Thoughts on the Liberal Dissidents

The Liberal Dissidents is a sluggerism coined months ago by Fitzjameshorse but one which makes sense in Northern Ireland. There is a heterogeneous group of people who are interested in politics and the nature of Northern Ireland’s society who are in the middle in orange / green terms yet seem highly disenchanted with the political and social system we have here. This group is clearly varied and varying in membership: overall its members support the agreement but not its practical political or social outworkings. Indeed there sometimes seems to be the claim, implicit or explicit that the current political and social leadership in Northern Ireland have failed to implement the Agreement properly: even to have perverted it. In contrast the liberal dissidents appear to regard themselves as the true keepers of the spirit of what was negotiated in the Belfast Agreement.

These people are a heterogeneous and shifting non group group who are difficult to pin down but equally do seem to be a real phenomenon. They encompass many different groups but seem to coalesce around a number of often interrelated causes and interests. In the past, before the resumption of devolution these people or their ideological ancestors often had roles in quangos and the like; frequently exercising more influence and power than any elected local politicians. Now with the politicians having power, the Liberal Dissidents, have become somewhat more marginalised from the levers of power but have maintained an existence in a number of different spheres. A few such are the academic world, victims groups and non political party politics. There are other spheres for Liberal Dissidents especially in the liberal parts of the mainstream Protestant churches but there is merit in looking at the first three mentioned groups: the academics, victims groups and politics.

It is worth noting that these people are liberal in some senses but there are other uses of the term by which they are at times far from liberal. See The Dissenter’s excellent article on liberalism.

The academic and pseudo academic peace processors

The academic study of the Northern Ireland conflict has a long and honourable history. One of the most prominent and important groups was the Centre for the Study of Conflict at the University of Ulster which existed from 1977 until 2000. It had many serious academics looking at the historical background, politics and sociology of Northern Ireland. What differentiates the Centre for the Study of Conflict and various successor groups and individuals in both the University of Ulster and Queens from many in the Liberal Dissident community is that the rather staid academics tended not to prescribe solutions to the Northern Ireland (or other) problems. The academics stuck to observing, commenting and researching without proffering solutions. Some people who were involved in similar groups such as Monica McWilliams did go into serious politics but most of the academics remained academics.

In contrast the Liberal Dissident academics seem much more interested in showing how their “insights” into the Northern Ireland “peace process” should result in specific actions being taken by the Northern Ireland Executive or when they are ignored by Stormont, the British government. Indeed they sometimes seem to point to where Stormont or society at large have “failed” in implementing assorted pet topics of the Liberal Dissidents.

These academics are also extremely keen to go to other places in the world to tell others about the valuable lessons Northern Ireland supposedly has to tell the rest of the world and how the academics experience can help in other conflicts (as well as produce a good few junkets and ideally one suspects some paid consultancy work). A further noteworthy factor about the Liberal Dissident academics is that they often do not seem to have quite as important or permanent positions in their institutions as the original academics and their successors had or now have. Indeed many seem to be in organisations affiliated to universities and the like without actually holding the position of lecturers, senior lecturers, readers or professors in a university. As such the Liberal Dissidents seem keen maybe to keep up their profiles and ensure that they can gain better and more prestigious jobs from their “insights.”

Victims Groups

There are a large number of victims groups in Northern Ireland but they seem to fall into three rough categories, two of which are actually quite similar. Broadly speaking nationalist / catholic / republican victims groups exist to support the relatives of those who died from that community. They are often locality or even event related: the Bloody Sunday families or the McGurks Bar families groups would be examples of such groups. Some are organised and receive funding, others less so / do not receive funding. Some are highly focused on gaining justice; others seem more focused on the practical and material needs of the surviving relatives. These groups have a similar mirror image in the unionist community with again largely locality specific victims groups such as South East Fermanagh Foundation and others providing largely practical help to victims’ relatives along with some campaigning typed activities.

In contrast the Liberal Dissident victims groups seem much more interested in grand narratives, big events and driving forward a generalised and highly politicised though non NI party political view of the needs of victims. The specific activities they get involved in include supporting plays (as Healing Through Remembering have done) and other high profile events. There does seem to be an attempt to offer services to victims but they are probably less well equipped to do this as they are not as local as the other victims’ groups nor are their paid employees part of the same local community as those to whom they offer their services. In addition much of the work of Liberal Dissident victims’ supporters seems to centre round the advancement of the narrative of the past and the mechanisms for dealing with it proposed by the likes of the Eames Bradley report and subsequently rejected by almost everyone apart from the Liberal Dissidents. These victims’ supporters champion some sort of “closure” and other similar at times rather nebulous outcomes for victims all of which seem to fit into the Eames Bradley proposals.

Many victims on the unionist side (and I suspect, though not from direct personal knowledge, also on the nationalist side) are highly dubious about or even antagonistic towards the likes of Eames Bradley and most forms of closure which do not involve what they see as justice which more often than not involves a desire for prosecutions even though they know that is a remote hope. Liberal Dissident victims’ supporters on the other hand tend to be fairly horrified at the prospect of criminal prosecutions: often citing the danger to “the process”.


Liberal Dissidents by their nature are highly political: as such it would be odd in the extreme if some did not desire political power: nothing wrong with that desire. The problem of course has been that no political party seems an appropriate home for them. Clearly Sinn Fein and the DUP would be far from appropriate homes for these individuals. The SDLP offers some benefits and would seem appropriate for the greener liberal dissident but realistically only limited accommodation of their aims is offered there. Alliance would seem to be the natural home for the Liberal Dissident but again there are problems. In the recent past Alliance, with Ford taking the justice ministry and Farry now an executive minister, seems to have entered the tent a little too much to be truly dissident. In addition the Alliance castigation of the DUP and SF has been markedly muted since Ford got his snout into the trough and to the truffles of power.

The best home for the Liberal Dissidents of a unionist persuasion was of course the Conservative and Unionist New Force or whatever it was called. Its candidates read like a whos who of Liberal Dissident unionism. Unfortunately the electorate seemed remarkably impervious to the superior intellect and moral authority of these assorted luvvies and duly sent them packing.

It is an open secret that there was an attempt to set up a liberal unionist party in the aftermath of the débâcle of the Westminster election and the election of Tom Elliott as the new UUP leader. It is also an open secret that this attempt floundered not only on the chances of the new party achieving anything but also on the issue of which of the failed politicians was to lead the new party.

The Liberal Dissident “political party” has tended to become groups such as Platform for Change which offer a critique of the current political system and to an extent the current political parties. PfC also propose policies and seem to be more than a think tank but less than a political party and indeed this organisation spans too broad a range of political viewpoints to become one. Some in PfC seem to want to create a new political party but the majority of its prominent members, both those in political parties and those outside seem to realise that they are too disparate and their prospects too poor.

The Liberal Dissidents seem to form an unofficial opposition outside Stormont. Unlike some opponents of the process, however, they oppose those whom the process has promoted whilst claiming greater fealty to the process than anyone else. The liberal dissidents are almost a self appointed priestly class whose function is to keep the flame of the Agreement and warn when others depart from the true faith. It almost seems the Liberal Dissidents want the powers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to pull errant members of the social and political establishment into line if they transgress. Furthermore the Liberal Dissidents seem to regard themselves as fairly indispensable to the process and many seem rather fond of obtaining somewhat soft public money. If anyone dares to suggest that this money might be better spent elsewhere then the Liberal Dissidents tend to point to the needs of victims; the danger of slipping back to violence and the claimed failure of the current political parties fully to implement the agreement. Thus far there has been enough media attention and money in the system to keep the Liberal Dissidents relatively well nourished with money and media exposure: whether this will continue is rather doubtful which helps explain the at time rather shrill complaints of the Liberal Dissidents. The foreseeable future in Northern Ireland seems to revolve around the carve up of power between unionism and nationalism. This carve up although not what the Liberal Dissidents want nor what they expected is in actual fact the logical outworking of the agreement. The gradual realisation of their powerlessness and lack of influence is something the Liberals will have to get used to. That the process they championed has directly caused the loss of their power and influence is an irony to be enjoyed by most apart from the Liberal Dissidents themselves: such Liberals tend not to do irony.


  • “Centre for the Study of Conflict”

    Turgon, I think you’re being overly generous to that body. It refused to publish a transcript of the Dick Spring briefing provided by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and I doubt very much if you’ll find any analysis there of the roles played by Irish civil servants in, for example, the day-to-day governance of Northern Ireland.

  • Mary Anna

    I do not agree with murderers -bombers and those who have commited heinous crimes and incited evil crimes in the past 40 years and now the liars are running the country, does that make me liberal dissident?

  • No idea Mary Anna.
    I read “Turgons” post about an hour ago and obviously it requires a longish response.
    I daresay that “Turgon” himself has a problem with the same “murderers-bombers etc etc” running the country although he is hardly a Liberal Dissident.
    Mulling over my longish response to “Turgons” very interesting post, I inevitable considered who exactly is a Liberal Dissident.
    And my unconsidered response necessarily taken out of context of a longer reply is to recall Derek Jameson, former Fleet Street editor who immortalised the catchphrase “Do they mean us”?
    And I think when I use the phrase “liberal dissident” and it evokes the thought “Does he mean me?”……….the correct answer would almost always be “yes I do”.

  • aquifer

    ‘The gradual realisation of their powerlessness and lack of influence is something the Liberals will have to get used to’

    Really? Someone better tell Alliance quick.

    Being in government holds the ethnic gangmasters on a tight leash, and its a lot cheaper than mass internment.

    Liberal rights are written into the settlement, and liberals can always move and remain liberal. What is a Shinner or DUPer going to do in Dagenham or Dusseldorf?

  • Turgon

    I suggested that many Liberal Dissidents are not too keen on Alliance anymore. Indeed Alliance having got its snout into the trough and now feasting on the truffles of power is no longer really the Liberal Dissident party. Still do not bother to read what I wrote. Much better to comment without reading: there is a long tradition of that on this web site.

  • “These academics are also extremely keen to go to other places in the world to tell others about the valuable lessons Northern Ireland”

    Turgon, are some of the names in Incore not the same as those in the Centre for the Study of Conflict ie Conflict to Conflict Transformation, the sort of language oft used by Gerry and the Peacemakers? There’s also the Institute for Conflict Research – also with its roots in CAIN.

  • abucs

    I would also agree that it it a mistage to think the government should be the main enforcement of social values and economics.

    I would also agree with the liberal dissidents on the realisation that government can easily turn into a curailer of individual (and group) freedoms.

    I think also the failure to realise the first often leads to the realisation of the second.

  • abucs

    Lets try that again.

    I would agree that it is a mistake to think government should be the main enforcer of social values and economics. I also agree with the liberal dissidents on the realisation that government can easily turn into a curtailer of individual (and group) freedoms.

    Lastly i think the failure to realise the first truth often leads to the realisation of the second truth.

  • FuturePhysicist

    A truly excellent argument Turgon. Monica McWilliams and her colleagues in the Woman’s Coalition are perhaps the perfect example of “Liberal Dissidents” when things go right … democratic, objective, representative and different. A much needed and I would also say successful action group. Perhaps the only one who really carries the flame now would be Steven Agnew but the likes of Dr Deeney and other hospital campaigners would also count.

    Other Liberal Dissidents try to present themselves as “democratic, objective, representative and different” but a combination of the lack of grassroots support, passionate commitment, decisiveness and authority … make these ginger groups for want of a better terminology more exposed than electable parties that they criticize, particularly ones like the SDLP, UUP and APNI.

  • DC


    I think decisiveness is the main quality that is lacking – you’re right there. And it is a massive drawback.

    I will now set out my gripe about liberal dissidents and those that opt for designating as ‘Other’.

    I’ve never understood why parties that oppose the system designate as other and disempower themselves in the process – the political process.

    Reminds me of Germany’s Weimar Republic in terms of these liberal dissidents thinking that they are excluded and ruled out of the game. My view is that it is the smaller groups and parties that actually write themselves out – of their own volition. Madness.

    Talk about burying your head in the sand despite working in a system which requires parties to designate one way or the other in order to cast an authoritative vote – a vote that is actually counted and has worth.

    If they care not for the system of designation surely they could designate both and interfere with the voting system and make their stance on the basis of the issue being voted on.

    They show the existing system too much respect which automatically discredits these so-called liberal dissidents as they lack the will power and radical creative thinking to do anything about it themselves. This is the dirty work – which requires leadership and judgement – the ability to stand over the choices made – and votes taken or not taken.

    Without these qualities the liberal dissidents are left calling on big government – the British and Irish governments – who ultimately ignore them because of the lack of democratic grassroots support for changing the system.

    Without this – why should things change whenever such parties have failed to prove themselves that politics can move beyond unionism and nationalism and designation, adopting the ‘Other’ position does not show this, it does not show that identities are fluid and flexible enough to move beyond the fixed communal blocs.

    Parties that go into the Other camp are for everyone in general and no one in particular and will stagnate unless they can define themselves as *something*, proof is so far that such parties have struggled.

    I believe that cross-designation is a more effective way of imagining that Northern Ireland has a new Northern Irish electorate, than falling into the ‘Other’ and exhorting people to believe in them and believe that that is just what they are and stand for – despite having never stood over any votes or adopted a position regards identity.

    For instance, I reckon I have strands of unionist and nationalist identity in me because I’ve lived here all my life and can understand and agree with certain issues belonging to certain parties, but what I don’t have are strands of ‘Other’. Because I don’t know what Other means or signifies.

  • Having read all of the above, there must be 2000 words there, I think I’ve detected the undercurrent, the age old prejudice against intellectuals or at the very least an aversion to those who might have different ideas.

    Not being an intellectual myself, I admire the possession of an intellect in others, I welcome that someone might have a few ideas for the better from which I can learn or from whom I can gain an insight, I like the notion that someone has attempted to think something through and put the jigsaw together , I appreciate that someone has attempted to answer the questions we all ask.

    OK,so very often many of our wannabee intellectuals are just that and may even fall flat on their face but there’s no disgrace in that. It is the acceptance of the pre-ordained, the supposed logical outworking, the dull inert conservatism that sucks the vitality out of people.

    We may not currently have any significant intellectuals in this neck of the woods, no political leaders setting out the philosophical basis for their ideas or detailing their journey from bullet to ballot, and certainly no big idea but memories are short. If not for John Hume, a thinker, an intellectual, a liberal dissident, where would we be now? And credit where credit due, David Trimble recognised the hour and the man

  • DC

    I don’t knock intellectuals because they are intellectuals just that there is a lack of fight in them to take their issues and ideas down to doorstep level – and fight off political opponents in the process. But then intellectuals are intellectuals and not paid up for or skilled in gutter politics.

    However, I was thinking there – someone in Queens or UU should do a study on whether cross-designation politics could actually be used in an effective way to combat stagnation and veto politics at Stormont.

    It could be used a bit like counter-cyclical spending by government in a depression – if for instance the nationalists have a good issue or argument how many cross-designated MLAs in the unionist camp would be needed to vote in favour in order to see the nationalist issue over the line, and vice versa.

    The way i see it is that designation is just merely a numbers game X number of MLAs vote in this camp and X in the other camp, so many of each are needed to carry or block an issue. A bit like air in a balloon, cross designated MLAs could be squeezed out of unionist or nationalist camps turning what would have otherwise been ‘a veto’ or a blocked proposal into an issue or piece of legislation that is actually carried across both sides of the house.

    IF Alliance had had such a cross-designation policy in place earlier then there would have been no issue when that party indulged in Saving Private Trimble, because it would have been justified on the basis that Trimble was at the time a more progressive force, than Paisley politics.

  • galloglaigh

    … murderers -bombers and those who have commited heinous crimes and incited evil crimes in the past 40 years and now the liars are running the country…

    This was also the case under British government direct rule. The only difference being, that the people have put our MLAs in place, and only they have the power to remove them.

    One thing’s for sure, the author of this post is no Liberal Dissident – he cannot accept that his ‘own side’ were as bad as ‘the other side’.

  • I think it’s important to recall that Liberal Dissidents is a term that evolved from an earlier term I used………”The Overclass”. It irritated quite a lot of people because of its obvious association with “The Underclass”.
    We are all well aware of a perceived “Underclass” which is disconnected from our political system. The extreme view of the “Underclass” is that they live on welfare in depressing housing estates and feel disenfranchised (or disenfranchise themselves) from Politics.
    I have noted the rise of an Overclass. Also disconnected from the political system……they don’t vote because they feel disenfranchised (“ I cant vote Labour”, “I cant vote Conservative”) they are much too posh to vote in our squalid sectarian politics. And delight in telling us all. But essentially they are just folks at a different end of the spectrum from the “Underclass”.
    I think any view of Liberal Dissidents (and the term “liberal dysentery” which I use on my own Blogs) has to have a tip of the hat to the Overclass……unfortunately the term “Overclass” is one that I have ceased using. I must revive it.
    As to the term “Dissident”. It might have negative connotations …particularly in reference to Republican dissident murderous nihilism…….but I think its fair to say that there is Republican and Unionist opposition to the Good Friday Agreement. Some pre-dates the Agreement itself. Some is because of the practicalities of the Agreement.
    Likewise Liberal Dissidents are of two types. Certainly there are some that pre-date the Agreement and some for whom the outworking of the Agreement has not been to their liking. Many of those, particularly in the Media who were cheerleaders for the Agreement, have now turned their backs on it. They want it ….“reviewed” . Some no doubt on principle. But the suspicion arises that they changed their minds largely because the assumption that Sinn Féin and/or the DUP would be tamed by it and put in secondary places behind UUP and SDLP. The dominance of (particularly) SF is an irritation to Liberal Dissidents….more so as it spreads into the Republic. That wasn’t supposed to happen either.
    I’m particularly disappointed that SDLP and UUP in response to their further downward drift in May 2011 can’t seem to get past a prologue that claims they were sold out or undermined by Irish, British and American Governments. More accurate to say they just got complacent. ”Turgon” thinks that they are a groupless group. I’d argue that they find common purpose in Platform For Change……while I have a lot of time for some PfC people, they are effectively a highly political group with supporters in four political parties. I am deeply suspicious of them and any mainstream member of those four political parties should be wary of those members of their own parties who outreach via PfC. The proper place for members of a political party to “do” politics is within ONE political party.
    The role of “academics” is interesting. Politics without all that tedious business of knocking on peoples doors and asking for a vote. The arrogance of “intelligence” and “qualification” trumping Democracy. Democracy is for ordinary people. Interesting therefore that earlier this week some liberal dissidents were euphoric about progress in their favourite subject……The Truth…….but near enough the first time they had lowered themselves to use the Assembly.
    I’m reluctant to mention Victims. As I have previously stated I have known several victims but I have not been bereaved. I am conscious of the fact that my wife HAS been bereaved. I am unsure just what kind of “bereaved” that I would have been. The Decency of Alan McBride and Joyce McCartan or indeed Mrs FJH is life enhancing and much as I would aspire to it, I don’t think that I could achieve it. The alternative type of angry bereaved who won’t let go ever…maybe that’s truer to my nature. Or perhaps I am doing myself an injustice …the only real answer is that I just don’t know if I would be the kind of Victim that preaches Reconciliation to the point of being ridiculed by other victims. Or maybe I would be the type of victim who stands with a placard shouting “traitor” or “Murderer” at passing politicians. Thank God that I don’t know the answer.
    But there is nothing homogenous about our “victims” and the one size fits all approach ……the Conflict Resolutionist approach annoys me. I think at one point I counted over 100 “victims groups” on CAIN. Simply too many and rich pickings for those who want to voyeuristically LISTEN to their stories under the guise of empowering Victims to SPEAK. Er…………did I say “voyeuristically LISTEN”? well you know what I mean.
    Politicians…… As “Turgon” notes they are highly political but slightly shadowy behind the scenes types. The SDLP seem to be talking about “Opposition” but they won’t seriously consider it. One candidate (McGlone) has ruled it out and another (McDevitt) is basically TALKING about all options but that’s totemic and a form of outreach to SDLP people who consider it. In reality McDevitt wont choose it. McDevitt and his closer associates are signed up to Platform for Change. As is McCrea and McCallister on the UUP side. I doubt if a politician seeking leadership can actively promote PfC as necessarily PfC undermines the status quo. Party members want safe pairs of hands. Ironically there is some merit in “senior” Party figures being loosely associated with Outreach. But I argue that UUP and SDLP should be more concerned with traditional votes lost that “outreach” votes.
    There is of course a degree of Opportunism in Liberal Dissident thinking. Being relegated to one Executive seat each, the UUP and SDLP are more sceptical about the Agreement. better. I’d also argue that Platform for Change is better served (God forbid!) by being a kind of (non?) Militant Tendency within UUP, Alliance, Green and SDLP. UUP, Alliance, Green and SDLP is not in any way served by PfC. “Turgon” mentions the risible “liberal” unionist UFCNP experiment but essentially it was undone by the flakey nature of some of its leading people.
    In trying to compose a profile of Liberal Dissidents, “Turgon” overlooks the fact that many are from outside Norn Iron. Being born in Leicestershire and having gained a BA in East Anglia and a MA in Durham and a PhD in Harvard (I am making this up of course) it must be a bit of a downer to find yourself teaching in Coleraine and living in Ballymoney. You could have been a Tory voter. Voting UUP carries all that baggage. Likewise being born in Salford an academic career at Liverpool, St Andrews and Cambridge and find yourself teaching at Queens must be a bit depressing. You could have been voting Labour. So these academics have a common Liberal Dissident agenda. They are too posh to vote in our elections. Please can they have some political parties customised for them.
    They are frankly…Cowards. Supported in their notion of bravely breaking the mould by like minded people. There are no kudos in Academia for being a Norn Iron politician or belonging to a Norn Iron party. Contrast that cowardice with the bravery of Edgar Graham (unionist) or Sheena Campbell or Miriam Daly from republican tradition.
    Perhaps the most annoying thing about Liberal Dissidents is the access to politicians they seem to have via lobby groups, pressure groups and the Media. It is an influence far and beyond the ordinary party member or voter. This sense of entitlement based on intellectual superiority and (worse) moral superiority. Unfortunately most political parties seem in awe of them.
    Their mission is to undermine the process as much as Republican and unionist dissidents without ever seeking endorsement from the Electorate. Their weakness is that they themselves don’t like to be challenged or undermined.

  • vanhelsing

    @Turgon “Much better to comment without reading: there is a long tradition of that on this web site” [that made me smile]

  • FuturePhysicist

    The SDLP seem to be talking about “Opposition” but they won’t seriously consider it. One candidate (McGlone) has ruled it out and another (McDevitt) is basically TALKING about all options but that’s totemic and a form of outreach to SDLP people who consider it. In reality McDevitt wont choose it. McDevitt and his closer associates are signed up to Platform for Change.

    I’m not a supporter of any pressure group but I will defend a fellow party member here. Firstly Platform for Change doesn’t mention what constitutes an opposition, it’s more concerned with the designated nationalist and unionist thing. Secondly I question how much influence this group has over the SDLP should McDevitt become leader, to you it seems a big issue to me it’s a non-issue.

    I don’t think either Claire Hanna or Conal McDevitt are under any pressure to perform for PfC, indeed their electoral fortunes may suggest they should be under more pressure to get involved with their constituents. Frankly though since they are both first timers in terms of elections I would expect them to improve.

  • These people are a heterogeneous and shifting non group group who are difficult to pin down

    Perhaps because “liberal dissident” is a vague term? It seems to encompass anyone who finds fault with the practical outcomes of the GFA but does not fall into the TUV or dissident-republican stereotype. In other words, it is defined not by what it is but by what it is not.

    The role of “academics” is interesting. Politics without all that tedious business of knocking on peoples doors and asking for a vote. The arrogance of “intelligence” and “qualification” trumping Democracy.

    The irony of keyboard warriors criticising academics for elitism seems to be lost on some.

  • Oh the Irony wouldnt be lost on me….if indeed it was Irony.Mr Gallaghers presumption is that I might actually want to persuade people to my view. I care little about whether or not people are persuaded by me.
    Ive always described myself as a Blagger rather than a Blogger because I am very aware of the limitations of Tinternet.

    Or certainly in my case, I might think that theres more than enough choice on the ballot paper already. If I didnt think there was enough choice, I might do something about it…..but meeting once a month to do absolutely nothing (as liberal dissidents and assorted lefties of the “As Soon as this Pub Closes” type do in the Cathedral Quarter) is almost as unproductive.

    The role of keyboard warriors is interesting. I nearly included them in my post but basically we are not that important.
    Its always amused me that committed unionist posters here see Slugger as a nest of Republicans.
    And that committed Republicans see Slugger as a unionist website.
    I suppose if it proves anything it is that we see Slugger as run by our mortal enemies.

    There are as “Turgon” identified iconic or touchstone issues which are to different extents part of the Liberal Dissident “Credo” (or for balance the 39 articles that Liberal Dissidents would nail on a Cathedral door).

    “I want a Troof Commission. I want to empower myself by listening to people that I have persuaded to speak under the impression they are empowering themselves””
    “I want to vote Tory” or “Labour”
    “I want the Walls to come down but please dont build an integrated Housing Executive housing estate within five miles of me””
    “I want integrated education……….but er not necessarily an end to selection because Id hate for my kids to mix with working class kids”.
    “Im a Protestant and I hate Protestantism but as Im not a bigot, Im ok with Catholics”
    “Im a Catholic and I hate Catholicism but Im not as Im not a bigot, Im ok with Protestants”.

  • Ceist

    This whole thread is basically a massive facepalm

  • “the electorate seemed remarkably impervious to the superior intellect and moral authority”

    .. of the Conservative and Liberal Dissidents alike, Turgon. IIRC you once were a keep supporter of the former as manifested in the TUV. Irony or what?

    Some might label me a diffident dissident – but not to my face 🙂

  • Any interest to declare in relation to Platform for Change? 😉

  • fjh, I think the alternative labels are more apt: Bouffant Dissidents and the John Barry Seven. The train will probably leave the voting station without them.

  • When Turgon started to write about victims groups, he got to the heart of the huge number of community and voluntary groups here. On every issue, in every area, there are three organisations: a republican, a loyalist and a cross-community one.

    But he seems to have got his values inverted. Instead of praising those who try to help everyone, and who try to bring different people together, he seems to prefer the bigots (or at least those who are only concerned with their own tribe).

    Perhaps it is because the media highlight events like conferences, rather than the day-to-day practical work on most cross-community groups. It is these people who are dissatisfied with politicians who, for electoral reasons, pander to those who hate.

  • I suppose the greatest triumph of Liberal Dissidents is to persudae us all that they dont actually exist.
    A bit like Satan and the Stickies.

  • Turgon

    In theory the cross community victims groups are laudable. However, they too often seem to place the narrative above the individual victim and place a higher value on creating “closure” or “healing” or whatever than on simply helping the victims on the victims own terms.

    In contrast the unionist victims groups (I suspect the nationalist ones are the same though I have little direct experience of them) are more focused on practical things the victims need and less on any “narratives” etc. Furthermore when it come to things like telling their stories many victims seem to want to know they are telling their story to a largely sympathetic member of their “own side”. In my own direct experience once a victim knows you are a sympathetic member of “their side” who will keep what you hear in confidence a great deal comes out.

    You may castigate that: indeed it may seem much less laudable but the victims have by the awful things which have happened to them “earned” the right to access help from their own side if they wish to. Rest assured that most victims would rather not be needing to access such help as they would rather not be victims.

    Incidentally I know very few victims who hate: I know a lot of Liberal Dissidents who pontificate about how victims “should” feel and privately sneer at the “partisan” victims groups. Calling victims groups from one side of the community “bigots” is pretty sneering. It is furthermore, in most cases I know of, a lying slur.

  • Woman’s Coalition as Liberal Dissidents? Not a chance – sure they inheirited their insidious little quango empire themselves after the GFA.

    I’d also disagree with Turgon’s comment on Liberal Dissidents having previously been part of quangos here, since Liberal Dissidents were surely as much disinterested in the status quo prior to devolution as the circular stalemate encouraged thereafter.

  • “I have little direct experience of them”

    Does this not mean you could be making too much of ‘their side’? Corrymeela has been a place of refuge for many victims of the Troubles and their families. I remember on one occasion when I happened to be sitting by myself at the staff dining table in the old kitchen at the Ballycastle centre an East Belfast mother walked in. She and her son were spending a few weeks in this tranquil setting overlooking Rathlin Island and I had just dropped in for a few hours. “Would you take a cup of tea – I’m making one”. That was the first moment we’d met and she didn’t know me from Adam but she sat down and proceeded to tell me about the horrendous story of what had recently happened to her son – it included torture. She just wanted to share her story.

  • CW

    It seems that “liberal dissidents” are not unique to NI. I would offer a more general definition of the term as highly educated middle class people who claim to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden and oppressed, but live in prosperous suburbs, drive expensive cars and have little contact with anyone from the deprived backgrounds or minority groups they profess to support.
    Anyone who regularly reads Viz comic will be familiar with the characters the “Modern Parents”:

    – an ingenious piece of satire which brilliantly sends up the double standards of such people.

  • I have nothing against “liberals”….I am one myself ….all the “right” attitudes about racism, sexism, ageism, capital punishment, the Third World, on Amnestys mailing list.
    The key word is “dissident”.
    Just because someone is “liberal”, it does not follow that they are a rejectionist, nihilistic dissident.
    Lets be clear about that.

  • Equally, just because one is a dissident does not automatically make one rejectionistic or nihilistic. The terminology needs some work.

  • Oh Im happy enough with the terminology.