Some unionist attempts at Kremlinology

Unionists are often correctly accused of having little insight into the political thinking of nationalists and republicans: it is a Northern Ireland version of Kremlinology. Two unionist commentators have, however, made an attempt at analysing the current position of republicans in the News Letter.

Alex Kane looks at the position of republicans within government:

Michelle O’Neill, their new minister of agriculture said: “We’re not career politicians. We’re republicans, we’re republican activists. That’s what we are about here. We’re not interested in wages or any of that stuff. What’s important to me is delivery of the republican agenda.’ …

How can you have genuine power-sharing if Sinn Fein ministers regard their role as the delivery of a purely republican agenda? How can you even speak about a post-conflict society when you make appointments and take decisions whose only purpose is to add salt to the open wounds of those who still suffer? Or, as Ann Travers put it: “We’re not allowed to move on because every time we want to move on Sinn Fein turn the knife a little bit more and we’re asked to accept a little bit more from them.”

Alex goes on to assess Sinn Fein’s definition of a post conflict society as

one in which the primary causes of the conflict namely, the British and the unionists have either been forced out or politically emasculated. That, as we know (and as the dissident republicans keep reminding them) hasn’t happened. And it isn’t going to happen, either. Sinn Fein has lost the only battle that actually matters to them.

He goes on to explain this behaviour as “the dying flames of Provisional Republicanism”

Appointing ‘political prisoners’ to key positions in the Executive is done just to annoy unionists. Appointing Gerry Kelly and Caitriona Ruane to the Policing Board is done just to annoy unionists. Holding on to the Education portfolio is done just to annoy unionists.

I suspect this is a simplification of SF’s reasoning. Annoying unionists is unlikely to be seen as a minus point for them but a lot of the motivation seems to be to consolidate the republican base. Appointing the murderer of Miss Travers is unlikely to benefit Sinn Fein in its attempts to gain votes amongst the middle class Catholics of South Belfast or elsewhere. However, they seem (correctly) to have established that they have gained a substantial part of that vote and currently seem more interested in shoring up their core vote. It is only slight but there has been a small slippage in the combined percentage vote for SF and the SDLP in the last election. This may well be within the margin of error but the continuing gain in nationalist percentage seems to have completely stalled. Anecdotally some hard line republican areas in FST have been reported to show a fall in the turnout even at last year’s straight unionist / republican Westminster battle.

Alex goes on to analyse the Sinn Fein position on the past:

Sinn Fein is incapable of forgiving and equally incapable of forgetting. Sinn Fein refuses to move on, yet expects others to move on. It requires everyone else to sign-up to the mea culpa interpretation of history while continuing to portray itself as more sinned against than sinning.

This leads on to the views of Norman Baxter: his article is about the election in general but particularly interesting are his comments on Sinn Fein’s attempts at historical revisionism:

The real problem for all unionist parties is that whilst they expended excessive time, money and energy in a political beauty contest with the electorate; Sinn Fein have been redefining the history of the conflict.
They now speak of themselves as revolutionaries, the RUC and UDR as armed groups in the conflict and have successfully disengaged the PSNI from their historical roots within the RUC.
Murderers and ex-prisoners now have equal status with innocent victims and the immoral IRA campaign is represented as a justifiable revolution for social justice.
The reality is that neither the DUP nor Ulster Unionists have directly engaged republicanism on an ideological level.
Sinn Fein remains unchallenged in redefining almost 40 years of ruthless terrorism. Unionism seems to have settled back into the comfort zone of believing there is safety in their numbers, whilst Sinn Fein by stealth and ideological cunning dismantle the political and social rationale for the existence of Northern Ireland.

Although Kane may sound in some ways more positive than Baxter there is significant common ground between them. The essential thesis is that republicans are using Stormont not to heal wounds, not to ease divisions and certainly not to benefit all the people of Northern Ireland but rather to carry out their aims by non violent means. Irritating as this may be to unionists it is of course SF’s democratic right. Although Norman Baxter is no doubt correct in his comments that unionists must not surrender the past to republican revisionism this is not especially easy. When unionists point out the crimes of the past they are accused of being backward looking which offends against the moving forwards narrative of unionist victory proffered especially by the DUP.

There is, however, a counter argument regarding Sinn Fein. Although their narrative is no doubt supported by much of the republican base, as I mentioned above much of their energies seem directed in that area. This revisionism is unlikely to gain any traction amongst unionists or even amongst non SF nationalists. In that way actually Sinn Fein’s recent stunts are not about reaching out to SDLP supporting nationalists let alone to unionists but about ensuring their position amongst republicans.

Despite all their best attempts Sinn Fein have made relatively little progress in this narrative of the Troubles that we were all involved in the conflict and we were all guilty. This failure has also been despite the enthusiastic support of many self appointed “peace makers” what Fitzjameshorse has called “The Liberal Dissidents.” In spite of the attempts by assorted middle class luvvies, some extremely unrepresentative churchmen and the odious Eames Bradley report it seems that most people in Northern Ireland are well aware that they have nothing to apologise for regarding the past. That Sinn Fein have reminded people again of their murdering past may be highly irritating to unionists. However, this strategy by SF is unlikely to gain them much new support: indeed it may well alienate a greater number of voters in potential target groups than it shores up in the base.

Then again as I said at the start unionists are no good at analysing republicans intentions.


  • USA

    I see you are still unable or unwilling to answer the question Turgon.

    For the third time:

    A young kid experiences several years of sectarian harassment from the age of 10. The harassment is on a weekly basis. The child’s family eventually get “put out”.
    The child’s school grades fall, has to move to a new area, make new friends etc.

    Is that child a victim?

  • Turgon

    I thought I made it clear. You did not answer dwatch’s questions and I am not obliged to answer your loaded questions.

  • Mick Fealty


    ‘No more Mr nice guy.’

    If that’s a threat you can sling your hook right now!

    If you are going to take on bloggers who take the time to lay out their opinions in a contestable way, then at least do the work!

    No one who blogs on Slugger is obliged to answer every single question to the satisfaction of every single commenter.

    Nor, as you very well know, is every commenter.

    Some maturity please!!

  • Mac

    Wow, now my comment about your previous comment being ‘disappeared’ has also disappeared Turgon.
    This is strange indeed 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    I took it down.

  • Limerick


    If I may. There are different degrees of victimhood. The child you mention has had a tough break, but he has not been murdered and none of his family have been murdered. Nor has he lost any limbs etc.

  • Turgon

    Mac I took down one comment from you. Mick took down my preceding one: that is his right and to be fair it was less than wholly polite: it might even have been regarded as sarcastic. I rarely take down comments but if I was not going to be able to make comments I saw no reason why that should itself be commented on as it makes a mockery of the whole thing.

    However, I intend leaving up your last comment and I hope my latest reply to USA is acceptable. It is up to Mick what he does. Mick I am sorry if I went too far with that remark to USA.

    Incidentally for anyone who wants I have laid out my reasons for blogging and my attitude to commenting on the previous page of this thread. I think I respond as much as most / almost any to comments. Some may not like my replies to their comments but I am afraid that is the way it is.

    I suspect in debate we all construct how we hope a debate will go with us always being the victor in the end. Unfortunately life is not always like that: sometimes it does not go the way we want and sometimes (as USA is discovering) the intended quarry simply refuses to walk into the trap being set for them. I guess that is what makes internet debating fun.

    Now I am trying to write a blog about victims so I will proceed with that.

  • carl marks

    i ask you to prove your comment about me or withdraw the remark, dont try to divert it to the shinners, as to my type if you didnt throw false allegations around we would not be having this little chat.
    Now dont throw a hissy fit and man up

  • Mac

    “sometimes it does not go the way we want and sometimes (as USA is discovering) the intended quarry simply refuses to walk into the trap being set for them.”

    No offence Turgon, but you walked right into anyway by pointing out that it was a trap.
    I’m more of a reader than a commenter as far as slugger goes, I do enjoy your posts, but this wouldn’t be the first time to my memory that you have demonstrated that sort of evasion. As you are perfectly entitled to do.

    I do recall a blog of yours in the recent past, well, more so the inevitable conversation than the details of the blog to be honest, but in the discussion thread you backed right out of what seemed like a perfectly amiable discussion with a poster when he asked you about your opinion on how many ‘murders’ a state would have to carry out on it’s own citizens before it was invalid, or rather, citizens in that state would have the right to deem that state ‘invalid’ as it were, or at least, be perfectly entitled to withdraw co-operation/loyalty to that state.

    By not answering questions like that, or USA’s for example, you leave others to fill in the blanks, usually with the worst possible answer, which inevitably colours their future interaction with you, and sometimes that of other posters with a vaguely similar set of political beliefs.

    Which is a shame I believe.

    Anyway, a victim of sectarian harassment is a victim, a victim of murder is a victim, the latter obviously is a victim of a much much more serious crime. But that does not change the fact that the former is also a victim.

    Claiming a word for the sole use a discrete group is no more effective than claiming a kerb stone is Irish or British just because you gave it a lick of paint. The word retains it’s original meaning for everyone else in the same way the kerb stone remains a lump of cast concrete.

  • Limerick


    The point perhaps is that the murderer cannot describe him/herself as the victim after they have committed murder.

    The fact that little Johnny could not get a job because his education was messed up due to his house being burned down etc is not a valid excuse for him murdering people. Indeed there is no valid excuse for committing murder.

  • Turgon

    As I stated previously I do not come here to befriend anyone. I do not come here to answer loaded questions. I do not come here to gain sympathy or support. I most certainly do not come here to achieve a meeting of minds or amiable debate with anyone. I have no interest in furthering understanding, making intellectual daisy chains or anything else with republicans and the rag tag of international supporters they seem to attract here.

    I may make friends: I may impress people. In actual fact I seem popular with a number of non unionists just as I am loathed by a number of unionists. I come here to argue my point. If a given argument will not advance my point then I do not bother with it. I am very far from unique in that and would point out that frequently republicans refuse to answer when asked to condemn assorted murders. We have had republican posters refuse to condemn the Enniskillen bombing. I am much more ready to admit failures and condemn assorted failures by unionists and the security forces than most republicans are in reverse.

    I know this may cause irritation but I once commented to one of my detractors that at Queen’s Students’ Union after a particularly tense encounter I was told that I had made some girls cry with what I had said about republicans. I enquired whether the girls I had made cry were republicans and was told that indeed they were. I answered that I would go to bed happy I had done one thing right that day.

    The poster I made that comment to was clearly much cleverer than me (he told us he was a lawyer and I believe he was an important one). He replied that unlike teenaged girls he would not be leaving and would not stop debating over the likes of me: he was gone within two days.

    In terms of you comment “no offence” you fail to understand. I do not care if you offend me or are offended by me. If you want to debate in a civilised fashion you can have that. If you want a bloody bruising fight I can also oblige as I am sure you have seen on a regular basis.

    As I said I do not asked to be liked. I do not ask your approval for my actions here. I seek no rewards for my reasonableness or friendliness. Here I stand I can do no other.

  • Mac

    “The point perhaps is that the murderer cannot describe him/herself as the victim after they have committed murder.”

    ‘The’ victim no. A victim yes.

    From the individual to the state, past events don’t become erased because of present actions. The US was and still is the victim of a terrorist attack on 9/11, no matter how many civilians they have bombed, tortured or 13 year old girls their marines have raped and killed since.

  • Mac

    “I know this may cause irritation but I once commented to one of my detractors that at Queen’s Students’ Union after a particularly tense encounter I was told that I had made some girls cry with what I had said about republicans. I enquired whether the girls I had made cry were republicans and was told that indeed they were. I answered that I would go to bed happy I had done one thing right that day.”

    That’s a bit sad Turgon.

  • Turgon

    No considering what those girls supported and what I think at least one of them went to gaol for I regard making them cry as a badge of honour.

  • Limerick


    I was caned at school so presumably I am also a victim. However I did not feel the urge to take retaliatory action against my teacher.

    If I had witnessed my entire family being tortured and murdered in front of my very eyes I would still not be entitled to murder the perpetrators. That is the rule of law in civilised western Europe and indeed in the USA.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    Any court in civilised western Europe or the USA would regard the murdering of your family in front of your eyes as extreme mitigation for your murder of the murderer.

    You’d probably get probation. Most people in civilised western Europe or the USA would think that a fair sentence.

  • Limerick


    Do you have a precedent for that claim?

  • Mac

    “If I had witnessed my entire family being tortured and murdered in front of my very eyes I would still not be entitled to murder the perpetrators. That is the rule of law in civilised western Europe and indeed in the USA.”

    I’m not seeing where I’m agreeing or even suggesting that being a victim gives you the ‘right’ to make victims of others, probably because I don’t believe that it does.
    I’m disagreeing with the idea that if you do, the timeline can be revised to remove an earlier incident from existence.
    Losing sympathy, or indeed condemning someone that perpetuates violence does not change the fact that they were a victim of it previously.

  • Limerick


    So what point are you making?

  • between the bridges

    I think the famine still resonates and is a leading cause of the anti-British views of many Irish folk…. Joe replace ‘famine’ with plantation and you would be spot on… and we get crap for remembering the Boyne? (At least 50yrs later!)Lol…
    Re Some unionist attempts at Kremlinology….its ok we understand CNR views perfectly…
    The past…we ( imperialist land grabbers) have been evil people who have been really bad to you poor downtrodden souls for 400000+ years!!
    Therefore (even if you feel that some nasty things just possibly might have happen to the planter community in ‘tenorth’ and even in the glorious free mexician republic) anything we get/got was basically our own fault!! Generally expressed as ‘it was all the proddybrit’s fault they made us do it!’.

    The present…We are expected to beg forgiveness for past crimes since day dot, and accept current criminals in power; any mention of these crimes will clearly identify the natural in built sectarian bigottery gene that all in the imperialist pool carry. (or of course the standard reply of anyway ‘why cant ya’s accept it was the past and get over it?’)

    As for the future you expect us to bend over kiss our own star and become good little house trained proddies , like they have down ‘tesouth’….better expressed by ‘ bejasus see when the shoe’s on the other foot we will makes ya’s pay for 400 years of social decimation and restrictions of our Marxist whingen…’

    ps..Expressing any of these views is clear evidence of little Britain siege paranoia….

  • Limerick

    ‘why cant ya’s accept it was the past and get over it?’

    Republicans of course do no such thing themselves. Indeed they make a celebration out of every one of their disasters. Scarcely a month goes by without some gaudy celebration of dead terrorists.

  • Mac

    “So what point are you making?”

    Being a victim of an event is immutable. The degree of sympathy or support you enjoy afterwards can change depending on your actions, but not the event itself.

    Mary Bell remained a victim of sexual abuse and beatings after she murdered the Brown and Howe boys. Her actions did not suddenly erase the previous actions of her mother.

  • Limerick


    I take your point. What though is the relevance?

  • Turgon

    Indeed and last month saw one of the great celebrations when the republicans celebrate their greatest disaster of the Troubles: Loughgall. Odd to celebrate a failure and odder still that many now believe that the republican heroes of Loughgall were set up possibly even by the people who read the eulogy at some of the funerals.

    Also interesting that the village they were attempting to “liberate” seems not to want their celebrations in it.

    As Gerry Adams said at Jim Lynagh’s funeral “Jim Lynagh died of injustice…Loughgall will become a tomb stone of British policy in Ireland.” Oh well the times they have a changed. The British: we haven’t left. Loughgall: its still British.

  • Limerick


    When republicans produced dinner plates with the faces of the hunger strikers adorning the edges I think they reached their high water mark.

  • USA

    It was not a trap. It was a simple question.
    BTW, I don’t construct how we hope a debate will go with us always being the victor in the end.” and I am certainly not “discovering” anything from you.

    It was not a threat and your remarks are out of order. Turgon is always extremely rude to me and others. I know Turgon can evade the question if he likes, and I can remind him of that fact.

    “If you are going to take on bloggers who take the time to lay out their opinions in a contestable way, then at least do the work
    I would gladly engage in a discussion, but Turgon consistently attacks and deliberately misconstrues my comments. He is rude yet goes uncensored and you come off with a remark like that to me? I note he apologized to you for his remarks and not me. Typical of his caliber of person. I can now see that Turgon treats me with contempt, so he can expect the same from me. No more Mr.Nice guy.

  • Turgon

    “Being a victim of an event is immutable”

    That should be true. However, it is not. The definition of a victim from OFMDFM is:

    “the surviving physically and psychologically injured of violent, conflict-related incidents and those close relatives or partners who care for them, along with the close relatives or partners who mourn their dead”.

    That raises several problems. The dafter end of the peace and reconciliation brigade, ably assisted by certain republicans and loyalists assert that we were all psychologically injured by events which we saw coverage on television or heard about (I kid you not).

    In my experience some who are by that definition victims are often little concerned by surprisingly unpleasant things they witnessed and are much more worried about what they regard as real victims: those horribly injured or killed and their relatives.

    That is not in any way to deny psychological trauma but some see it everywhere for reasons which I suspect are motivated by other agendas: usually to say we were all victims and we were all guilty.

  • Mark

    Whats the story with Turgon ??

  • Turgon

    “I can now see that Turgon treats me with contempt”

    Wow that took a long time to notice. In actual fact I do not treat you with contempt at all. I do not know you nor you me. What I treat with contempt is your postings when they attempt traps, when they minimise or excuse the importance of republican violence and use comments like “It’s as if unionism is looking for the perfect personification of their position as victims of the IRA.” I know a few victims of the IRA and I assure you they would rather their relatives had not been victims.

    I have contempt for comments which are so insulting and childishly partisan despite you not even living here.

    I also have contempt for laughing at other commenters such as “Given the hash you are making or your argument it is perhaps best left to the professionals.”

    You USA seem to treat a surprising number of people with contempt: projection again methinks.

    As to what is the story with me: what you see is what you get. In my profile it says: “This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.”

    Again here I stand I can do no other.

  • Mark

    Georgie Porgie , Turgon and Pie …..

    It’s the constant whatabouterry … it never stops with you .

  • anne warren

    Turgon might like to choose a more reliable motto to illustrate his mindset if he’s identifying with Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. (April 1521)

    “I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen”.

    Luther is sometimes also quoted as saying: “Here I stand. I can do no other”. Recent scholars consider the evidence for these words to be unreliable, since they were inserted before “May God help me” only in later versions of the speech and not recorded in witness accounts of the proceedings. Richard Marius, Luther, London: Quartet, 1975

  • USA

    Turgon wrote:
    “I have no interest in furthering understanding”

    That has become very obvious to most people here.

  • wee buns

    ‘I have no interest in furthering understanding,’

    That’s a lie. In utter contradiction to:

    ‘I come here to argue my point.’

    If Turgid has no interest in furthering understanding (of his own views naturally) then he would limit his pontificating to the privacy of his sitting room.

  • Turgon

    wee buns,
    I have no interest in furthering the understanding of those with an overwhelming bias against unionists and unionism and with a desire to utilise every discussion as either an attempt to defeat unionism or else explain how we are in actual fact all Irish and misunderstand ourselves and the past.

    Others with a more open mind seem to find significant understanding form my comments and indeed I have amicable discussions with many of them.

    Incidentally the amount of time and energy that you and USA seem to be devoting to attacking me does seem to imply that I must be doing something right from my perspective.

  • USA

    I have been speaking to an American born collegue over the last couple of years about his Ulster protestant background. He is in the Biology dept and a deacon in a Presbyterian chuch.

    His grandpartents left Donegal (Moville) around 1926. A protestant family. They spent one year in Scotland before moving to the US. According to my collegue they moved due to “pressure due to religious differences…that’s a polite way of saying it”. He said his grandfather served for the complete term of WW1 as a sergeant. He is buried here in the US with a Celtic Cross on his headstone.

    My collegues brother has since purchased a house one mile from the original home in Donegal. He and his siblings each have a stone from the old house, the ruins still remain on the abandoned site.

    A niece (also American) has also recently re-established residency in the Moville area. He has a neat story and family background, he’s a great guy btw.

  • wee buns


    The idea that the south is apartheid for prods is widely held. That type of overstatement is a form of sectarianism or secular anti cat holism. Actually there is considerable evidence of assimilation and Southern prods who btw do not want their case championed, often view northern prods as insane distant relatives with whom they do not wish to be associated!

    My observation is that good neighborliness in the south does not depend so largely on a taboo on speaking of politics in mixed company, as of course it does in the north.