Playing at the politics of the brink means we may have to be prepared to dive into the abyss…

So, Brian Feeney has a typically combative column in the Irish News on the whole #flegs thing. And I think he is on to something, when he argues that his own party workers scuppered his plans for building a brand broad enough to take in a wider chunk of the Protestant middle class and start making an appeal to new Catholics.

Instead of killing off Naomi, she’s reminded people in Northern Ireland, never mind East Belfast why she was a popular opponent of Robinson’s in the first place. And now having rushed to the defence of the flag (sabotaged it has to be said by probably the only party not to have had a serious threat to them in the last week, the PUP) Feeney observes:

What you’ve been watching in the past fortnight is Robinson acting out the role of King Canute with Nesbitt playing the part of Baldric, all mouth and no trousers, trying to halt the tide of change coming in.

He goes on to note that the change in the figure means there is only a three per cent difference in the communities now (once ‘others’ have been repackaged into their original constituencies). I remember one particular criticism of the UUP from a few years back, to the effect that they did not know whether to punch with their left or their right.

The DUP, having fallen into a dilemma are not planning to make the same mistake. They made a pitch first and foremost to be the party of the Union, and that’s the side they are planning to punch with. No ambiguity, and no moving back. They are determined not to be ‘Trimbled’ and cut off from their base.

But as Alex Kane cautions in his column, at some point both main parties need to ‘man up’ and put the future of Northern Ireland first. To to paraphrase, if you constantly insist on playing brink politics, sooner or later you need to be prepared to dive into the abyss…

  • gendjinn

    Alex Kane is a great example for the old adage “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, write editorials.” If Alex’s political advice was any use he’d still be in politics.

    His main logical fallacy is the assertion that brinksmanship *always* has to fall into the abyss. That’s akin to saying if you walk close to the edge of a cliff you must leap from it!

    His articles have one theme, and one theme only, “Please help keep Northern Ireland in the UK!” and all of his advice services that goal. Sinn Fein (as one of the main parties) has absolutely no interest in putting Northern Ireland first. Their entire objective is the destruction of Northern Ireland.

  • Dive into the abyss or leap across the divide to the greener (no pun) grass on the other side?

  • aquifer

    The abyss was shite. Crass haircuts but no rock and roll. Teens with pistols and acne bossing people about. Death, a lot of death in a short space of time. Refugees. Made up uniforms and ranting politicians. People in distress.

    Some people like the company of males with guns, and this could be fine for over 18’s in private, but it does not work so well as a policy for the general population.

    If anybody wants to back to the early 70’s do it on a couch with medical supervision.

  • Kevsterino

    Judging from events and behavior of the last fortnight or so, is it possible the abyss has already arrived? Or, at least, the “unknown”?

  • Mr Joe. Robinson’s ‘clever plan’ to exploit the muscle of the loyalists shows the contempt he has for the DUP voting base but he has overreached and his demeanour in the Stormont debate was ‘back to his old self, that we all know and loathe. How he can believe in the notion that catholics identifying themselves as northern irish means they are reconciled to Northern Ireland, when catholics vote almost entirely for nationalist parties. and not many for alliance. I suppose it’s the comfort blanket he needs. He’ll find out soon enough.

  • Anton Graf von Arco Valley

    Surely it’s about equality on the island of Ireland – the tricolour flies daily somewhere on some public building in Dublin surely, so the Union flag likewise daily somewhere in Belfast – no? The UK flag under which all national/regional outlooks Northern Irish, Irish and British flourish is not to be accommodated?

    Maybe actually the right place for it to be flown should now be Stormont instead?

    It used to be at the City Hall but thanks to the SF Alliance, it is like the old Bob Marley song, Mr Brown, it’s nowhere to be found. Ghost-like, seen here and there and everywhere, but really nowhere.

  • David Crookes

    Aquifer, you have brought something of enormous importance out into the open. Let me try to say a little along the same lines without going into details.

    My sparring instructor spent sixteen years in Long Kesh. When I got to know him as a Christian friend, I asked him what had chiefly motivated the paramilitary world of his youth. Love of country? Fear of a change in the constitution? Loyalty to the Queen?

    None of the above, he replied, the whole point of everything was to show what a big tough virile man you were.

    In the course of the last two weeks we have gone back to that world of phoney virility: big hard men in balaclavas, accompanied by women and children who need a bit of excitement. No one should overestimate the patriotism of these hooded heroes who disrupt traffic.

  • Anton Graf von Arco Valley

    From Mandeville to slide-a-ville, coffin runnin’ around, upsetting, upsetting, upsetting the town, asking for Mr Brown.


    It’s interesting that the only party not on the receiving end of a threat is the PUP and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why.

    Each and every threat to the parties here over the ‘flegs’ issue it seems has come from loyalists yet the dup have not come out and acknowledged this given that when it’s threats from republicans they can’t wait to let people know it.

    Edwin poots attempt to claim it was republicans has not been backed up by Donaldson which says it all really.

    Threats against political parties from whenever they come are wrong but those guilty of it this time are loyalists and that needs to be made clear.

  • Zig70

    How much is one of them lovely big flegs? Some of them look decent quality. Who buys them and how is the money raised? Friendly faces at the door? Can’t really cry poverty with that amount of spending power.

  • Mick Fealty


    “…is it possible the abyss has already arrived”

    Not yet. It’s all a little too contained to panic, just yet.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I remember one particular criticism of the UUP from a few years back, to the effect that they did not know whether to punch with their left or their right.’

    Indeed they ended up punching their opponents in the fist with the UUP head .Which explains why the UUP now change their punch drunk leaders every six months or so.



    “Not yet. It’s all a little too contained to panic, just yet”

    All a little too contained, probably because despite serious provocation at interfaces with flags at areas where agreements were in place, republicans and nationalist refuse to engage in this nonsense and rightly so.

  • Kevsterino

    @malcolmx, I agree that it is right that nationalists and republicans have declined to engage in this street theater.

    At this point in time, the only enemy of the Queen’s peace are, er, loyal subjects of Her Majesty. They do appear to have calmed down somewhat. I haven’t heard of any policewomen being firebombed for days. So that’s a good thing, right?

  • Mick Fealty


    I meant the loyalist stuff was a little too contained. Cops seem to be handling the interfaces okay and the cold is probably doing the rest. Someone used the term astro turfing earlier and it certainly has that flavour to it.


    I suppose the time of year and cold is having an effect. Plus the fact that many within the unionist community are reluctant to stand on the protests with them loyalists directed by Uda and uvf.

    Maybe most unionist while angry realise that it has happened and nothing much can be done about it, plus there is more important things to get on with like Christmas, job etc

  • aquifer

    Thanks for that David Crooks

    ‘the whole point of everything was to show what a big tough virile man you were.’

    Yep it all figures, even the older ones staying in the pub while the younger ones are out gathering their tales of commuters frustrated.

    It could also be that the paramilitaries are being squeezed by Ford & Co and want to throw their cards in the air. Money laundering counterfeiting and extortion cannot be getting easier now that real states want to close it all down to confound Al Quaida and the rest.

  • Johnny Boy

    We are a long way from the abyss, but what saddens me is that the brinkmanship is going to lead us back here again and again. Whatever the constitutional future of NI is, the current path is going to have the communities at each others throats for decades to come. Politicians on both sides need to start getting real and selling a positive shared future to the people.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot, Aquifer. You say, ‘Money laundering, counterfeiting, and extortion cannot be getting easier …..’

    If that is true, then three cheers. Are builders in East Belfast still having to pay protection money? If so, where are the investigative journalists?

    The whole squalid paramilitary culture needs to die off. Of course it’ll take time. Maybe we should be prepared to believe that our politicians and police are not doing all their work in the public eye.

    Morning brings moderation.

  • BarneyT

    Luckily the threat to Robinson was from a clown tanked on apple juice. Its (I hope) not in the same category as those threats posed to Long and now McKevitt.

    If someone with a public profile were to lose their life following a threat…we could be in trouble. Whilst republican
    ationalists are being contained, there is little to suggest that the dissidents are following this code of restraint. I suspect the new IRA camp is now feeling emboldened and more convinced of the need for their existence.

  • The whole squalid paramilitary culture needs to die off.

    It won’t die off by itself. It needs to be crushed. Both Unionist parties have shown how little interest they have in doing that over the past fortnight.



    If someone loses their life over this the blame should lie where it belongs, at the doors of the dup and uup.

    This so called new IRA group will have little interest in the flag developments simply because they like every other so called dissident group are not republicans.

    They bring shame to the cause of Irish Republicanism and are more interested in extorting money from drug dealers and local business owners while stroking their own egos.


    @Gerry Lynch

    The reason why political unionism will not tackle the issue of loyalist groups is in evidence this week with the flag issue.

    Now like in the past it was convinent to have those groups at your beck and call to apply pressure when needed and this issue just shows what nationalists and republicans have always known and that is that the uvf, uda, dup and uup are a lot closer than they let on

  • BarneyT

    Malcolmx: too true. I’m sure they learned their “taxing” skills from the past, under the auspices of drug control and tempering anti-social behaviour – the reality is they were just after their slice – some justified it as it helping fund the “campaign”. I fail to see how you partner, fighting for a free republican Ireland with furthering the drug culture and dependence, for personal reward and gain.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Gerry Lynch. Are the DUP’s in-house psephologists reading the runes correctly? I reckon that if the DUP sets its face resolutely against lawlessness, many law-abiding people will begin to vote for it. Anyone who studies the Protest Information Service Helpline will realize one thing: there are very few votes for the DUP in Rambo-The-Red-Hand-Reindeer’s neck of the woods.

    Rain is falling quite heavily outside. I hope it goes on till midnight. Falling water has a wonderful way of diluting rigorous principles.

  • gerry Lynch. That assessment is nborne out by the fact that in the post IRA 1994 ceasefire when there were rumours of a loyalist ceasefire in the near future, the DUP apparently went all out to talk them out of the plan.

  • SK

    I have just listened to Robin Swann (UUP) on the Nolan Show making an absolute fool of himself. He illustrates precisely why it is that unionism finds itself in this current mess. Sees no contradiction in calling for the suspension of street protests one minute, then advertising the fact that Tom Elliott is tonight speaking at one of them the next.

    Clip here, well worth a listen.

  • David Crookes

    Unbelievable, SK, many thanks for the link. Mr Swann is bilingual. ‘Yes, I support their right to go. No, I think they shouldn’t go.’

    Having come to a fork in the road, he and his colleagues have solemnly taken it. The chanters of the aldermen have surrendered to the drones of the burghers.

    This is the way the world ends for the UUP: not with a bang, but with a whimpering rendition of ‘Time to go home’ from Andy Pandy. Zero leadership deserves zero votes.

  • SK

    “Zero leadership deserves zero votes.”

    I’d imagine that even the most convinced of unionists would listen to the clip above and cringe. They’re finished.

  • Mick Fealty

    I was going to blog that SK. It deserves a thread all of its own.

  • SK

    I think it deserves one Mick. Logic seems to have left the building for the UUP.

  • DC

    What made Alliance think it could deliver unionism a new future – Gerry???

  • DC

    Did the fizzy pop of the last election go to the head of Alliance fuelling a ‘triumph of the will’ moment???

  • DC

    Karma’s a bitch.