#DigitalLunch: Have the last ten days left Northern Ireland shaken or stirred?

Today’s #DigitalLunch will look at the events of the last fortnight and ask what if anything has changed?

– The British PM apologises to Pat Finucane’s family in Parliament, and then politely tells them that’s it. You’re not getting any more. That is unless Ed Milliband makes good on a promise to do something his party’s last government wouldn’t, and hold a public inquiry.

– Census tells Protestants they are no longer in a majority in Northern Ireland, but it also looks like Catholics are never going to make to majority either. And more people self define as Brits than anything else.

– And a row over flags (or #flegs as it has become tagged on Twitter). And after Alliance, SDLP and SF pressed the button, Peter Robinson seems to be segmenting the British from the middle class others we thought he might have been after. Not chaos, but rather organised form of mayhem ensued. Who wins?

And we’ll be sifting through the Movie treatments of the readers of +Slugger O’Toole, to try and pick our top five favourites, you can pick up the thread here, and give us your own.

Join us on Google Plus from 1pm from the Northern Ireland Community page? Or give us your thoughts/questions/stories/nominations below. Hashtag is #DigitalLunch.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Robinson’s notion of a confident union where Catholics might even be counted on to support unionist parties is utterly in tatters. The conflicting statements coming even from his own party suggest that unionism is leaderless and wracked by division.

  • Johnny Boy

    Hopefully the Census and the refusal of moderate unionists to be bullied by hardliners will leave a sense that the Northern Irish Others have a significant and growing presence.

  • Mick Fealty

    And a place to go?

  • Johnny Boy

    Alliance have shown themselves to be earnest in their commitment to a positive shared future, will it earn them more support from people “small n” nationalists? A personality would help.

  • JB The biggest enemy of unionism now is not republicans but democray itself. Nigel Dodds on the ‘View’ last week appeared to issue a threat that the DUP would ‘prevent any further erosion of british symbols’ But since it’s the shortage of votes for unionists in city hall that caused the flag to be removed, ND must mean he’s going to try to staunch the flow of power away from unionists by other means. Well the flag is still not back on the dome after 10 days of DUP sponsored rioting and death threats. Poor old heinzy can’t be doing much strolling around the city hall these days.

  • Comrade. Eamon Mallie on twitter is suggesting there’s an anti-Robinson group getting together to possibly usurp him.
    After this last fortnight even they can see he’s damaged goods since calls from him to stop the protests are being openly disregarded by some DUP senior figures.

  • Mick Fealty

    IF that is true Dan, why is everyone else running away from a simple vote in the Assembly Commission?

    And for reference before we take that as breaking news, here’s the tweet in question:

  • hereNI

    Given that Alliance are always coated with the colours of whichever side votes the same way they do.

    Would it be fair to say that Northern Ireland’s political attitudes find it hard to accept that a party might not need to tie itself to one side of the community or the other?

  • BarneyT

    Mick, the refusal to engage in the Assembly Commission vote is understandable and should be supported.

    Its important that the democratic decision made regarding city hall is accepted and inacted. Until the outcome is accepted, protesting stops and they engage in democratic means and methods to change the city hall decision (which will take time), remedial knee-jerk motions (to claw back credibility for the DUP\UUP) should not be entertained.

    The DUP\UUP are behaving like spoilt brats and giving in now would ensure they remain “ruined”

  • BarneyT

    Danielsmoran – if robinson were to be toppled, what new generation of DUP leader are we likely to be faced with? Dodds?

  • Mick Fealty


    “the democratic decision made regarding city hall is accepted and inacted.”

    Didn’t we get a video confirming this? In fact, has anyone seen it. I went looking for it and could not find it.

  • BarneyT Dodds???? If he were to be elected we’d all fall asleep under his er leadership. It’s more likely Donaldson wopuld try to wheedle his way there as he did to his previous party, but more likely Foster or, heaven help them McCausland. Ye Gods. Did anyone see if we got discussed on Question Time last night. I didn’t see it.

  • Neil

    And a row over flags (or #flegs as it has become tagged on Twitter). And after Alliance, SDLP and SF pressed the button, Peter Robinson seems to be segmenting the British from the middle class others we thought he might have been after. Not chaos, but rather organised form of mayhem ensued. Who wins?

    Some might say that the leaflet kicked things off every bit as much as the vote in City Hall. Someone with the political nous of Peter would be able to figure out a supremely positive spin on events had he so wished. Instead the fact that said leaflet directed people towards Naomi Long suggest that East Belfast was on someone’s mind, which is transparent due to the fact that she’s not even on BCC. Can people see through that? I reckon so.

  • BarneyT

    Hi Mick – what does this video show? Acceptance of the democratic decision?

  • Johnny Boy

    The DUP and UUP are painting themselves into a corner by making compromise seem like defeat. Most of the mainstream Unionist politicians are only comfotable fighting this corner, I can see a lurch further towards their hardline. I only hope many will choose not to follow.

  • ‘Why is everyone else running away from a simple vote in the assembly commision?’
    I think it’s because they know the commision is run on non-cross community rules and also they’ve seen through PR’s clumsy attempt to get revenge for the city hall result. The question should be put to Robinson, why is he dragging up what was already settled at stormont other than to throw toys out of pram in a fit of pique? He knows the other parties can simply stay away and he’s setting the trap for them to be exposed on this tactic. He can be really childish when he takes a notion.

  • Mick Fealty

    Some snatches from the film plots: Northern Ireland, the Movie:

    Flags Of Our Fathers, (haifish)

    Directed by Clint Eastwood, but with Belfast City Hall replacing Mount Suribachi, and the iconic photo at the end of the Flag being hoisted on the peak by a flag party of Peter Robinson,Mike Nesbitt, Billy Hutchinson,Jackie McDonald, Willie Frazer and (were there six?)… over the ruins of a building resembling the Reichstag in ’45.


    Where Chickens Dare (David Crooks)

    Gavril Princip (Anthony Gabriel) and his daughter La Pasionaria (Victoria Principal) have been commanded by Fu Manchu (Peter O’Toole) to wreck the economy of Northern Ireland, but they want to spend Christmas together in Lhasa making prayer-flags, so they induce a number of brainwashed natives (unnamed extras from a 1940s ‘Jungle Queen’) to do their work for them.


    CARRY ON FOREVER! (Twilight of the Prods)

    The inhabitants of a small backwater dream up a scheme to attract international attention and money by staging an intractable ethnic conflict.

    Peter Robinson-Jim Dale

    Ian Paisley- Frankie Howerd

    Iris Robinson-Barbara Windsor

    Gerry Adams – Bernard Cribbins

    Martin McGuiness- Charlie Drake

    Ruari O Braidaigh –Bernard Bresslaw

    All NI secretaries of State- Leslie Philips


    Planet of the Papes. (SK)

    Nigel Dodds, Ulster’s first Astronaut, wakes up after crashlanding on a strange planet. Although the planet appears desolate at first, Dodds stumbles upon a society in which fenians have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. These fenians have assumed the role of the dominant species and Protestants are mute creatures wearing animal skins.

    Culminates with Dodds screaming on a beach, with half of the Harland and Wolff tower sticking up out of the sand.


    The Ulster Exorcist (Republic of Connaught)


    A deformed creature, once human, lies strapped to a bed experiencing bouts of demonic possession. One moment the creature roars, “NO SURRENDER! ULSTER IS BRITISH! CROPPY LIE DOWN!” and the next moment the creature’s face completely distorts into a new, bearded image shouting, “BRITS OUT! CHUCKY AR LA!”

    The creature continues to rip at its own face cursing horrid expletives about Taigs and Huns when it is suddenly stunned into silence as the bedroom door opens and a Priest emerges into the light, holding a giant six foot blow up cross.

    The name is Crilly, says the Priest loudly. Fr Ted Crilly.


    Quadrophenia (Red Lion),

    The Rockers are the Northern Ireland union people, the Mods are Irish nationalist(even though they are bedecked in Red White and Blue cos they are really West Brits – u know it guys and gals!).


    The Union Jack flies proudly off Brighton pier – 2 of them in fact, one for the NI union people, and the other for the NI unicorn people…Brighton still goes on…

    Oh and when it’s really all finished, everybody from both sides starts looking for a steady career and goes off and join the Bill.


    Bambi remake (alias)

    The plot: an innocent fawn with a beatiful sophran voice is unfairly accused of all manner of skulldugery by evil securo-bears who hate his ability to bring joy and happiness to all the little bunny rabbits in the forest with his fine singing voice as he leaps from log to log singing singing popular songs two years before they are even released.


    Bambi – played by Gerry Adams
    Old drunken hen – played by Stephen Rea in a Shirley Temple wig
    Evil securo-bears – played Figments of the Sheep’s Imagination


  • GavBelfast

    Well, if you didn’t laugh (and maybe you didn’t, some of that was pretty lame, lol), you would cry (not with laughter either) ….

  • Mick Fealty

    I think, there is quite a lot of truth in some of it…

  • BarneyT

    The submissions for the NI Movie demonstrated that there is a lot of literary and comic talent out there (cynical or not)…and after the recent bouts on slugger, it was a well-timed and welcome blog.

  • Mick Fealty

    Unlinke today’s digitallunch, for which there seems to be no appetite…

  • Neil

    At least Trimble’s still awake:

    Former first minister David Trimble has accused the DUP of “cynically” stirring things over the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.

    The Conservative peer told the BBC the row was more to do with the DUP’s attempts to win back the East Belfast parliamentary seat from Alliance.


    A fact readily ignored by those seeking to blame parties for voting along with their own policy and excuse political Unionism and Loyalist thugs. I mean the very audacity of it. Having an opinion not commensurate with Unionism. Who in the hell does everyone think they are, having ‘opinions’ and all.

  • I think it’s past time for a unionist (and unionist lite) realignment. The UUP should put itself out of its misery since they are no longer relevant freeing up their rump members to go to the DUP or Alliance.

  • simtrib

    – Census tells Protestants they are no longer in a majority in Northern Ireland, but it also looks like Catholics are never going to make to majority either.

    I think that this is a biggie that much of the media have not picked up on. The Catholic Community Background figure went up by 1.4%. Those born in an A8 accession country who have arrived since 2004 account for 1.97% of the population. If, when we see the more detailed figures, 70% of the A8 people put down that they were either Catholic or brought up as Catholic, a perfectly plausible scenario, then the growth in the “indigenous” Catholic community background population was zero. Throw in a few more non A8 Catholic immigrants, such as the Portuguese of Dungannon, and we might even have a slight shrinkage.

    What happened to the Protestant community background in 2001 appears to now be happening to Catholic community background. Expect that come 2021 BOTH CCB and PCB will shrink.

    What does this mean? Well when the PCB shrunk 5% between 2001 and 2011 the unionist percentage of the vote fell by 1.5%ish. Between 2001 and 2011, when the “indigenous” CCB % of the vote appears not to have increased or decreased, the nationalist % of the vote (coincidentally?) did not increase of decrease.

    My point? Between 2011 and 2021 expect the total nationalist % of the vote to very slowly start shrinking.

    If I’m right then where does that take us?

  • Nowhere really, or in ever decreasing circles at least.There’s more than a smidgeon of wishful thinking in that post. The Protestant electorate being dominant in the older age bracket, the catholic side don’t have to grow much to keep level and over time pass into majority.

  • PaddyReilly

    If I’m right then where does that take us?

    Holywell Hospital? The fact is that for every ten PULs (Protestant Unionists & Loyalists) who show up on the census as Protestants, there is an unknown number, shall we say one, who decline to mention religion and therefore should be classified as ULs.

    The remark is equally applicable to CNRs (Catholic Nationalist and Republicans) who also have a hidden column of NRs who think the same way, on all matters except religion.

    Now unless there is some reason why ULs vastly outnumber NRs (and I realise that you are just the sort of person who will believe this, because you would like it to be true) then their presence can be disregarded: one only needs to look at the growth rate of the declared religious.

    It’s fairly obvious from the electoral history of the various counties and districts of Ireland that the Nationalist vote doesn’t just go up to 48%, stay there, and then decline. As Derry and Fermanagh show us, it continues to rise.

    While it is true that there may never be 50% of declared practising Catholics in NI, this is a fact about the uptake of sacraments, not politics. The Unionist majority will continue to fall on the provincial stage until it turns into a minority in 2017, and at a local level retreat into suburbs and rural backwaters. Of course Unionists will continue living in denial: only when something like this month’s flag vote happens do they have to acknowledge the reality of loss.

  • PaddyReilly. On your very last sentence, it true and the local news editors were determined to give them a soft landing even there. Not once since Tuesday’s census returns were out, did any unionist politician get asked the tricky question, how do they intend to prevent the symbols of Britishness being reduced after the point is reached when they can no longer summon the votes? Nigel Dodds claimed they would alway find a way to ram these symbols down the throats of themmuns’ So that sounds rather likea threat, and in line with what’s already been happening with the city hall case.

  • David Crookes

    Here is a question which some tenacious interviewer should address to a suitable unionist spokesman (say Deputy Dodds).

    ‘In the event that a majority votes in a referendum for a unified Ireland, will you and your party encourage unionist electors to play a harmonious role in the new state?’

    I shall be amazed if any interviewer manages to get a straight answer to that question.

  • Ulidian

    David Crookes

    In response to your question, why should they? Nationalists certainly haven’t played a harmonious role since partition.

  • David Crookes

    Well, Ulidian, I’ll tell ye. Because that would be the sensible, Christian, British, and democratic thing to do. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a unionist. But it is the job of our leaders to think unaccustomed thoughts, and to answer difficult questions.

    A ‘yes’ answer to the question might precipitate a lot of anxiety in the RoI.

    To say what Nationalists haven’t done is a bit like a certain unelected troublemaker once saying in Portadown that Mr Adams hadn’t condemned violence. Must unionists take example only from their political adversaries? Are they not allowed to play constructive tricks of their own? Whatever happens in future, we should be working for all-round geniality. We should not condemn our descendants to a century of sullen high-principled scowling.

    Let me point out in closing that Northern Ireland was not brought into existence by a referendum, so there is no real parallel to adduce. Thanks for your question.

  • Reader

    David Crookes: …play a harmonious role in the new state…
    Surely it depends what you mean. Do you just mean not trying to blow the place up, or do you mean by not even being unionists? Or something in-between?

  • David Crookes. Dodds appearing with Naomi Long on last week’s ‘The View, didn’t wait to be asked[and with Carruthers doing the questions, he might have waited a while], said loud and clear that the DUP would make sure there was no further erosion of British symbols but left it there, so we can assume he meant more loyalist s would be tipped off to do their worst on the streets as being outvoted is no problem for unionists when brute force will do the job. But the flagpole on the dome is still bare.

  • David Crookes

    Reader. Unionists in a unified Ireland would be like royalists in the Fifth (French) Republic. The union between Great Britain and what became Northern Ireland was born of the fact that most people up here wanted it. When most people up here no longer want it, the union will cease to exist, and unionism will have less status than an aspiration.

    Danielsmoran: what you say illustrates the need for a straight answer to the question that I posed. What will unionists do when they are unable to win a referendum?

    You don’t need to work in the intelligence world to know that some people are thinking apocalyptic thoughts about repartition.

    Any fantastical politician who leads his flock down that never-going-to-happen road will be utterly wicked.

    It is one thing to bring people out on to the streets. It is another thing to get them into polling stations. There was great anger among unionists when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was foisted upon them, but their anger did not translate into impressive votes in the by-elections which were made necessary by the resignation of their MPs. In fact, the results of those elections encouraged Margaret Thatcher to continue on her anti-unionist course.

    Now is a time for intelligent thinking and urbane speaking. Those who see lawlessness as a defence of their own Britishness have already ceased to be British.

  • Zig70

    The census data is missing the immigration figures. That has been the talk of most country areas for the last year. It has been illustrated by London winning the odd match last year. Economics is one tool that could turn the balance of power. SF would need to make NI a desirable place to the displaced and the south.

  • Ulidian

    David Crookes

    Several thoughts:

    1) “Unionism” as an ideology would indeed cease to exist, but the people who identify with it & vote for its representatives, would presumably remain. At least some of them would – I for example would either be dead or long departed across the water, never to return.

    2) The thoughts & actions of those that would remain would be their concern. Would I personally expect them to identify with & support the new “dispensation”? No, but it wouldn’t be up to me.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The lessons from the AIA that some unionists don’t seem to get are :

    – if you don’t negotiate and refuse to compromise the government simply imposes something much worse

    – no matter how many people you put on the street or other stunts you pull, the government will not back off from forcing through its idea of a compromise

    – Alliance starts picking up support in elections from p’d off unionists

  • Neil
  • DC

    Why no nationalists defecting to Alliance given it is so progressive and forward-thinking??

  • Neil

    given it is so progressive and forward-thinking??

    Sarcasm or not, why is it so difficult for Unionism to accept that anyone can have the audacity to have a policy that is not identical to that of Unionism?

    It’s not ‘progressive and forward thinking’, it’s simply a policy you don’t like. It’s OK there are loads of people who hold opinions that aren’t exactly like yours, don’t worry about it.

  • PaddyReilly

    Defection in the context of multiple-choice voting merely means altering the order in which one chooses: instead of voting SDLP 1 Alliance 2 one now votes Alliance 1 SDLP 2. This means that the rise of Alliance merely masks the underlying division.

    The task of the majority party in an area with Alliance holding the balance of power is to think of a question on which Alliance has to take sides, abstain, or split down the middle. This is effectively what has happened in the flags dispute.

    In Westminster elections sensible people only vote for a candidate who has a realistic chance of winning. At present, the only such candidate is standing for East Belfast, where there are very few Catholics. However in Stormont elections, in places such as East Antrim, Lagan Valley and Strangford, it is fairly obvious that Alliance derives a disproportionate percentage of its votes from Catholics.

  • DC

    I don’t think it’s simply about policy, more so about the way the policy was brought into being, Alliance were given the bigoted republican card of full removal to play, and it was seen to play it by the wider unionist community by offering a ‘compromise’, call it if you like minimal unionism.

    The Alliance didn’t play its politics right even if a large number of liberal unionists could be brought round to Alliance way of thinking, Alliance will be seen by compromising as a result of a provocative SF motion and becoming embroiled in national identity politics, even though it would claim to be sub-national/regional.

    The hard headed will view SF as not needing Alliance to get what it wanted but used them anyway. It played its politics right.

    But anyway thanks for not answering my question.

  • DC

    *seen as

  • Neil

    You’re right, no Nationalists are likely to defect as a result of what will be seen as a success (or will be once people accept that the protests will change nothing and they die away). It’s not really a regular thing to see politicians defect that often so it’s no surprise that having won a vote the Councillors aren’t instantly then jumping ship. The difference will be felt in the Alliance vote, I’m not confident it’s going down, there’s a plus and a minus column for them, some people will think they’re right and others will feel sympathy.

    Personally I think that it would have been very easy for the Unionist parties to sell the flag policy on the grounds that it’s in line with UK policy, and that it sees SF voting to hoist the Union flag over City Hall. They chose to direct the crowd towards the coincidentally placed East Belfast MP Naomi Long.

    Personally I’d say on the grounds of that alone the Unionist parties have played this politically badly, it’s clear that having unleashed the crowd they cannot call them back in. As for Nesbitt specifically, dear me. No, I do think Unionism has played it’s hand abysmally. They have made a do or die battle out of one that cannot be won, and they’re starting to piss everyone off due to the traffic, shopping, death threats etc. A lot of Unionists I know would be quite happy if they could just make it in an out of town without suffering any more than usual for this time of year. And some of them are dying on their feet in their businesses in the town, wondering if this Christmas will be their last.

  • DC

    I actually don’t believe in the ‘just part of the UK’ stuff given the outworkings of the peace-process and GFA but it could have been an argument to make but it still wasn’t one that would have gone down well in the face of full removal – the full removal ripped out the ‘generosity of spirit’ atmosphere.

    Liberals still respect strong leadership, I have no doubt that many in east Belfast view the deputy leader Naomi Long as shrewd and hard headed, Alliance could have blocked full removal until such times as both the SDLP and SF were prepared to pick up the tab for its own policy.

  • DC

    Basically the SDLP and SF could have been the delivery vehicle of Alliance policy without Alliance ever having to be involved as it would have just blocked and blocked until both parties reached the right decision and initiated a motion to that affect, Alliance still could have abstained on that vote too – carrying 24 to 20 or something?

    That might have gone down better.

  • DC

    *effect ^

  • David Crookes

    Neil, you ask, ‘…..why is it so difficult for Unionism to accept that anyone can have the audacity to have a policy that is not identical to that of Unionism’, and I would add to your question the words, ‘or even to a slightly different brand of unionism.’

    The lunatic insistence on uniform purity of doctrine, which has characterized much of unionism for several decades, has encouraged two things: a conditional attitude to the keeping of the law, and the development of a hideously sub-plebeian culture. Let me repeat one fact that I mentioned in an earlier posting. On 12 July 1967 Mr George Forrest, the Unionist MP for Mid-Ulster, was hauled off the platform by Orangemen at Coagh, and kicked unconscious.

    How people react to that fact tells you whether they are British or not. Those who kick a politician unconscious, and those who make murderous attacks on the police, are fascist thugs. Any elected representative who needs the support of such persons is a fascist politician.

    Comrade Stalin, the lessons are there. To me the word ‘Duisburg’ spelt the end of never-never-never.

    Ulidian, in recent years I have been tempted to sell my few acres and buy an apartment in London. I understand exactly how you feel. But imagine that you go to live in an English city once the union comes to an end. Imagine also that a leading republican activist gets sick of everything, crosses the water, and buys a house in the same street as you. He may roundly detest the English race and the British monarchy, but your neighbours will regard you and him as ‘Irish’ without distinction.

  • Ulidian

    David Crookes

    We’re not even remotely acquainted, ergo you know nothing of “how I feel”. As for your last bit, I don’t give a damn what people regard me as, though if they say anything to my face, I’ll “correct” them. In fact in my own experience (I actually live on the mainland), they tend to assume I’m Scottish!

  • David Crookes

    I’m wrong on several counts, Ulidian, so let me apologize, and express the hope that over time our acquaintance will become less remote.

    I’ve been round a lot of the world, and wherever I go I tell people that I’m British, because that’s what it says on my passport. It’s funny to watch the reaction of persons who learn that I live in part of Ireland. Their faces light up in fatuous smiles as with even more recklessness than I showed in my last posting they accuse a teetotaller and classically trained musician of being addicted to alcohol and deedle-dee-dee music. I feel offended on behalf of my nationalist friends by the survival of such a stupid caricature.

    A few years ago, after flying back to the UK from Tashkent, I got into a taxi in Manchester airport and told the driver where I wanted to go. ‘[Participial] Irish,’ he said, quite audibly. When he saw me writing down his name and cab number he did his pitiable best to engage me in friendly conversation.

    I find that in Edinbrugh an Ulsterman gives himself away both by his use of the word ‘Yeah’, and by his inability to address a female interlocutor as ‘hen’. (Once you come across that last vocable you find the expression ‘neither chick nor child’ taking on a new force in your mind.)

  • latcheeco

    “And more people self define as Brits than anything else”
    That’s one way to spin it Mick!

    Or you could have asked:
    Given the absurdity that the Northern state was set up to protect a prod majority and their ain’t now a prod majority nor ever will be again, and that a large majority didn’t go anywhere near the British box after we’d been told for decades that the vast majority were British, what is the point of the place and why on earth are the good people in the home counties paying for it?

  • PaddyReilly

    ‘[Participial] Irish,’

    Well you did bomb the Arndale centre, you can’t expect Mancunians to love you.

  • Mack


    Your statistical inferences are wrong.

    1.97% of 1.81 million is 35,000. 70% of that is 24,500. The Catholic population, making the unlikely assumption of no secularisation increased by 80,000. The native population would have increased by around 55,000. This would, had no Catholic immigration occurred still increased the Catholic population by 1% (the actual increase was 1.35%).
    (At the same time, by way of comparison the native Protestant population would have fallen by at least 2%, the actual decrease was at least 2.35%).

  • David Crookes

    I had forgotten about the Arndale Centre, PaddyReiily. Thanks!

    It shows you. A few terrorists can cause thousands of people to hate thousands of other people.

  • latcheeco

    A few terrorists can cause thousands of people to hate thousands of other people.

    That’s a neat summation of divide and conquer colonialism