The Conservatives should stop messing before they do damage

Conservative confusion persists over how to deal with Northern Ireland. It’s not easy being “ the party of the Union.” The shadow NI secretary Owen Paterson insists they won’t disturb the GFA but harbours the belief that the Assembly could move towards “voluntary coalition.” This is hardly the moment to rattle the Assembly’s cage. Paterson needs to explain how he could make the shift constitutionally as the nationalist parties oppose it. To add to the confusion, as comment in the Spectator reflects, the Conservatives are at a loss over how to make Ucunf work and are worried at the resignation of the two Catholic would-be Conservative candidates.

Certainly, if there are no Catholic candidates fielded that will be a blow to the whole purpose of the Tory mission in Northern Ireland

. Contrast what the Speccy calls “this mess” with Cameron’s sure-footedness in dealing with Alex Salmond and the SNP, as the Guardian also notices. Why treat nationalism with respect in Scotland and try to take it on in Northern Ireland, a far more volatile environment? Clearly lacking feel for the situation himself. David Cameron needs to equip himself with new advice on Northern Ireland before he does damage. What’s David Trimble up to?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Well the Camerons were a Jacobite clan after all.

    ALL the “British” parties pay lip service to Norn Iron. Precisely because it is so volatile. Cameron is no different.

    If Labour had not moved away from its position of advocating a united Ireland, then I dont see how unionists could trust them as the proverbial honest broker.
    How the Tories could be an honest broker and part of the same party as a participant is similar.

    Its all part of the amusing hardship suffered by those that want to see British parties organise here… takes a heart of stone not to laugh

  • Scaramoosh

    The Tories are scrambling for a lifeline in the event of the inevitable hung Parliament; they are even trying to woo the Scottish Nationalists.


    The fact that there were many Tory Jacobites, is one of those little historical matters that the Unionists like to airbrush out of history; along with the fact that William Of Orange had many Catholic allies.

  • Paul

    The next thing you are going to tell us all is fianna fail are neutral and will be contesting elections in NI to strengthen the United kingdom.Pointless thread

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Indeed Scaramoosh…..The Jacobites havent gone away you know.
    Very active on Yahoo and websites a plenty out there…supporting the current claimant Duke Franz in Bavaria (aka King Francis II of England, Scotland Ireland……and the dominions in America (canada and the de facto USA). Easy to dismiss them as lunatics which of course they are.
    With its origins in Whigs & Tories

    But Catholic Toryism is no more a friend of Ireland that the Toryism of the Cecils/Salisburys.
    Quite the reverse…the Catholic Jacobites are in fact the most fervent supporters of Laudabiliter….where the Lordship of Ireland was gifted to England by the Pope (coincidently er…….English).
    To oppose this is (in their view) sinful.
    To some degree the Reformation muddied the waters.

    Indeed in Jacobite eyes…..Republicanism is actually SATANIC.
    The first republican was Satan.
    English Catholicism with links to Toryism and Privelege is much different from the Irish Catholicism of the peasant Church.
    The officer class of the British here often included a large selection from the top Catholic school……Ampleforth

  • Scaramoosh


    Yes, indeed; Nairac – he only did it because he loved Ireland..

  • Very critical, if somewhat ill-informed opinion in Times(10 seats?), but the issue is starting to seep into mainstream British politics and David will need to be careful it does not help to further stall his faltering campaign with headlines like “Orange Cameron” not quite the sort of publicity he presumably had in mind.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Yes indeed Scaramoosh
    I was really pleased with the way I mentioned Ampleforth without mentioning Nairac. There is actually a display on him in the Guards Musem in London.
    Interesting guest book.

  • David Crookes

    For his own sake, if not for the sake of NI, David Cameron should stop dithering, set a course, and stick to it. Getting married to the UUP is like getting married to a canine survivor of the MKULTRA programme that wants to be a goat today and a Siamese twin tomorrow.

    To dither is really to desire one’s own death. Even a bad chop-chop decision is better than no decision.

  • joeCanuck

    Cameron was sold a pig in a poke by Sir Reg; honest, Dave, we’ll be non-sectarian from now on. It should be sinking in now, courtesy of the secret pact talks, that he was being taken advantage of. Fool me once….etc.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    The electorate on the British Isle have trust issues with politicians in general and the Tories in particular.

    Moving away from the bi-partisan approach for possibly short term political gain does not help the electorate that has trust issues with the Tories.

    This tied with the numbers of the electorate on the British Isle that have relatively recent Irish ancestory is not politics of the clever kind.

  • Owen Patterson’s coming out against the eye-wateringly anti-democratic enforced coalition that blights Northern Ireland is a clear indication, as clear as a certain act of absenteeism in recent days, of the thinking of his new allies in the UUP.

    He and they should therefore propose that direct rule to be reintroduced, accompanied by an Act applying all Westminster legislation to Northern Ireland unless, within a suitably brief time, it is specifically disapplied by a suitably weighted majority, perhaps sixty per cent, of the Assembly. That would keep out the likes of abortion, which would never have been introduced anywhere in the United Kingdom if the Kingdom had not been partitioned in 1922, but which would exist throughout these Islands if Sinn Féin had its way.

    That Act would also provide for the proper local government that exists over here, and also for a ban on any party’s contesting Assembly Elections if it also contests those to Westminster, Strasbourg and the municipal authorities. Those can then be left to the normal parties that will re-emerge in and from the coming hung Parliament, while parties reflecting the old Unionist-Nationalist divide could continue to function, even of necessity, in and for Stormont only. There, and there alone, would that still be the point. As, indeed, it would be.

    Why should opposition to enforced coalition be left to the TUV, which does not know its own community’s history on questions such as the Irish language, a failing that it shares with Sinn Féin? The tolerance level towards Irish is like the tolerance level towards the Loyal Order marches, also simply a feature of Irish life in general and of Northern Irish life in particular, whether or not one happens to like it. In either case, such tolerance is an invaluable barometer. As, more negatively, is any degree of insistence in either case.

    Anyway, this week’s Question Time was as surely a set-up as when Nick Griffin was on. Indeed, even more so. Nick Griffin is one of his party’s two MEPs. The TUV has no MEP, no MPs, no MLAs, and a handful of Councillors. Jim Allister was only brought on, before a noticeably student-heavy audience, so that he could be lynched.

  • alan56

    Whether Cameron will come unstuck with this deal largely depends on how the UUs move on the call for unionist unity. If they reject the DUP overtures and follow a more secular course (even with the risk of losing senior people) then the project could be a runner. The issue of the british govt as an honest broker is a distraction. The Irish govt has always been pro Irish unity and indeed the Labour party has often referred to its sister party in NI, the SDLP so there is nothing new in this.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    An interesting view Mr Lindsay.
    The normal view here is that Ireland was partitioned but you seemingly look on it as “the Kingdom being partitioned” which indicates you are not entirely convinced about the legitimacy of the Republic of Ireland……which is a rather eccentric view.
    While you have a distaste for abortion it is hardly proper that the Irish (thru maintaining a “United” Kingdom) have the power of veto over abortion in England, Wales and Scotland.
    Republicans aspiring to national self-determination would obviously want the same for your lot also.
    On a previous thread I made the point that Allister was over-promoted onto Question Time. The audience….reflecting the fact that the TUV are “the day before yesterdays men” gave Allister a hard time….that was as much to do with his over promotion as his politics.
    The enforced coalition as you put it… no more undemocratic than the House of Lords….is it?

  • alan56, if any Irish Government has ever really been in favour of Irish unity, then they have all had very strange ways of showing it, even in the early years, never mind in recent decades. They know perfectly well, and indeed share the strong popular sentiment, that the incorporation of a minority one million strong is simply inconceivable on the part of their state.

    Less often mentioned, but at least as important, is the impossibility of assimilating Northern Nationalists, who are about as typically Irish as the Orange Order is typically British, i.e., not at all. They would be like the people three, four or five generations removed from Britain who came “home” during the decolonisation period, only to find that Britain was not at all what they had expected. Except that they would be far more numerous, and far more concentrated geographically. Who wants that? Certainly not anyone in the Republic. So they have renounced all claim. They have washed their hands.

    If the SDLP is Labour’s “sister party”, then, again, this has been shown in some very funny ways over the years, and continues to be so. Most spectacularly, it was the abstention of the SDLP’s founder that brought down the Callaghan Government. But the continued existence of the SDLP is a marvel of the age, although only as the most striking example of how the GFA keeps parties in existence long after anyone very much at all has stopped voting for them, just because the system cannot otherwise function.

    FitzJamesHorse, what happened in 1922 was, in point of fact, the partition of the United Kingdom, the only state then in existence in the territory in question. As much as anything else, it left huge numbers of people from the South in Great Britain suddenly living in a different country, when they themselves had merely moved from one part of the United Kingdom to another, and when no one had asked them if they had wanted that situation to change. The declaration of the Republic brought that to a head, with legislation having to be enacted to prevent the disenfranchisement of that enormous body of people.

    Had the whole of Ireland remained in the United Kingdom, then there would never have been abortion, among other things, in these Islands. As it is, only the existence of Northern Ireland can still prevent abortion in the Republic, if anything now can. While there are two jurisdictions in Ireland, it will probably never be legalised in one but not the other, which might just about mean that it will never be legalised in either. But the Republic is the weak link here, a country in which ferocious secularism is now the elite cultural and political norm.

    Catholic schools, for example, are likewise far safer in Northern Ireland, as in the United Kingdom generally, than in what the Republic has now become. The danger in Northern Ireland comes from Sinn Fein, with its use of the Irish language to build a network of schools in competition with those of the Church (a thoroughly cynical approach, in view of Sinn Fein’s general attitude towards the language in practice), and with its banishment of the Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist clergy from their historic role in schools as the prelude to its banishment of the Catholic Church from the schools throughout Ireland.

    As for self-determination, it has happened. It happened in 1999, when, most strikingly, the electorate in the Republifc repudiated by an enormous majority any claim to Northern Ireland, with Nationalists in the North also voting almost unanimously in favour of the scheme of which that renunciation was the cornerstone, along with the principle that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland could never be altered without the approval of two communities one of which was and is defined specifically and solely by the witholding of any such approval. Sinn Fein campaigned for a Yes vote and has been by far its biggest beneficiary.

    Self-determination has happened, and has happened specifically against a 32-County Republic, clearly an horrific prospect to the voters of the 26 Counties. I assume that you voted Yes. If you did, then you voted to make any change to the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom impossible for ever, since those who have to say Yes now explictly include those defined by saying No, regardless of how few of them there may ever come to be.

    Mandatory coalition, however, is democratically monstrous. Where else would it be tolerated? Imagine the reaction on the streets of London or Dublin, or any other city in the free world, if people were told that, by law, all parties would henceforth be in government all the time, so that none of them would ever be asking any questions. Can we even imagine it? The whole prospect is rightly unimagineable.

  • Erasmus

    David Lindsay,
    Equating a vote to repeal articles 2 and 3 with a repudiation of an aspiration for Irish unity is a nonsequitur.
    Also your posting implies an alienation of the south from NI nationalists which certainly does not exist.
    There is a big difference between emigré British returning to blighty from India across a gap of decades and thousands of miles and the interaction between the good folk of Donegal and Tyrone.

  • Keep telling yourself these things, Erasmus, and you might even start to believe them. Hardly anyone in Britain would pick at least the most public faces of Unionism. But we are stuck with them (although see below). In the Republic, they did get to pick whether they still wanted even a nominal interest in Northern Nationalism. And, by a colossal majority, they gave their answer.

    For one thing, although there are many others, Northern Nationalists are far too seriously Catholic for them these days, far too much like those far too seriously Catholic people with Irish great-grandparents in England, Scotland and Wales, who are therefore welcome to them. And far too interested in the language, some of them. Let the English damn well pay for all of that carry on.

    Donegal and Tyrone? One third of the population of the Republic now lives in and around Dublin, to which Tyrone is even more alien than Donegal, and that is saying something.

    Where is there now “an aspiration to Irish unity” in the Republic’s Constitution? The 1999 vote there cannot mean anything other than a “repudiation” of any such “aspiration”. The story, if there was one, was that that was not a story, that no one was remotely surprised. All the concentration was on Unionism in the North, and whether it would spit on its luck by saying No to a permanent veto on something that was never going to be a serious prospect anyway.

    There is still a case for the continued existence of explicitly Nationalist and Unionist parties in an Assembly with such powers as may be left once direct rule has been reimposed, as looks more and more likely, with the Robinson affair far from dead, with the Uncle Gerry affair likewise, and with the people to whom Northern Ireland has been handed over therefore looking like an appalling collection all round.

    But such parties should be confined to the Assembly, disapplying or otherwise Westminster legislation and holding visiting Ministers to account. Elections to Westminster and to proper local councils, such as are taken for granted everywhere else, must be conducted, by law, by parties such as it is taken for granted will contest them everywhere else. Those parties will re-emerge in, and in consequence of, the coming hung Parliament.

    Get over the South. They have long, long since got over you.

  • Erasmus

    Perhaps it might clarify matters if I openly revealed myself as a citizen of the state you claim to be switched off NI nationalists. I voted for the GFA (and against articles 2 and 3) and it’s news to me that I was disavowing Irish unity forever and a day. Come to think of it 99% of the said NI nationalists voted the same way which does not strengthen your argument.
    Northern Nationalists are far too seriously Catholic for them these days…And far too interested in the language, some of them.
    I find this puzzling. Your contention seems to be that a modern secularist anti-religious ROI wants nothing to do with rosary bead-wielding, Fáinne-wearing, quasi-Jansenist Northern RCs. This is highly questionable on a number of levels: both the latter and the former are highly exaggerated. Even if the gaelgeoir, ultra-RC stuff were true it would carry a resonance of everone’s notional rural grandparent, aunt, uncle etc.: i.e. they are family.
    Donegal and Tyrone? One third of the population of the Republic now lives in and around Dublin, to which Tyrone is even more alien than Donegal, and that is saying something..
    I am a Dub. Tyrone is actually geographically nearer and, yes, psychologically nearer. I for example would have closer connections with Tyrone than, for example Kerry.
    Get over the South. They have long,long since got over you.
    No we have not.
    Every ROI schoolkid grows up with some sense of Ulster – from Cuchulainn, Red Hugh, 1798, to Willie John McBride etc.
    It is possible that I and my entourage are an atypical group of nordienatphiles (this does not BTW equate with hostility towards unionists) but I seriously doubt it.

  • Alias

    “Equating a vote to repeal articles 2 and 3 with a repudiation of an aspiration for Irish unity is a nonsequitur.

    Also your posting implies an alienation of the south from NI nationalists which certainly does not exist.” – Erasmus

    To the contrary: claiming that an overwhelming rejection by Irish people of Ireland’s claim to the territory of Northern Ireland is proof of their desire to claim the territory of Northern Ireland is the obvious non sequitur. Some of them may have a sentimental notion about unity but only because they are not aware that the purpose of unity has been changed from its old purpose extending to right to Irish national self-determination to Northern Ireland to its new purpose of removing the right to Irish national self-determination from the Irish nation in Ireland.

    A nation is essentially defined by which state it is loyal to. Northern Irish ‘nationalists’ support an organisation that has never been loyal to the Irish state. It refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Irish people’s right to elect their own government, declaring itself the legitimate government of Ireland. That organisation has never formally repudiated that treachery or apologised for it, and continues to support an ‘Army Council’ (comprised mostly of British agents) which continues to continues to assert that the Irish nation has no right to national self-determination.

    Admittedly, this is the product of the mentally ill but that declaration that the Irish state was illegitimate was very useful to their handers in the security services. It now forms the basis of the claim that the Irish state should be dismantled and replaced with a replica of Northern Ireland where another nation is to hold a permanent veto over Irish destiny. Quite why the Irish nation is to vote to remove its inalienable right to a nation-state and to national self-determination has never been explained. At any rate, they are not loyal to the Irish state and are therefore not part of the Irish nation.

    As Henry Patterson said “The strongly negative feelings that a substantial section of the unionist electorate understandably have about Adams and McGuinness should not blind them to the fact that in terms of Irish republicanism it is Adams and McGuinness who are the real ‘dissidents’ having consigned all their most sacred principles to the dustbin of history.”

    Nobody of sound mind wants one million British people within an Irish state who are not loyal to it, and nobody wants circa 700,000 ‘post-nationalists’ within it who are not loyal to it either. Most importantly, nobody in Ireland has any intention of renouncing the fundamental nation rights simply for the dubious pleasure your company. If you think otherwise, ponder why the Irish government never told the Irish people that the UK gained sovereignty over vital economic and cultural institutions of the Irish state in the British-Irish Agreement.

  • Erasmus

    I found David Lindsay’s postings difficult to decipher. Yours is absolutely impossible.

  • Cynic2


    Nice to see you supporting discrimination and sectarianism in the selection of candidates. But don’t you think that perhaps its a tad small minded to look on this as the defining characteristic? Personally I don’t care what a candidate’s religion or community background is. Indeed in a society where more and more of us – probably a majority – don’t attend church or believe in an invisible friend in the sky, its anachronistic to even think if it. But then you do seem to have your cynical old feet firmly embedded in the mud of the past and a time when you had real things to report on rather than tilting at Aunt Sallys on Slugger.

    What I am interested in is the candidates policies and abilities. And the Tories – whoever they choose – offer at least some hope of neutrality here on some issues and a major hop of lifting some politics out of the sectarian swamp that we all live in – though some of us are more deeply rooted there than others.

    Now let me be also clear what I mean by neutrality. They are a Conservative AND Unionist party just as Labour has been a Republican Party rather than a neutral arbiter for the last 12 years. Yet you seem to eulogise Labour for what it has done? Shome mistake surely?

    Indeed, the reality is that the Union has been secured by the political deal we did in 1995. Barring a referendum which the Unionists would win hands down at the moment (and for the foreseeable future) we are and will remain part of the UK. So why cannot you see that there is no difference between being unionist and treating all sections of the community fairly and equally – not just because that is the ethos of the Conservative Party but because its party of the deal we all accepted, is now a constitutional and treaty requirement flowing from the GFA and Sections 75 and 76 of the Northern Ireland Act.

    Yet still you grind on, apparently appalled at any thought of the Conservatives in power. One of the main sources for this post’s nonsense is a Spectator article with quotes from a senior unionist who says they should sever the link with the Tories but then admits he is in a minority on this. Probably a minority of 1 or 2 at the moment.
    And then it amazingly goes on to conclude that Empey may in fact be about to abandon the conservatives and ‘thrown in his hat ‘ with the DUPs. Oh really. Didn’t you hear what Sir Reg clearly said a few weeks ago? Just how likely is this nonsense Brian? Care to risk a fiver on it happening? I thought not. But still – it offers another journalistic self-referring excuse to attack the Conservatives.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    I cant quite understand that Donegal and Tyrone are alien to Dublin but seemingly readily understood in London or Mr Lindsays part of England.
    Certainly one of the more bizarre points of view expressed on Slugger O’Toole.

  • Cynic2

    “If Labour had not moved away from its position of advocating a united Ireland”

    ….oh sorry ….did I miss something in the last 16 years?

  • Cynic2


    In my experience many residents of Dublin now have a closer personal and cultural connection with Prague or Krackow than Tyrone.

    People from Donegal are Culchies. Those from the North are Mad Culchies and ‘we don’t want any of that nonsense down here now, do we’

  • Greenflag

    Erasmus ,

    ‘I voted for the GFA (and against articles 2 and 3) and it’s news to me that I was disavowing Irish unity forever and a day.’

    That would have been the vast majority view both North and South of those who were of a nationalist /republican .

    Anybody who ever believed that the Tories would intervene in NI politics without ending up being ‘sectarian ‘ fronted -probably also believes that all plane crashes are solely caused by gravity 🙁

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    cynic you lot are just annoyed our GAA teams kick dublins arse each year now arent you 😉

  • Alias

    “I found David Lindsay’s postings difficult to decipher. Yours is absolutely impossible.” – Erasmus

    Was it the bit about sending your ‘classic’ Ford Anglia car to the scrap yard not being the same thing as restoring it?

  • Lugs Brannigan

    “cynic you lot are just annoyed our GAA teams kick dublins arse each year now arent you 😉

    Posted by An Phoblacht Abu on Feb 14, 2010 @ 07:04 PM

    “our” GAA teams?? Very partitionist!! I thought we were all Irish! Dubs looking good so far this year!! Cynic2 is either taking the p*ss or is one of our rugger-bugger tenants at Croker!

  • abucs

    How are the Tories travelling in NI these days ?
    Are they likely to have an impact locally ?

  • Sammy Morse

    Anyone got a reference for that Times article?

  • st etienne

    Why treat nationalism with respect in Scotland and try to take it on in Northern Ireland, a far more volatile environment?

    What’s David Trimble up to?

    I’m fed up reading your nefarious slants on the ‘sectarian’ Tory attempt to rescue people here from your hopelessly never-ending (and self-described) zero sum game Walker.

    Anyone half interested in the truth can read Trimble’s letters to Kane to find out what he wants – a choice for NI Catholics that is something better than a vote for SF (or ‘peace’ as the terminally short-sighted bandwagon likes to phrase it). Your own paranoid hyperbole is more at home in the 60s.

    NI is probably the only place in the world where a noble attempt at normalising politics (with participants from both sides of the divide) is met with delusional cries of sectarianism.

    Normally people’s perspectives become more disattached, less atavistic, when they begin to look at things from afar. Yours shows no sign of losing it’s insularity.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    What do English conservatives want in Northern Ireland anyhow ? ? ?

    Answer: Oh Yeah its conveient cover for looking strong on the Union in one area as they do a Scottish Nationalist jig inanother part of the Union.

    Smoke and Mirrors from Eton wide boys.

  • st etienne

    Smoke and Mirrors from Eton wide boys.
    As opposed to the corner boys we have up at Stormont? Nice bit of reverse snobbery there

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Posted by st etienne

    ” 8.Smoke and Mirrors from Eton wide boys.
    As opposed to the corner boys we have up at Stormont? Nice bit of reverse snobbery there ”

    They will be called a lot worse particularly if they are given any power to lay waste.

    If they cannot handle that wee jibe then they are too delicate for the rough and tumble to follow.

    I do not deny Stomont its corner boys either mind.

  • st etienne

    If they cannot handle that wee jibe then they are too delicate for the rough and tumble to follow.