“they have bought into the system and there is no going back for them”

In the Belfast Telegraph Liam Clarke provides a useful corrective to the more excitable commenters’ response to Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s recent remarks about a potential future Northern Ireland First Minister.  From the Belfast Telegraph article

If you forgot the context, the soundbite could almost be taken as a call to vote Sinn Fein in order to copperfasten progress, but everyone knows that isn’t what Mr Paterson meant.

He was making two other points. The first was that, if Sinn Fein accepts the top ceremonial office at Stormont, it shows that they have bought into the system and there is no going back for them.

The second is that it is a sign of progress in Northern Ireland if government positions can be exchanged between opposing parties without a collapse into street-protest and violence, as generally happened in the last century.

It is a sign of stability and maturity in any country when the results of elections are accepted as legitimate and replace brute force as the basis for government.

Power would not even change hands; barring a landslide in public opinion, the same parties will remain in government as before.

The positions of First and deputy First Minister carry equivalent authority.

The only difference is that one carries marginally more kudos than the other.

And he adds

Obsessing about who will provide the First Minister may be a fun way of wrong-footing British ministers; it may even provide 15 minutes of fame on the evening news.

But it amounts to a call for their supporters to unite behind the DUP.

Isn’t that normally the DUP’s job?


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  • 241934 john brennan

    Nevin your 6.38 post “The Irish government acted against the then socialist leadership of the IRA because it perceived it to be a threat to the Green state”

    Actions always speak louder than words – Surely the actions of both Sticks and Provos prove they were/are fascist. When was the cause of the poor, or the poor working class, ever advanced by planting indiscriminate bombs? Anyway are/were not such bombs also gross human rights abuses? “An Ireland of equals”- all equal in the graveyard?

    Anyway where now is the objective of a united green/orange state?

  • The Word

    What’s your point, Tacapall? Are you playing Trivial Pursuits or something?

    The very thought of the English civilising anybody. You know what Gandhi said, English civilisation would be a good idea. I suppose you think we should have a republican “strap him in and blow him up” civilisation.

  • fordprefect

    How about shutting your big mouth for a change?

  • The Word, how can such history be undone? Would Hume be the first man on your boat back to Scotland? A large percentage of my ancestors post 1800 have Scottish or Irish Mac or Mac-rooted surnames. It’s claimed that some of my ancestors came from Bute around 1580.

    I wasn’t aware I had any prisoners. I had the privilege of a non-denominational secondary and tertiary education; John’s education appears to have been more constricted in that sense.

  • tacapall

    The Word now now you’re avoiding the question I asked after you posted this

    “In your opinion what are the chances of the British Government owning up to the evil that was the Plantation of Ulster?

    How about “unjustified and unjustifiable”?

  • The Word, how about toning down the rhetoric a bit? Please leave the depth charges at the door 😉

  • Mark

    fordprefect ,

    How about some courtesy when addressing a fellow poster . We’ve all played the man/womant a couple of times in the past but you’ve done it a couple of times in the past hour.

    You don’t seemed it have laughed out loud in a while.

  • JB, actions probably do speak louder but words may be the detonator. Is there anything more dangerous than an idea whose time has come? We’ve had a very troubled history but local variations can be a minefield for outsiders.

    Portadown and Coleraine are market towns on the River Bann but the trans-community work I was able to do in Coleraine at the height of the Troubles might not have been possible in Portadown. I’ve been away from Coleraine for over twenty years but it now seems that the Drumcree debacle has had a very negative knock-on effect there.

    I can identify with John Hume’s ‘force, from whatever quarter, can only perpetuate, not resolve the conflict’. I can also identify with ‘accommodation of difference is the only basis for peace and stability in our divided society’. Unfortunately he was unable to accept that the real difference was mainly between the two opposing constitutional aspirations; in his mind-set Unionists are merely a tradition on the island.

  • The Word


    “The Word, how can such history be undone? ”

    Who said undone? What about corrected, told straight the difference between right and wrong?

    “I wasn’t aware I had any prisoners.”

    I feel that a “psychological awakening” is required from the British government in order to allow a freedom of the mind that John Hume would have had much more than any unionist. I feel that the idea has arrived. It’s time for it to happen. It’s the responsible position that lets the unionist be a unionist but not a prisoner.

  • The Word


    What’s your point?

  • tacapall

    Your constant references to any mindset from the nationalist community that does not agree with you as somehow evil or barbarian. Im just wondering if you remember who’s wrong they were righting. Was 1916 evil in your book.

  • The Word, it seems John Hume had a problem telling the whole story:

    “this proposal took public housing allocation out of the hands of local unionist politicians”

    As Unionists, Nationalists and Socialists exercised the power of patronage in local authority housing (and jobs) – even to the point of Gentlemen’s Agreements – the Housing Executive, in theory, brought benefits to all.

  • “the difference between right and wrong?” ,, Word

    My family roots are mainly in the Kingdom of Moyle in what was Hebridean Macdonnell territory for hundreds of years. George Hill’s history of this family was one of my introductions to local history. Apart from dishing it out as part of various alliances the Macdonnells were sometimes on the receiving end of assaults from various combinations of O’Neills, O’Donnells, Campbells and Government forces. I read little comment about the Macdonnell ‘plantations’.

  • The Word


    “Im just wondering if you remember who’s wrong they were righting. Was 1916 evil in your book.”

    People right wrongs by doing the right thing. To me that means the good thing. Otherwise they just try to prove that their evil is greater than the evil of others. And that means evil wins.

  • The Word


    “I read little comment about the Macdonnell ‘plantations’.”

    By all means you refer to what you consider to be wrong, but I think the British goverment must concede the point that what was done was wrong, profoundly so, and that the legacy today is a divided Northern Ireland and Ireland that will be perpetually divided so long as this delusion of having done something worthwhile remains.

    I want the prisoners freed. That’s what I’m about.

    And leave Hume out of all this.

  • tacapall

    The Word you’re a bit of a fancy footwork artist doing a bit of ducking and diving are we.

  • The Word


    You just can’t see the good in anybody.

  • “And leave Hume out of all this.”

    Why, Word? You seem to be imprisoned in his prism, if you don’t mind me saying so. His isn’t the only Nationalist/anti-Union/anti-Unionist voice.

    [et Al: I tried to maintain an opportunity for wordperfect to be heard but it seems that some others were content to get him to overreact. Sound familiar?]

    JH “Personal Views”: “the Unionists have to be brought to see that they cannot defy the will of the British parliament to which they profess loyality … in this way they could be liberated from the prison into which they have locked themselves”

    See the join?

    You portray John Hume as the bees’ knees; I’ve pointed out the limitations of his mind-set, his cherry-picker’s propaganda. IMO such limitations and the violence have each limited political progress. As for Unionists, a UK government apology might also inhibit such progress.

    By the way, the Macdonnell plantations preceded and ran alongside the state plantations in Ulster. They’re inextricably linked – as were the Macdonnells and the Stewart/Stuart monarchs. Why argue against one set of ‘outsiders’ but not the other?

  • tacapall

    The Word you’ve got me all wrong I do see the good in everyone I just dont agree with you on some subjects. I dont support the SDLP but I dont support Sinn Fein either and im not some sort of anarchist or barbarian that sometimes you alledge, its like emotional blackmail not to challenge you. Politicians are corrupt they can somehow make a difference between for the good of the country and the good of the people, a bit like religion would you agree.

  • The Word


    John Hume is not well now, so you needn’t involve him when you have a wiser argument here.

    But Hume never imprisoned anybody and, to the contrary, liberated many.

    You cannot limit the scope of good, nor its depth. We talk about liberation because we see these ridiculous people marching up and down roads telling us that we are inferior.

    We smile when working class men do this to their fellow men. We refer to them as having an unnatural identity because of these factors. We talk of them really being afraid. Why? Because they think everybody is like them.

    A change of heart is required. We must begin now to break down the barriers that Peter Robinson talked about. Only we know how to break down those barriers, whereas he doesn’t. Messing with education is a nonsense when men are marching in to Derry etc, telling the world that they are the good people. Good people don’t do that sort of thing.

    Now is the time.


    Fair enough.

  • The Word, you appear to be still drinking from the Hume propaganda well. I’ve already pointed out some of the ideas I agree with; I’ve also mentioned the cherry-picking and the contradictions.

    Here once again is a little bit of goodness in action and it operated irrespective of creed, class and race.

    Give folks the freedom to choose their own identity; show a little bit of toleration of and respect for difference please.

    We must assess problems within their wider context and develop new relationships and structures, not remain within the ‘holier than thou’ laagers.

  • The Word


    Yes, good is a universal thing. A social conscience is a universal thing. But we’re not being holier than thou. We actually know what road to take and, of course you’re right, there are worse roads.

    People need to listen to the wise people. That’s why God put them there.

  • The Word, Unionists and Nationalists tend to knock or oppose one another’s constitutional aspirations, it’s their way or no way; both aspirations need to be accommodated and the associated relationships developed. That’s why I’ve suggested the need for some form of shared sovereignty and the merger of Strands 2 and 3.

  • The Word


    There is shared or pooled sovereignty as it stands. I think the Tories know that only too well.

    Normal aspirations need to be accommodated. I see no future for those who engage in abnormal practices that are designed to antagonise and preserve power rather than face the reality that they are in effect exhibiting the symptoms of an abused people. Bullies tend to be psychologically abused.

    The abuse can stop when the abuser accepts the need to change and the abused is allowed their freedom to assimilate with the rest of the family. Otherwise the whole abuse thing could infect every part of society eventually leading to eternal conflict.

    People like me want it to stop now. Unionists don’t have the insight to see this abuse. They’re asking the question what do I get out of this and it seems worth it. They really don’t know.

  • The Word, there’s been a measure of shared governance since 1985; each state retains sovereignty within its own jurisdiction ie the final say.

    I’ve posted the Dick Spring briefing which illustrates how London, after taking advice, more or less rubber-stamped a partisan proposal from Dublin. You might wonder why CAIN and the BBC refused to publish this transcript, a transcript supplied by Dublin’s DFA. London, in the form of Sir Patrick Mayhew, claimed that the policing decision was taken by the RUC Chief Constable and the BBC went along with the deception. When London reversed the decision Dublin went ballistic.

    The SDLP has promoted scrutiny and accountability in policing whilst at the same time availing of the services of the DFA and the Joint Secretariat to have policing policy and day-to-day decisions changed. The JS isn’t subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Now that’s a nice little line on hypocrisy, isn’t it? I’m indebted to a quite well known member of the SDLP who let the cat out of the bag many years ago.

    I view the Unionist and Nationalist aspirations as valid and members of both ‘families’ have indulged in and been subject to cruelty, barbarity and murder down through the generations. Other members have led exemplary lives.

  • The Word

    There have been all sorts of influences on internal sovereignty of UK and The Republic of Ireland. The final say takes all these into account.

    Yes, you might say that the Marching Season is designed to prevent any undermining of the new pseudo-religion. But those who understand this posturing realise that that is what it really is, a desire to beat the chest and roar in the hope that everybody scampers off.

    If there was any substance to it at any stage, it would have broken lines and launched a war on the “minority”.

    I don’t criticise the SDLP. That’s just me. But they are aware of the needs of this moment at parliamentary level.

    Aspirations can be valid so long as no person or community is being abused. The problem created by Britain abusing the unionists is that they then abuse our people with similar arguments that have been taught to them.

  • The Word, so SDLP hypocrisy is fine by you. Wonderful. You do realise that this leaves you without a leg to stand on when you point the finger at others?

    I’m puzzled by the term ‘pseudo-religion’. Pseudo: ‘false, fraudulent, or pretending to be something it is not’. Was the SDLP wearing the pseudo cap when it made those claims about accountable policing?

    Parading and festivals, with or without a religious element, long precede our more recent political arrangements. Some might find Semana Santa intimidating but I doubt very much if that’s the intention.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Nevin & The Word:
    Let’s be blunt about it, SF sold the pass, and also attempted to sell the pass, on both police accountability and the Parades Commission.

    At St. Andrews SF approved the replacement of the accountable PSNI Intelligence Branch, with the completely unaccountable and secretive MI5 – and more recently would have approved the abolition of the Parades Commission, had not the Orange Order objected to the SF/DUP’s agreed alternative.

    During the protracted Westminster legislation on policing (Patten), the SDLP spent endless hours arguing, drafting and redrafting the legislation, until it got it to the point of acceptability – which Sinn Fein tacitly approved by going unto the Police Board and the DPP’s.

    Similarly, the SDLP eventually got acceptable Parades Commission legislation – with Eddie McGrady digging his heels in at the committee scrutiny stage – e.g. one all day session to have the definitions of what constituted “ a band” and “a parade” amended to include “one man playing a lambeg drum

  • JB, MI5 is accountable to London; London and Dublin protect the ‘good’ paramilitaries here as part of their NIMBY approach to our political process; the SDLP plays second fiddle to SF as a consequence – it also loses out at the ballot box. It was an SDLP member who pointed out that President McAleese’s endorsement of the transparamilitary Finaghy Crossroads Group would undermine the SDLP.

    The PSNI is partly accountable to the Policing Board but, as I’ve mentioned previously, you can be fairly certain that the Policing Board has no access to the political direction given to the police. Police officers will need political clearance before they can act against certain miscreants; the SDLP knows the score on this but I doubt if you’ll find any details in a party press release.

    The Parades Commission is part of a process that has soured community relations, facilitated further social apartheid and strengthened the hand of the ‘good’ godfathers. The godfathers hold their own parades without let or hindrance from the PC.

  • 241934 john brennan

    I don’t disagree. – and I don’t doubt that police files on the “good” paramilitaries are now held by MI5 – and won’t again see the light of day, unless specifically and personally authorised by the British Attorney General.

    So much for any Truth Recovery Process? – or even complete reports by the Police Ombudsman in some instances

  • JB, I wonder how much our Justice Minister knows about this lack of accountability, presumably, in the whole justice process. I should imagine that London and Dublin (and others) are quite happy to keep him out of the loop.

  • The Word


    Agree entirely.


    “without a leg to stand on” – I have two legs standing very solidly at the moment on the SDLP side. There are those who think that the SDLP is getting a raw deal in this society from the interference of MI5 in places where we know they tend to be such as at the BBC.

    These parades are not good, do not vie to be good and on the contrary, assert the view that bullying and intimidating are the way society is ordered. It is then very difficult for us to counter the Sinn Fein argument that we are naive.

    If it is to have any direction, good has to be naive, or we won’t reach our destination. Promoting evil would reverse our direction here and elsewhere. But I think that can’t be tolerated.

  • The Word,

    Perhaps if the SDLP had stuck closer to straight dealing then it wouldn’t have got itself into this ‘raw deal’.

    The BBC is said to be something of a SF redoubt so it’s nice to know it has MI5 for company.

    I think you’re making too much of the likes of OO, AOH, church and scout parades. I’d be more concerned about paramilitary influences, including band parades and the related potential for induction of young people into organised crime.

  • The Word


    I’m not here to be lectured on the straight dealing or otherwise of the SDLP. They’re the good people. If some strayed, that’s what some good people did.

    Without God working through them, there would have been nothing to save in this little statelet.

    SF and MI5 “for company” – we feel that they’re working together because the British and the IRA reached an arrangement that protects certain interests.

    We’ll not say that they’re inexperienced but does it really suit them to resolve the conflict in a way that might not reflect well on either of them?

    And whatever way you look at these parades they are sinister, unwelcome and damaging for everyone in this society.

  • The Word

    I’m not referring to a few strays, I’m describing SDLP practice; it’s not rocket science. Some of the outcomes may or may not have been beneficial; I can think of one that wasn’t. An FoI request will not release the detail of these clandestine activities.

    Look also at this UK response to a request for the name of head of the Irish side of BIIGS and the number of Irish staff:

    “In relation to the information requested in ii and iv relating to the Irish side of the British Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat, we have concluded that these details are exempt from release under section 27 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as disclosure would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and the Irish Government.”

    The Irish side was equally helpful: “… it is not possible for us to provide you with details of the Irish staff serving the Secretariat.”

  • The Word

    I’m sure it seemed that way to you, but I know that that is not how it worked.

    You know, they say that the Pope would have a perceived vulnerability were it not for certain contra indications putting off potential assailants. Of course, we know he’s not vulnerable only when we want him to be, but there are plenty of people out there who resent wisdom and who would be queuing up to send their friends where it not for the Pope having friends.

  • The Word,

    The three monkeys approach doesn’t work; it allows the blame or the criticism to be directed at the wrong people.

    I wouldn’t have known about the SDLP clandestine activities if an SDLP politician hadn’t opened the door and I hadn’t starting asking questions in diverse places. This opened a small but significant Pandora’s Box not just on the SDLP but also on those it did business with. We’ve been poorly served by the MSM.

    The Vatican route is hardly the way to go for models of openness, transparency and accountability. Most of my encounters with Catholic religious down through the years have been very positive but, as a critical friend, I do think the institutional structure needs serious attention.

  • The Word


    “Blame” – The UK government shot our citizens dead in their own streets when they were doing the right thing. So they took the instructions for the UK goverment. It was all we could do stop them even twenty years later.

    “Pandora’s Box” – They say that the only thing left in the box was hope. For a time there was no hope. We gave people hope after all the evil and bitterness was let out.

    “poorly served by MSM” – We believe in a free press but in our society their are guns around and much infiltration rather than freedom of expression. In London and maybe Dublin, money plays its part.

    I think that full openness is a good thing but we certainly won’t be spending our time ducking and diving in our place.

  • The Word,

    You say that openness is a good think yet you seem reluctant to accept that the SDLP leadership indulged in the clandestine activities and partial truths I’ve referred to previously. What good can come of such deception? [I’m assuming that your ‘we’ refers to the SDLP; I don’t know who you mean by ‘them’]

  • The Word


    There was no way that we could have done certain things if we did not accept those things. All pressure points were squeezed in this story and we’re still looking to do that.

    You know, they had real power. The British have nowhere near as much.

  • The Word, just for clarification can you please use the specific label instead of vague terms like we and they.

    “There was no way that we could have done certain things”

    Really? The SDLP did them and here’s some more detail of the mechanisms. To call for accountability while colluding in secret is hypocrisy. The SDLP didn’t have power but it did have influence of a dubious nature.

    “That’s why the SDLP has been working for accountability and change on the Policing Board, District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships.”

    Sir Patrick Mayhew: “Details of the exchanges between the two Governments remain confidential”

    The Iveagh House back channel gave the SDLP a say in policing policy and day-today decision making that went beyond the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and which was visible through parliamentary scrutiny. The Dick Spring 1996 briefing sheds light on the process from events here back to Iveagh House but to the SDLP.

  • OOPs ‘visible through parliamentary scrutiny’ should read ‘invisible through parliamentary scrutiny’.

  • The Word


    Suffice to say that we are a very big team and there lies the quandary for the British.

    I am SDLP to the core and nothing will ever change that. I know my own and they me. What they had or what they did was in the interests of everybody ultimately. You should read more of John Hume’s speeches and you’ll realise that only for people like Neil Kinnock, the British would be in a lot more trouble.

  • The Word, the street politics of the likes of Hume and Paisley led to death and destruction so the families and friends of the victims would hardly subscribe to the notion that it was in their interests.

    How popular is Social Democracy’s United States of Europe regionalisation project?

    O Comain: “Of course John Hume should not be seen as the sole originator of the implied ideas, for their source is the Social Democrats of the European Parliament of which the British Labour Party and the SDLP are affiliated. It is indeed interesting that a European Union (EU) document pertaining to regional structure in Europe envisages that the island of Ireland will be divided into two regions: the 6 counties will be known as Ulster and the 26 counties will be known as Ireland.”

  • The Word


    I’ll stop at this.

    We won this argument through the deaths of some victims. They died as were intended so that we would be free. Last year our freedom was confirmed. There is no going back. That much is certain.

    There is only a worse alternative. I have seen the signs already, I would be of the opinion that no-one will blame us for that alternative, whatever you suggest about the early years of the Troubles.

    We have given you our view on the good future. We have never negotiated in these matters. We simply let people make mistakes and shine the light on them. Our team sees a better world where the good people of every nation are empowered. We will overcome without question.

  • “We won this argument through the deaths of some victims.”

    The Word

    SDLP deception continued long past the start of the Troubles. I’ve shone some light on this dishonesty but I claim no victory.