Peter Robinson: “We must learn to communicate better…”

Interesting comments reported by the BBC from the Northern Ireland First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, speaking at a Co-Operation Ireland dinner at Queen’s University in Belfast on Thursday night.  From the BBC report

Mr Robinson said that while it is easier and more comfortable for politicians and people in wider society to retreat to safe and familiar ground, that is not the ground where progress will be made.

“I am entirely convinced that a shared and united society in Northern Ireland is the only way forward for all of us,” said Mr Robinson.

“I would not be here tonight, or be involved in politics at all, if I were not personally committed to making progress in Northern Ireland.

“Anyone who believes that there is a better alternative to the political process we are engaged in simply doesn’t understand reality.

“Finding solutions is easier said than done. Progress can be slow – frustratingly slow. And when two steps forward are followed by one step back it is easy to become disillusioned and forget how far we have come.

“I am absolutely convinced that ‘respect’ is the key to progress. And that ‘understanding’ is the key to ‘respect’.

Understanding requires us all to listen as well as talk. There is a difference between listening and merely hearing. Sometimes I feel that unionists say one thing, but nationalists hear something else. I’m certain the reverse is also the case. We must learn to communicate better.” [added emphasis]

As a diagnosis of the problem here, it’s a reasonable attempt.  Even if it leans on the dialogue of  “White men can’t jump”…

But Sinn Féin and the DUP have been communicating directly at the heart of the NI Executive since the Assembly was restored in 2007.

If there is still a failure to communicate between those two political parties, then that failure rests within OFMDFM and any resultant political dysfunction is their combined responsibility.

Whether that is because those involved are not communicating honestly, or do not have the authority to communicate on behalf of their respective parties, is a different problem.

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  • BarneyT

    I’d like to believe Peter but sadly he has lost all credibility. Lets look at how he communicates with his constituents , by distributing alliance simulated literature designed to generate fear and I’m sure in his mind, mobilise the great unwashed of east Belfast. I see no respect directed towards these people, and as far as I can see the manipulation of the Protestant working class is still an instrument that unionist politicians are always prepared to play. That’s the level of communication and respect we’ve become used to seeing from Peter when we’re not deafened by his ill timed silence on matters of significance

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m reminded of Charles II “who never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one,” replying that “This is very true: for my words are my own, and my actions are my ministers.”

    Peter’s words appear to have been scripted by a collection of savvy advisors who are well versed in the policy concepts behind the pre GFA (see Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland” [1997] for an excellent discussion of most of these ideas) while his much discussed failure to sustain a working partnership between his party and SF eloquently speaks for how little effort he is allowed to put into making these good intentions that have been placed in his mouth a vital reality.

  • Delphin

    PR’s speech sounds good and is hard to take exception to, but in reality most SF/DUP supporters embrace ‘separate development’ so communication is likely to be shouting from inside the laager.
    I would view this as an attempt to increase support for the DUP among traditional UUP supporters, and am not convinced by his apparent reasonableness.
    As John Locke said,
    “I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts”

  • “his much discussed failure to sustain a working partnership between his party and SF”

    Seaan, it does take two to tango and SF isn’t really able to influence a change in DUP actions by practising this approach: ‘a culture of bullying and innuendo accompanied any desire to engage in reasoned political debate’. I wonder if the DUP operates a similar in-house style.

    The resignation followed the failure of the SF councillor to be selected as a candidate in the super-council election so that pulls some of the sting out of her comments but doesn’t nullify them.

  • “But Sinn Féin and the DUP have been communicating directly at the heart of the NI Executive since the Assembly was restored in 2007.”

    Pete, ‘horse-trading’ is probably a more apt description of the relationship.

    “any resultant political dysfunction is their combined responsibility.”

    Partly their responsibility; you shouldn’t discount the actions of the NIO and its Parades Commission off-shoot. The political dysfunction flows mainly from the constitutional tug-of-war.

  • “Interesting comments reported by the BBC”

    and there’s more.

  • redstar2011

    We have all seen Robinsons form of communication with the disgraceful and rabble rousing leaflet drop re Alliance

  • Neil

    Ach leave him be, he can afford to be reasonable in October. The parading season is over, kind of. The rabble usually disperses around this time of the year and Robbo can talk like this before things start building to the July crescendo. But the rabble’s not gone away this year Robbo me old son. The traders and citizens of Belfast will continue to pay for that leaflet this winter you can bet on it.

  • Neil[11.09]He’s been communicating only too effectively in recent times especially his lack of backbone in the face of those in his party who pull his strings. The strategy behind whipping up the mob last winter was to offset the lack of unionist clout in Belfast City Hall, and set down an implied threat to councillors not to apply the changing demographic by bringing out the UVF and his other fellow travellers to freeze the voting margins but it’s too late. Only two more seats for nationalists and Alliance won’t need to fear any more attacks as they won’t hold the balance.

  • Interesting comments reported by the BBC from the Northern Ireland First Minister,…

    The BBC also has lost the battle to stay relevant and mindlessly accepted as a fair and equitable voice of reason and sanity, rather than as a blunt tool for status quo continuity of inequalities, in these new times and spaces of internetworking communicating communities. Information is power and there is precious little of new value ever shared by either of the two parties spoken of here.

    The emperors have no clothes, and it is not a pretty sight to hear them think the masses be stupid enough to believe their tired out-moded and dim-witted rhetoric, which identifies them as the enemy and no friend of the future?

  • Granni Trixie

    I would love to think that PR had had an epiphany and meant what he said.but we have been here before so it would be foolish to do so.

    What he says is revealing in another way – his speech demonstrates he has a thick skin – to thnk that the public will easily forget his lack of leadership this year over the policing of flag demonstrations etc. I think it also speaks volumes that in 2013 he points to going to a Catholic funeral and attending GAA events as signs if progress. Infact if I had been a GAA supporter I would have found his tone patronising and the content demonstrating ignorance and ill founded prejudice.

    Come to think of it, his speech conveys that th DUP have been going backwards or playing catch up on ordinary people.

  • sherdy

    Robbo has proved this year that he cannot or will not honour a written agreement, so why should we place any credence in what he said after a GAA dinner.
    Had one of those sneaky diners maybe spiked his drink and that will be his ‘get out of jail’ card?

  • Morpheus

    I actually believe that this is the true Peter Robinson, a man who knows the direction that he needs to take Unionism but simply won’t be able to take his party with him. If the OO don’t get exactly what they want out of the Haass talks – no restrictions to do whatever they want whenever they want and where ever they want – then it will be the neigh on 50% of Unionist MLAs who are in the Loyal Orders who will decide his fate. The “Not an inch” mentality is alive and well.

  • Pete Baker

    And then there are those who don’t want to listen, never mind hear.

    As for the willfully ignorant…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, “Seaan, it does take two to tango and SF isn’t really able to influence a change in DUP actions by practising this approach: ‘a culture of bullying and innuendo accompanied any desire to engage in reasoned political debate’.”

    I couldn’t agree more, but this ongoing exercise in mutual loathing and recrimination is not how the world sees it. Even after GAs loathsome behaviour over Áine’s abuse, my American friends still see SF as the “reasonable” party and the DUP as smeared with Lord Bannside’s old Dr No image even after his attempts at self-recreation. And most fear that rather than (Morpheus) “Peter Robinson, [being] a man who knows the direction that he needs to take Unionism but simply won’t be able to take his party with him,” he is in fact a man who knows what the world wants to hear from a reformed Unionist leader even if he is unable to “deliver” the loyalists to the degree everyone hoped he would .

  • Seaan, what the world thinks is of little relevance. Those who wish to take down the Peter and Martin double act might well deliver more ‘disjoint’ Direct Rule – and water tax 😉

  • Unfortunately what Peter probably means is that “themmuns” need to communicate better. I say that because he has not communicated to any of us what he feels about the shenanigans of the past 12 months, almost. Not once.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    GAA TV commentator Joe Brolly certainly know how to communicate.

    “it is “nobody else’s business” if GAA clubs or tournaments are named after dead republican paramilitaries”.

    “Mr Brolly said he was “proud” that a hurling club in his home town Dungiven was named after the INLA hunger striker Kevin Lynch, who was a club member.

    “It’s nobody else’s business – it’s as simple as that. People can either like it or lump it,” he said.

    “That’s the way societies and communities work. Kevin played hurling for Dungiven and for Derry, and the hurling club was named for that reason. We’re very proud of him.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-24584058

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Here is another little nugget from Joe Brolly “The GAA is working furiously at cross-community relations, as far as that’s possible,”.

    And the naming of a GAA team after an INLA hunger striker is a perfect example of the GAA’s cross-community relations..

  • sherdy

    Peter, – Good speech, now lets hear you make the same speech in east Belfast or at Camp Twaddle!

  • GEF

    Looks like Robbo has has read your request sherdy.

    “Robinson challenges unionists to shed ‘siege mentality’ to overcome problems”

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/robinson-challenges-unionists-to-shed-siege-mentality-to-overcome-problems-29672093.html

  • Mc Slaggart

    ArdoyneUnionist

    “And the naming of a GAA team after an INLA hunger striker is a perfect example of the GAA’s cross-community relations..”

    yes, you know republicans are part of the community.

  • BluesJazz

    There’s actually a tacky placard in Dungiven, on a suburban lamppost, with a Scooby Doo type image of
    Lynch. (Check Wikipedia). Complete waster.
    I actually think it’s a good thing that GAA clubs are named after hoods. Even suicidal ones.

    pour encourager les autres

  • Comrade Stalin

    AU,

    I agree with you, Joe Brolly should have held his tongue. The naming of clubs is not a private matter when an organization is receiving public money and public support.

    Regarding Robinson’s comments .. taken at face value they are exactly what we need; but placed into context they are hard to take seriously given the events of the past 12 months. Robinson needs to lead by example and he hasn’t been doing that.

  • sherdy

    If we’re diverting to Joe Brolly – yes, he was out of line. He sounded more like one of the floggers or a Twaddle camper.

  • BluesJazz

    sherdy
    Brolly openly admired a sectarian psychopath like Kevin Lynch.
    That speaks volumes about the GAA in that area. I hope other areas are not quite so naked in their hatred .
    Not really cricket….

  • It’s actually very stupid to say that. If people decide that it’s their business, then it’s their business.

  • Sam Maguire

    Interesting that there’s nothing said about Jim Allister’s comments this morning on Nolan whereas the usual suspects jump on what Brolly said with massive glee and hand wringing

  • Sam Maguire[1156]It’s the usual desperate whataboutery. UTV and BBC are DUP/TUV/UUP. They follow the same minset. Jim Allister is living still in 1970. And most of the DUP are still living in the late 70s, and Robbo is, at heart with them, but feels the need to appear to be in the present day, but his heart isn’t in it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Sam Maguire

    Is it really that interesting?

    As in Grim Jim is known as someone who wants a return to ‘the good old days’ whereas the GAA is getting kudos for it’s community work.

    So, Jim saying something unhelpful is nothing new or even newsworthy (on the contrary if he said something nice about the GAA it would be front page material) but a former GAA player coming out with such an outburst will be seen by many as ‘letting the mask slip’ and exposing the ‘true nature’ of the GAA.

    The GAA is pretty much still a cold house for Unionists despite the odd (welcomed) gesture.

    Unionist suggestions as to how it could be more welcoming are either ignored, palmed off or in the case of Brolly whole heartedly condemned.

    Likewise suggestions as to how Loyalist bands could be less offensive less offensive are also ignored, palmed off, coddled in whataboutery if not whole heartedly condemned/argued against e.g. Jamie Bryson.

    Granted, they’re not mirror images of each other but they’re both a large part of either community so dismissing the comparisons because one is a sporting body and the other one is something seemingly more malignant (or honest?) is a bit of a kop out.

  • Granni Trixie

    I am v disappointed that a well educated person like Joe Brolly does not appear to appreciate how insensitive his words are to many in NI,bad for community relations and disloyal to the GAA and cooperation Ireland who obviously were trying to improve the toxic climate between communities. It seemed to be such a deliberately destructive act to speak out as he did. Something must lie behind it or was he just in mega bad form.?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Granni – well put. It is very disappointing, especially given that the GAA are putting their money where their mouth is and trying to show leadership in the way that Robbo highlighted.

    Daniel, I don’t think it’s right to say that the BBC are unionists just because they broadcast the opinions of Jim Allister. They’re required to give all of the viewpoints an airing and, sad as it is to say, Allister is a major figure in politics and has a right to be heard.

    While I’m on the subject of Allister, I noted that a couple of days ago he chose to bring up the issue of Barra McGrory’s status as a barrister for Gerry Adams during his legal career prior to his appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions. It reminded me of how everyone here criticized me for bringing up Allister’s legal career, and his choice of clients, prior to being elected as an MLA.

  • Mick Fealty

    Have you a link to that CS, I didn’t see it? But are you sure you are not up to a little bit of a self justification run there?

    He has certainly raised legitimate questions about what Adams was up to when he rather forcefully relinquished privilege to try and dob poor Barra in for allegedly giving him (the client) advice to delay disclosure of evidence to the PSNI.

  • Comrade Stalin[10.56] It’s not based on the BBC’s airing the views of Allister that I describe them as unionists but their general track record in the troubles especially their coverage of the UDA/UWC strike in 1974. Kate Adie even expressed surprise on first arriving here to cover the hunger strikes in 1981, that there were then no catholics employed by Ormeau ave. Talking of sunny Jim, i notice that when he’s been on one of his rants on audience episodes of spotlight, he is nearly always received in silence, which must curl his lip even more than usual.

  • Mick Fealty

    Erm Dan, Seamus was working for the BBC whilst still teaching English at St Pats Knock. And I left in 78.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Daniel,

    I’ve trouble with that idea. 1974 was a long time ago. Denis Murray (a fellow Malachian) was in the BBC in 1982 and started off in a reasonably senior role before moving on to become their “Ireland correspondent” (note – not “Northern Ireland correspondent” – the BBC in London apparently did not place much stock in partition).

    These days unionists constantly complain about BBC bias towards nationalism (of course, that isn’t new). Edwin Poots was ranting on Facebook about Nolan’s bias the other day. The thing you’re saying about the audience on Spotlight would be held, by some, to be evidence that it is packed by the BBC with people who are hostile to the TUV.

    Mick:

    this.

    The implication of Allister’s question is that the DPP’s partiality could be effected by the fact that he represented Adams in the past in his capacity as a barrister.

    Stones, glass houses, etc.

  • Mick. It was in the UTV doc ‘The Troubles I’ve Seen’ that I heard Adie emphatically state with some incredulity, that local BBC weren’t employing catholics, and I had lived away from here since two years in 1981 so KA was my only source for that, I stand corrected. It was after being temporarily unemployed during the strike that I was listening to the daily strike roundup coming up to the NI news at five to one, on what was then the NI Radio 4 and most of their info was dependent on the UDA. I’m not sure if the change of name to Radio Ulster in January the following year was thought necessary by the BBC to regain credibility after that. The source for that I got from the book, ‘Making Sense of the Troubles by David McKittrick jointly with another writer.

  • Comrade Stalin[11.49] I, like many others back in the 70s, often heard people of our parent’s generation commenting on likelihood of victims of the troubles being of either faith based on surnames, and gathered that Denis Murray was unlikely to be Catholic but there you go. I’ve never thought the BBC packed it’s audiences with selective bias and even the controversial Nolan tv show which was invaded by flag protesters, I thought wasn’t deliberate, so I’m not presuming bias in genreral from BBC.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Daniel,

    I know you did not think that (selective bias) but just pointing out that no small number of unionists think that the BBC is hostile to them.

    Of course, no small number of unionists think that everyone is hostile to them so it’s hardly a unique situation.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin,

    “Seaan, what the world thinks is of little relevance.”

    I’m afraid I have to strongly disagree. It’s the outside world (GB, ROI, USA, EU) that has externally framed the terms upon which “the Peter and Martin double act” function, not we ourselves. How they perceive what is going on here will determine the precise details of exactly how we are governed as long as we rely on the hard cash outsiders provide to even allow a local administration to exist.

  • Mick Fealty

    CS, note it is related to the same case… And since his former client has waived privilege, the DPP is legally free to make a statement on the matter…

    Whether he wants to that or not, is another matter… whichever way round it is Mr Adams who put him in this awkward position, you cannot shoot Mr Allister as the messenger…

    You were trying to colour Jim for the fact he had defended other you hold as being dodgy clients. Under the law everyone is entitled to representation within the judicial system.

    Thankfully.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    CS, note it is related to the same case…

    Same case as what ? What do you mean ?

    And since his former client has waived privilege, the DPP is legally free to make a statement on the matter…

    Indeed. You understand that I am not suggesting Allister has no right to draw attention to this issue. He is highlighting what is, at face value, a legitimate conflict of interest concern.

    You were trying to colour Jim for the fact he had defended other you hold as being dodgy clients.

    I do not see what colouring you are talking about. Jim Allister in his role as a barrister defended one person in particular who was subsequently convicted of sectarian murder – a particularly nasty one, too. This is a fact. Now if Jim is going to go around suggesting that McGrory’s status as Adams’ legal counsel in the past creates some sort of problem or controversy, doesn’t the same question apply to him when he takes the mantle of victims or justice for himself ?

    Under the law everyone is entitled to representation within the judicial system.

    Thankfully.

    Indeed. Who is arguing otherwise ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    I might also add that Jim is asking the DPP to clarify the “clarify precisely the nature and content of his conversations with Mr Adams”. Does Allister really have an expectation that attorney-client privilege is going to be breached by McGrory ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Duh, because Adams waived his privileges. My mistake.

  • Seaan, we seem to have different perceptions of ‘the world’. I view it as that part of the globe beyond the likes of London and Dublin which are intimately involved – and to a much lesser extent the USA and the EU.

    Anyone familiar with my mitherings will appreciate that I’ll welcome any London and Dublin input which I consider to be in the NI public interest just as I’ll expose hypocrisy and other shenanigans which place NI in a lesser state than the rest of these islands. In this context, I’ve been disappointed whenever the MSM has shown a lack of backbone; when it has altered the news, presumably at the behest of governments.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Comrade Stalin

    “The naming of clubs is not a private matter when an organization is receiving public money and public support.”

    “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;”

    Shakespeare

    What law could you use to stop them getting money. A ban on things called after mass murdering Republicans?

    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
    Oliver Cromwell

  • sherdy

    Blues Jazz, – I assumed Joe Brolly was speaking on his own behalf, not on behalf of the GAA in that area. He is only one member, and like it or not, he is entitled to air his personal viewpoint.
    Just as Willie Frazer speaks as a ‘victim’ but I wouldn’t like to think that he speaks on behalf of all victims, God help his wit.

  • BluesJazz

    sherdy
    I’m aware of that, but he didn’t do the GAA any favours.

  • Framer

    I can’t believe Kate Adie would have made such an inaccurate statement about no Catholics being in BBC NI in 1981. If she did she is letting herself and the BBC down.
    Perhaps she meant no republicans. Or no unionists.

  • Mc Slaggart

    BluesJazz

    “I’m aware of that, but he didn’t do the GAA any favours.”

    ?

    I think dear “Joe” made it clear that republicans are not going to change the name of their clubs.

    As republicans exist what do you want the “GAA” to do about it?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “As republicans exist what do you want the “GAA” to do about it?”

    Putting their money where their mouth is would be a start…

    http://amgobsmacked.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/a-shared-future-as-long-as-we-get.html

  • Neil

    Peter needs to learn how to communicate with the Loyalist rabble, preferably not through the medium of Alliance yellow leaflets (directing people to an MP over a BCC decision). Maybe an idea would be to try to sell the idea that you can lose a battle but still win a war. For example the British policy on flags could be implemented at Belfast City Hall, but the constitutional status would remain unchanged.

    It would be better to educate your community on what to expect as the balance of power continues to shift away from Unionism, instead of doing your level best to seed and encourage that old siege mentality paranoia. They took a victory and sold it as a defeat, some might think it was in some way related to “Peter’s” East Belfast seat and unseating Naomi Long. If so that would be a cynical display of a massive lack of respect for the intelligence of the electorate there, especially those who didn’t necesasarily appreciate months of increased sectarian tensions coupled with protests, riots and local shops and jobs dying on their arse.

  • longoldlane

    If Kevin Lynch was a child molester and a good footballer, would the ground still be named after him??
    so were do you draw the line??

  • Mc Slaggart

    Am Ghobsmacht

    “Putting their money where their mouth is would be a start…”

    What are you on about? How would you like them to spend their money differently?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Mc S

    “What are you on about? How would you like them to spend their money differently?”

    So, it’s like that is it?

    The Seamus Heaney thread must have been way over your head…

  • Mc Slaggart

    Am Ghobsmacht

    The GAA offer their facilities to all people and you object to that?

    Rain comes down through the alders,
    Its low conducive voices
    Mutter about let-downs and erosions
    And yet each drop recalls

    The diamond absolutes.
    I am neither internee nor informer;
    An inner émigré, a grown long-haired
    And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

    Escaped from the massacre,
    Taking protective colouring
    From bole and bark, feeling
    Every wind that blows;

    BTW
    http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-support-cappagh-d-1/