Sectarianism in Northern Ireland is common (and popular) across all classes…

Alex Kane has a marvellous take on the Golf Club issue that blew up last week… He argues that Jonathan Bell’s only mistake was to single out golf clubs as singular offenders, and that the DUP should not have backed down… But then he gives the argument a gentle twist:

If you’re looking for evidence of the ‘prejudice and the hatred whispered behind closed doors’ you could begin with most of our political parties. While it is certainly not true that every individual member of the UUP, DUP, SDLP or Sinn Fein is a bigot, with a deep-seated prejudice against political opponents, I have seen enough evidence (much of it behind closed doors) to suggest that most of them do. And I have also been involved in politics—as an activist, columnist, commentator and guest speaker—long enough to know that political parties are broadly reflective of their voters.

Alliance, the one party in Northern Ireland which can claim to be properly non-sectarian, has never been able to shrug off its small party status. It has shown some modest progress in the past three elections (mostly at the expense of the UUP), yet its’ average performance since the 1998 Assembly election remains at under six per cent. Again, I would argue that that indicates that there is no particular electoral demand for the breaking down of barriers or prioritising of a ‘shared future’ agenda.