on. The British government has steadfastly defended SF bottom line since the signing of the GFA as any cursory study of recent Ulster history would show.

    As the game moves into the final stages, it is seems obvious that the big mistake the DUP made was not in being too Protestant and not in being too unfriendly and has nothing to do with not cuddling up to the media but rather in missing the glaringly obvious, although unpalatable fact, that if Unionism placed itself in the middle of the road to peace and stability, as agreed between the Provos and the British government they were always going to lose out.

    Contrary to public perception, it must be assumed that some of the not so flat earth members of the DUP can successfully navigate the internet and they may well have strayed across the constant Slugger analysis and concluded that all was well indeed in the world and although it would be unfair to try an pin some of the blame on Slugger for the DUP’s hubris and strategic oversight it is surely a bit rich for Slugger to lecture the DUP on how it should improve its game when it cheer-led the DUP up the little Orange cul de sac which it now finds itself in.

    Time perhaps for a bit of Slugger humility rather than back clapping.

  • MU, those who look at recent events in the context of the DUP and SF alone will miss out on the significance of the appeasement strategy pursued by London in consort with Dublin and with the assistance of Washington.

    Even if the DUP was as pure as the driven snow SF is the baby that must be protected.

    The only threat to SF’s place in the sun comes from the dissidents and the three governments would have little hesitation in dumping SF if they feel they have to do business with the dissidents.

  • Comrade Stalin


    If you want to know why Sinn Fein are so popular, look to the consciences of those who knowingly support an organisation that has murdered thousands and maimed tens of thousands.

    David, tell us about your support for the Irgun and remind us why you won’t condemn actions such as the King David Hotel bombing.

  • joeCanuck

    And now we hear that compensating the investors in that illegal trading society, PMS, has entered the discussions. Have the DUP taken leave of whatever senses they have left. This reminds me of the junior Ian running around at St.Andrews trying to get Government backing for some of his friends

  • Chris Donnelly

    Excellent analysis (@7.26pm)

  • Greenflag

    moderate unionist ,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there . I’ve been offering the DUP some practical bits of advice now for a couple of years but I have never even had an acknowledgement from the ungrateful swine 😉 . I can see now how they’ve obviously preferred Pete Baker’s analysis . BTW I’d leave Mick out of it as he’s been mainly working with UUP rehabilitation via the UCUNF protocol. Ach shure there’s a pair of them in it eh ?

    To be fair to Robinson he did at the outset promise a battle a day for the power sharing executive . He may not however have been expecting so many ‘bloody noses’ en route , with not a few shiners emanating from too close to home to be comfortable .

    It looks however like the patch is on for now , at least until the next scabbed over wound bleeds open again . T’will soon enough . It’s all part of the ‘spirit ‘ of battle a day power sharing 😉

    If you start off looking forward to a fight you can’t claim to be too upset if your opponent knocks you out when you got too cocky being ahead on points ?

    Surprise knock outs are allowed under the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules . Perhaps the DUP think they are the only people in the ring and would’nt knock themselves out ? Some might even suggest that they are proving to be their own best opponents to judge at least from their politicians !

  • Greenflag, expediency and hypocrisy rule, not the Marquess of Queensbury 😉

  • alf

    well put MU @14

  • Scaramoosh


    Is the presence of your best herd in the road; some sort of analogy; or. perhaps metaphor.

    And were they in the middle of the road…?

  • joeCanuck

    I’ve been following Eamonn Mallie’s twitters. They’re good but I suspect the cold has got the better of him and he’s resorted to a bit of the cratur to keep warm. I could swear I heard him hiccough just now. ;0)

  • joeCanuck

    That was in jest, of course. What a miserable job you bunch have had this past week.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks MU.

    Of course I completely agree that too narrow a focus on the conditions of the SAA provides a misleading overall picture. What was important about it was the degree to which SF were prepared to lie about that date in ’08. That is far from the whole picture. and I would think Pete agrees too: http://url.ie/4vtl.

    The thing is, all the things Pete blogged about the nature of the St Andrews Agreement were and still are true. No amount of obfuscation of the core point will change that.

    This was my take last August (just in case you think I am – like yourself – trying to re-invent the past) on Comment is Free (http://url.ie/4vtr):

    “Devolution of policing and justice is all the rage again. At least on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Belfast Telegraph. The position of the parties appears to be this: one party (Sinn Féin) wants it now. Another party (the SDLP) apparently wants it now, but seems capable of little other than pouring scorn on the first party (Sinn Féin) for not being able to get it now. Two other parties (the UUP and the DUP) say they want it, but like St Augustine and the virtuous life, not just yet.

    The tiny Alliance party (the ones likely to bag the new job since no one else can be tolerated to hold it) are ready to go once they’re happy the transfer of powers from various departmental pots come into one and won’t break their political bank in the first year of operation. One rising party (TUV) is agin it, until the whole system of mandatory coalition is lifted from the oppressed people of Ulster. Martin McGuinness says it doesn’t matter what anyone but the DUP says. And the NIO (who have no local democratic mandate of their own) agrees with him.”

    But you knew that already you little cross dressing tease…

    Bloggers are and should be held to account for their past opinions. And our readers will know me well enough to know I have no problem putting my hand up when I’ve got things wrong in the past. But they should not be held falsely account for someone else’s ‘faulty’ memory.

    The reason those posts of Pete’s appeared so often was not in order encourage the DUPs not to do a deal (can you find me a post were he ever recommended such action), but remind our readers each time Gerry et al told porkies on the matter.

    Of course we know it wasn’t St Andrews that tripped the DUP but the revelations of the Spotlight programme. But then as I say up above, if you hold on to a key bargaining card too long, it becomes cumbersome and a burden.

  • percy

    the other problem with the baker(loo.. ed) line, and why it always ends up in the proverbial lavatory is that it doesn’t factor in the seismic shifts that key events in irish history remind us of.

    Whenever a treaty is made between republicans and unionists it only lasts as long as the next upheaval;
    The equality-driven agenda of SF/SDLP is one supported by the Britsh/Irish and American Gov’ts.

    Like tectonic plates rubbing against each other something has to give, and nothing, as you point out, ever written in stone or paper survives.

    A new testament is continually taking shape out of an old testament,
    in fact the O/T is periodically torn asunder to promulagate the new dialectic.

    The inexorable logic and process of this is to firmly underpin equal rights as the determining factor;
    Furthermore I wouldn’t be suprised if the final treaty/testament is a united ireland signed up to by all,
    The tectonic plates keep shifting and rumbling in order to bring this about.

    The Baker/Fealty line can never pin down this process, as the chains keep breaking.

    So it would be better to analyse ireland from the point of view of how close she is to freedom, at least there one can adopt a consistent line that factors in the seismic upheavals we’ve seen in the last 2 weeks.

  • st etienne

    did I just read Slugger call out the BBC on biased reporting?

    I’m sure the agenda setters in at Ormeau Avenue choked on their lemon juice.

  • “firmly underpin equal rights”

    That’s just a SF propaganda tag, percy. The PRM’s approach to rights is well know and has been well catalogued.

  • Mick Fealty

    percy, that’s why we have the comment zone…

  • “In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive” thread pdf link

    Unionists will never be right or attractive to Nationalists. It is about land; it’s about towns too, street by street and house by house, whether the attrition is high level or low.

  • percy

    indeed mick, and its great to be here

    sometimes the actions of SF are not matched by their words;
    but that doesn’t dismiss the sound basis of equality-driven agendas.
    civil rights and a rights-based culture is firmly rooted in western pluralist societies.
    norn iron is playing catch-up

  • Alias

    If Robinson miscalculated, it was in failing to grasp the importance that the security services place in getting as many of the Shinners’ supporters onside as possible in the endorsement of the police force, thereby more effectively isolating those within the ‘republican’ community that are militantly opposed to British rule. It is classic ‘divide and conquer’ stuff. The Shinners are very useful to the security services in that regard, so HMG was not going to let that endorsement be postponed indefinitely in the interests of one local political party. The Shinners have been handled very skilfully and have duly handled their own supporters skilfully, since they now see it as a ‘victory’ to be allowed to assist in the internal administration of British policing when it is a clear defeat of their previous “Her Majesty’s forces of occupation” position.

    So where does Robinson go from here? He basically has two choices: sacrifice himself for his party or sacrifice his party for himself. If he cuts a deal on P&J under duress then he will split his party and incur the wrath of its voters, effectively ending his political career. If he doesn’t cut a deal then the State will declare that he breached the Ministerial Code and will likely pull a few others skeletonised rabbits out of a 40-year-old hat, effectively ending his political career.

  • Mick,

    To suggest that repeating the same line that backs one party’s view and doesn’t put the issue in it’s full context will not be reasonably interpeted as partisan is a touch disingenuous. I dont think a majority of Slugger reader’s would share your view.

    Cross dressing perhaps, faulty memory no.

    It would make for an interesting thread – a tell us how we did on this issue, a Slugger Police and Justice SWOT?


    the mentioning of my non-denominational cattle (who like most of the sensible people of Ulster are totaly oblivious to the see-sawing above in Stormont) who today opportunistically took to the Queen’s highway was simply a reflection of my rustic Ulster converstaional writing style.

  • percy

    non-denominational cattle moderate unionist! que?
    nonsense says Paisley.
    “Our people may be British, but our cows are Irish”

  • Mick Fealty

    Right after a few weeks as posing as a ‘moderate unionist’, we have an admission, of sorts. Claiming to be one and actually being quite another. Which class of disingenuity would to put that in?

    And to coin a phrase: “f*ck the line”. All parties get roasted on this site, ask around! But we do not do it gratuitously.

    Only for the crap they really get up to. If a politician/party is telling untruths about something, then it is best to point out the obvious.

    If they keep doing it, it is likely to get repeated ad nauseum. I really wish they would not do it. And really wish SF would not do in particular.

  • st etienne

    Why SF in particular Mick?

    “rights-based culture is firmly rooted in western pluralist societies”

    Disregarding the crimes against the plain English campaign, what is a pluralist society exactly?

    The only clear suggestion that immediately springs to mind is artificial power-sharing, and how many other Western governments have that?

    You’re right in a sense though – Norn Iron is playing catch up – and to prevent further falling behind we require an alternative to this brain dead form of ‘government’

  • percy

    I’m not so sure that SF has lied about St.Andrews; They went into power-sharing in good faith, thinking that by supporting the PSNI, they could expect reciprocal good faith from the DUP for the timing of devolution of P&J.

    yes they were wrong-footed
    yes perhaps naive in trusting your opponent vis-a-vis the game theory in a long peace

    But they had “right” on their side, in the spirit of the agreement, which is a view the 2 Gov’ts share.

    and if I understand you correctly about over-playing one’s hand, the DUP by holding “tight” have been out-manouvred.

    st.etienne: pluralism: tolerant and diverse?

  • Mallie says the deal is done.

  • Unanimous support according to PR

  • Mick,

    “Which class of disingenuity would to put that in?”

    You admit to yours and I’ll admit to mine.

    I’m off to the hen house as there appears to be some sort of ruckus out in the yard.

  • percy
  • Percy, Norn Iron isn’t playing catch up; it continues to play tug-of-war on the border question.

  • “The DUP have said they have reached a basis for deal” BBC

    Do they now take it to their membership for endorsement or not?

  • percy

    agreed Nevin, but only on the basis of “equality” can the border question be addressed.
    Nationalists have been playing catch-up for 80 years, just to be heard,recognised and responded to.

    Unionism has finally agreed to move forward on an equal basis.
    So although for the time being the Union is safe,
    it can now be challenged openly and debated properly as mutual respect is now enshrined.

    If anyone has a spare sofa to put me up pls email me 😉

  • Percy, Nationalists aren’t interested in equality; they want a United Ireland and have done so for much more than 80 years. Meanwhile the blether about rights and equality will continue ….

  • percy

    Nevin, I dispute that assertion that nationalists are not interested in equality.
    But no matter as “equality” is the only means of achieving a united ireland.

  • Kevsterino

    Nevin, Mr. Robinson said they will be signing papers in the morning, so I suppose Gregory’s promise regarding selling it to the community takes place after they commit to it.

  • Mick Fealty

    st e,

    Because they more often find themselves on the wrong end of the sh**ty stick than any of the party because of what I would class as poor leadership decisions. Let’s not forget that they lucked out here with the Robinson affair.

    They’ve ridden their luck well in NI (in the teeth of real shananigans from the ‘securocrats’ as well as the made up stuff), but in conventional political space like the Republic, such poor decisions have not served them well.

  • ardmaj55

    Kevsterino. You just beat me to that one. I expect Gregory will now feel the urgent need to come back to Nolan for more humiliating ‘contextualising’ and explaining how you sign up for a deal, then trying to consult with your voters so they don’t desert you.

  • st etienne

    ‘Real’ and ‘securocrats’ largely do not belong in the same sentence.

    The comparison with RoI is correct insofar as there is a marked difference, but SF has been reliant, like the DUP, on a mixture of a core vote compliant enough to believe whatever nonsensical ills they speak of about the other side and a thoroughly misplaced doublethink that believes the only way for ‘pluralist’ (read – segregated) agreement is for a settlement based around polarised grandstanding. The media is guilty of wetting thirst for the later just as much as the electorate is for resigning themselves to it.

    ‘lucked out with the Robinson affair’ – I’ve often wondered these past few weeks how something like that can remain untouched for a decade or so and only outs itself while everyone’s home for Xmas, and with Irisgate days down the road…