“delivering a shared future [for] those who issued death threats [and] attacked home of colleagues”

An interesting debate on Sunday Sequence this morning. Just after the nine o’clock news, William Crawley chaired a discussion between Naomi Long, Alex Kane and Danny Morrison. [Debate starts 34 minutes into the programme.]

Points raised about the kind of parties that did not emerge following the Good Friday Agreement, whether there was a lack of political imagination, what moving on can feel like.

The conversation finished with Naomi Long being asked about the personal impact of the last week. She talked about her faith and said:

My belief is that regardless of the intimidation, regardless of the threats, what we are doing is an important job. What we are doing in terms of defending democracy can’t simply be moved because of threats. So it will not change my views. It will not change the views of my party.

And it will not stop us being focussed on trying to deliver a shared future for everyone. And I include within that those who issued the death threats against me, and those who have attacked the homes of my colleagues. Because they’re as much party of our future as anyone else in Northern Ireland. And we’ve got to try and bring them on board to the political process.

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  • TheUnicorn

    Well said Naomi. Nice to hear a politician without the sectarian bipartisan bullshit that usually prevails. Hopefully common sense will soon prevail. DUP/UUP have a lot to answer for, for manufacturing this shit-storm so that Peter could get back into East Belfast.

  • keano10

    Naomi Long has come out of this with great determination and courage. The events of the past weeks may well cost her her Westminster Seat but she has refused to be intimidated by the thugs on her doorstep.

    It will be interesting to see how this changes the overall relationship between Alliance and the main Unionist parties. Many Nationalists like myself have often (and correctly) accused Alliance of acting like a proxy Unionist party and not truly adhering to their manifesto of equally representing both communities. I sense that their may be lasting damage to the relationship between Alliance and the DUP/UUP. The bad blood had been self evident during the angry exchanges within the media over the past few days.

    Events like the past week are not easily forgotten or forgiven. It will be interesting to see how the political dynamic changes in the months ahead.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s a good spake, and long overdue from the ‘moderate centre’. Now for some competitive politics?

    There’s a gapping hole in the middle ground, which for all his fine talk of representing all the people of NI Peter Robinson is struggling to fill.

    There’s a lot of things I don’t like about golf clubs, but one of them isn’t that the incubation of sectarian hatred. If you completely desert a functional middle class interest in favour of dysfunctional extremes, there’s not going to be anyone there to save when they turn on you.

    If ever there was a time for real leadership it is now…

  • iluvni

    Lets hope the ‘gapping’ hole in the middle ground have a look at the claptrap in the last Alliance manifesto before considering offering them a vote next time.

  • Mick Fealty

    For example?

    [PS, rude contentless interventions do not counts as ‘engagement’. If you want to make a point count, get it a bit of welly, by showing the rest of us what you actually mean?]

  • ranger1640

    IS it time for parties to go into opposition???

  • GavBelfast

    I am afraid that 9.00 on a Sunday morning is a bit early for me, but I look-forward to listening later – and to watching Sunday Politics in a few minutes from now.

    That was certainly a magnanimous contribution from Naomi Long. I don’t think I would be capable of feeling or saying such things.

    Much of the last week’s antics, especially directed at Alliance, has reminded me of what the UUP in general, and David Trimble in particular, endured at the hands of DUP ‘enthusiasts’.

    The difference now is that a lot of the UUP is now aiding and abetting the DUP in this modern-day version of “Get Trimble”.

    May comment more later after ‘Sunday Politics’, ‘Inside Politics’ and, when i-Player permits, ‘Sunday Sequence’.

  • Mick Fealty


    I think that is out of order… they need to develop some politics first… which is why I suspect iluvni is on to something…

  • iluvni

    Sorry Mick but there’s nothing ‘rude’ about a short reply. I know some of you guys prefer to write 1000 words when 10 will do.

    I refer you to their ‘short manifesto’ for 2011.

    Some favourites in the claptrap list . ..
    Develop a Climate Change Act for Northern Ireland, supported by a clear ‘road map’
    Benchmark and market-test public services to ensure value for money
    Invest in the Green New Deal
    Place a duty to co-operate on all Departments
    Create an Executive formed through negotiation, that operates to an agreed Programme
    Achieve 20% of children in integrated schools and 40% in
    mixed schools by 2020

  • Kit_Carruthers

    Before the comments go further and further off topic, the point raised by Naomi Long is actually principle to the Alliance Party’s position.

    Breaking the cycle of sectarianism in society is something that all parties can work on, but only Alliance target both Loyalist & Republican communities.

    By ignoring the constitutional question, there is no need to concede to either side (something we have seen the unionists attempt in recent weeks, with catastrophic results).

    There is also less motivation to ignore anyone in either side.

    In effect, the Alliance Party must necessarily work to bring both sides on board, ultimately opening up Republican/Loyalist working class areas to the new, moderate and (hopefully) prospering Northern Ireland.

    The fact this is happening at a faster and more volatile rate in East Belfast is another topic altogether.

  • Framer

    What a feeble discussion on Sunday Sequence today – with Danny Morrison largely standing down only briefly intervening so he could appear concerned about the ‘leaderless’ Protestant working class.
    Naomi Long wasn’t, and probably never will be, asked a hard question, such as why is it that Alliance has no representatives in Nationalist areas where it once had?
    Is it therefore just a staging post for Catholic voters in presently mixed areas?
    Why is such a ‘liberal’ party unable to appear liberal on such dog whistle votes like gay marriage?
    Is it in reality trading under false colours being slightly Lib Dem but composed mostly of Catholic Catholics and Protestant (Corrymeela) Protestants, none of whom are unionists?
    Why was Alex Kane unable to offer any analysis beyond bland criticism of the UUP his former home, only bemoaning the fact that conservative and radical Protestants who are essentially British don’t seem to fit into any party?
    No one of course dared to say that Stormont is a system designed to make us concentrate on that which divides us while divvying up the largesse London bestows to keep us out of Westminster politics.
    Naomi of course duly obliges by being so bold she won’t even take the whip of the party Alliance is affiliated to, the Lib Dems.

  • Alex Kane: “You can only have a shared future when the land you wish to share and the process you wish to share are commonly agreed”

    Will Crawley: “The term [shared future] surely doesn’t necessarily mean a shared constitutional future, does it? For example, we can be talking about a vision of a society here in ten, fifteen, twenty years time which is desegregated, which is at ease with itself, where there’s tolerance – those are ambitions we can share. We can park that constitutional question, surely?” [36 min]

    I agree with Alex’s summary but events both before and post 1998 demonstrate that Will IMO can’t read the political landscape. What Alex is saying is a summary of my own analysis from around twenty years ago, an analysis based on thirty years of cross-community life experience at university and beyond – almost none of it in a golf club 🙂

  • 241934 john brennan

    About political agreement in NI, John Hume said that reconciliation will come when the political parties learn to trust each other – and that trust will come through a process of working our common ground together.
    So why on earth has the SDLP deserted bread and butter politics to engage in extreme and fringe issues, e.g. voting in Dungannon Council to free Gerry McGeough, in Stormont Assembly and local Councils in support for legislation for ‘same-sex marriage’, renaming a child playground after an IRA man, removal of the Union Flag from Belfast city hall?

  • DC

    A shared future – wouldn’t it have been better for Alliance to reinstate the vote on the First and Deputy First Minister like the way it used to be, only it was ripped out at St Andrews to accommodate Martin McGuinness (a former terrorist) and Big Ian (demagogue/bigot) then Peter Robinson (Big Ian’s sidekick), than focus on the Union flag at Belfast City Hall?

    The leverage could have been David Ford walks away from justice post unless there is a cross-community vote on the actual leaders of NI politics?

    That’s a shared future which at least binds in both unionists and nationalists in that both sides of the house are called on to back the leaders that are put forward on behalf of NI.

    Isn’t that at least an attempt at a two-sided reconciliation project of sorts?

  • “that trust will come through a process of working our common ground together”

    JB, there has been no agreement on what this common ground is. For John Hume in “Personal Views” it was the island of Ireland; for Mike Nesbitt recently it’s the United Kingdom. The 1998 constitutional ‘settlement’ is a tug-of-war where much energy is expended, there’s little movement and some get trampled on.

  • tacapall

    I would have to agree with Framer that Alliance actions at Belfast City hall was designed solely to attract those Catholic unicorns Peter Robinson believes is out there, the Alliance party is and always will be a pro union party, unfortunately for them they have been viewed by their fellow unionists as loose canons not following the more extreme unionist line. Where do they go from here, well if numbers are a pointer to anger and resentment within the unionist community over the flag issue then I dont believe they have anything to worry about I have seen more loyalists going to a Linfield v Cliftonville match and if there is Catholics unicorns around in areas where Alliance party stand then they very well may mop them up. But this is a part of Ireland where everything in politics and socially is seen as black or white, unionist or nationalist, there is no grey area, no middle ground where Catholic unicorns or Protestant unicorns could feel comfortable.

  • “the Alliance party is and always will be a pro union party”

    tacapal, APNI is a cross-community party, it is neither Unionist nor Nationalist. It’s in that grey area that you refuse to acknowledge.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The courage and determination you are seeing here is just Naomi being Naomi. This is exactly the same thing you see when she speaks in internal meetings etc. within the party. I find her very inspiring, always have. I still remember when she joined the party. Interestingly, if I recall correctly, she joined because there were displays of paramilitary flags in her street and the only local representative who tried to do anything was an Alliance councillor.

    Regarding Alliance’s relationship with the unionist parties .. well I spend a lot of time here and elsewhere defending against the notion that Alliance are small-u unionists. It is worth covering some of this ground again in the light of recent events.

    I don’t recognize at all the idea that Alliance has a relationship with the UUP. I’ve pointed out here on Slugger some stuff that you don’t hear about in the media, for example when a UUP councillor in Newtownabbey told an internal meeting that they couldn’t support Billy Webb as Mayor because it would mean having a priest as the council chaplain (another friendly UUP councillor leaked the details of the meeting to us and registered their disgust). The UUP over the past four or five years have been a bunch of gutless guttersnipes and apart from the recent contributions by Basil McCrea I can’t think of a single redeeming comment or constructive idea coming from that quarter.

    The DUP is a different matter and I think you do have grounds to accuse the party of getting a bit cosy with the DUP. For the past number of years this is something that I have been entirely OK about, because I have had positive experiences with local DUP councillors and my MP (Sammy Wilson) and my discussions with them were always well, we don’t agree on the union or cultural stuff, but we do agree that we need to make powersharing work and we can make the country a better place for people. I refuse to accept the idea that I should oppose politicians on the basis of their constitutional views while those same politicians are trying to make a good stab over maintaining stability and sorting out domestic matters. Politicians who take risks for peace need to be supported and the DUP did take risks, huge ones.

    However, since the summer and the events outside St Patrick’s I feel a sense of betrayal, that the DUP did not mean anything that it said. I am sad to say that Alliance responded disappointingly weakly to the DUP’s cheerleading for fuck-the-pope bands. I think this poor reaction was the party not having its eye on the ball, rather than the party trying to be careful not to antagonize the DUP, but I can see why people might believe the latter rather than the former.

    The party’s assembly team is absolutely going to have to review its relationship with the DUP. If I can use a metaphor, the DUP have done the equivalent of painting “taig” on the back of Alliance representatives and dumping them in the middle of Mount Vernon estate. The political response to this hateful bile must be aggressive and must reflect the genuine revulsion that so many in the public have for this kind of treatment being meted out. The party needs to speak out about the DUP’s all-too-cosy relationship with loyalist paramilitaries, and certainly needs to keep reminding the public about the DUP’s aggressive homophobia, sexism/chauvinism and general latent hatefulness.

    Again looking at politics I said that Alliance needs to consider its position in the Executive. You can’t have a government where the leading members are making excuses for the intimidation of the party of one of the ministers, you just can’t. If Peter Robinson wants power sharing to continue he must stop apologizing for the tactics that formented this rioting, disorder and intimidation and if it takes the Prime Minister to explain that to him, so be it.

  • tacapall

    “APNI is a cross-community party, it is neither Unionist nor Nationalist. It’s in that grey area that you refuse to acknowledge.”

    In what way does that prove the Alliance party is not pro union ?

  • tacapall, I can see no evidence that it is pro-UK. It appears to me to be pro-Agreement though, as I’ve stated, it’s not highlighting the tug-of-war nature of the constitutional settlement.

    It might have been a lot more successful if we’d opted for devolution under shared sovereignty. The Agreement has left it in no-man’s land when constitutional issues come to the fore.

    Some are pointing the finger at Peter but it’s the Peter and Martin Show.

    It’s possible that some of the recent shenanigans will propel some APNI and UUP politicians into the Conservative Party.

  • iluvni

    Comrade Stalin,

    Do you think David Ford would sacrifice his high profile job for the greater good of his party?
    I dont.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The Alliance party is neither fish nor fowl and probably only exists to give some, mainly Protestant, voters the nice cosy feeling that they are not really partaking in the odious game that passes for local politics.

    It of course leans towards the unionist lite side of the political spectrum because it mainly pops up in unionist or majority unionist areas. Does it have any representation in hard green areas like West Belfast or South Armagh at all?

    It’s policies are a mish-mash of the afroresaid unionist tint, green (ecological variety) and liberalish. Not that that really matters because I suspect few Alliance voters actually get so far as to read them: it’s all about the feel good factor for the voter.

    That’s probably a good thing. I can’t imagine what type of creature a fervent Alliance supporter would be.

  • GavBelfast

    Someone who you would be content / relieved to have as a neighbour?

  • BluesJazz

    Naomi Long strikes me as the sort of ‘nice’ person who waffles and procastrinates when confronted by hard questions.
    I’ve no idea of her position on liberalising abortion law or gay marriage because she (like Alliance) shuffle away from having a position.
    She also thinks NI should get more money from those trees in SE England where they grow it. It would never occur to her that we live in a wee heavily subsidised bubble that other people pay for.
    That’s the difference between her and Trevor Ringland.
    What we want and what we need are 2 different things.
    Naomi only understands the former.

  • changeisneeded

    “tacapal, APNI is a cross-community party, it is neither Unionist nor Nationalist. It’s in that grey area that you refuse to acknowledge. ”

    load of balls
    Sure there is that many ex-uup members in the alliance I wonder do they forget who they are sometimes
    No Alliance are the unionists,letgetalongers and career politicians that are a faded colour of red white and blue..
    They want the status quo to continue.
    That makes them unionist by proxy.
    They will sort out f**k all

  • Comrade Stalin


    Do you think David Ford would sacrifice his high profile job for the greater good of his party?

    It’s not about the good of his party, but the good of the country, and I think he needs to be thinking seriously about it.


    gay marriage because she (like Alliance) shuffle away from having a position.

    Naomi voted for it in Westminster. If you want to debate Alliance or anything else I am happy to do but if you’re going to throw out things that are clearly false, by all means continue to keep spinning your UUP/Conservative prayer-wheel.

  • BluesJazz

    Can you let me know how Alliance voted in the Assembly on the issue?

  • boondock

    Dont want to mix up catholic/nationalist and protestant/unionist but sure we all do it anyway. The Alliance party actually has more voters from a catholic background, it has been noted above that they poll well is in mainly unionist areas so you could argue that it is a tactical vote by catholics where there is no real alternative or something but still an interesting stat all the same.

  • BluesJazz

    Alliance is for middle class public sector workers who regard themselves as ‘Mrs Bouqet’ types. They refuse to get drawn in to hard decisions taken by the *real* government at Westminster.
    Isn’t it awful that benefits are being cut by that George Osborne? etc etc.
    But they rubber stamp Westminster decisions in the assembly because they are too cowardly to oppose them.
    If they don’t like the Tories, why not tell them to shove their 10 billion subvention and move on without England.

    I hope Osborne, in his next budget, cuts the subvention in half for 2014, and withdraws it completely in 2015.
    Let’s see how our local politicians adapt.

    And lets see how Alliance actually propose a future without English money sloshing about the place.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Can you let me know how Alliance voted in the Assembly on the issue?

    Alliance was a bloody mess in the Assembly but that’s not what you said. You made a series of incorrect statements about Naomi Long. If I were Peter Robinson I’d be accusing you of defamation, but since I’m not I’ll simply ask you to wise up and stop being a dork.

    Not interested in the same boring old nonsense about Stormont being a county council and British money etc etc etc. Like I said, if you want to say something original or constructive to me, feel free. Otherwise continue talking to the mirror.

  • I have a lot of time for Alliance, but have never warmed to Ford at all. I think – rightly or wrongly – my own perception of Alliance has shifted in recent years so that it has seemed to have become less likely to challenge the status quo. I also have the feeling that many of its younger members are more unionist and more right-wing economically than might have been the case in the past. This may reflect the collapse of the party to within Antrim and Down as the west of the Bann in particular has become still more divided on sectarian lines.

    I suspect too that there is a lot more naked ambition swashing around than there used to be. Alderdice’s decision to take the Speaker’s chair when it had seemingly been promised to a colleague is one example, IJP is another, but of greater significance it seemed to me was the decision to take an additional ministry even though it has fewer seats than the SDLP. This may well be the way D’Hondt works once the Justice Ministry was placed outside it, but it still seemed to me to go against the spirit of what Alliance would like us to think it stood for. It made it look more like any other party than it has traditionally done.

    The point of politics of course is to get power and to influence things, and Alliance becoming more focused on that is far from a bad thing. But too often it seems to come with it behaving in a way to leave a bad taste in the mouth. But that’s just me.

  • DC

    David Ford has been rather quiet on this, not sure exactly if that’s the media’s fault focusing elsewhere, or whether he actually deep down agrees with the stance taken?