There are alternatives to ” to hell with the future and long live the past”

This year more than ever, I’ve got this strong feeling of politicians living on a different planet at election time. Or like Ashes to Ashes without the Quattro and the ravishing Keeley Hawes. I pick on Adams and Ritchie outgreening each other, Gerry dreaming of being feted by the diaspora and Margaret “unambiguously” for a united Ireland. But everything about a UI is ambiguous Margaret except the aspiration. Divided unionism is about who shafted whom in 1974 or 1998 or will shaft on May 6. The politicians hope this sort of rhetoric signals strength, commitment, confidence etc. How wrong they are. This is not even dog whistling, more a primal scream of impotence of their own making. Sectarian politics is so last century, running on empty. The good part of it is that the political system has forced them to stay at the table like good children even if they can’t stop squabbling. The penny may drop that they’ve nothing left to fight about, nobody’s got guns, everybody’s won a prize and even the aspiration is not up to them but the people . Lapsing back for elections and obsessed with their rivalry they rely on the people to filter out the crap. We’ve become too tolerant of this but what’s the alternative? A voters’ mass boycott is tempting but I’m a democrat and won’t go there. .

Edna Longley who did such good work in Cultural Traditions is right to say that “aspiration prevents the Executive from speaking collectively for Northern Ireland.” She points out powerfully that dialogue here is “ only just beginning”. The Platform for Change group are meeting soon to devise an action plan to put to the parties. I suggest writing up a report based on two questions to each party and candidate :

ONE What in detail is in your shared future programme locally in the constituency and regionwide, that will make a difference to your own voters and all others? TWO How do you plan to avoid another threat of train wreck for the next Assembly?

. Otherwise I’d leave this election alone. It’s too late. I also suggest they eschew macro politics – electoral reform, amended power sharing etc that stand no chance of happening. Instead work with the parties rather than round them and stick to big micro politics, the policies and programme for government that make a difference to people’s lives, like how to get agreement to replace secondary school selection. It’s a sad commentary not only on my ignorance but on the lack of serious policy debate on reform that I’d be hard put to draw up a detailed agenda myself.

Finally, Edna makes a plea for a new art gallery to house the modern art collection. I can hear just somebody sneering sarcastically “that’ll wow them in the Falls and Shankill”. But if you took them along, it might.

  • PrivateBob

    The rest of that poem is also pretty relevant to elections and politics in general here:

    Red brick in the suburb, white horse on the wall.
    Eyetalian marble in the city hall.
    O stranger from England why stand so aghast?
    May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast.

    We swore by King William there’d never be seen,
    An all-Irish parliament at College Green.
    So at Stormont we’re nailing the flag to the mast,
    May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast.

    This jewel that houses our hopes and our fears
    Was knocked up from the swamp in the last hundred years.
    But the last shall be first and the first shall be last,
    May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast.

    Oh the bricks they will bleed and the rain it will weep,
    And the damp Lagan fog lull the city to sleep.
    It’s to hell with the future and live on the past,
    May the Lord in his mercy be kind to Belfast.

  • “The penny may drop that they’ve nothing left to fight about,”

    Apart from the constitutional question/aspiration, Brian. Oh but you’ve unwittingly covered that:

    “Edna Longley who did such good work in Cultural Traditions is right to say that “aspiration prevents the Executive from speaking collectively for Northern Ireland.””

    Joe and Josey Public might give you a blank look if you mention that ‘Cultural Traditions’ stuff.

    Edna Longley seems unable to recognise that she is stuck in a Humesque mindset:

    “Neither faction wants to admit the commonalties of their cultural location in Irish, British Isles and European dynamics. Sectarian mindset resist the potentially liberating flow of culture.”

  • Alias

    The UK isn’t any less ‘sectarian’ than other states in that it is the British nation that is sovereign, and the UK is its de facto nation state. Given that the UK is comprised of only 4 non-sovereign nations, it rather obviously excludes the other 7,000 nations that comprise the global population. Until a world government is established and we all assume the nationality of Earthling (rather than fragmented geographical localities such as European, Asian, African, ect), then all states will remain ‘sectarian.’ The UK likes it that way since it ruthlessly protects its sovereignty and its territory, and merely uses the ‘sectarian’ label to discourage others from making a claim to it. Likewise, the EU values sovereignty too since it puts considerable effort into stealing it from other states.

  • wild turkey

    ‘A voters’ mass boycott is tempting but I’m a democrat and won’t go there. .’

    brian. like you i am a democrat of the Obama type, but i am getting a real deja vu feeling on this. There are alternatives to a mass boycott.
    (…hmmm “mass boycott”, save that one for another topic perhaps, eh?)

    Le vote blanc peut-etre?

    “In France, where having an opinion is a source of national pride, only wimps are undecided, and “none of the above” is the choice of the sophisticated voter. ”

    shit, Dr Who on in 10 minutes

    see link below

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    The past has a certain certainty.

    The future courts courage.

  • Michael McQuillan

    simple way around all the tribal politics, move to north belfast and vote for Martin McAuley, someone who wants to win votes for policies instead which flag he’d prefer to see flying over city hall! =)

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Mr Walker surely youve got it completely wrong.
    If the politicians are living on a different planet from the Electorate, people wouldnt vote for them year after year.
    If anything its the Overclass of Journalists and Bloggers who are on a different planet with their constant “why oh why arent the electorate amd politicians more like us” blether and sanctimonious clap trap.
    Nesbit and McKinney (admittedly unemployed) have at least signed up to stand for Election ..for two of the different parties. Im sure other members of our local Glenda and Lunchtime Mutual Appreciation Society in the wider freemasonry of Journalism could stand. Barney Rowan did.
    Eamonn McCann tends to think of himself as a journalist too.

  • PrivateBob

    I agree with FJH, the politicians in Northern Ireland are very much in tune with their electorate. Unfortunately so-called ‘tribal politics’ is still very important for many people here, especially the older generation. If it wasn’t, and if people hated the Unionist/Nationalist divide, then surely Alliance would have 108 MLAs and many do they have again?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Private Bob,
    And journalists would have nothing to whinge about and there would be no self congratulatory Media awards every ten minutes.

  • wild turkey


    “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”

    William Faulkner, american novelist 1897-1962 writing about the american south.

    any analogies i might consider drawing between the confederate past and the ‘ulster’ present would no doubt bring waterfalls of astute opprobrium upon me.

    so why bother.

    carpe diem

  • paul kielty

    It is Edna longley whom is lecturing people. I take offence at this person stating that Gerry Adams ‘lectured’ ETA. Duhh!! To help with this ladies obvious lack of information on this issue, SF and the democratically elected ‘de-barred’, and their military wing have been in discussion for MANY years on non-violent methods to achieve their goals of freedom and civil rights against a violent foreign force.

    Fascism was not defeated in Europe in 1945. That is a lie. It survived until the death of franco in 1974!!!!

    Oh god I wish all us Irish were as civilised as Ms Longley, and of course veteran of STATE CONTROLLED MEDIA, brian himself!

  • OscarTheGrouch

    It sounds that there is plenty of 19th Century politics still around let alone last century! I think the oul Orange and Green headbutting has some mileage yet!

  • RJ

    Its really a Joke all this Tribal Politics stuff
    its no more tribal than The Parties in the Dail
    or Westminster, its just our people Care about the People there Representing whereas Westminster just wants to steal from there people and well the Dail i dont really know
    im an Irish Nationalist but dont really pay much Attention beyond the Six Counties except where it Interferes in my life which is hardly ever.