Alliance party-Is it really the Belfast party?

I often think of the Alliance party as the Helen Lovejoy of Northern Ireland politics. They are well intentioned but have suffered from a ‘do gooder’ image that they at times project out.

In my last piece on the SDLP and UUP, I was very pessimistic about the future of those parties going forward. However, with the Alliance party, I would not make the same assessment as I think they do occupy a space in Northern Ireland politics that very few others do occupy.

Yet, I would challenge the narrative that they are a truly province wide party as their electoral success illustrates that they are anything but. Since their formation in the early seventies, the party has gradually being pushed further east in terms of electoral support. They have lost huge amounts of support in Nationalist areas, while strengthening their support among moderate Unionists.

So how could you sum up the party’s electoral performance since 1998? One word; steady

Since 2003, the party has staged a recovery going from 3.7% of the vote to 7.7% in 2011. However, this recovery is largely concentrated in the Belfast area.

Let’s take a look at the party’s support in the four Belfast constituencies (North, South, East and West Belfast).

In 1998, the party received 12,626 votes in the city, which accounted for 23.9% of the Alliance’s total vote across the province.

Aside from 2003, the party’s electoral dependence on the city has only increased. In 2007, the number of votes Alliance received from the four Belfast constituencies accounted for 27.7% (10,025) of its total vote. This rose considerably in 2011 as 34.1% (17,363) of the party’s total vote came from the city. It is worth noting that the vast majority of this support is based in East and South Belfast.

Greater Belfast area

What should be more worrying for the party is that its support does not exist  to any meaningful degree outside of the greater Belfast area. When you add in the constituencies that border the city (Lagan Valley, East and South Antrim, North Down and Strangford) this comprises the overwhelming majority Alliance’s provincial vote. Since 1998, these 9 constituencies have averaged around 82% of the party’s total province wide support.

Challenges ahead?

The party is nearly non-existent west of the Bann, which calls into question their ability to deliver that knockout blow to the UUP. But what is worse, the party is likely to suffer some blow back from the flag dispute in East Belfast, plus, they will have to deal with NI21 taking some of their support in the greater Belfast area.

I am, however, optimistic about the party’s future. I think they definitely have a base but I think it is more doubtful whether the party can make a strong breakthrough at the next election. Their support is far too concentrated in the east of the province which leaves them vulnerable to NI21 and those Unionists who are annoyed at the party over the flag vote last December.

 

 

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Not too much I can dispute there.

    Alliance doesn’t think about things like destroying the UUP or countering NI21. As long as it can get supporters out to canvass and cover the areas where it wants to win, it can increase its position electorally.

    The UUP will burn itself out and NI21 will collapse as soon as it is faced with an election campaign. In NI21’s case I take no particular pleasure from saying that, I think they’re good people and we need to see more of them; but they aren’t a serious political operation at the moment and I don’t see how they will become one.

  • wild turkey

    “The party is nearly non-existent west of the Bann”

    sez it all really. yeah, they are probably well intentioned, decent and even empathetic individuals. but a viable six county party?

    don;t get me wrong. i respect and admire the cajones of Naomi Long. and may she persist and thrive. but in general terms, the alliance has a limited appeal and shelf life comparable to the finger food at the next well intentioned buffet.

  • IJP

    Your fundamental analysis is sound. Alliance is the third largest party in the nine “Greater Belfast” constituencies (second in local government actually), and was the only Assembly Party at all to increase its vote total in 2011.

    Yet all is not so bleak out west. In 2003, the party was absolutely nowhere; even in 2007 the party lost to the Greens in every single non-Greater Belfast constituency bar one. In fact, since 2003, the party’s vote has grown faster outside Greater Belfast than inside it; this secured a clear fifth place in the West/Border in 2011 – well behind the other four, but markedly ahead of anyone else.

    All is not lost, therefore, outside Greater Belfast. The party will, of course, have to be strategic about it.

  • Charles_Gould

    The party won back a seat on Ballymena council. However it has not really made a lot of this opportunity.

  • Charles_Gould

    Logically the next step may be constituencies like North Antrim, Upper Bann, South Down, East Londonderry. Not West of the Bann, but not Greater Belfast, but commuter zone.

  • In 1998 while doing research on the conflict at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast I ended up concentrating on the Alliance Party because so little had been written about it. I found a copy of a Master’s thesis by a French poly sci student on the party. He postulated that the party’s appeal for nationalists in the Greater Belfast area was a form of tactical voting. Nationalists tend to vote for Alliance as better than any of the unionist parties when the SDLP does not have a real chance of a seat. Most of the base of the party are people who would define themselves as “other” rather than nationalist or unionist. They are either involved in a cross-community marriage or relationship, a product of one, or have lots of close friends from both communities. They are over whelmingly middle class and professional–doctors, psychologists, and business people are among the leading people in the party. This limits the growth of the party in geographic terms but gives it a long shelf life. Other than the UUP it is the oldest party in the NI party system.

    The real weakness of the party is that the leading members are policy wonks who lack good political sense. The creation of the Women’s Coalition of Northern Ireland was one example of a wasted opportunity. The NI media tends to focus, like most media in the West, on the horse-race aspects of politics and since Alliance lacked a natural rival like the SDLP had with the Shinners and the UUP with the DUP, it got very little coverage. Had Alliance stirred up an artificial fight with the WCNI it could have gotten lots of free media coverage for both parties. Then when the WCNI went out of existence the party made no real attempt to get its membership list and go after its former members. Hopefully the party won’t make these same mistakes with NI21.

  • Comrade Stalin

    He postulated that the party’s appeal for nationalists in the Greater Belfast area was a form of tactical voting.

    There is little or no notion of tactical voting in STV elections so I’m not sure what the French polysci student was talking about.

    They are over whelmingly middle class and professional–doctors, psychologists, and business people are among the leading people in the party.

    I have to laugh at this. You would think Alliance was the only party with middle class people in it. The SDLP’s spokespersons are all lawyers, teachers and doctors almost to a man. Hell, McDonnell still has a GP surgery in the Markets last time I checked. The UUP are the same.

    As I pointed out before, the middle class thing is nothing to do with voter interest. Dr Kieran Deeney is a case in point; you can win votes in rural constituencies if you have a local base and a message that’s resonant.

    The creation of the Women’s Coalition of Northern Ireland was one example of a wasted opportunity. The NI media tends to focus, like most media in the West, on the horse-race aspects of politics and since Alliance lacked a natural rival like the SDLP had with the Shinners and the UUP with the DUP, it got very little coverage. Had Alliance stirred up an artificial fight with the WCNI it could have gotten lots of free media coverage for both parties.

    You mean, do a Damien McBride on them ? I think you are completely wrong. The public are turned off by negative campaigning and sham fights over nonsense.

    I remember this period very well. The media and the commentariat were all saying that Alliance’s days were over and these new moderates (I think there were a couple of other parties – possibly NI Labour or similar) were going to come in and clean up. Five years later they were all gone.

    The reason why they are gone, and why I feel (sadly) that NI21 are going to go the same way, is because they don’t have policy wonks (there is still no policy page on NI21’s page) and because they don’t have a strategy for how to hold seats or win elections, but also quite frankly because they believed they could win elections through gimmickry. The Women’s Coalition’s appeal, going by their name, was limited at the outset to 50% of the population. That gimmick didn’t work. NI21’s idea is to be really nice and talk sense in public and hope that votes flow from this. That won’t work either – been there, done that.

    The parochial nature of NI’s politics is very similar to that of the RoI, and it means that people tend to vote for the guy who fixed the road, unblocked the drains, sorted out the passport problem, secured money for new buildings at a local school etc. This sucks, but it’s the way it works. If you watch the DUP and SF you’ll see that they focus resources on these issues. I’ve been helped out a lot with these kinds of things by my local DUP MP, and the point is pretty obvious – I’m supposed to go and tell all my neighbours how great he is and how he sorted out my problems even though I’m obviously not a unionist. Unionist voters like everyone else feel reassured by stories that their MP is a fair guy.

    I think Alliance’s strategy under David Ford at the moment is one of organic expansion. Fight the existing constituencies and then target a relatively small number of the seats most likely to yield a result and target them electorally. There’s no point in pouring a ton of money and volunteers at election time into a seat where the paper candidate won 300 votes last time.

  • Rory Carr

    “i respect and admire the cajones of Naomi Long…”

    What, are you a second-hand furniture dealer, Wild Turkey ?
    Cajones is the Spanish word for drawers (no, not those kind of drawers) and encompasses a piece of furniture containing drawers such as tallboy or dressing table.

    Then it might be the place where Ms Long keeps those documents detailing the future plans that Alliance have for peace, progress and prosperity. Unless, that is, you are referring to Ms Long’s musical preference for thumping on a cajon which is a Peruvian musical instrument, a box on which one sits astraddle and thumps rhythmically on the front panel with the palms of the hands. It could indeed be used as a secret substitute for the Lambeg drum were that the instrument which most responded to the beating of one’s heart.

  • “He postulated that the party’s appeal for nationalists in the Greater Belfast area was a form of tactical voting.

    There is little or no notion of tactical voting in STV elections so I’m not sure what the French polysci student was talking about.”

    I don’t know what your definition of tactical voting is. I consider it to be when one votes one’s first preference for a party other than one’s ideological choice, because one don’t consider the candidate of one’s ideological preference to have a realistic chance of being elected. If you don’t believe that this occurs, look at Alliance totals in Euro elections and in Westminster elections compared with those in Assembly and local government elections. Remember, the thesis was written in the early 1990s–1992 or 1993. So, are you going to say that nationalists didn’t vote for Alliance candidates in constituencies like North Down, Strangford, and East Belfast because they didn’t think that the SDLP candidate didn’t have a realistic shot?

    “They are over whelmingly middle class and professional–doctors, psychologists, and business people are among the leading people in the party.

    I have to laugh at this. You would think Alliance was the only party with middle class people in it. The SDLP’s spokespersons are all lawyers, teachers and doctors almost to a man. Hell, McDonnell still has a GP surgery in the Markets last time I checked. The UUP are the same.”

    We weren’t discussing the SDLP, that was the topic of a previous post. I never said that the party was the only party with a middle-class representation.

    “The public are turned off by negative campaigning and sham fights over nonsense.”

    You mean if Alliance had attacked the WCNI for being gender sectarian and then pointed out its own figures for female representation this would have turned off women? We won’t know, but my guess is if Alliance had engaged in a principled debate it would have more than made up for any potential women it lost by attracting men. The debate would also have helped out the WCNI grow, which would have given Alliance a shot at them when the WCNI folded, if it had wanted to.

  • PaddyReilly

    So, are you going to say that nationalists didn’t vote for Alliance candidates in constituencies like North Down, Strangford, and East Belfast because they didn’t think that the SDLP candidate didn’t have a realistic shot?

    This invites the question, are there actually any Nationalists in North Down, Strangford and East Belfast and how do you know this? There certainly are some on the Short Strand. What you are really referring to is Catholics, and as far as I can tell, Catholics in this extreme eastern area remain in a state of pre-Nationalism, though they mostly don’t see the point of voting for Unionist parties. Their votes are thus available for any progressive cause like Alliance or Greens.

    Possibly in European elections they might give their final preference to the SDLP, but we have no way of telling this because votes by constituency are not published.

    Though it is true, in my experience, that if you burn out innocuous Catholics from their home in somewhere like Larne, obliging them to take refuge in the Falls road, then they will turn into a very advanced sort of nationalist: Bobby Sands sort of thing.

  • Seamuscamp

    TMitch57
    “The real weakness of the party is that the leading members are policy wonks who lack good political sense.”
    I agree with you about the lack of political sense; but I’m surprised that the leading members are policy wonks. One example:
    “In order to deal with the past and its legacy it is essential the Executive will engage with the British and Irish Governments to agree terms for a cross-party talks process, aimed at reaching agreement on arrangements for dealing with the past.” Paraphrase: ” Let’s all talk about having talks about how we can have talks about the process for dealing with the past”. No actual policy there.

    Look at the Alliance website “Our Policies” “Latest” – no less than six items are about declarations of donations; two items about flegs; and a membership form. Doesn’t give the impression of policy or strategy, does it?

  • Kevsterino

    In the earlier era of the GFA, when David Ford changed the designation of the Assembly party from ‘Other’ to ‘Unionist’, I looked upon that as a revelation. It was of course a matter of expedience to keep the nascent assembly in existence, but it did expose a quiet fact. Alliance is not as neutral on the union as their position papers would lead one to believe.

    The ‘nice’ Unionists (forgive me for not having a better way to describe them. I don’t mean those of another political persuasion aren’t ‘nice’) used to be courted by the UUP. Remember the billboards proclaiming ‘Decent people vote UUP’ or some such. The UUP doesn’t talk much like that anymore. The DUP never have to appeal to anybody but hard-core red white and blue types until after they took the lead over UUP. Their latest attempts to appeal to the middle of the road Unionist have not been very impressive. So the ones who used to vote UUP when the party was stronger will find their way to this NI21 project or to the Alliance party.

    The growth of NI21 or Alliance will almost certainly be largely to the detriment to the UUP.

  • sherdy

    I can’t see Alliance being very successful in attracting any percentage of the Catholic vote, as the DUP machine, with Robbo’s encouragement, are now targeting that 40pc of the voters.
    Looking at his Haass talks team how could anyone doubt the honesty of his intent?

  • Red Lion

    “”The reason why they are gone, and why I feel (sadly) that NI21 are going to go the same way, is because they don’t have policy wonks (there is still no policy page on NI21′s page””

    NI21 are only 3 and a half months old, and are working away on their policies. That said the sooner they get organised the better.

    “”and because they don’t have a strategy for how to hold seats or win elections””

    well maybe, but this afflicts any new party on the scene by virtue of them being a new party. That said both Basil McCrea and John McCallister of NI21 have won elections before

    , but also quite frankly because they believed they could win elections through gimmickry.

    Don’t know where you get this from as NI21 have not yet had the chance to compete in elections and the nearest election is guts of a year away. I don’t see any sign of NI21 gimmickry (or being overtly ‘nice’ to people). Rather they have a value set geared around a certain constitutional position and liberal progressive values on social issues. Need to transfer this to work on the ground though

  • Framer

    The French student has it about right in relation to Catholics voting for Alliance in Catholic areas. Once an area becomes overwhelmingly nationalist, Alliance is out of the picture, as in West Belfast where they used to have council seats.
    In Protestant majority areas in east Ulster, NI21 will be competing for the vote from middle class Protestant churchgoers and those liberal British unionists (who don’t know they are unionist) in the same area. Both parties have to find ways of getting that vote out. The only problem is that those types of voter may well transfer to the UUP giving that party seats at the end of the transfer process.
    Sad but true, Alliance may think it best to straddle nationalism and unionism as with their disastrous (for the community) Belfast flag decision, but it doesn’t pay off in terms of Catholic votes in the heartlands. They remain unimpressed by such bare wall gestures as for them the conflict is over apart from seeing off peripheral Jaffas.

  • IJP

    David

    You’ve started a good debate here. I don’t agree with all of it, but most of it is reasonable enough stuff for once!

    Charles

    You weren’t to know this, but our Cllr in Ballymena has been undergoing chemotherapy pretty much since. Ballymena under new boundaries was always going to be tough, even without that. But there’s a radical vote there to be tapped into, and I’d like to see the party do so.

    Kevsterino

    Seriously man, get over it!

    Ford had to change from “Other” to “Unionist” in order to save Trimble and thus the institutions. If he’d had to save Hume/Mallon at the time, he’d have changed to “Nationalist”.

    What is really telling about it is that, far from thanking him and his colleagues (not all of whom re-designated, by the way – so obviously not that Unionist, eh?!), politicos have used this as a stick to try to beat the party with for 12 years!

    Small wonder our politicians are so useless if, when the good ones to good things for good reasons, they get battered for it for more than a decade!

    Seamuscamp

    The Alliance Party had by far the longest manifesto of any party at the last Assembly Election.

    I’m not suggesting anyone read it now, but the fact is there is no other party which puts more thought into policy development.

    Does anyone care? That’s another question – but I refer you to my last paragraph to Kevsterino!

    Red Lion

    The UUP won elections in Lagan Valley and South Down. In fact, UUP candidates in the local elections on the same day comfortably out-polled the Basil-led Assembly ticket in Lagan Valley and John in South Down. So those were UUP votes, be under no illusions.

    I say that as someone who’d like to see them both re-elected. But let’s not pretend they have ever been elected before off their own bat – they haven’t!

    Framer

    It’s funny how people always say Alliance is no good in Nationalist areas.

    Just as interesting is the fact that Nationalists are no good in Alliance areas. If Nationalists are to deliver a “United Ireland”, how on earth have they never mustered a Councillor in, say, Holywood?!

    In fact, it’s not a particularly sectarian thing – Alliance used to poll strongly among Protestants in Catholic-majority areas (e.g. Cityside of Derry), until the demographics changed. In other words, it has always done particularly well among minorities (perhaps they are the ones who see most obviously the value in “getalongerism”).

  • Comrade Stalin

    tmitch57:

    I don’t know what your definition of tactical voting is. I consider it to be when one votes one’s first preference for a party other than one’s ideological choice, because one don’t consider the candidate of one’s ideological preference to have a realistic chance of being elected.

    I agree with your definition but this only really makes sense for FPTP elections (eg Westminster). In STV elections you can happily vote for your favourite candidate even though you don’t think they have a chance because if they fail to get elected your vote will transfer to your next-favourite option. This is not generally understood to be tactical voting.

    (this is why STV is by far the superior system. It means that people vote for who they really want rather than who they think is likely to win. )

    The polysci student is also taking a bit of a liberty by describing people as nationalists even when they don’t vote for nationalist parties. The only possible way someone could be accusing someone of being a tactically-voting nationalist is by looking at their perceived religious background. According to that definition I would be a nationalist voting tactically, which is obviously something I’d reject.

    If you’re a Catholic in North Down or East Belfast (the only constituencies where there are Alliance seats but no prospect of a nationalist seat at assembly level) maybe you’re one of the Rory McIlroy types who genuinely isn’t a nationalist – that might be why you moved to that part of the world in the first place. The SDLP and Sinn Féin run a paper campaign only in both of those constituencies at Assembly and Westminster level.

    That student didn’t do his homework IMO.

    So, are you going to say that nationalists didn’t vote for Alliance candidates in constituencies like North Down, Strangford, and East Belfast because they didn’t think that the SDLP candidate didn’t have a realistic shot?

    See above WRT North Down and East Belfast. I’d add that the Alliance candidates at Westminster level in North Down and Strangford never had a realistic shot either so there is no benefit to nationalists tactically voting for them.

    At Assembly level, the nationalists don’t even run a campaign in North Down. If I was a betting man I’d have said the SDLP should have a seat in Strangford and I’m sure I remember one of my pseophology friends saying that it was through sheer incompetence that they failed to win one.

    sherdy :

    I can’t see Alliance being very successful in attracting any percentage of the Catholic vote, as the DUP machine, with Robbo’s encouragement, are now targeting that 40pc of the voters.

    The DUP’s support for fleggers, The Famine Song and the Twaddell protests have put paid to any prospect of that party obtaining Catholic votes.

    Framer:

    Once an area becomes overwhelmingly nationalist, Alliance is out of the picture, as in West Belfast where they used to have council seats.

    Not sure what that means. West Belfast was always overwhelmingly nationalist.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Kevsterino:

    In the earlier era of the GFA, when David Ford changed the designation of the Assembly party from ‘Other’ to ‘Unionist’, I looked upon that as a revelation. It was of course a matter of expedience to keep the nascent assembly in existence, but it did expose a quiet fact. Alliance is not as neutral on the union as their position papers would lead one to believe.

    This was all about saving David Trimble.

    Alliance redesignated because its leadership received phonecalls from the heads of all the involved governments (including, I believe, your own) begging that the party ditch principle just this once and simultaneously threatening the direst of consequences if they did not. The consequences seem clear; the governments would have seen to it that Alliance was blamed for destroying the peace process.

    As I recall the party tried everything, including asking the governments to put pressure on the SDLP to get two of their MLAs to redesignate. The SDLP refused – obviously because this would discredit the sectarian voting system they had fought to put in place.

    It can’t be done again as on the insistence of the DUP the government legislated such that the designation can only be determined when an MLA took his/her seat. But either way, I’m absolutely not above the party designating as either unionist or nationalist in the future if this can yield a tactical advantage – it may be the only way to force reform of this ridiculous system.

    WRT whether Alliance are soft unionists or not, well I keep making this point. Alliance are being accused, right now, of being in league with nationalism and implementing a republican agenda over their flags decision in Belfast. Every single decision that anybody makes can be seen by any given person to have a green or an orange tint. It is impossible to suit everyone so the best you can do is appeal to pragmatism.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alliance believes that we must grow our private sector, making the most of our strengths in sectors such as engineering, pharma and information technology to break our dependence on fiscal transfers from Great Britain and pay for the world-class public services we all want to see.
    http://allianceparty.org/page/economy

    Can anyone find any depth or is just a lot of platitudes

  • Kevsterino

    Comrade, now that you mention, I do recall that was but one chapter in the continuing ‘Save Dave’ saga. But everything in Northern Ireland limps along on the treadmill of all things being cloaked in the constitutional question. Good luck reforming the ridiculous system. Costly, inefficient and self-promoting/self-perpetuating. Hmm, sounds like, er, government.

  • aquifer

    “Had Alliance stirred up an artificial fight with the WCNI it could have gotten lots of free media coverage for both parties.”

    There are always second chances in politics.

    Alliance should take a dig at NI21 or the Greens.

  • Charles_Gould

    IJP

    Sorry to hear that about the Ballymena councillor. That would explain things; I was careful above not to make it personal as I know from her last time on council that she can be very active, so I was puzzled this time round by the lack of activity. I would like to wish her all the best for her treatment.

    I take the view that Ballymena could have an Alliance councillor and that with a good candidate could work towards MLA.

  • Charles_Gould

    Sorry , of course Alliance *has* an Alliance councillor so I mean *could* have one next time.

  • ” In STV elections you can happily vote for your favourite candidate even though you don’t think they have a chance because if they fail to get elected your vote will transfer to your next-favourite option. This is not generally understood to be tactical voting.”

    @CS,

    I don’t have my notes from his thesis in front of me, so I don’t remember if he described it as tactical voting or not. His point was that Alliance candidates were often considered consolation prizes by nationalists who voted for them because they didn’t expect SDLP candidates to win. Of course, the Shinner voters wouldn’t vote for them so in places like the Short Strand that might have absorbed enough of the nationalist vote to make a SDLP candidate non-viable.

    “I agree with you about the lack of political sense; but I’m surprised that the leading members are policy wonks.”

    @Seamuscamp,

    I originally wrote this about Alliance in 1998-99 based upon review of Alliance newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s and interviews. My impression was that leading Alliance members could tell you how their party could fare under various franchise systems and they were very familiar with consociationalism and its alternatives, with policy practices in fields like education and policing in not only the Republic and Britain but in Western Europe and the U.S. as well. Their only rivals in this regard were in the SDLP, although Trimble was knowledgeable about all the cases in international law that favored the union and Michael Kerr of the UUP wrote a book about consociationalism in both Lebanon and NI. I haven’t spent much time looking at the Alliance website since I wrote the book, so I don’t know how they have been lately. Of course, those from the ruling duopoly were flogging standard Orange and Green politics at the time.

  • Charles_Gould

    I like Stephen Farry’s work at the Higher Education Department where I think he’s doing a decent job.

  • Kevsterino

    @IJP, I do take on board that it happened to save the assembly and David Trimble’s position. Of course it was not the only time extraordinary things had to be made to happen, particularly to save David Trimble. Odd stuff, like Seamus Mallon’s floating resignation. But, to be fair, eventually it didn’t work.

    I don’t know what would have happened if they let the system, with those designations, fall on its face at that point. I don’t think anyone else does either. Perhaps they could have gotten to the root of the problem in such a scenario. Not all of the possible outcomes were bad, but I suppose they didn’t think they could take the chance.

    So, they kept Trimble around a wee bit longer. Was it worth it?

  • “I don’t know what would have happened if they let the system, with those designations, fall on its face at that point. I don’t think anyone else does either. Perhaps they could have gotten to the root of the problem in such a scenario.”

    @Kevsterino,

    You don’t enlighten us as to your version of what the root of the problem was. I think the proper term is roots. I can think of several:

    1) The SDLP and UUP conspired when creating the Strand 1 institutions to discourage non-sectarian voting by giving the “other” category no say in all crucial questions by not letting them vote as either nationalist or unionist and having a weighted majority requirement that only took account of two of the three categories.
    2) None of the paramilitary organizations wanted to decommission their weapons. The IRA because its members equated this with dishonor and surrender and because the Sinn Fein wanted to use the threat of an armed organization as leverage. The INLA was opposed to the GFA. The loyalist organizations claimed they would take their lead from the IRA. Probably many of the loyalists wanted to keep their weapons for criminal purposes.
    3) The UUP had an archaic internal voting system that gave votes to the Orange Order–many of whom were not members of the party. This allowed DUP members or supporters to conspire with Trimble’s internal party opponents to bring him down. Trimble probably should have reformed the party structure as soon as he became party leader but he wanted to consolidate his position first and then was busy contesting elections in 1996 and 1998 and negotiating in 1997-98.
    4) Sinn Fein’s leadership at some point decided that they would be better off dealing with the DUP than with Trimble. This might have been because they thought that Paisley would be a more stable partner than Trimble. It may also have been because they thought that Paisley would make a better opponent from their point of view in terms of the media and the governments.
    5) The SDLP said that the IRA should disarm, but was unwilling to support any coercive measures to see that this would happen.
    6) Because the loyalist parties lacked the electoral strength for representation on the Executive, leverage was possible only against Sinn Fein and not against the loyalist parties.

  • Framer

    “Not sure what that means. West Belfast was always overwhelmingly nationalist.” – CS

    That’s the point, it wasn’t when it elected Alliance councillors in upper and lower Falls.

    “Just as interesting is the fact that Nationalists are no good in Alliance areas. If Nationalists are to deliver a “United Ireland”, how on earth have they never mustered a Councillor in, say, Holywood?!” – IJP

    Catholics in Holywood are classic non-SDLP/SF voters because N. Down is not going to go nationalist plus they tend to be better off than the Prods. Not that nationalists will ever deliver a united Ireland or care that much about it. They just don’t like being governed by Protestants.

  • Kevsterino

    tmitch57, it used to be called fudge. Then the fudge got so thick, they could no longer tell where the fudge stopped and the law began.

    I think Trimble’s wounds were mostly self inflicted, beginning with his ‘sales’ job of the agreement he made.

  • quality

    IJP

    The Alliance’s manifesto was impenetrable. 100+ pages for a party who ended up with two Executive Departments. Parties over the water who have a realistic chance of a mandate for governing alone turn in less than that.

    Half of it reeked of copying verbatim from submissions from charities, PA consultancies, lobbyists etc. Not wishing to offend anyone, include everything, end up with a meaningless document.

    Granted the other manifestos were equally as bad, if not as long. I’m not sure if any party in NI understands the concept of the manifesto or tailoring it to what you can reasonably influence.

  • FDM

    100+ pages of a manifesto and what do they manifest?

    The UVF turned Naomi Long’s constituency into a loyalist paramilitary tattoo in April.

    Naomi’s response was to say… nothing. Not a word can I find in approval or condemnation of the celebration of the UVF as an organisation before, during or after this “UVF-fest” by Naomi or her staff. The outworkings of which had the entire Newtonards road interrupted for days prior and post to the event, the road blocked for “the day” and the entire area blanketed in flegs celebrating loyalist terrorists for weeks.

    Compare that to June/July when Naomi and her research staff made extensive media forays outrightly condemning the Castlederg parade, by republicans.

    So UVF good, PIRA bad. Hypocrisy itself.

    We can all understand Naomi’s position. If she came out and condemned this UVF celebration she would have hacked-off a considerable amount of people in her constituency, some of whom may have perhaps considered voting for her. She clearly is against paramilitaries and against political violence, I have no doubt of that. The shame therefore is that for the sake of electioneering and political expediency that she developed a convenient bias of condemning only republican commemorations, which she can do without losing votes. In fact her two-faced hypocritical approach may indeed have won her votes in East Belfast since she clearly condemned republicans and openly failed to do the same with violent loyalism and by such a process condoned it.

    So for all that 100+ page manifesto, what do the APNI manifest?

    Principles are sacrificed for electioneering and political expediency. They did this on a matter as important as political violence.

    Note that Naomi and her research staff could have remained silent on both those issues. The fact that they proactively attacked republicans in Castlederg and deliberately failed to comment in their home constituency about completely analgous loyalist events shows a complete dereliction of the principles that they are supposed to stand for, which they listed in their manifesto.

    The people of Belfast should be mindful who they vote for.

    Vote Hypocrite, Vote Alliance.

  • Delphin

    I may or may not agree with your comments FDM, but one factor which cannot be ignored is the perceived threat of violence from the UVF, lead by the murderer W. Hutchinson. Many APNI elected representatives had armed guards (PSNI) outside their homes for months after the flag protests started.
    The George Best mural is another example of the intimidation of the community by these people.
    A small number of violent men are allowed to hold sway in E. Belfast and the forces of law and order appear to be neither willing or able to prevent this. This needs to change.
    (BTW the reported 10,000 people at the UVF-fest in my view was a gross exaggeration.)

  • FDM

    Delphin,

    You are right of course.

    However there are many politicians in the region living under constant death threats.

    The Deputy First Minister for one has been under renewed death threats by so-called “dissidents” for years.

    Being an elected representative of Sinn Fein has long carried a death sentence. If you recall DUP MP William McCrea used parliamentary privilege to single out sixty year old Sinn Fein councillor John Davey, who was then murdered by loyalist paramilitaries within two years.

    There is a clear gulf between APNI and SF in the eyes of many. One is a party where routinely the individuals have to lay their lives down for their deeply held beliefs. The other get highly paid seats in quangos, maybe a lordship, the obligatory MBE and get to die in bed at a ripe old age.

    I suppose to have principles you have to actually stand for something. You have to have an opinion. If those are republican opinions then in the state we live in, it often comes with the ultimate penalty.

    Lets face it, the only pain APNI elected representatives have had to face for 40 years of their existence is from their rear ends from four decades of fence sitting.

  • IJP

    Charles

    Appreciated.

    Even in the best of circumstances, it would be a tough job to retain a Councillor in Ballymena on new boundaries. That said, I believe there is a latent radical vote in North Antrim which Alliance could take with a bit of effort. Let’s hope so.

    Kevsterino

    I don’t honestly know whether it was. My point was merely that Alliance did it to save the institutions, not out of any preference for either “side”.

    Quality

    My point wasn’t about how penetrable it was – I myself certainly didn’t read it and I was canvassing for its candidates in seven constituencies!

    My point was merely that Alliance cannot be accused of lacking policy.

    I’d say the same to FDM – you may like or dislike whatever Alliance does, but it certainly does stuff, as its representatives’ stance during the flag protests (particularly in East Belfast) proved.

  • Charles_Gould

    IJP

    While you mention “the new boundaries” permit me to gripe that Ballymena and Carrickfergus being grouped into one council is totally stupid.

    Instead of Antrim/Newtonabbey and Ballymena/Larne/Carrick it would be much better to group Carrick /Newtonabbey/Larne and Antrim/Ballymena.

    If you think of how hard it is to drive between the respective nodes, it makes my point.

    I digress.

    No doubt there is some reason for these groupings that I can’f see.

  • Mc Slaggart

    IJP

    “My point was merely that Alliance cannot be accused of lacking policy.”

    I would accuse the part of that. Lots of platitudes does not make a policy.

  • Mc Slaggart

    IJP

    “My point was merely that Alliance cannot be accused of lacking policy.”

    I would accuse the party of that. Lots of platitudes does not make a policy.

  • Mc Slaggart

    IJP

    “as its representatives’ stance during the flag protests”

    Sorry all Alliance did was go with what other Unionists councils already do. They did not even attempt to move to a position which would move Belfast city hall towards Alliance party of “shared space”.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think that some of these attacks on Alliance are quite unfair. Alliance did have policies that were concrete at the last election.

    For instance, Alliance is unambiguously against academic selection. And Alliance is pro-water charges. Alliance is pro-integrated education. To name but three.

    Alliance do deserve to be praised for consistently backing reform in Northern Ireland, and opposing the use of violence.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Charles_Gould

    ” Alliance is unambiguously against academic selection.”

    In what part of the 2010 Westminster manifesto did it say that?

    “Education
    Alliance regards education as a key investment for society as a whole and for allowing every person to develop to their full potential.

    Resources need to be directed efficiently into servicing pupils and assisting teachers.

    Alliance accepts the need for the rationalisation of the school estate due to falling enrolments and approximately 50,000 empty places. We endorse efforts to promote collaboration between schools through Area
    Planning, and we support a sustainable schools policy that encourages rationalisation across sectors.
    Alliance supports shared education. While Alliance continues to advocate integrated education as the preferred model, we recognise that there will continue to be a number of different sectors within the Northern Ireland education system for the foreseeable future and that there can be a number of different models of sharing between sectors that are all of considerable value.
    There is considerable evidence of support for integrated education.
    Alliance would give every parent the capacity to choose an integrated place for their child.
    Integrated education should be considered as the most economically and financially sustainable form of education, as well as delivering educationally and socially. Integrated education is not a threat to an
    already overstretched system, but rather as part of the solution.

    Alliance is also committed to increasing the number and accessibility of nursery places in Northern Ireland.”

  • Charles_Gould

    Hi McS:

    From their website paper:

    “• 11-plus exam should be abolished and use of academic ability to determine who is given a place should ‘not be allowed’;”

  • Mc Slaggart

    Charles_Gould

    “From their website paper:”

    You mean its not in any modern manifesto?

  • Charles_Gould

    Hi McS: You can see it in their Assembly manifesto p69

  • Charles_Gould

    Not *quite* sure why they were talking about devolved matters in their Westminster manifesto.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Charles_Gould

    The issue was not addressed in their short (ie the one the expected most people to read) manifesto.

    At page 69 you get this:

    “Alliance welcomes the end of the 11-plus tests,”

    ok good start so what is the Alliance solution if not to back sf.

    NONE!!!!

    ” In the next Assembly we will continue to work to build consensus between the parties in a constructive and non confrontational approach.”

    As I said “platitudes does not make a policy”!

  • “From their website paper:”

    You mean its not in any modern manifesto?”

    @McSlaggert,

    Maybe they should paint it in a mural like some parties do.

  • “Being an elected representative of Sinn Fein has long carried a death sentence. If you recall DUP MP William McCrea used parliamentary privilege to single out sixty year old Sinn Fein councillor John Davey, who was then murdered by loyalist paramilitaries within two years.”

    @FDM,

    Yes, one wing of the Republican Movement thinks that it should be free to assassinate elected officials of other parties in the name of armed struggle but the other wing should enjoy immunity from anything similar.

    “There is a clear gulf between APNI and SF in the eyes of many. One is a party where routinely the individuals have to lay their lives down for their deeply held beliefs. The other get highly paid seats in quangos, maybe a lordship, the obligatory MBE and get to die in bed at a ripe old age.

    I suppose to have principles you have to actually stand for something. You have to have an opinion. If those are republican opinions then in the state we live in, it often comes with the ultimate penalty.

    Lets face it, the only pain APNI elected representatives have had to face for 40 years of their existence is from their rear ends from four decades of fence sitting.”

    So we should all we glad that some of those Sinn Fein people 39 years ago were risking their lives to bring down Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing government along with their UDA allies. We are so much better off that they could keep the war going for another two decades before they gave up on it and settled for less than what was on offer in December 1973.

  • Comrade Stalin

    One is a party where routinely the individuals have to lay their lives down for their deeply held beliefs.

    Indeed they did, but you omitted to mention that they were rather more skilled at laying other people’s lives down for their deeply held beliefs.

  • FDM

    CS and tmitch.

    All of which is fine guys. Firstly war is a terrible thing. Terrible things happen in wars, like murder, torture, rape, robbery and the rest. Hence we should try our utmost to avoid wars.

    Tmitch quoting 73′ is nonsense, since 1973 naturally followed 1972. We all know what happened in 72′ and how it created the environment for what happened next. Unionists brought down power sharing. Full stop. To accuse the IRA or Sinn Fein of it is ridiculous.

    To defeat my points regarding Alliance and their NOTHING input to our politics here perhaps CS could you please describe say SIR Oliver Napier’s contribution to the current settlement that we now have.

  • IJP

    McS

    Alliance pursued its own flag policy in a democratic chamber and was physically attacked for it, despite never having engaged in that kind of thing itself. Let’s just be clear about that.

    I would love parties to engage less in platitudes but you know what, when they stop doing so, they tend not to get elected! Besides, little point in huge detail when you can’t deliver most of it due to all-party government.

    My point remains: other parties were even more platitude, even less policy detail.

    Charles

    Purely personally, I’m against the reform/merger altogether. It’ll make local government less local, all while hitting the ratepayer. Essentially we are importing an English system entirely unsuited to us.

    I emphasize that is only my own personal viewpoint.

  • “Tmitch quoting 73′ is nonsense, since 1973 naturally followed 1972. We all know what happened in 72′ and how it created the environment for what happened next. Unionists brought down power sharing. Full stop. To accuse the IRA or Sinn Fein of it is ridiculous.”

    “So we should all we glad that some of those Sinn Fein people 39 years ago were risking their lives to bring down Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing government along with their UDA allies.”

    @FDM,

    Where do I say that the IRA was primarily responsible for bringing down the government? Sean O’Callaghan had it right when he told Trimble that they had been de facto allies in opposing the power-sharing government in 1974. Do you deny that the Republican Movement was opposed to Sunningdale?

  • Mc Slaggart

    IJP

    “Alliance pursued its own flag policy”

    Which was to keep the Union flag flying on St Patricks day??????