The fear of ‘them’: “They start a process of neutralisation” and then “they start imposing their Irish language [and] their Sinn Fein republican agenda onto everyone”

The UUP suffer from the same problem as their larger rival: there’s a tension between the leader’s more moderate language and the more traditional and hard line rhetoric of other elected representatives.

Here’s a portion from Mike Nesbitt’s speech as party leader:

[Mike Nesbitt] I say this to the pro-Union community: It is time to get on the front foot. Be confident. But be generous too. I am not the sort of Unionist who feels threatened by an Irish Tricolour. I subscribe to the paraphrase of what the great Ulster poet, John Hewitt, once said about being an Ulsterman, an Irishman, British and European.

Ulsterman, Irishman, British and European. It’s a much more complicated, but honest world view than the old orange or green, protestant or catholic. It is where I am.

I am British – but I do not want to miss out on the Irishness within me – the sort of Irishness which means I think very unchristian thoughts about the England rugby team when they are in Dublin!

Earlier in the day, forty five minutes of the conference had been allocated to a debate on RPA. Proposing the motion (that was against the 11 council model), Cllr Trevor Wilson questioned the reports being used to justify the change and said that the new model would share out super councils amongst the DUP and Sinn Fein. (About five minutes of contributions weren’t recorded.)

Ald Michael Henderson explained that the RPA’s “spend to save” model meant the savings would be made over twenty years.

Sure most of us will be dead!

An unfortunate remark given the care organisers had taken to place some youthful voices on the stage. Many councillors got up to speak against the current RPA proposals.

Tom Elliott wound up the debate – both in terms of closing it and upping the emotion and fear factor – with a speech that played the sectarian joker card that some unionists (and nationalists) seem to carry to shift any waverers over the finish line. See how this compares with Mike Nesbitt’s remarks above.

The Ulster Unionist Party acknowledges that local government does need to be reformed … and it was the Ulster Unionist Party that started this process …

This is just a grubby DUP/Sinn Fein carve-up. I can’t put it any simpler. We heard other speakers explain how the 15 model came about … in clear terms however you look at it is a carve-up. Council reform will cost some money. The estimates of the PWC reports said it’ll cost £118 million. Information is suggesting that it could cost actually upwards and double of that.

Who will pay for it? You and me the ratepayer will pay for it.

Let us just look at some of those carve-ups … Three council areas – Fermanagh/Omagh, Londonderry/Strabane and the Mid-Ulster – I am pretty sure that those three will be dominated by Sinn Fein. It is more than likely they will have overall control of those three council areas. What does that mean for unionism in general? Let alone Ulster Unionism? What does that mean for delivering cross-border bodies and institutions? … this will give them more power to do that. It’s almost a repartition of Northern Ireland. That’s what we’re looking at. That’s what we’re facing.

Suddenly the rational arguments about cost and service delivery went out the window and it was brought back to the emotional issue of a flag.

… I believe the biggest sin in this reform is how Belfast is being treated for unionism. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure that the Union flag would fly on Belfast City Hall 365 days. But is that going to happen? No. And let me tell you people of Belfast, taking the flag down off Belfast City Hall is only the start of it. Just wait to you see what it is like in ten years time, in fifteen years time. They will start a process. We’ve been through this in Fermanagh. Strabane have been through it. Londonderry have been through it.

Someone’s very scared of ‘the other’. Tom Elliott adopted the language of ‘they’ and ‘their’.

They start a process of neutralisation – “we want this a neutral space” – but then what comes next? Once they get it neutral they start imposing their dictatorial issues. They will start imposing their Irish language. They will start imposing their Sinn Fein republican agenda onto everyone.

The Haass talks team will have a field day with Tom Elliott’s analysis of ‘them’.

It’s an expression of fear that is very unhelpful; yet the underlying fear needs to be addressed and stamped out. Parties need to agree both to stop demonising each other and to put in place a settlement in which they guarantee not to allow one cultural expression to dominate all others.

It’s also at odds with Mike Nesbitt’s later call to be “on the front foot”, “confident” and “generous”.

Back to Tom Elliott and RPA …

That is what this reform of public administration is going to do. It is unfortunate that the Ulster Unionist Party were not in a position to follow this through and carry it forward. But the voters have spoken over the last few elections. They made their decision and I am confident that those voters will see how this needs to change. How not only in the west of the province we need support, how the unionist people of the west of the province need support, but also how the unionist people of Belfast need support.

The UUP’s nineteen councillors in Armagh, Craigavon, Lisburn and Newry & Mourne won’t thank Tom Elliott for his next comment:

I know that Lisburn and Newry and indeed Armagh and Craigavon are referred to as cities. But to me the two cities of Northern Ireland is still Belfast and Londonderry. And just remember when this reform of public administration goes through the two capital cities of Northern Ireland will be republican. What message is that sending out for the unionist people of Northern Ireland?

Note that the UUP have three councillors in Belfast, and just one on Derry City Council.

Amongst other sessions on Friday afternoon, party delegates were treated to a communications workshop from Billy Dixon, described by Tom Elliott as “a motivator” who had suggested that the party needed to send out its message in “three simple words”.

I’m sorry but I’ve two sets of three words. The first one is STM. Stop This Mess. And the second one is VUU. Vote Ulster Unionist to stop it.

His advice is too little too late given the how far down the line RPA has come and the UUP’s diminishing influence.

The motion opposing the current RPA model was passed unanimously. Not a single hand in the hall went up against it.

, , , , , , ,

  • Neil

    And just remember when this reform of public administration goes through the two capital cities of Northern Ireland will be republican. What message is that sending out for the unionist people of Northern Ireland?

    They’ll be Republican with or wothout RPA. Yesterday’s men. I’m sure McCrea and McAllister are breathing a sigh of relief now, they made the right decision.

  • Morpheus

    I would hate to live in Elliot’s dark, dark world with bogeymen around every corner.

  • “The fear of ‘them’” .. “upping the emotion and fear factor” .. “It’s an expression of fear that is very unhelpful; yet the underlying fear needs to be addressed and stamped out.” .. Alan

    This language reminds me of some words by John Hume in reference to unionists:

    .. they hark back to the past and speak of the future only with fear and foreboding, a paranoia … a siege mentality, rooted in insecurity, in prejudice, in fear of domination .. “Personal Views” p27

    They also remind me of some recent words by a young woman in Ballycastle when I mentioned the Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival:

    I couldn’t go there; I’m a Catholic

    This is a real expression of fear and foreboding whereas Tom’s words relate more to a recognition that militant nationalism has greatly diminished its use of physical violence to force a constitutional switch but attrition in the form of anti-unionist activities continues.

    I don’t see ‘stamping’ by ‘others’ having much impact on the tug-of-war tussle; it’s likely to be swatted away by the more muscular participants.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “They will start imposing their Irish language. They will start imposing their Sinn Fein republican agenda onto everyone.”

    “Their Irish language”???? – Carson must be turning in his grave. Again.

  • Nevin – It’s not a recognition of the role of “militant nationalism” whatever that is. Alan makes a very clear statement of how the use of “fear” in the oratory and rhetoric of militant unionism and other forms of unionism is counter-productive to its own ends. I happen to agree with that.
    \
    Just by saying continually that “they” are evil and out to get you and eat your children doesn’t make it true in the real world – just in a makey-uppy world inhabited by unfortunates. I am certain if we got to talk to people who say this stuff on a “human level” we would find that they have very little negative experience of the “other” in real terms but mostly in abstract, vague, generalisations.

    I am certain that where there are real examples of face to face antagonism that it would be condemned by nationalist politicians of all hues.

    The more it goes on the less chance for engagement, the less chance for change to happen, just more entrenchment.

  • Greenflag

    Elliot’s use of ‘fear’ is nothing new in NI politics or indeed in politics anywhere from Weimar Republic days to Churchill’s 1945 fear for the future of Britain if that much to be modest about Mr Attlee the socialist became British Prime Minster .

    Mike Nesbitt is at least trying to look forward but Mr Elliot can only look back in anger . And it won’t do him or any of his acolytes any good in fact it will only make matters worse and make the future in NI or it’s successor state more problematical than it needs to be .

    If he’s truly worried about how the Irish language is/will be imposed on those who consider themselves non Irish he should take a trip down to Dublin (only an hour and a half ) and talk to some recent Polish , Chinese or British etc recent immigrants and see how much they ‘fear ‘ .

    Fear like beauty is in the mind of the beholder . I’d guess those who have caused others to fear must fear more than those who haven’t . That Karma thing again ?

  • Michael, I’m challenging the inappropriate use of the ‘fear’ label. Controlled attrition was endorsed by Gerry Adams in his speech in Athboy. However, the regulation of that attrition is and will be far from easy to manage as is and will be the unionist reaction. I’ve given one real example of that fear and to some extent it’s a measure of the fall-out from the attrition strategy but all of this IMO flows from the unresolved constitutional question.

    Mike Nesbitt gets a more favourable spin yet AFAIK made no accommodation for the nationalist aspiration; he also gave the vested interests in education a good kicking.

  • “They will start a process”

    Nationalists seek a UI so it’s hardly surprising that a variety of means will be used to advance it. There’s been an element of farce surrounding the transformation of the UK City of Culture to the Ireland City of Culture via Derry-Londonderry City of Culture. Perhaps the most amusing image for me was the attendance of the DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr at the London promotion in the Irish embassy 🙂

  • First the ‘fear’ and now the ‘eat your children’. What’s the point of all this hype?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Elliott is right in that this is coming. The legal advice which any council is given will be the same – that the designated days flag policy is the only way to fly a union flag without violating workplace neutrality legislation; and the local government legislation means that councillors who refuse to vote for the legal advice will be held personally liable in the event of a successful legal action being taken against the council.

    The trouble for Elliott and those who think like he does is that there is not a damn thing they can do about it. It’s the law of the land.

    However, the flip side of this is that the same legislation prevents any over the top displays of nationalist symbolism. This will likely keep at bay any possibility of Sinn Féin dressing up councils to look like they’re in a Gaeltacht, even on the councils they control. And a good thing too.

  • Morpheus

    I disagree – Elliot is not right that this is coming CS. There is absolutely no reason to assume that anyone will be imposing the Irish language or a Sinn Fein republican agenda onto anyone. The right to chose will be there in the future and no change of demographics will change that. Anyone can choose to learn Irish in the same way they can choose to learn Spanish, French or German and everyone will have the choice to vote Sinn Fein or not.

    His comments are just scaremongering, paranoid BS.

  • DC

    How about this for a trade…

    union flag flying 365 days from council and government buildings in conjunction with agreement on some sort of Irish Language Act of decent quality?

  • DC

    and the tricolour to be inside stormont, inside the assembly with the union flag up 365 outside.

  • Morpheus

    A decent Irish Language Act is coming regardless, that is not a bargaining chip

  • Mick Fealty

    Not sure where Mike sees the open space this is going to take him into, it will play well with border protestants perhaps, but after that..?

  • I am not at all convinced by the “sectarian carve-up” argument.

    The fact is that SF are already the biggest party in every council in the former County Tyrone, plus Fermanagh, and have an unprecedented overall majority in Magherafelt. What difference does it really make if they get those results in three enlarged councils, or in seven smaller ones as at present?

    I’m not wholly convinced by the argument that the RPA will save money in the long run either, but I can see a pretty obvious difference between a combined total of 120 councillors under the new system and the 144 for the present seven districts.

    The reason that certain parties win elections is that people vote for them, and changing the council boundaries is not going to make much of a difference. I agree with Tom Elliott’s prediction that Unionists in general, and the UUP in particular, are not likely to dominate west of the Bann in the next council elections; but that’s not because of local government reform, that’s because fewer people are voting for them.

  • Charles_Gould

    I was about to post something similar to Nicholas’s post:

    Elliot’s argument seems to be that the councils being larger makes Sinn Féin’s dominance more likely. I can’t see this; if anything a larger council is likely to make the dominance of any one party less likely because it averages out pockets of strength. It is small councils that are most likely to be dominated by a single party.

    I am very skeptical of the larger councils for a different reason to that of Tom Elliott: these new councils are not natural (they are designed to be a similar population size). So you have some odd shapes and combinations.

    The reduction of 24 councillors seems a small reduction, and could have been achieved without fewer councils..

    Moreover, cost savings would be possible without merger; the councils could have shared facilities and admin staff.

  • Rory Carr

    … Vote Ulster Unionist to stop it.

    That’s six words. I’m pretty sure – I had to go on to my second hand to count them.

  • HammerTime

    Nevin and DC – Most nationalists have no real affiliation with the Irish tricolour and do not want a UI.

  • HammerTime

    Add this to nearly every Unionist….the idea of a Tri-colour flying side by side with the Union flag at city hall/Stormont, is laughable.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    If we allow them to get off their bellies and on to their knees, pretty soon they’re going to want to stand up. If they can stand up whats going to stop them doing to us, what we did to them?

    And that is what unionism is built on. Fear and paranoia. Sustainable in the 19th century supported by british imperialists and strategic needs. Not so in a pluralist, liberalist, secularist europe.

    The problem is that they are so far down this route and so many are invested in it that they cannot back out.

    Political unionism will cut a deal with Dublin with Londons blessing in 20 years rather than live ‘under’ Sinn Fein controlled councils. It will be too late then, but they are generally 20 years behind the curve. Their position is not going to get stronger, only more extreme and less supportable.

  • Submariner

    HammerTime (profile) 20 October 2013 at 3:28 pm
    Nevin and DC – Most nationalists have no real affiliation with the Irish tricolour and do not want a UI.

    Really? that would make them unionists then

  • cynic2

    “that would make them unionists then”

    ….well the polls do suggest that but perhaps they have a more sophisticated view on what nationalism means in the case of Northern irekland

  • cynic2

    Ah yea,,,,,,we will all be dead before the RPA is implemented fully ……… well that is the fermanagh perspective and the UUPs further demonstration of its inability to manage a whelk cart

  • DC

    ‘Nevin and DC – Most nationalists have no real affiliation with the Irish tricolour and do not want a UI.’

    Come on here and you learn something fascinating.

    Just as fascinating as LAD being non-political.

  • cynic2

    Nicolas

    Why 120? We need about 30 bit all those hungry political mouths need to be fed.

    As a taxpayer its like wading through a pond and coming out covered in leaches. Green ones, orange ones, yellow ones —- all the same

  • cynic2

    “I would hate to live in Elliot’s dark, dark world with bogeymen around every corner.”

    Naw….his really dark world is populated by fears on chicken cage size and images of Arleen as First Minister

  • JR

    In Britain the trend is very much towards protecting and preserving the indigenous celtic languages of Manx, Welsh, Scots Gaeilic and Cornish and has been for decades. If Unionists here wanted to prove their “Britishness” they would be doing more of this and would be less worried about how many tattered union jacks are flying throughout the countryside. For a people who profess to be British they aren’t very British at all.

  • AG,

    You don’t have to that far back. The last PM of N.I., Brian Faulkner was also a fluent speaker as a heckler found out when he threw a question in Irish to him and he replied in Irish.

  • And before you know it, everyone will have their rothaí bin emptied by an Irish speaking dustman.

  • Cynic – I don’t have a particular brief for 120. As a matter of fact my local council here in Belgium has 21 members for a population of 11,000, which works out at a councillor for every 520 inhabitants – at that rate the western districts of NI would have not 120 or 144 but over 750 elected representatives.

    Our council does do a few things that Northern Ireland councils don’t, notably, running the state schools, substantial chunks of health and social services, and running the ID card register and issuing passports. I’d be surprised if that was really worth 21 people overseeing it, but I’ve made the point before that at the last election we had 89 candidates (and only 7908 voters – more than 1% of the electorate was on the ballot paper!), whereas Omagh, which also has 21 councillors and almost five times the population, had only 30 candidates, so clearly there is a certain level of popular engagement here.

    The seven western districts of Norn Iron (soon to become three) have a combined population of 400,000 according to the 2011 census, and I agree that it isn’t a huge difference whether the ratio of inhabitants to councillors is 1:3300 as is proposed, or 1:2800 as at present. 120 is obviously less than 144, but equally obviously not much less. Presumably there are some economies of scale in closing / merging four out of seven town halls, or rather 15 out of 26 across NI; I’m a little sceptical, but not as much as I am of the idea that it’s all just a “sectarian carve-up”.

  • Anyone care to tell us what the existing or new councils will be responsible for. My council here repairs those roads which are their responsibility (just a few) and clears snow in the winter (a big job). I have to pay extra to have my garbage taken away.

  • Red Lion

    Garbage, Joe? surely you mean rubbish lol

    The elephant in the UUP room is that they slag off the DUP, yet what is the difference in core values between the UUP and the DUP.

    Answer; precious very little.

    What is the point in having 2 parties whose core values are very similar?-they may as well merge into one party and quit the pretence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus,

    I was referring to designated days as being inevitable, not the Irish language matter, which is not at all inevitable.

    The only way an Irish Language Act will happen is if a majority of unionists in the assembly vote for it. You are a braver man than I am if you think there is any prospect of this in the short/medium term.

  • Barnshee


    The reduction of 24 councillors seems a small reduction, and could have been achieved without fewer councils..

    Moreover, cost savings would be possible without merger; the councils could have shared facilities and admin staff.”

    This is the sort of comment that leaves me dumfounded

    The reduction in councils gave a golden opportunity to reduce the albatross of costs associated with Local Government. and it was ducked. If 100 + MLA`s can dish out British Largesse for all of NI I suspect 2 or three dozen “councillors” could perform the same function. for the “councils” Why indeed do we need any “councils”?

    Those slavering at the prospects of a “big job” should be reminded that there is surplus of (especially) senior managers about—and competition might produce lower rather than higher salaries-all round.

    The idea that the party hacks, illiterate economic and otherwise and the placemen/women associated with Local government should have actual powers or influence is frightening.

    Try a compare
    Visit your local dole office- compare the decor- note the cheap flooring furniture decor etc.

    Now visit you local “Town Hall” /”administrative building”

    Note the expensive flooring Italian marble?? the french oak cladding ?? the elegant furnishing and drapes

    Compare and contrast– and imagine what these parasites will do with the taxpayers money if they get a chance.
    Be very afraid

  • Morpheus

    CS, I don’t even see the designated days policy as being inevitable. I think each council should democratically decide which policy they want to adopt on behalf of those whom they were elected to represent – some will go for complete neutrality, some will go designated days and some will go 365. I have no issue with that whatsoever.

    Parades should follow the same logic in my opinion. An ‘unelected quango’ obviously isn’t acceptable so the decision should be put into the hands of locally elected representatives who decide the restrictions, if security deposits are required, who covers policing/cleanup costs etc .

    If it is democratically decided that there shouldn’t be an official Irish Language Act then so be it. That doesn’t stop anyone from learning Irish if they want – or equally they could lean German, Hindi, Mandarin whatever. Do we even need an Irish Language Act despite what Westminster says when you read stories like this?

  • Charles_Gould

    One problem often associated with local democracy is “parochialism”.

    So, in Switzerland that is why women got the vote so very late in some localities.

    This might make a case for larger councils – as proposed.

  • Charles_Gould

    ” the albatross of costs associated with Local Government.”

    Is there a problem of local government inefficiency? To hear some people you would think so, but in NI they don’t seem very lavish. I have heard people say that local govt is a very, very small fraction of public spending.

  • sherdy

    The fear of Them’. And I thought Van Morrison had decommissioned ‘Them’ to go solo.
    But to be serious, how can so many people live in such fear totally unnecessarily? What a life!

  • Bright spark, that young Nesbitt. Ought to go fear.

    Two quick things:

    1. He’s absolutely correct with the an Ulsterman, an Irishman, British and European confused identity. We’ve all been there (though not necessarily in his order or context).

    If he recognises what Hewitt was saying, let me not scorn that:

    I take my stand by the Ulster Names,
    each clean hard name like a weathered stone;
    Tyrella, Rostrevor, are flickering flames:
    the names I mean are the Moy,
    Malone, Strabane, Slieve Gullion and Portglenone.
    Even suppose that each name were freed from legend’s ivy and history’s moss,
    there’d be music still in, say, Carrick-a-Rede,
    though men forgot it’s the rock across the track of salmon from Islay and Ross.
    The names of a land show the heart of the race;
    they move on the tongue like the lilt of a song.
    You say the name and I see the place — Drumbo, Dungannon, Annalong.
    Barony, townland, we cannot go wrong.

    Later in that verse [Ulster Names] he has:

    Let Down be famous for care-tilled earth,
    for the little green hills and the harsh grey peaks,
    the rocky bed of the Lagan’s birth.

    Now — and I’ll happily stand correction here — the Lagan rises high up on Slieve Croob/Sliabh Crúibe.

    We’ve already got the linguistic ambiguity, and we all know — don’t we?— what crubeens are, even without any awareness of the other tradition. The nearby road (again, if I recall correctly) is simply known as “Transmitter Road” — because that is about what it’s there for — which reminds us, or ought to, of “then” and “now”, of how the recent superimposes on the old.

    2. For the life of me, I don’t comprehend why “Unionist” is now “the pro-Union community”. I do hope this isn’t a common usage.

  • Barnshee

    “Is there a problem of local government inefficiency? To hear some people you would think so, but in NI they don’t seem very lavish. I have heard people say that local govt is a very, very small fraction of public spending.”

    Try
    4 councils all within a 15 mile radius each (Coleraine Ballymoney Moyle Limavady) with the full panoply of Chief executives and /or Town clerks Directors (LOL) of Finance, Tourism (chief dog catchers supported by a deputy chief dog catchers) etc etc Truly an offence against the taxpayer.

    “and dogs have fleas that bit’em
    And greater fleas have lesser fleas
    And so on ad finitem”

    This is the “public service” —compare and contrast

  • Mick Fealty

    Slieve Croob isn’t that high up Malc… 😉 But you are correct, of course…

  • “Carrick-a-Rede, though men forgot it’s the rock across the track of salmon”

    Maybe, maybe not. The derivation of Gaelic forms can be problematic – as Ciaran, formerly of this parish, explains. In the local lingo, the final syllable sounds like ‘raid’, not ‘reed’.

  • Charles_Gould

    Barnshee – it doesn’t add up to much, in my opinion, and some of the facilities, services (and personnel) can be shared, as the various London boroughs do. The total share that local govt takes of govt spending is really tiny.

  • aquifer

    Their nerves are completely shot. The Sinners and the DUP have them curled up in the bottom of the trench muttering to themselves.

    Not electable, but no great loss to local governance.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Morpheus, well, you brought the idea of an Irish language act up.

    How do you think it’ll work if parades decisions come down to local councillors ? That is impossible, they won’t agree.

  • Red Lion

    Malcolm, I’verelatively recently started making the distinction between ‘unionist’ and pro-union’, perhaps the emergence of NI21 has emphasised the need for such distinctions.

    Granted, the terms are both technically the same, it would seem

    But ‘unionist’ is too wrapped up in all the negative connotations associated with DUP and UUP – traditional, intransigent, blundering, reactive, narrowminded, unstable, blinded, embarrassing, anti-intellectual, insular and linked to being a protestant etc etc etc.

    Those of us who can’t relate to the above but who still prefer NI in the UK, let us develop different terminology to go with our different worldview from that of the DUP/UUP. ‘Pro-union’ is a start (notwithstanding Nesbitt’s usage of it)

  • Charles_Gould

    Red Lion

    I think “unionist” should be used for pro-union. (Just my view). The Union in question being either that of 1707 or that of 1801, or both.

    Those other things that might relate to Protestantism or Orangeism stand separately from the Union, both in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

    The Alliance party are not unionist in the above sense, as they are neither for nor against these Unions, as I understand it.

  • Charles_Gould

    “How do you think it’ll work if parades decisions come down to local councillors ? That is impossible, they won’t agree.”

    Not sure about that. If they work on a simple majority vote system something gets decided in the end. The problem could be that there could be local tyranny of the majority.

  • …could be…

    Charles, in many, even most, cases, it would be.
    That’s why the two previous tries both included the need for “cross-community” agreement.

  • Charles_Gould

    Mister Joe

    I’d like to see more discussion between OO and residents, perhaps small-group discussions between ordinary OO members and ordinary residents. These would be aimed at relationship building.

  • Charles,
    “I’d like to see more discussion between OO and residents, perhaps small-group discussions between ordinary OO members and ordinary residents”
    Care to define that for us?

  • Agree with BD, Charles. Specifically can you define “ordinary” and how such folk would be “selected”.

  • Charles_Gould

    BD, MJ

    There are a lot of ways it could be done. The aim wouldn’t be deciding on contentious parades as such, it would be to discuss each other’s point of view.

    A cross community selection committee would select the participants from a list of eligible candidates.

    “Small groups” would mean something that is conducive to a good discussion. Perhaps 10 people.

    OO candidates: this would be rank and file people rather than leaders, and people could be drawn more-or-less at random.

    Local residents: could be selected in a similar way to jury service – a random draw from the electoral list in the area – and part of ones responsibilities as a citizen.

    It wouldn’t be compulsory, but could be made attractive by hosting it in an attractive venue with good quality refreshments and food, with release from normal work hours so that the people selected can do this instead of their normal day’s work.

  • qwerty12345

    Good old Tom, providing the Unionists of 1928 with the leadership and vision they need.

  • Am Ghobschacht[10.56] Nesbitt must have be wondering why he bothered after hearing Elliot’s cry for help. Sounds like Elliot thinks Belfast should always be run as a unionist city regardless of the voting strengths of the parties, indeed he probably believes Derry shouldn’t have given up the gerrymandered set up [which London insisted on abolishing].
    In comments yesterday about possible trials of Paras for Bloody Sunday, the predictable line by Greg Jeffrey et al is the the State shouldn’t be held to any higher standard of conduct than the Provos, but credited with good conduct regardless. They want things as in the good old days but realise London won’t let them have that anymore so whingeing is all that’s left to them.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Never ceases to amaze me that fully grown adults can be afraid of a language. A language won’t make you bleed to death through your ears. You can choose to totally ignore it, like a monoglot reading a multi-lingual menu ignores all but his own language.

  • Charles,
    Simply put, I have offered to meet the OO in whatever capacity they wish via an ordinary member on my own site. He was in favour of the idea. No response. I am not a member of any party myself btw. Also representations were made by a third (completely independent)party for themselves and me to visit Twadell. Silence.
    I can substanciate this if required.
    I think most ordinary nationalists would have no hesitation in confronting or discussing issues with the “other side”. I would appreciate if you could supply a contact that we could actually communicate with?

  • Charles_Gould

    Hi Charles. I don’t have any contacts, alas. Perhaps you could just have a chat with the guy on your site?

  • Charles, I have more than one unionist on my site, it keeps me on my toes

  • Mind you, it doesn’t make me any less republican or them Unionist 😉

  • Charles_Gould

    I meant face-to-face.

  • As said I have made the offer, awaiting reply

  • Charles, It should be instructive that not a single unionist has replied on this thread?

  • Reader

    Bangordub: Charles, It should be instructive that not a single unionist has replied on this thread?
    Weren’t you looking for one who can speak for the OO? That will cut down the numbers somewhat.
    Whereas you will enter dialogue with full authority to negotiate on behalf of the Bangor Concerned Residents Association…

  • Ah Reader,
    Finally. Are you an OO member? I think Charles may want a word

  • Reader

    Bangordub: Finally. Are you an OO member?
    Afraid not. I couldn’t jump through the religious hoops, and wouldn’t if I could.
    I think you would have a reasonable expectation that a random poster would engage in a dialogue with a random blogger. It happens all the time on this site.
    But I have no idea why you think an OO representative would want to negotiate with a random blogger. What would you bring to the table but scepticism? Could you strike a deal?

  • Charles_Gould

    Bangordub

    Not sure how many people just sign up for meeting other commenters face to face off blogs.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Droch_Bhuachaill (profile) 21 October 2013 at 3:21 pm
    Never ceases to amaze me that fully grown adults can be afraid of a language. A language won’t make you bleed to death through your ears. You can choose to totally ignore it, like a monoglot reading a multi-lingual menu ignores all but his own language.”

    Especially a language that so many Protestant ancestors spoke.

    I sometimes wonder if unionists like Elliot saw the extent of Gaelic usage by Protestants through history would their heads explode like those wee lemmings in the computer game whenever one ran out of time.

    “SOME OF THE ORIGINAL APPRENTICE BOYS SPOKE IRISH!??!!!!!” *POP!!!!*

  • Alan,

    I think that this demonstrates the difficulty of having a consociational solution like the GFA for a place like NI where federalism isn’t really possible because of residential living patterns–a checkerboard rather than clearly too separate entities as in Belgium–and where there have been decades of terrorism perpetrated by both sides. A settlement based on a voter-pooling scheme in which parties would have to win in a certain percentage of constituencies in order to take their seats would force voters to vote for the moderate or more moderate parties. Consociationalism is built on a coalition of elites i.e. the chuckle brothers, but this is hard to keep up over time when there are rival parties on both sides and rival potential leaders in the ruling parties that all see ethnic outbidding as the ticket to power. Under a vote-pooling scheme we would have a powerful SDLP, UUP and Alliance party in power in the Executive.

    This is what Alliance would have preferred, but the SDLP preferred the consociational route with a North-South council that McGarry and O’Leary were pushing. The UUP (probably other than the McGimpsey brothers and a couple of Trimble aides) didn’t know much about either consociationalism or vote-pooling and just agreed to whatever the SDLP would go along with as soon as the second tier links were kept loose. The result is that the parties are continually turning to outsiders–either the two governments or American mediators–to solve their problems.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Am Ghobsmacht (profile) 22 October 2013 at 1:18 am

    Especially a language that so many Protestant ancestors spoke.

    I sometimes wonder if unionists like Elliot saw the extent of Gaelic usage by Protestants through history would their heads explode like those wee lemmings in the computer game whenever one ran out of time.

    “SOME OF THE ORIGINAL APPRENTICE BOYS SPOKE IRISH!??!!!!!” *POP!!!!*

    Indeed. In the 1901 census for Antrim, 5000 Presbyterians spoke only Irish or Irish and English.

    I remember seeing a photo of a unionist rally in the 1880s where one of the banners read ‘Erin go Bragh’.

    Elliot, however much he tries, cannot deny that the language is part of the linguistic makeup of their history.

    Gaelic is one of the 3 language shared between Ireland and Scotland, and is an ancient link between the two nations. Surely a greater affinity with the language would only strengthen the bonds between the two rather than weaken them?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I remember hearing (“from one who was there”) that there was not a single platoon in the Ulster Division without a few Irish speakers.

    I wonder how many who will be standing at commemorations on July 1st 2016 will know even a single word of the language?

    It always amazes me that the potential gift of access to one of the great literatures of Europe, the heritage of all our people, is so violently rejected by those whose ancestors (on one side or other) must have spoken the language.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    D Bh

    “Gaelic is one of the 3 language shared between Ireland and Scotland, and is an ancient link between the two nations. Surely a greater affinity with the language would only strengthen the bonds between the two rather than weaken them?”

    Yes.

    A thousand times yes.

    I rant about this incessantly: http://amgobsmacked.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/ulster-scot-or-simply-ulster-protestant.html

    (maybe ignore the first bit…)

    The Ulster version of Scottish culture has surgically removed the bits that we share with themuns.

    Goebbels couldn’t have done a better job.

    To go even further into the rabbit hole, if Unionist leaders could maybe encourage a bit of Gaelic (even Scottish Gaelic so as not to be contaminated by the fenians) amongst the loyal flock they might find that they could have a bit of influence in shaping any Irish language bill that might be on the cards;

    For example perhaps give a greater emphasis to resurrecting Antrim Irish (Islay Gaelic’s sister tongue, ergo Ulster-Scots friendly) or such like as opposed to bellowing “no”, drawing a line in the sand, watching the line be crossed and losing.
    Again.

    Just a thought like, not perfect but better than the inevitable balls-up that’ll come to be.

    Linda Ervine gives me some hope at least.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    SeaanUiNeill

    “I remember hearing (“from one who was there”) that there was not a single platoon in the Ulster Division without a few Irish speakers.

    I wonder how many who will be standing at commemorations on July 1st 2016 will know even a single word of the language?”

    Brilliant nugget of trivia there Seaan.

    Tragic but brilliant.

    While we’re on the topic though, Republicans aren’t entirely blameless on this matter.

    As much as I’ve lampooned Mr Elliot for what he said it would also be fair to view his words as a sounding board for many Unionists; quite simply, in their eyes it is now a Republican thing.

    It’s going to be much harder for people like me to convince my fellow Protestants/Unionists that it’s not the tongue of the Devil as long as people that they regard as the devil are giving it such public support and are even seen to be aggressively shoving it down their throats.

    Till they back off it’s an uphill struggle.

    Any how, Seaan, pardon my boldness do you have a contact address or would you mind contacting me amghobsmacht@gmail.com ?

    I have a project that partly encompasses this topic and I think it’ll be of great interest to yourself.

    Great interest.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    I don’t know if peeps here are aware of the following resource:

    http://www.doegen.ie/taxonomy/term/22012

    Native speakers from Antrim as recorded by Dr. Wilhelm Doegen in 1928-31 as part of a scheme for recording variants of the spoken language. Speakers from all Ulster counties except Down, Fermanagh & Monaghan were recorded.

    Trivia #2: The first book printed in Irish was a religiuos text was done so on the orders of Queen Elizabeth to aid the conversion of Catholics to the established church.

  • “Never ceases to amaze me that fully grown adults can be afraid of a language.”

    Has ‘fear’ gone viral? 🙂

    Who fears a ‘buachaill dona’ unless he’s got an iron bar or has a reputation for using others to intimidate or bully?

    There’s something rather sad about those politicos who stake a claim to territory by naming streets and roads in Irish and Scots when the local economy is struggling to survive; you can’t eat a flag or a name-plate. It also does no favours to those who have a love for one or more of our lesser used languages and would like to see them survive.

    Scottish parliamentarians appear to see merit in working together to encourage the continuing use of Scottish Gaelic and Scots but that lesson is not being learned here.

  • Son of Strongbow

    I am unaware of any law that forbids the use of Irish. Anyone who chooses to speak or use the language is, seemingly, free to do so.

    Also I know of no one who “fears” the language. Perhaps I move in different circles to some of the other contributors on this thread?

    That being said I do experience a little discomfort at the implied message that having no interest in Irish makes anyone somehow less of an Irishman. That kind of cultural supremacist thinking probably turns off some who would otherwise desire to explore the language.

    Although it is many rungs below taking head and feature measurements to ‘determin’ race ‘purity’ it is on the very same spectrum.

    So for those Irish speakers out there: fill your boots! I’ll even accept a modicum of taxpayer funding. Although IMHO any language (aka a personal choice communication tool) that requires tax pound underpinning is akin to Monty Python’s parrot.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    I use ‘fear’ as I think many have an irrational fear that if they even a few words of Irish in public places (explaining placenames for example) it will dilute the status of their own culture.

    I have heard the argument of the “implied message that having no interest in Irish makes anyone somehow less of an Irishman,” and while I have come across this sentiment, I can without fear of contradiction says that there are many flavours of Irishman, and not having the language does not dilute your Irishness one iota, nor would an increased knowledge of the language make our British brethern less British.

  • “I use ‘fear’ as I think many have an irrational fear”

    Is this just a thought or do you have any scientific basis for your assertion, D_B? I’m interested in the origin of place names, irrespective of their linguistic source.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Just my deepest darkest thoughts Nev. I don’t see what is to be feared from a sign reading ‘Belfast / Béal Feirste (‘Mouth of the sandy ford’)’ or suchlike.

  • Seamuscamp

    SoS
    “Although IMHO any language (aka a personal choice communication tool) that requires tax pound underpinning is akin to Monty Python’s parrot.”

    Hmm! It may be a secret, but considerable sums are spent (not always effectively) in teaching English over here in England. Perhaps it isn’t paid for in NI?

    Droch_Bh
    For God sake man, do you enjoy watching traffic accidents?

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Droch_Bh
    For God sake man, do you enjoy watching traffic accidents?

    Ridiculous comment. I’d guess that no accidents have been caused by the Fáilte gu Alba / Welcome to Scotland or the Croeso i Gymru / Welcome to Wales signs over on your island

  • “I don’t see what is to be feared from a sign reading ‘Belfast / Béal Feirste”

    Neither do I, D_B, so perhaps it exists mainly in your imagination.

  • Neil

    Neither do I, D_B, so perhaps it exists mainly in your imagination.

    I think the fear resides in Tom’s imagination primarily, and possibly the circles he moves in. Do you think he would welcome bilingual signs Nevin? Or do you think he has a fear of them, imposing their language on poor enfeebled Unionist eyes?

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    My argument is not aimed at you Nevin, rather at the likes of Tom Elliot and his fear that themmuns will “start imposing their Irish language” on him

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I always find that 16th Century “Urban” myth that Seaán Donnghaileach mac Cuinn Bhacaigh Ó Néill established a printing press at Benburb very appealing! And I doubt that, if at all true, he was using an English typeface.