Pan Unionist maneouvre thwarted

Moves by all shades of unionism to form a single political grouping has failed to have the desired effect in Belfast City Council as Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance combined to close the loophole which would have allowed the somewhat cynical gesture to alter the numbers of elected representatives for each party ahead of the running of d’hondt on Thursday evening.

Of course, the option is still there for the UUP, PUP and former UDP- now Independent- Frank McCoubrey to join the DUP to maximise that party’s numbers ahead of Thursday’s meeting….

  • JohnM

    Haha. Well done Alliance.

  • Thats always possible of course but it might prove counter-productive with other council chairmanships coming up in other councils.
    Will unionists see sense and realise that Belfast is no longer a unionist citadel or will it retaliate by blocking non-unionist candidates in other councils?
    They are between the proverbial rock and a proverbial hard place.

  • So who’s going to be Lord Mayor in Belfast? Seems it’s SF’s turn – will it be Máírtín Ó Muilleoir?

  • lamhdearg

    what happened to the other six votes

  • Chris Donnelly

    Concubhar
    He’d make an excellent Mayor, and certainly would be the best choice for Sinn Fein.

  • Obelisk

    I’m not quite sure who Unionists are going to block in other councils that they aren’t blocking already where they can.

    If the other councillors opt to jump ship for the DUP, then that is of course their own personal choice and something you can’t argue with.

    In the case of the UUP councillors, could anyone really blame them? After all, the very fact that this option was even pursued, that these councillors were willing to subsume their party identity into the DUP (and what would BCUG have been otherwise except the DUP writ large), surely this is the final nail in the relevance of the UUP in Belfast.

  • lamhdearg

    chris
    any links to which Alliance councilers voted.

  • OneNI

    Bel Tel 16 May

    “The UUP will not be forming a pact with the DUP, end of story,” said veteran councillor Bob Stoker

    “We have not formally discussed it yet, but sounding |out other members, it is unlikely to happen.” With just three elected members returned, the UUP will not be entitled to membership on any of the council’s six committees.

    “We will get absolutely nothing,” added Mr Stoker. “We may have got something if there was an alignment with the DUP, but people voted for me as an Ulster Unionist and I will be staying an Ulster Unionist.”

    This entirely sensible position was overturned by Tom Elliott who pushed for a pact to keep the ‘scum’ out.

    It has backfired on him
    If I was Stoker I’d be starting an ‘Elliott must go’ campaign

  • DC

    A victory for common sense.

  • “He’d make an excellent Mayor”

    It’s going to take a little while to live this down, Chris! Perhaps it’s time for some more FoI requests.

  • Perhaps the Mayor’s job should go to the councillor with the highest surplus in the elections.

  • Mark McGregor

    Delighted to see Irish ‘republicans’ see this as as a fight worth fighting and a ‘victory’ worth bothering over.

    Well done you.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It would have been politically impossible for Alliance to back the unionist plans. This was a purely tribal endeavour on the part of the DUP. In fairness to the UUP group, Bob Stoker had refused to back it – then he made a u-turn which implies the intervention of Tom Elliott.

    The detail that I found particularly interesting, and which should interest Nevin, Turgon and certain others who continue to believe that unionism has no truck with terrorists, is that despite the UDA and UVF both being very active and never having handed over a single gun or bullet, the DUP sought to make them part of their family on the Belfast City Council. It’s only a year ago that the UVF shot a man dead in broad daylight on the Shankill. This has been happening for decades now, and it simply reaffirms that unionist politicians clearly see loyalist paramilitaries as fellow unionists.

  • easter week

    Concubhar, ní MÓM a bheis ann.

  • easter week

    SF’s Niall Ó’Donnaghaile discussing this very issue on Nolan now.

  • “should interest Nevin … who continue[s] to believe that unionism has no truck with terrorists”

    Comrade Stalin, your comment certainly interests me. I’m surprised it hasn’t attracted at least a red sticker. Not only is it a dirty tackle, it’s a delightful untruth 🙂

    You may have missed by reference yesterday to pan-Unionism and pan-Nationalism and earlier references to the Lafia and the Rafia. Then there was the Hanwood Trust with its funding from the International Fund for Ireland when I most likely pointed out the absence of the trusts’s loyalist membership and DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie from the photoshoot. This trust is an exotic bird with its politician, developer and paramilitary feathers. I should imagine it’s not a one off and that it will be found in the pan-Nationalist sphere too.

  • “unionist politicians clearly see loyalist paramilitaries as fellow unionists.”

    But they are fellow unionists, Comrade Stalin. If you delve a little more deeply you’ll note that there is a greater proportion of parapoliticians in the pan-Nationalist family, parapoliticians being politicians who are ‘managed’ by their respective ‘army’ councils.

  • “the running of d’hondt on Thursday evening.”

    How does this work out for the period of the next four years? I spotted some speculation from a DUP councillor that this would mean one Unionist Lord Mayor during the course of the next four years – perhaps a small advance on Castlereagh which could have no non-Unionist mayors.

  • easter week

    Nevin, I stand to be corrected on this one but I think the Mayoral positions will be distributed this way…

  • easter week

    Ooops made a hash of my previous post.

    2011-12 SF
    2012-13 DUP
    2013-14 SDLP
    2014-15 SF

  • lamhdearg

    So over the next four years, a city which is split 50/50 (say some) will have 3 irish nationalist mayors to 1 unionist. without saying something along the lines of “a but whatabout castlereagh” can someoue tell me how this is fair.

  • PaulT

    lamhdearg, is the city’s 50/50 split something new?

    because checking the past Lord Mayors (not to mention Mayors) reveal quite a bit of catching up to do in having Nationalist Lord Mayors

    http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/lordmayor/formerlordmayors.asp

  • lamhdearg

    pault
    i dont believe the city is 50/50, as i believe that 75%+ of alliance votes come from people who at a push would vote to maintain the union.
    As for 1882 belfast was overwelmingly unionist, so of course a unionist was elected,but look more closely at the last 10 or so years and you will find that unionist and irish nationalists and the Alliance all get a pretty fair share, this (if what is being touted comes to pass) is about to change, with a 3 to 1 split, and alliance not even getting a look in, now i dont think this will be the case as alliance will not support irish nationalist partys without getting something back in return, my post was just to try and draw out a responce from those who claim unionists and only unionists are power grabing bigots, may i also point out that i believe that sf as the largest party should get first pop at being lord mayor.

  • Trapattoni

    Sinn Féin Councillor for Pottinger Niall Ó’Donnghaile to be the new Mayor of Belfast according to this morning’s Andersonstown News.

  • cynic49

    No friction in North Down Town Hall. DUP, UUP and the Alliance Party have agreed a four year carve up of all the top posts. Lucky they have none of those awful Republicans to worry about. They must have forgiven the Alliance for the part they played in Belfast.

  • ayeYerMa

    In many ways what Alliance have supported here is a backwards and undemocratic change. They’re always lecturing about normalisation of democracy here, yet here they have supported a move which removes the ability for political cooperation in forming normal political coalitions, in favour of the corrupt and distorted “peace process” system which will only lead to further polarisation and larger political blocks.

    Of course, this will suit the DUP quite well, and allows them to justify their claims of being the only viable Unionist party and allow them to keep on message to “vote DUP to keep Sinn Fein out”.

  • ayeYerMa

    … one term sums it up for Alliance here – short sighted – very short sighted indeed and no doubt they’ll come to regret it in the future.

  • Comrade Stalin

    lamhdearg:

    i dont believe the city is 50/50, as i believe that 75%+ of alliance votes come from people who at a push would vote to maintain the union./

    This is pure sectarian tribal talk. Alliance voters are people who vote to reject being put in a tribal box, and here you are essentially pigeonholing them anyway. Why can’t you just respect their beliefs ?

    Alliance opposes d’Hondt and, if Alliance had any say in the matter, the system that was in place up until now would have been deployed. That would mean rotating the post in roughly equal measure between nationalists and unionists. As I pointed out a while back, since Alliance obtained the balance of power there have been 6 nationalist and 5 unionist Mayors. That is more or less equally balanced. But no, the DUP and the nationalist parties didn’t want to continue in this way. In fact, the DUP supported d’Hondt because it believed it would gain a few seats and become the largest party.

    my post was just to try and draw out a responce from those who claim unionists and only unionists are power grabing bigots

    The unionists just tried to set up a post-election pact like this, roping in the political representative of the UDA. If that isn’t a power grab what is it ?

    ayeyerma:

    In many ways what Alliance have supported here is a backwards and undemocratic change.

    So how would you describe it if Alliance have supported a tribal DUP/UUP/UDA pact ?

    They’re always lecturing about normalisation of democracy here, yet here they have supported a move which removes the ability for political cooperation in forming normal political coalitions,

    Which is consistent with the rules that everyone supports in the Assembly. What’s wrong with that ?

    And a “normal political coalition” is something the electorate have an opportunity to vote on. Note how in the Irish general election Fine Gael and Labour openly discussed coalition well ahead of polling day. The DUP/UUP/etc waffled about “unionist unity” but they never explained to their electorate that they were voting for pact incorporating the UDA.

    one term sums it up for Alliance here – short sighted – very short sighted indeed and no doubt they’ll come to regret it in the future.

    I’ve heard that before. Heard it when Alliance voted in Alex Maskey. Heard it more recently during the Westminster election campaign when the DUP tried to get people to oppose Naomi on the basis that she lacked certain important unionist flag-waving credentials.

    All I can say is – look at the election results. There is no evidence either that unionist voters are interested in pacts (note how the unionist vote dropped for Rodney Connor despite a slightly higher chance of getting him elected); likewise there is no evidence that they are stirred by this apparent primitive need that Unionist politicians seem to harbour that requires them to be top dog all the time. The Lord Mayor is a substantially ceremonial role with no real power. It really isn’t like a nationalist Lord Mayor has the means to distribute the best picks of social housing to favoured supporters in the way the old Unionist Party mayors did in the 1960s.

    If I were an Alliance candidate and someone asked me why the party voted this way, I would say that I opposed tribal voting pacts which were concealed from the electorate, and I’d also say that I opposed bringing the UDA into the process in the absence of any kind of decommissioning or commitment to exclusively peaceful means. Isn’t that reasonable ?

  • ayeYerMa

    Comrade Stalin,

    How on earth would Alliance be “supporting” any Unionist pact if they weren’t actually involved in said pact? A fallacious argument if there ever where one.

    A “power grab” is the aim of any normal democratic political party (duh?). Pacts are a normal part of democratic politics which encourage political cooperation outside party lines, and rigging the system to make any form of pact impossible merely reduces chances of cross-party cooperation (of ANY type) in the future. What Alliance have done here is actually voting to keep out a perfectly legitimate coalition block of common political interest, and in effect is a sectarian vote to keep out Unionists who have the audacity to actually organise themselves within the democratic system.

    Alliance are arrogant if they think that they speak for e.g. UUP voters. They do not – UUP representatives speak for the UUP voters (otherwise they’d have voted Alliance and not UUP). If UUP voters don’t like what their representatives are doing in forming such pacts then they won’t vote for them next time around (in fact they might have voted Alliance next time around – too late for that though as Alliance are now voting to keep out Unionists altogether).

    Your attitude to coalitions is rather queer and another fallacious argument. Just because in the Republic they decided to announce in advance a coalition doesn’t mean that coalitions must be announced in advance for them to be democratically valid. In fact, you’ve also admitted that in advance of the election Unionist parties stated that they would work together. In the recent Westminster election no coalition was announced in advance, precisely because you don’t know how people will vote until they actually cast their vote – I’d say that this is the more normal way coalitions are formed in democracies around the world. In fact, announcing coalitions in advance is rather idiotic for a political party as it gives advantage to their political opponents. This odd Alliance attitude towards coalitions, does however, explain pathetic moves from Alliance such as why Naomi Long refused to enter government with the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition – if she had have done that she could have stood up for Northern Ireland from WITHIN the Westminster government (and maybe even got a cabinet position!) rather than being completely useless standing on the outside.

    With regards to the UDA issue, I was under the impression that De Chastelain had issued a report saying that they’d decommissioned?: http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/01/06/uda-have-put-weapons-beyond-use/ Both the UUP and now DUP sit in government and work constructively with IRA men (even when the IRA also are now being fractured into so-called “dissident” groups), so how is this inconsistent in any way? Even if I’m wrong on the decommissioning issue, it’s a bit of a double-standard for Alliance to be stating that they’re trying to keep out UDA men when Alliance had absolutely no problem in sitting in government with IRA men before decommissioning!!!

    With regards to your point about being consistent with Assembly rules, why is that even desirable considering Alliance have spoken out against the current tribal system in the Assembly? Such corrupted sectarian “peace process” political systems only encourage polarised division and “sectarian carve ups” – Alliance stating this has been one reason why I have spoke in favour of them and even voted for them. The reduction of sectarian carve-ups (which I categorically state that I despise) will only occur in a normalised political system, not in such a flawed “peace process” system which inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally by some) encourages polarised community division instead of cooperation.

    As a Unionist who has had a soft-spot for Alliance and voted for them before, acts like this just push me towards the DUP. It’s the exact same type of undemocratic act as when they changed their designation to “Unionist” in order to keep Trimble in power, despite Trimble having lost majority Unionist support.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ayeYerMa :

    Before I get into the detail, can you explain to me why a pact between unionist parties – or nationalist parties for that matter (the principle is the same) does not deserve to be described as a purely tribal entity set up with the objective of putting forward sectarian interests ? That’s the crux of the debate here.

    Any time I have seen unionism form pacts (nationalists tend not to do it, perhaps correctly observing that their electorate are put off by such tribalism) it has been to keep nationalists out. In this case unionism simply doesn’t have the numbers on BCC to do that, but if it did you would basically have a fully legal framework to turn back the clock to the kind of exclusion that unionism practices on the other councils that it dominates – like Castlereagh.

    As for that last comment about Alliance, if you want the party to explain their position then you should ask them, not me. I’m not a party official or a representative of the party of any kind, just a person who substantially agrees with their views. My personal opinion is that if you’re voting Alliance with the expectation that you expect it to uphold the kind of tribal cake-slicing you’re defending here, I suspect you need to review your understanding of what the party stands for.

  • ayeYerMa

    Comrade,

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t have tribal politics (and I long for the day), but in Northern Ireland it’s the reality that won’t disappear any time soon. In fact, in politics all over the world a lot of the voting is also tribal under the surface (e.g. tribal voting for Labour vs. Conservative).

    Alliance cannot undemocratically dicatate to other parties not to not be tribal if the electorate have voted tribally. If the electorate are fed up with tribal politics then they will vote differently in the future (e.g. for Alliance). Parties like Alliance are not doing themselves any favours by corrupting the democratic process when it suits.

    Regarding Unionist tendancy to form pacts, there are IMO two main reasons for this. Firstly, the 2 main Unionist parties have much more in common with each other than just being Unionist. On the “bread and butter” issues the DUP and UUP are probably closer than any other 2 mainstream NI parties (contrast to the nutty Marxism professed by SF). If fact, it is near impossible to tell the difference between the two, and makes more sense for them to cooperate than for any other parties.

    Secondly, tribal politics just isn’t from one side here – the tendency for nationalists to insensitively and provocatively rub salt into wounds by voting essentially the entire IRA army council into power cannot be done without expecting some opposition from the electorate to try and keep the the IRA council out of power. … and before you mention it, one Loyalist involved in doing this is like a drop in the ocean compared to the terrorists involved on the Republican side. Perhaps even a reluctant feeling of “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em”, especially given that Unionists are already cooporating with IRA men.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In an ideal world we wouldn’t have tribal politics (and I long for the day), but in Northern Ireland it’s the reality that won’t disappear any time soon.

    It will remain the reality until we make an effort to change it. It is firmly within the gift of the large incumbent parties to do this.

    Alliance cannot undemocratically dicatate to other parties not to not be tribal if the electorate have voted tribally.

    So here are the choices for Alliance :

    – uphold the tribal tendencies of other parties.
    – uphold the principles upon which Alliance received its votes.

    You’re suggesting that Alliance should ignore its own voters and act to shore up what it sees as the bad decisions of the others ? As usual we’re back to the old idea that Alliance is expected to sacrifice itself for what other people think the greater good is ? Alliance voters are considered second class and their desire to see Alliance non-tribal policies implemented are expendable ?

    Why aren’t we asking why the DUP – which is rightly opposed to d’Hondt and supports voluntary coalition as a matter of policy – opted to support d’Hondt rather than voluntary coalition on Belfast City Council ?

    If the electorate are fed up with tribal politics then they will vote differently in the future (e.g. for Alliance). Parties like Alliance are not doing themselves any favours by corrupting the democratic process when it suits.

    But you’re asking Alliance to corrupt the democratic process by throwing out the wishes of its own voters to appease the needs of others. You’re not asking any other parties to do this.

    Secondly, tribal politics just isn’t from one side here – the tendency for nationalists to insensitively and provocatively rub salt into wounds by voting essentially the entire IRA army council into power cannot be done without expecting some opposition from the electorate to try and keep the the IRA council out of power

    How can you point the finger about rubbing salt into wounds given that unionists have been voting for politicians connected with loyalist paramilitaries for decades ? In 1974 unionist voters overwhemingly voted for a loyalist paramitary led coup which overthrew the authority of the sovereign British government. The pretence that unionism is peaceful and democratic is maintained only because the loyalists were never actually tested on their threat of violence – they were always appeased before it got that far and that is a continuation of a pattern began 100 years ago.

    and before you mention it, one Loyalist involved in doing this is like a drop in the ocean compared to the terrorists involved on the Republican side.

    It’s still hypocrisy and double talk. One set of standards for the IRA, who were required to completely disarm and pretty much disband before being allowed anywhere near government, another for the loyalists. I want unionists to stop denying that they consider loyalist paramilitaries to be their allies.

    Perhaps even a reluctant feeling of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”, especially given that Unionists are already cooporating with IRA men.

    Yeah, but that wasn’t the case 20 years ago whenever the UVF-linked Hugh Smyth was voted in by the UUP (the DUP abstained). A few years later when Alex Maskey (a republican equivalent to Hugh Smyth) was voted into the same job the unionists all walked out of the chamber. It’s pure double standards and any attempt to deflect from that should be seen for what it is.