No men, snowmen and clever devices

The position of the 14 DUP MLAs, who initially opposed the Hillsborough agreement before then accepting it, is interesting. Within a few days these semi dissidents went from what was claimed to be a stormy meeting with multiple threatened resignations to unanimous support for the agreement. They may indeed have been snowmen who as Jim Allister says melted when the heat was turned on. Certainly not for them the political equivalent of a glorious death like David Crockett (a man of Ulster descent) at the Alamo (though anyone interested in glorious death should remember The old lie Dulce et Decorum est pro patri mori). Political death on the other hand can be considerably more glorious and obeys Enoch Powell’s famous maxim: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.” In politics a glorious death fighting to the last man for what one believes in has considerably more credence, avoiding as it does one’s own or anyone else’s death.Gregory Campbell especially might have been better going down fighting. It had begun to look after his suggestions that Peter Robinson had a week to clear his name (which he subsequently did in only a little over a week) and his holding to the line of six months or six years on Nolan last week, that Campbell was preparing to fight politically to the last man and maybe even jump ship. Indeed he would probably have been the best placed to do so. He could not be resigned from his Westminster seat by Robinson (as he and all the others can from their Stormont positions). Additionally had he stood as an independent in the Westminster elections he would have been very likely to hold East Londonderry. East Londonderry is arguably the hardest line unionist seat in Northern Ireland and amongst the dour Orangemen and strict Presbyterians, resignation on principle would very likely have played well. Indeed had Campbell run as an independent the TUV might well have stood aside, the DUP would have had grave trouble producing a reasonable candidate and the suggested CU candidates have little enough chance, especially as one of them has already committed the equivalent of political suicide up there by condemning the Orange Order.

Indeed his current flip flop may actually make his re election less certain: like East Londonderry unionists do not like deviousness; for once high political principle might have been coincident with pragmatic survival instincts.

The position may not be that dissimilar for Lord Morrow. As a member of the House of Lords he is there for life short of committing some sort of Lord Archer level of criminality (and Archer has still not actually been removed). Morrow could of course be resigned from his MLA’s post but his position come the next assembly election must be pretty tenuous considering the level of TUV support in Fermanagh and South Tyrone as evidenced by the European election result and the apparent solidity of Tom Elliott’s vote.

The rest of the 14 MLAs who initially opposed the agreement of course will have had no other fall back position should they have carried through any threat of resignation. Their resignation from the DUP would immediately trigger their resignation from the assembly. In that case of course their political career would most likely be over and to quote Edwin Muir’s The Castle:

How can this shameful tale be told?
I will maintain until my death
We could do nothing, being sold;
Our only enemy was gold,
And we had no arms to fight it with.

The other possible reason for the semi dissidents staying is of course the clever device (or cunning plan) which has been hinted at. This plan, if it is real must indeed surpass my previously mentioned zenith of cunning: Is it as cunning as a fox what used to be Professor of Cunning at Oxford University but has moved on, and is now working for the UN at the High Commission of International Cunning Planning.

The problem with a plan, even that cunning, is that Sinn Fein can then simply crash the executive and force an election; the very reason the DUP have had to compromise in the first place. I am again reminded of the Indiana Jones film where Harrison Ford faces a man expertly wielding a sword and simply shoots him. The danger is that this cunning plan might be as clever as the one explained by Nursie in Blackadder II “My brother, he had this brilliant idea of cutting his toenails with a scythe, and his foot fell off.”

To be fair of course the reason the DUP are in this position is not solely their own fault. Indeed they were the ones (well actually Peter Robinson was the one) who engineered the tactically cunning plan of Baldrick level of strategic stupidity that the largest party elect the First Minister rather than the largest party of the largest designation. That was a cunning plan: however, Robinson forgot that some of his supporters might have the bad taste to actually believe all the old comments about not entering government with unrepentant terrorists and not agreeing to mandatory coalition. When they did and had the further nerve to dare stop voting DUP, Robinson’s house of cards began to tumble, leading us directly to where we now are.

The irony of course is that but for the TUV, Robinson might be able to hold the line on policing and justice. If the TUV did not exist Robinson could call SF’s bluff and let the agreement collpase, knowing that in all probability the DUP would return as the largest party. Of course had the TUV not existed it is highly probable that the DUP would already have made these concessions over P&J and more besides. However, that fact, that fear of the TUV is driving Robinson and the DUP to do exactly what the TUV do not want is most irritating for those who believe in traditional unionism.

There is of course an alternative: one which I have previously advocated: Even now Robinson could simply block P&J devolution and make it very clear that after any collapse he would go into negotiations with UUP and TUV alongside him with a view to creating a new agreement. Never has all unionism gone united into negotiations. If unionism could do so, and for once avoid petty factional squabbling and silly side deals it is highly likely that it could emerge with an agreement much better for all the people of Northern Ireland, unionist and nationalist. If Peter Robinson could truly grasp that possibility, he would become a unionist leader in the mode of Carson and Craigavon. Unfortunately he seems fonder of clever devices and cunning plans: sadly that is why he is failing himself, his party and unionism.

  • Cynic2

    But did the snowmen vote for the deal (which isnt a deal anyway – its a deal to consider a deal if they can sort out parading in 3 weeks)? or did they vote to ‘consult on the deal’ – which is something quite different?

    The DUP, SF and Government couldn’t have misled the population could they?

  • Paul

    My view of this is a classic non story by a supporter and member of the TUV cave

  • Paul

    I have read the agreement and if implemented in full and in the right spirit its a good deal for everyone.To sum it up a good score draw.

  • joeCanuck


    A united unionism would inevitably lead to a united nationalism called Super Sinn Fein perhaps.
    There is no going back; you have to look forward. The men of dubious reputation on both sides will be gone in 10 years time.

  • alan56


    I too have read the ‘agreement’ but cannot see what the agreement on parading is…. therefore the date for transfer of P&J might just be pie in the sky

  • FitzjamesHorse

    I think Id keep my eye on David Simpson MP for Upper Bann. He is too quiet and the TUV like him.
    He will have calculated that he needs TUV type votes to hold on in Upper Ban (and he needs them NOT to stand). He will also be losing some votes to UUP
    Id therefore expect him to make a statement expressing grave reservation etc… keep TUV on sidelines.
    TUV standing hands Upper Bann to UUP.

  • Turgon,

    a point I have just made to David Vance on your other thread is the reluctance by anti-agreement Unionists to attribute any blame to the British government for not backing the DUPs (and the UUP’s) interpetation of the STA that there was no actual deadline in that agreement?

    It can of course be argued that the British government should not have been trusted on this issue by the DUP but it is surely crucial to understanding how the DUP managed to box themselves into their current predicament as the British did not afford the DUP the benefit of a level playing field.

    In military metaphor terms, the DUP triple lock and ‘unionist confidence’ were as much use as the Maginot line as SF simply got around the issue of the missing deadline for devolution by calling in their allies in the British and Irish governments.

  • ben_w

    Do you ever consider, when you’re a few pages into yet another rambling word salad about everything and nothing in particular, that you can *stop writing*?

  • Ulidian


  • Paul



    I too have read the ‘agreement’ but cannot see what the agreement on parading is…. therefore the date for transfer of P&J might just be pie in the sky
    Posted by alan56 on Feb 08, 2010 @ 05:48 PM

    My opinion reading it is the parades commission will be scrapped by the end of the year.It wouldnt matter what was agreed the TUV would be against it.

  • Scaramoosh

    The 14 were like Gerry Adams’ so called Hawks – a fiction.

  • Ulidian

    Turgon (apologies)

    What are basing your characterisation of East Londonderry on?

  • Paul

    d therefore expect him to make a statement expressing grave reservation etc… keep TUV on sidelines.
    TUV standing hands Upper Bann to UUP.
    Posted by FitzjamesHorse on Feb 08, 2010 @ 05:51 PM

    I think you are totally wrong I dont see david simpson issuing any statement.If the TUV stand its up to them.I think DS will hold upper bann

  • Turgon

    I guess living there throughout my childhood has had some effect. In addition they had the hardest line UUP MP (Willie Ross). Indeed some suggested when he was defeated by Campbell that the more moderate unionist had won. Despite that Campbell remains the most hard line DUPer.

    The seat itself has a few liberal middle class bits around Coleraine and the Triangle. However, much of the middle class is very hard line. The working class unionist areas are also far from liberal and contrary to popular belief there are very few nationalists within the town. Even the Heights is actually predominately unionist. Going into the country around Garvagh, Kilrea (the unionist areas around it) and Macosquin it is all very orange and hard line.

    The Limavady area is also far from liberal in its voting patterns.

    I could go on but I will have a blog on East Londonderry nearer to the election.

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, Turgon. The different unionist parties hate each other more fervently than they hate the nationalist parties. There is a Protestant or unionist disease called I WANT TO BE THE LEADER OF SOMETHING, and the unimaginable conceit of those who suffer from that disease makes cooperation with other sufferers almost impossible. I remember the old UUUC as an uneasy alliance created under pressure by three lots of people who roundly detested each other, so I reckon that the UUP, DUP, and TUV are unlikely to conjoin in the near future. The more mature wing of the UUP still regards the UUP as the natural party of government. The more mature wing of the DUP believes in the divine right of the DUP. For its part the TUV can’t abide the nasty modern world, so it has climbed back into its pram, although it is very far from being a young party. Everywhere people are trumpeting their ‘principles’, but principles have very little to do with current unionist discord. Get rid of all the sub-intelligent lunatics who want to be important, explain to the more venerable of our politicians that they are not fighting a war, harness the energy and good will of intelligent young people, and see what happens. Unionists will have to realize that urbanity and magnanimity are not signs of weakness.

  • Ulidian


    I would class the Heights as increasingly mixed, though a bit more unionist than nationalist. As for the rural part of Coleraine borough, you might want to check the last census. The Ringsend ward is more Catholic than Protestant, whilst the Garvagh ward (if not the village itself) is increasingly mixed.

  • JohnM

    I’ll agree with you both – it is certainly one of the most hardline areas and as safe a unionist seat as there is. But not all areas are pure Orange.

    Portstewart even has a Gaelic pitch now (although it was vehemently opposed by the local halfwit unionist Pauline Armitage on the grounds that it would mark out Portstewart as a republican town). I think it’s about 40% nationalist, but a very moderate place in the context of its surroundings towns.

  • Turgon

    We are talking at cross purposes. I am not doubting the mixed nature of parts of East Londonderry; rather I am suggesting that the unionists in East Londonderry are very hard line in views and voting patterns. Hence, “East Londonderry is arguably the hardest line unionist seat in Northern Ireland and amongst the dour Orangemen and strict Presbyterians, resignation on principle would very likely have played well.”

    I agree that there are more overwhelmingly unionist areas and seats but my argument is that the unionists there are very hard line and hence, for Campbell jumping ship and standing as an independent would be politically very possible.

  • Turgon

    Posts crossed but again I agree with you: see above

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    There comes a time when the most move on and leave the dead and the refusing to die behind.

    They will not learn, but death is waiting to examine and pass the same sentence on all.

  • Rory Carr

    I had thought that it would be apparent even to those with only but a cursory knowledge of history that, in political life, principle, like Easter in the Church calendar, is a moveable feast.

    This is a not an indicator that all those engaged in political life are charlatans or rogues, though we may safely assume that some indeed are, it merely reflects the reality that in political life as in all other areas of life things change. There will be changes in economic conditions, population shifts and resulting demographic changes, scientific advance in technology and medicine which greatly affect public attitudes and people’s relationships with each other, changes in mass popular culture effecting fresh attitudes on subjects previously considered taboo like capital punishment, abortion, mental health, homosexuality, penal reform and other rights issues. Who would have considered paternity leave as an entitlement protected by law a possibility even in the swinging, liberal sixties?

    So it is that those political groups who represent the most backward elements in society, those who are unwilling or incapable of recognising and embracing change as it develops, whom we forever find crying, “Sellout!” and accusing those with the courage to face reality and walk into the future as having cast aside their principles when what they actually have done is to cast off a mindset mired in a failed past.

    Since this thread has set the tone for highminded quotations I recall the words of American patriot, Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” and think to apply them in a way more fitting to our present time and place where thanfully the choice is less stark but where death can be seen as social, cultural, political death as respresented by the decay and morbidity of TUV thinking and liberty is obtained by kicking over its coffin and breathing in fresh thought.

  • Marcionite

    while I read the posts above, I am saddened that unionism has no vision for a better modern society other than just maintaining the link with Britain.

    but what kind of union or society do you want? Are just happy with how things are? Are you waiting for the Fenians to become Uncle Toms and help you unfurl Union Jacks?
    Why is there no revolutionary inclusive zeal in espousing the UK?

    You simply don’t care or don’t want Catholics to part of or support unionism.

    I know many Catholic people who do support the union but would never vote for the UUP or DUP because your parties have a sorry past and present insulting RC religion and Irish culture. Let me remind you we are not immigrants. We are descendants of the indiginous Irish and do not ever dare call our culture foreign

    SF and SDLP for whatever faults they have never got on their hindlegs and insulted Protestant theology or espoused omitting Protestants from the civics of a united Ireland

    Unionists at your dark heart still think you are superior to your RC neighbours and that power is rightfully yours. You refer to civil rights as concessions. Let me remind you that civil rights were and are and never can be in the gift of a group of people to be doled out or rescinded to another group of people.

    The sorry sick truth is that we only got this Frankenstein semblence of equality and dignity by the guns and bombs of the IRA. I despise the Provos for their flagrant sectarian evil killings but sectarianism against RCs existed here in Ireland since the plantation but when the SDLP were top nationalist dog, you still didn’t think they were good enough to share power with.

    Like the Afrikaaners, you believe you are better and ordained to rule over the natives. Like the ANC, nationalists want to put the past and the structures that uphold and encourage division and inequality behind us all and embark on nation building on cast iron democratic secular guarantees of inalienable rights for everyone. This is our vision. What is yours? A Tory government in England ?

  • Turgon

    There might be a bit of truth in there somewhere but it is subsumed with a vitriolic bigotry all of your own.

    Tell me which rights do I as a Protestant have which you do not have? Indeed which things am I discriminated in favour of whereas you are discriminated against over? I can of course think of one example of discrimination the other way round.

    Your claim that SF has never insulted Protestant theology or espoused omitting Protestants from the civics of a united Ireland sits a little ill with their military wing’s campaign of sectarian murder. Indeed the IRA never insulted Protestant theology: they merely murdered people for practising it and SF themselves now merely glory in supporting those who committed the murders.

  • David Crookes

    Marcionite, there is truth in what you say. A true unionist will delight in British cities, countryside, history, art, music, and literature. It will be concerned to make the union attractive for English, Scottish and Welsh people. It will also want to live in warm amity with its culturally opulent more-than-neighbour. A unionism that merely knows what it is not, and what it hates, is a miserably sterile creed: and a unionism that has nasty anti-English racism at its heart is a most unBritish lie. Of course we can’t stay as we are. Are too many elderly people calling the shots on both sides at present? Do all of us need to be more adventurous? Can we involve Chinese and East European people in our political world, instead of patronizing them? I don’t know: but people who read books, think thoughts, and dream dreams are bound do more good for our country than people who are content to be political clones of their great-grandparents.

  • Marcionite

    Turgon, who do I hate? I hate the idea of Unionism but not it’s people. The ANC hated aparteid but did not hate White people. I am vitriolic indeed of any belief system predicated on superiority. Remember, Ulster Unionism only became Ulster Unionism as a reaction against Home Rule, objection based on the religion of the greater number of Irish people. The UU party was once the Irish unionist party

    When did you stop bring Irish? 1921?

    What are you depriving me off. Unionist parties in their current for deprive me off:
    1. Considering becoming a unionist. I cannot bring myself to consider voting for parties who insulted my religion (I zm lapsed and I have grave reservations of the RC church but insults from outside it are cobdemnatory of it’s adherents and not from a point of view of loving evangelism)

    2. It deprives me of living in a society based on equality where normal politics exists and segregation ceases. Even when Unionism was unassailable in the 40s and 50s you could have evolved into left and right politics. Such an evolution of politics could have led to a political ruling class nio based on religion but no. The UU scared the working class Protestants from the NILP when NILP was seen as gaining ground. Why? Unionism as an explicit political theory in Ulster is based on fearing RCs. This was insulting
    when Captain ONeill saw what was happening, I believe he was big enough to have changed Unionism but no room for the visionary.
    3. Unionism in it’s confessional form is guilty of the very things it accuses Eire off ie church interference in State affairs. Ballymena has become a by word for intolerance and imposition of Sunday observance.

    4. Unionism and NI deprives me of being able to support NI in sporting events. This sounds petty but I cannot support a team that plays under an English flag with a Union Jack in the corner. To me, seeing that flag in Ireland is an insult to the memories of the real people of the Displacement or comonly known as the Plantation.
    It’s an insult to the souls of the Famine dead. These were millions of real people. Real lives. Cut. All done under the
    banner of an English and then Union Jack. It’s the flag of the Irish joke, the flag of the no blacks and no Irish B&B, the flag of Paisley insulting RCs and saying we shouldn’t have rights because we weren’t loyal to the Queen ( and why on earth should we be considering all done in her and her ancestors names? )

    4/ Ironically, Unionism has foisted governance by SF, a party of thugs and the illiterate on me. Unionism intransigence drove RCs to vote for the extreme. The logical endgame was forced coalition with a party of bigots and psychopaths. A united Ireland would spell the end of SF and would guarantee that no Irishperson of any religion would ever be ruled by terrorists or their apologists again

    So yes, I am vehement in my opposition to the union as it implies that the English are better than us and have a right to rule over not only us but the Welsh and the Scottish. I’d even countenance an independant NI if we reformed our politics along left and right. I don’t care how many Irelands there are as long as each is soveriegn and socially progressive.

  • dub


    We are always hearing about these catholic unionists. Could you tell why any person of a catholic and/or nationalist background would support union with a state that has sponsored murder gangs in this country, bombed Dublin and Monaghan, murdered Pat Finnucane and Rosemary Nelson, and run agents like Robin Jackson who murdered children in front of a mobile sweet van? If these people exist are they mentally deranged?

    David Crookes,

    Most Protestants in the north do not drool over British culture and British countryside and Jerusalem and all the other claptrap you are spouting for one simple reason: they see the British as much as an other as Irish nationalists do. They do not come from an urbane metropolitan society, they come from a frontier one. 2 more different things there cannot be.


    I see that encroaching age has failed to dim your infantilism, and pathetic sectarian drivel.

  • willis


    Marcionite makes a very strong point which is so important to Unionists at this point.

    There is no war more bitter than a Civil War. Where families are torn asunder by their loyalties.

    You are student of history. You know what Civil War means. The Troubles were not Civil War. They were faction fighting, the Gangs of New York.

    Real Civil War was 1922 – 1924 in the South. Michael Collins murdered by his erstwhile comrades.

    You guys are going to tear yourselves apart. Thank God no-one will die but you will destroy yourselves. Once you get Jim Allister mocking Gregory Campbell you must realise that the gig is up.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks for your reply, dub. Urbane people do not regard art, music, and literature as ‘claptrap’, they do not ‘drool’ over things that they love, and they do not accuse an interlocutor of ‘spouting’ the name of an Israelite city which he never actually mentioned. Furthermore, ‘drivel’ cannot be ‘dimmed’. I wish you a pleasant night.

  • dub

    Urbane people do not regard art, music, and literature as ‘claptrap’, they do not ‘drool’ over things that they love…

    Exactly my point. You are seeking to project your personal undoubted urbanity onto a frontier tribe for whom the word is simply irrelevant. Dimmed and undimmed are often used metaphorically.

    I wish you a pleasant night also.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks for your genial reply, dub, which was more than I deserved, and I’ll take your ‘frontier’ word to bed with me, for I have failed to give it sufficient thought. We learn by wrestling. Sleep well!

  • Driftwood

    Marcionite old boy.
    A Tory government will do me just fine. Their Inheritance tax proposals and a return to fox hunting are just what we need. That, and a big cut in DLA, so called jobseekers allowance and no housing benefit to single mother scroungers would be an excellent start.

    “It’s an insult to the souls of the Famine dead”

    Christ,give it a frigging rest. getting John Terry back as our captain is a bit more important.

  • Turgon – at what point do Sinn Fein and their electorate become acceptable?

    In the interim period would you advocate direct rule?

    If so what would be your prediction on the ‘health’ of the union in this intervening period?

    How would the TUV ensure the link and unionist confidence, would remain strong or increase in strength using as an example recent periods of direct rule as a marker?

    just gathering opinion….

  • BryanS

    I think you will find that it is the scots who rule over us, the English and the Welsh.

  • ardmaj55

    Turgon. This ‘clever device of Robbo’s seems to be heading for the same fate as the tape in ‘mission impossible’. To self destruct but not in five seconds but on feb 23rd. The item in News Letter claims that PR’s understanding of it is the Parades Comm. crunch comes in September, but J Donaldson called that Speculation, and sees the crash as due on feb 23rd if PC isn’t delivered on a plate by that date. Figleaf exposed and rendered redundant. Another ‘clever plan down the drain.

  • David Crookes

    From a story in today’s Belfast Telegraph.

    A probe is under way in an Austrian ski resort after a British toddler was crushed by a giant snowman, police have said.

    A hospital spokesman said: “The boy was scared as it was a big snowman, but there were no real injuries and he was discharged.”

    TUV beware.

  • ardmaj55

    Continued from post 9 The 14 naysayers to the deal, oviously didn’t nail down what Peter Robinson meant by his ‘clever device, and that there was a difference between their [14s] motivations in it. Robbo clearly wanted SF to abide by the deal HE signed off on last friday, but the 14s don’t regard the abolition of the PC only to be replaced by another PC, as settling the parades issue, so it’s all going to end in tears for Robbo, only by the time this is brought to a head the westminster election will have yielded it’s result. The 14s should have thought that through, because in the end, it’s Robbo who gets to declare whether SF has delivered.

  • ardmaj55

    Moderate Unionist [[7]
    An astute reading of the state of play, yours. Robinson realised when the PM’s paper was given to him with the date for P&J was BEFORE the election, that as far as they were concerned, the DUP were in the wrong and PR was hung out to dry on this one. So, Robbo, having failed in his game of chicken with SF, to get P&J transfer delayed until after the election, now turned to playing chicken with the hardliners. His version of the ‘clever device’ is only triggered with the vote on parading in September, while theirs is in late february. The problem for the 14 is that it’s only Robbo who can contrive the failure of P&J vote.
    After the election, and with P&J in force, Robbo is then faced with the embarassing position of explaining to the govts why he’s threatening to bring down the whole circus over parading when he’d already got P&J through the assembly. Robbo is not going to attempt that, so hell go back to the 14 knucledraggers and present them with a ‘fait accompli’ and dare them to leave their party in ridicule if they attempt at that that stage to sabotage Stormont. So this time next year, the Parades Commision will be still in place to deal with next year’s parades.