NI Alliance Party puts Washington to shame

You can conclude a lot about people’s priorities during a crisis.

Take North Carolina’s Congresswoman Renne Ellmers, one of the elected representatives who has forced the shutdown of Washington’s Government.

Across the Atlantic in Belfast, the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long and her staff in East Belfast spent their morning doing what might strike you as unexceptional political work: leafleting among their constituents.

They were out and about, prioritizing the needs of their constituents – voters and non-voters alike – because they had to contend with a forced shutdown of their own. There was a bomb scare outside their offices.

NI’s political class gets a lot of abuse for being on the take, reactionary, and hopelessly antagonistic. It’s largely understated. But it’s also overly-generalized. Leaders like Long represent a tradition in Northern Ireland of individuals prepared to live with immense levels of stress and hostility, abuse and threats. Behind leaders like her are the unsung staff for whom the dangers are often even greater given their lower profiles.

But the ability to get on with the job when people are trying to kill you is extraordinary.

Reacting to the bomb alert, Long’s colleague, Stormont MLA Chris Little said this:

“Whether it turns out to a hoax or a viable device, it will not deter myself and my colleagues from working for constituents and for businesses in east Belfast,” Mr Lyttle said.

If you live in East Belfast and you receive an Alliance leaflet today, take a minute. Give it a read.

  • I predict that you’ll soon have the usual voices denouncing Alliance for either selling out the Union/unionists or for not having participated in the glorious “armed struggle.”

  • Comrade Stalin

    Thank you for putting this up there Ruarai.

    Not only was the party office targeted but a lot of people who have nothing to do with Alliance were put to a great deal of inconvenience.

    I suppose it’s too much to ask that the government takes someone attacking a democratically elected political party in the UK seriously.

  • Ruarai

    CS, great point. Had I more time this morning I would have liked to have unpacked that point a little more. It’s ridiculous the extent to which attacking the democratic process – and with murderous intent – is seen in NI as anything other than the act of a madman with a desire for a lifelong prison wish.

    Instead, it’s so routine that the act itself barely gets more than a brief news mention while the actors almost invariably walk on to ruin another day.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ruarai,

    The impression some people in the party have is that people in London think that this is basically within the threshold of what passes for normality over here. They don’t care.

    Paramilitary groups are flexing their muscles, shooting people they don’t like (as the UVF did a number of days ago) intimidating people, racketeering building sites and contractors, and engaging in other kinds of criminality as well as this kind of direct political agitation and there is no strategy for addressing it.

  • Ruarai

    I think it would be much easier to pressure London if NI made it much, much more obvious than its leaders currently do, that paramilitarism is intolerable.

    Until certain political power centers in NI (and beyond) stop using paramilitaries as their outsourcing option of choice when they need some muscle, paramilitarism will remain a permanent feature not only of NI’s crime scene but, more importantly and tellingly, of its political fabric.

    One example test: what consensus could be built in the Assembly for a motion endorsing paramilitary membership carrying a special criminal status (and associated set of draconian sanctions)?

    I wouldn’t hold my breath but, then again, it would be worth smoking out those whose public rhetoric of condemnation is shown as quite different from their backroom band-hall grievance peddling, incitement, and, worst of all, requests for help with street blockades, etc.

  • aquifer

    The British state does not like to admit to having effective competitors on a street near you, so they will not try to suppress the armed gangs. In effect they license terror.

    Also for MLAs:

    “what consensus could be built in the Assembly for a motion endorsing paramilitary membership carrying a special criminal status (and associated set of draconian sanctions)?”

    None. What MLA will vote for a bomb on his doorstep?

    And keeping the people anxious and divid keeps them voting SFDUP. Sectarian riot as a weapon of mass distraction.

  • It’s neither London’s nor Dublin’s fault that folks here are split on the constitutional question. However, both are prepared to tolerate and sometimes support the most extreme elements here – all in the interests of nimbyism. Some folks here don’t exactly set the best example when they cast a vote for extremists or when they turn to extremists for some speedy and often barbaric justice.

  • BluesJazz

    Stress????

    These people are on massive salaries and live a life of comfort and expenses fuelled inactivity.

    Try asking a Royal Marine (salary £16k) about stress and people trying to kill you.

    And not with a firework in a nearby bin.

    I wonder what the salary of the ATO who dealt with the device is?

  • Doug

    Just in case anyone’s interested, during training Marine’s earn £14,349. After 6 months training the salary increases to £17,767 and then operates along a sliding scale – not including bonuses and extras ( submariner, diver, separation allowance etc )

  • carl marks

    BluesJazz (profile)
    9 October 2013 at 11:58 am

    Stress????

    These people are on massive salaries and live a life of comfort and expenses fuelled inactivity.

    Try asking a Royal Marine (salary £16k) about stress and people trying to kill you.

    Well done BJ you managed to prove the point about people not seeming to mind thugs attacking political representatives, and you also managed to give us a completely irrelevant and inaccurate comparison.
    Tell me if that Marine you talk about if he was attacked (by loyal British subject‘s) while protecting an Alliance office who would you compare his stress levels and salary too.
    Could you perhaps give us a list of those people who are in your opinion are entitled to be stressed when some brainless thug attacks them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The bombscares in East Belfast continued today (not so near to Alliance) and in the meantime dissident republicans have shot two innocent men dead in cold blood.

  • carl marks

    C S, of course your right, the murders are another vile act and there is no excuse for them,
    Those on both sides who have a agenda that depends on people hating each other are (I hope) on their last Hurrah.
    What is interesting is the reaction of politicians to these animals, on the nationalist side all political parties have made strong condemnations with no ifs or buts, the unionist politicians seem to have no problem standing beside these people and ignoring the illegality of the various loyalist activities.
    Geoffrey last night on the view tried to claim that camp twat was Legal and implied that the police were lying and when challenged about the drain on police resources he denied that the protest was having any effect on police deployment.
    But ignoring loyalist violence and criminality are a historic part of the unionist party’s mindsets.

  • “there is no strategy for addressing it.”

    CS, I thought the London and Dublin shared strategy was to confine the various expressions of paramilitarism to Northern Ireland, in so far as that is possible.

    Take a look at some of the paramilitary embraced ‘charities’ that are registered as limited companies. You might be surprised to see police officers, civil servants and members of voluntary organisations listed as directors. I should imagine that these directors are in position at the behest of London, Dublin and Stormont. You might also note that certain folks are absent from some of the official photographs.

    I’m just painting a general picture; I’ll leave you to do your own research.

  • “But ignoring loyalist violence and criminality are a historic part of the unionist party’s mindsets.”

    @Mr. Marks,

    Yes, this is certainly quite true. But also remember the role of the present Republican Movement in arming those also involved in violence and criminality. The IRA refused to decommission for long after there had been a split and the other half of the Republican Movement backed them up in this. With the former quartermaster of the IRA serving as the head of the real IRA, how hard would it be for the Real IRA to procure some of those weapons for themselves? It wasn’t until Martin McGuinness went into government with Paisley that he was prepared to really denounce the dissidents and call for nationalists to cooperate with the police.

    Maybe the loyalists are just slower because they have real competition. The UVF and UDA are serious competitors with each other. The Republican Movement didn’t take these steps until after the INLA had become a joke and there was no real competition on the republican side.

  • carl marks

    A wonderful piece of whataboutry, I’m not a fan of SF but on a thread dealing with the attacks on the Alliance party by brain dead loyalist thugs to make comparisons with the shinners is and donate a full post to them which seems to be excusing the twats with the interesting line ,that sure themmuns have only been condemning outright Dissidence violence for the last six years or so, which is six years longer than unionists have been condemning loyalist violence outright (Peter, Jim and your man from the UUP are still keeping us waiting for their Masserine moment and they cannot claim they have not had the opportunity)
    I liked your idea that a problem stopping unionists from doing anything about Loyalists and the slowness of loyalists to give up the criminal lifestyle is that there are two set of loyalist terrorists/criminals, care to explain how exactly that makes more difficult for unionist politicians to speak out against them.

  • Barry the Blender

    Of course the Alliance Party put Washington to shame. They put us all to shame. They are superior to all of mankind, as they keep reminding us.