So you want to start a political party…what now?

What do the DUP, PUP, NI21, Protestant Coalition, NI Conservatives, TUV, UKIP, Irish Republican Socialist Party, Workers Party, SDLP, 32 County Sovereignty Movement, Alliance, Socialist Party, Green Party, Socialist Workers Party, People Before Profit & the Workers Party of Ireland have in common?

Every single one of the mentioned parties have formed from another party. In fact there is not a single party currently registered in Northern Ireland that didn’t exist prior to the troubles (or possibly even world war 2) except for the UUP & Sinn Fein. Many of the “new” parties formed from movements within other parties, some are splinter parties, associated parties to the UK…but not one of them is an original political party.*

We hear so much these days about the “silent majority” the “disaffected middle ground” those of us, myself included, who don’t see a political party that they feel completely at home with. So lets say that you and I decided to form our own party, I am a bar manager and other than a placement as an a-level student with a conservative MP, I have no political experience, I shall assume that my co-founders amongst you also haven’t stood in an election or been a member of a party before, so what do we do next?

We need to register. So lets register our party with the electoral commission, lets call ourselves “Square One”. We also need an emblem, but with a name like Square One, that pretty much designs itself. We need a description, so what shall we go with? Apparently we can have up to 12 descriptions, I’m starting to see that the identity crisis faced by most parties is encouraged from the offset…We’ll just pick one, lets say “The future of Northern Ireland starts at Square One”…catchy, and didn’t cost me the earth to come up with… which is handy because we haven’t even began fundraising yet. Before we can ask people to give us their money, we need some party officers, this could be a tricky one, you need to absolutely know who you are getting into bed with…as recent “start-up” parties have discovered. So I need to find some like-minded individuals who believe in the same vision as I, I need to research them well enough to trust them to have a prominent position within this organization from the start… We’ll assume a few of you stepped forward and I now have the party officers registered also. So officially, we’re now a party.

What now?

Now, for the money. We hope one day to compete with long-established parties, I spoke with former UUP & NI21 deputy leader John McCallister about what comes next…if you register a party that already has an elected MLA, as NI21 did, you immediately have access to to “financial assistance for political parties” money, £59,300 per year. Square One will have however much I and you who join it can afford to pay into it. When we get a bit more traction, we can charge people membership of the party, the Alliance Party charge £46 per year, which I’m sure is very helpful in helping a party maintain its advocacy, however nobody is going to pay to join us yet, we’ve done nothing! On the plus side, when it comes to election time, we’ll get our postage free to a certain extent, so we’ve got that going for us…not much else though. I think an ideal suggestion would be to cherry pick the industries our first few members came from, someone from Marketing, Accounting, Graphics & Design, Computer Science, Law…then we would have a knowledge base…without that, we’d be shooting in the dark (which paradoxically, is literally how some political parties started out…). I’ve heard many people lambasting the political expenses system, “why should they get any expenses, sure I don’t!” I see your point and I understand what you mean, but could you afford to be an MLA? Could you afford to hire an office, employ some staff, drive to different events and meetings sometimes across the province on a daily basis? The expenses system exists to protect the elected positions being solely the reserve of the financially better off, from becoming an oligarchy of sorts. Yes, people abuse it, but for our new party, could we afford any of these things? We would be grassroots by very definition, with no existing roots from which to draw advice, so I asked John McCallister for his notes on what we should and shouldn’t do…

Johns tips would for starting a party:

“Ensure you have a narrative”
“Know your people”
“Give time to grow”
“Find likeminded people, preferably some high profile people, who are prepared to get the message out there and work hard”
“Perhaps even identify prominent citizens already embedded within communities and approach them.”
“Don’t try to be all things to all people, don’t spread yourself too thin, know your limitations and your abilities”

I also asked what mistakes we should try to avoid making:

“Make sure you vet your candidates and your core team”
“Make sure everybody knows the party rules”
“Don’t defend the indefensible, the party comes first”
“Don’t be Naive”
“Don’t start a party with Basil”

So we have these pearls of wisdom, we can learn from mistakes other parties have made and we now have our core team of hard working individuals who form a cohesive group with a strong narrative and a sense of collective identity and purpose…

What now?


Perhaps we should get someone with experience…but then the status quo is perpetuated

There needs to be a concerted effort for a politically agnostic engagement of society, free from nuanced directions towards what already is, future – Northern Ireland needs to go in a new direction, only those who benefit from our failed-state could possibly object to a new heading with a new map and compass, maybe a rudder that isn’t attached to an anchor…and some more sailing metaphors too…for we are in the doldrums, we need to find the wind in our sails, I don’t see that happening from our current position and I believe few do… But there is no easily-accessibly format for a complete start-up party. NI21 have hamstrung any party in future from trying to drive for that middle ground, but what if a new party was an actual new party…with no established faces, no ex-tv news presenters, no “public spokesperson for [insert group here]”, what if it actually was a group of united citizens trying to make the future better by going back to square one…

Anyone know how to do it?



Maybe we should just ask some MLA’s if they’ll jump ship, sure we’ll get near £60k just for having them!





DUP (Protestant Unionist Party – Ulster Protestant Action Movement – UUP)

PUP (Independent Unionist Group – Hugh Smyth was already in NI Assembly)

NI21 (UUP)

Protestant Coalition (UDP – UPRG – BNP)

NI Conservatives (UK party)


UKIP (UK Party)

Irish Republican Socialist Party (Official Republican Movement – Workers Party)

Workers Party (Sinn Fein)

SDLP (Republican Labour Party, National Democratic Party, Nationalist Party, NI Labour)

32 County Sovereignty Movement (Sinn Fein)

Alliance (New Ulster Movement – Ulster Liberal Party – UUP)

Socialist Party (Labour Party)

Green Party (UK Party)

Socialist Workers Party (Peoples Democratic Party)

People Before Profit (Socialist Workers Party)

Workers Party of Ireland (Sinn Fein)


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  • Nimn

    Firstly, a great post and thanks for it…this for me is the real debate. Too often we look for solutions from within the existing framework of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Lets forget that exists (not naive; it lets you frame an entirely new ‘square one’ narrative). We aren’t trying to convince existing parties, we are trying to convince disaffected people.

    Funding – can you crowd fund a political party? If the narrative was right it might surprise you how many disaffected people in NI and beyond would be willing to contribute.
    Substance – the mainstream political parties have no real in depth policy narratives beyond big principle politics. I would suggest you need people who really know what they are talking about on subjects such as health and social care, education, economic growth and so on.
    Credibility – whoever you get to front the party they need to be credible and articulate and to put into words and text the underlying frustrations of many people here. This isn’t about education or spin but goes back to the substance point above.
    Grow a thick skin – be prepared to be ridiculed, sneered at and potentially intimidated. The first trick of established parties is to kick you hard when you are still getting off your knees as a party. Once again the soft underbelly of mainstream parties is their lack of any real policy substance. Stick to exposing this and avoid a slanging match.
    Get some really good PR support – the media believe they control the message. You need to control it.
    There must be no political baggage – existing MLAs won’t cut it. They all have baggage.
    Be aware that those who start a party may not be the best people to lead it. political self awareness of strengths and weaknesses is as important as policy.
    The funding is the key as those who step up to this kind of challenge need financial support themselves, otherwise it becomes a hobby after the real work of earning a living is over.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I do recommend 101 Ways to Win an Election, by Mark Pack and Edward Maxfield. In line with McCallister, it insists on getting the narrative right, right from the very start. If you don’t know or can’t explain why you are in politics, you cannot expect anyone to follow you.

    What I miss in both your own post and McCallister’s and Nimn’s comments is the urgency of engaging with voters – and the importance of getting the technical backup in place to do that. These days the electoral office will provide the register in electronic form to registered political parties (at a price). You need to get to know your core constituency, nurture them and make yourself their inevitable choice at election time. And by “constituency” I don’t just mean the geographical electoral district, I mean the core target group of electors.

    On fund-raising: I am not an expert in this, but targeted fund-raising for a specific purpose can be pretty effective. “We want to raise X,000 for equipping party offices.” “We need YY,000 to prepare for the Assembly eelction.” Donors won’t stump up unless they know what they are stumping up for.

    However, my last piece of advice is that rather than set up a new party, with all the barriers to success which you have identified, might it not be better to identify the least worst of the current parties and see what you might be able to do by trying to change it from the inside? You then benefit from all the existing structures, and it is pretty easy to establish yourself as a hard worker who should be taken seriously if you are actually prepared to do the hard work!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Thanks for the post BBB. And a lot of sense in your observations, Nimn.

    I don’t agree that the failure of NI21 means no new centrist party is possible. In one of Nimn’s points, I see opportunity: the “Substance” point. I think you’re kind to the current parties in saying they have no narratives beyond big principle politics. I don’t think they even do big principle politics.

    We’re at a fascinating juncture in politics internationally at the moment – and since 2008 really – a fork in the road between an increasingly laissez-faire, small state, markets-bedazzled right and a centre-left that has rediscovered its belief in intervening where markets don’t work for the greater good. There are big ideas at play for the first time in decades about what government is for and what a good society looks like. It’s being played out in the UK as a whole but also across Europe and in the US in different forms. Yet you barely notice this in the politics of Northern Ireland.

    You can berate NI parties for that; or you can see an opportunity in it. Even Alliance is rooted in the past in a sense, in that it’s about bringing people together, first and foremost, rather than about any particular political/social direction beyond that. You learn as a parent when kids are in a mood, don’t address it directly – change the agenda, get them doing something else. You might not resolve their anger but you move them past it by focussing on something more productive. A new party that focussed strongly on the actual issues and had a vision would be a breath of fresh air, e.g. doing something practical to rebalance the economy such as investing more heavily in IT skills, looking at school curricula and educational underachievement, having a clear view on how to take health services forward, have an approach to deficit reduction, NI’s image as a place to do business etc, pushing a more progressive tax regime, perhaps looking at ‘Nordic’ models of business / social balance, and so on.

    Of course, in NI, we also need to know whether a new party sees the province’s long term future in the UK or outside it – and the answer to this can then come to limit the appeal of the new party. But looking at the polls, there are 2 things helping a new party now overcome this:
    – a very large and growing – 20-25 per cent perhaps – section of the electorate is rejecting traditional community-designated political parties
    – there are a large number of non-voters who may think similarly and some of whom could potentially be drawn into voting for a new party if it captured the imagination and got momentum
    – the Belfast Agreement settlement has really taken the border question off the agenda for the vast majority of people for the foreseeable future – polls show a united Ireland is nowhere near happening – despite SF’s attempts to bring it back. So we have by historical standards a great opportunity now to put forward a party that doesn’t talk much or at all about the border non-issue (any new party would presumably just take the Alliance line on that), without voters thinking it’s some kind of dodge. Indeed, not banging on about constitutional arrangements seems very much what a lot of voters want from any new party.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that is the alternative view I’ve generally always taken!

    What I didn’t say before was, for any new party to succeed needs it to reach a tipping point – where people believe they’re not going out on a limb by supporting it, that other people like them will be doing the same thing. UKIP has got past this now; the BNP never did. What gets you there? I’m sorry, but charismatic leadership, from someone who make the policies sound both distinctive yet reassuringly not that far from the mainstream. This can only last so long but it’s what you need to start with. You need a big personality, I’m afraid. Imran Khan in Pakistan is an example; a less useful example is Paisley here! And of course Farage-agoogoo.

    I think in the modern media environment, it’s very hard to get a big chunk of support without doing something dramatic – and personality gets you that interest, engagement and inspiration, which a good set of policies on their own, nice logo or anything else really doesn’t. A tad depressing but I find it hard to imagine a new party impacting significantly without a strongly recognisable and likeable figure, with something new to say in a new way, at the front of it. If it’s not an existing well-known face, then it needs to be a real “find”. I agree with BB, the ideal in a way is for a well-honed person to emerge from the populace fully formed, US-fantasy-candidate-drama-like. But I’ve often wondered how a Wendy Austin or a (RIP) Gerry Anderson would have done if they’d had a go.

  • Zeno1

    BB, Obviously your post is well intentioned, but on all previous history you would need at least 40 years to get into power, if you ever did.
    If I had the time I would do it a different way.

    I would form a party called The Greater Good.
    We wouldn’t contest elections but would form a shadow government of 108 real people.
    The “real people” would be selected at random from a pool of suitable people.
    There would be no Unionists OR Nationalists.just 108 people prepared to work for the greater good.
    We would tackle every problem the government have and make a decision on each based on what serves the greater good of society. Obviously a lot of the decisions wouldn’t be popular, but we wouldn’t be in a popularity contest. Obviously the established political parties would see us as a threat, but we don’t care, We are not in it for money or power. We are there with one aim and that is to serve the greater good.

  • Ernekid

    It seems that Lucinda Creighton is trying to start a new party down South using the NI21 model. She has a grievance and a hashtag and not much else.

    I fear that #rebootireland will end up like #freshpolitics and end up imploding soon.

    I’m sick of these new ego led initiatives that don’t have a single substantial policy to their name. I’d rather stick with the current lot at least I know what they stand for.

  • carl marks

    Great post and i loved this line.

    “we’d be shooting in the dark (which paradoxically, is literally how some political parties started out…)”

    As a socialist i have difficulty finding a party that suits, on the left but not hung up on the border.
    so i vote normally on the person not the party this is difficult as there are a lot of clones in all the parties, out off respect for the courage they displayed during the whole fleg thing Alliance was my choice last time round and unless things change radically they will get my vote next time.
    if a party forms which has a trade union linkage is left wing (without being citizen smith crazy) and is quite happy to let the whole green/orange thing go, then i’m in!

  • tmitch57

    I think that NI is like Belgium in that all parties have to be tied to one of its two dominant ethnic communities or to be composed of two separate ethnic wings. The small middle ground is already effectively occupied by Alliance. This leaves us with either the unionist or nationalist communities to organize in. The unionist community seems to be much more open to new parties than the nationalists. Sinn Fein and the SDLP between them effectively dominate the nationalist minority. So any new movement centered around a reform idea should start first organizing in the unionist community and then only when it becomes well established move into the other category or open up a parallel movement in the nationalist community. NI21’s big error–fatal error–was to try and move from unionist to other prematurely before it was well established. This could be attributed to Basil McCrea’s ego. A new movement to be successful will have to be better balanced among a number of individuals.

  • carl marks

    good point, do you believe that we are not mature enough for a true cross community party to survive?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Slightly puzzled by this, Carl. What do you mean by “mature”? The Belgian parties (mostly) began as cross-community parties and then divided one by one. Does that mean that Belgium has become less “mature” over the years?

    And what is a “true” cross-community party? Is Alliance a “false” one?

  • carl marks

    I was going to point out that “the greater good” would be unable to change anything,then i thought about the system we have and it doesn’t seem to be able to change anything either at least the “greater good” would,nt be waving flags (that by the way is aimed at both camps, in case anybody feel left out) and could tell us their reasoning for decisions instead of shouting THEMMUNS MADE ME DO IT all the time.

  • carl marks

    Nicholas, by cross community i mean a party without the old divides, and while i admire alliance (see my previous post) it is still seem as a small u unionist party by many perhaps not their fault.
    I get your point about the Belgian parties but is that directly applicable to us, while i am sure we could learn something from them you have to admit we are a different breed!

  • tmitch57

    NI is ruled by competing dogmas. Republicans cannot even–at least overtly–accept that the population is composed of more than one ethnic group, because this would cloud their policy of blaming London for all of NI’s problems. The SDLP accepts reality but is still committed to a united Ireland. The DUP insists that NI is British but rejects most of the key components of British political culture. Many in the DUP and TUV believe that all Catholics are potential terrorists not to be trusted. The UUP is still divided between integrationists and those wanting to be like the DUP. I’ll let you decide whether this is immaturity or just the way things are.

  • David Crookes

    A new party should encourage people to abandon silly useless things.
    Those who articulate the party’s doctrine should set a good example by abandoning stupid words like ‘narrative’ and ’embedded’.
    We don’t need another party whose manifesto consists largely of hackneyed imbecilities and goody-goody abstract nouns.
    Before you start, get an intellectual life.
    Think about things that matter. (Make sure you have a policy on forestation as well as a policy on Orange marches.)
    Sixth and lastly, as Dogberry would say, don’t ask someone who wrecked a new party for advice on how to start up another new party.
    Must head off to church. Happy New Year, everyone.

  • carl marks

    Happy new year david.

  • Nimn

    Go on – give us some good examples of what a manifesto should read like. A really good narrative with some embedded worth.

  • Nimn

    I have concerns here. NIC/ICTU and individual member unions would voice political neutrality, however SF have managed to ‘annex’ the TU movement over welfare reform. Their spokespersons frequently referred to others joining SF and the TU movement in opposition to welfare changes in their statements and as socialists SF see trade unionism as part of their natural support structure.
    Also any new party will need to grasp the nettle of public sector reform and at the moment any lessening of the public sector is a die in a ditch issue for unions.
    This could well result in internal tensions early in the life of a new party.

  • Nimn

    Wish I knew what they stood for…

  • Nimn

    I’ve often thought about this and the mistake is having a descriptor as cross community for a party. The game changer for me is a set of governing principles and solid underpinning policies which are ‘out there’ for people to make up their own minds. The new party is simply appealing to the people. The size and strength of the following comes from the strength of the policies being put forward.
    Crucially, any new party needs to provide a potential alternative to mandatory coalition.

  • Nimn

    Firstly Nicholas I was sufficiently curious that I bought the book.

    I agree on the need to engage – assuming a new party has something new to say, going back to my point on substance, but I’m less persuaded by limiting a new party’s message to an as yet to be defined core vote.

    The strength of any new party will be in a mass appeal, for those with no political home as well as those who may well be persuaded to shift their allegiance, based on the power of the offering.

    In NI we don’t do radical politics and the voters who bother have embraced the populist approach.

    Politics should be about choice. In NI with a mandatory coalition government that doesn’t happen. the important thing is to argue your own corner and keep up the core vote. So, to push the boundaries of this post and the debate can we throw out some principles and policies which might define a new party and potentially appeal to a wider electorate?

    Here’s two to get us going.

    ‘We need to break with the idea that only the public sector should deliver public services. The job of government is not to deliver services , but to ensure they are delivered – to the highest standard to measurable and agreed outcomes, preferably at a reduced cost. We need to consider a mixed economy of service delivery, understanding that the current public sector model of provision is not providing the outcomes we need’

    Its not in the thinking of any of the main political parties and the trade union movement, but speak to leaders in health as a primary example and they will quickly tell you that the current model of deliver is unsustainable.

    Or…to keep us lively:

    ‘Integrated education is a label which differentiates educating our children together irrespective of creed, race or religion, form the other educational sectors in NI. Our policy is to educate all our children together and it will be the default position for all new education initiatives.’

    Those debates go to the heart of our public sector reliance and also the argument for educating our children together. Our difficulty is that all parties are on some re-balancing of the public sector and on developing shared and integrated education. In terms of policies we may as well shrug our shoulders, as it does;t go much beyond the rhetoric.

    As principles and policy the views above would both gain and lose votes. Already I’m sure that there are many people who are reading these examples and saying “I’m all up for a new party but I couldn’t live with those policies”
    So start putting out some alternatives.
    In terms of a new party more of the same won’t do. It will need to think radically, have the courage of its convictions and to provide a powerful alternative voice.
    Finally I disagree that hitching to a current political wagon will provide an impetus from existing structures. You run a big risk of being subsumed into their structures rather than the other way around.

  • carl marks

    SF may see the unions as natural supporters but i suspect the unions have a different viewpoint,
    if i thought SF was a socialist party i would consider supporting them however they do the talk but not the walk!
    the trade union movement here does not have a natural party to adhere to, i believe this is a big hole in our politics,
    Big business and the right have parties which serve there interests the left need one!

  • Nicholas Whyte

    any new party needs to provide a potential alternative to mandatory coalition.

    I think that’s a pretty tall order – ending mandatory coalition effectively requires consent from the dominant forces on each side of the community and also of the two governments, rather a steep hill to climb for a new political force.

    I must say that it’s also not clear to me that mandatory coalition is actually unpopular among real voters rather than the chattering classes; it may be ineffective, but that’s a different matter.

    A more realistic goal would be to argue precisely what policy difference will result from your party being in the mandatory coalition which it might be able to join given sufficient popular support. Though even the established parties have difficulty with that one.

  • Nicholas Whyte


    Fair play to you for thinking it through – and I hope you enjoy the book, Just two points:

    1) By even raising these two policy frameworks (and I am sympathetic to both) you will already differentiate the electorate between those who like the ideas and those who don’t. There are a lot of people with vested interests in the current setup for public services. There are a lot of people with vested interests in the current setup for education. Who are your core potential advocates for change? (There is probably an answer to that question, I’m just telling you what your post raises in my mind.)

    Second, of course participating in existing party structures has the risk of being subsumed. But really, if you want to get into electoral politics, there is no substitute for trying it from the inside, and for doing so in an environment where you can learn from people who have tried it before. Those who have tried from a standing start are too numerous to list, and too obscure to remember (one example: Derek Dougan, East Belfast, 1997; another: Brian Rowan, North Down, 1997). The mechanics are very important, and there is no better way of learning than through apprenticeship. One can always walk away, with lessons learned and experience gained

  • Nicholas Whyte

    To be clear: I just don’t think this is a terribly interesting or helpful question, and on reflection I probably shouldn’t have raised it, which means I’m closer to the second of the alternatives you offer.

  • Nicholas Whyte


    I appreciate the honesty of your answer! And while I will let others discuss the nature of the Alliance Party, I have to ask you how Nationalist polticians would choose to portray any “true cross-community party”…

  • Zeno1

    Change comes when people make decisions. This lot are afraid to make decisions in case they lose votes. The game is , keep your voters deluded. Tell them whatever they want to hear.
    Imagine a party that didn’t have to be concerned about votes or popularity or power.

  • Zeno1

    “Imagine a party”

    Edit………… I should have said …….. imagine a government,

  • Nimn

    I think mandatory coalition has been a hugely negative force on politics here. It pretty much allows politicians to do what they like and then appeal to their core vote on the issues which maintain division at election time. Maintaining mandatory coalition is very important to maintaining power.
    I also don’t think its a chattering classes issue either. Its fundamental to a democratic system that the electorate can change their government. Mandatory coalition and the D’Hondt system which goes with it also makes voting on the basis of party policy a nonsense, assuming there is a policy there in any substance to vote for. Our elections only give us the chance to alter the balance of power at the margins. As it stands unless there is a fundamental change in how we are governed we are looking at DUP/SF misrule for decades to come…assuming they make it to 2016 that is.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    David, “Before you start, get an intellectual life.”

    Thank you for putting your finger on the absolute foundation for anything serious to even begin to change. And Happy New Year, also, although mine will not begin until the ingress of the sun into Ares, “A Full Moon in March”!

  • carl marks

    the nationalist party’s will of course be threatened by any cross community party and as such will portray them as just another unionist party and i take your point, am i doing this with Alliance, i don’t think so but like most of us in this place i sometimes have trouble shifting the tribal mindset!
    David Ford ( my 18 year old daughter met him at stormont a few years ago and very impressed and has said she will be voting Alliance in the next elections) and Naomi long have earned my respect (along with many other members of the party) for doing what they believe is right under very trying circumstances, and in the past they have come under threat from both sides.
    Comrade Stalin of this parish is a good example of the excellent people in the Alliance party, intelligent, well versed and endowed with a strong moral compass,
    i agree with Nimm that any such party will probably appear from the PUL community my reasoning for this is that the main unionist party’s are divided internally whilst on the nationalist side SF is for the moment not going through this process (but that will not last forever) this means IMHO that any new political movement/party will probably arise where there is the greater chance of change !

    our own AG and Alan from newtownards are indicative of the new voices coming to the fore and as the fear of themmuns recedes more like this will appear.
    I hope all this makes sense.

  • carl marks

    while i agree with the spirit of your post, party’s/governments have to fear the voter, something has to keep them in check.
    what we need are party’s/governments who don’t treat the electorate as sheep and put principal over populism.

  • Morpheus

    I disagree, Mandatory Coalition is not the primary problem. It’s far from ideal and I agree that a ‘normal government’ is much more preferable but Northern Ireland has proved time and time again that it simply isn’t ready for ‘normal’ government’ yet. We are not even close to being ready.

    For me the fact that the GFA has not been fully implemented and the continual abuse of the checks/balances which were incorporated to protect all communities are the problem. These checks/balances are abused because there is zero trust between the parties and any compromise, rather than being seen as the art of politics, is seen as surrender.

    Day 1 of ‘normal government’ will see a unionist coalition between DUP/UUP/TUV etc with a bone thrown to The Alliance whereby they keep their Ministries if they also join – in the process getting around any ‘weighted majority’ nonsense. Come election time the tribal tom-toms will be beaten harder than ever before and the coalition will be re-elected no matter how badly they perform or behave.

    I have seen nothing, repeat NOTHING, to convince me that rather than a period of SF/DUP misrule we will get a period of misrule headed by political unionism. In fact the opposite it true, political unionism have shown time and time again that they will go out of their way to ensure that the wishes of the nationalist community are treated as ‘toilet paper’.

    Over time demographics will dictate otherwise of course but then we will simply enter a period when political nationalism calls all the shots, the worst nightmare of unionism (and no doubt the rules will need to change again).

    Mandatory coalition may not be perfect but it at least ensures that the interests of all communities are protected. Our politicians need to learn how to use the PoC how it was intended and learn to work together to make decisions for the good of everyone, not just their own communities. Once the trust is built up and we can be confident that the politicians are working for everyone THEN we are can talk ‘normal Government’

    But let’s be honest, would we even talking about this if the numbers didn’t favour political unionism?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    I don’t think this is going to get you very far, to be honest. Mandatory coalition should be seen for what it is – a mechanism to ensure that the minority are represented in government. Any alternative to mandatory coalition needs to solve the minority representation issue at least as well if not better. I can imagine that there might be such a solution; I can’t imagine that solution being the basis of a successful electoral campaign!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Carl, I do not see that any fear of the voter serves to keep our own masters in check. Quite the opposite, for they sit firmly on assured support as long as they continue to stoke the fires of our local political myths, as Zeno says.

    I would even, perhaps, consider voting if we had honest men with an ability to evaluate and act on the real needs of those people they represent. So I entirely agree “what we need are party’s/governments who don’t treat the electorate as sheep and put principal over populism” but I see no sign of our elections even begining to encourage this.

  • carl marks

    true that!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m glad, carl, I felt we were in agreement on this. And I agree too that something really needs to be done!

  • Zeno1

    party’s/governments have to fear the voter,

    Individual MP’s and Parties do have some fear for the voter because they are afraid of losing power. But the only real difference between LAB/CON or even SF/DUP is the narrative, once in power they behave much the same as each other.

  • carl marks

    I can not disagree with you or Seaan, maybe talk of new parties is obsolete! are movements such as occupy the way forward, while the electorate is willing to let them (politician’s) away with it they will get away with it.
    we would be demanding the head of a civil servant who was as cavalier with the oul expense’s as many of our politicians have been seen to be but came next elections we will vote them in again (of course i mean the collective we) would something as simple as a none of the above on the ballot paper help, it that come top of the poll then the election must be run again with none of the previous candidate,s allowed to stand again?

  • Tochais Siorai

    And in the Republic, every party except the Greens has a direct link in some shape or form to the original Sinn Féin.
    Speaking about the Greens, a small correction, BB. The NI Green Party is a region of the Irish Green Party rather than part of a UK party (although there are links with the British Green Parties). I think Steven Agnew is or used to be national co-ordinator. Or ‘national’ if you prefer!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Provisional Sinn Féin, like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael formed from Original Sinn Féin, let’s not forget.

    Irish Labour had been set up from the ITUC and the UUP from the UUC.

    The Green Party of Ireland/Northern Ireland was formed from the Ecology Party.

  • Zeno1

    “maybe talk of new parties is obsolete!”

    I think the whole political system is obsolete. I think taking part in the whole charade just perpetuates the lie.
    Look at it this way. The reason we supposedly have leaders is for the benefit of us as a society. I imagine when we moved to an age of enlightenment the intention was they would serve the people. At some point a subtle change occurred and now we elect a political elite class who do nothing for the benefit of us unless it benefits themselves of course.

    The people have been conditioned to accept the very things you have pointed out. If we had non of the above and compulsory voting, I don’t think a government would ever be elected.
    How do they manage to get elected?
    They use fear, whether it be fear of SF or The Orange Order or Tory policies or Labour policies. Fear is a great tool.

  • 88vvv89

    Alliance try so hard to be a ”Square one” party but where they have failed is getting involved in Green and Orange debates, they’ll always come out of any such debates accused of siding with someone, surely the best policy would be to maintain neutrality at all times? Is it possible?

    As a Loyalist, I found the idea of NI21 fascinating and there was great potential, Unionism without tribalisation. We’ve seen mainstream Unionists half heartedly reach the arm out to Catholics in recent years to little avail and it’s really no surprise we haven’t seen any great movement.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Irish Labour have only an INdirect link from its merger with Democratic Left.

    We could apply the same logic to the the British big 3:

    The Conservative and Unionist Party
    The Liberal Democrats (Liberal and Social Democrats)
    The Labour Party (and Co-op Labour Party)

  • Kevin Breslin

    D’Hondt is meritocratic, if smaller parties get more votes like the Alliance Party did, they win a seat. Likewise SDLP or UUP if they can win more votes from the electorate. So the idea that it makes voting on a party basis does matter is wrong!

    First Assembly election we had an UUP-SDLP led administration, what did the people do in following elections?

    They changed it into a DUP-SF led administration in future elections.

    Let’s just recall the utter lies that have been spread about the system by you and fellow travellers like Jim Allister:

    The electorate changed their Government – can’t change government in a manditory coalition myth busted! -needing an Opposition to change the Government myth busted.

    Sinn Féin and the DUP’s core vote was not enough – core vote ALWAYS ensures SF/DUP dominance myth busted!

    SDLP & UUP core vote was not enough to maintain power – core vote of biggest two parties ensures victory myth busted.

    D’Hondt gave the SDLP and UUP more executive seats because they won more Assembly seats than others, likewise with SF and DUP – D’Hondt is undemocratically biased myth busted

    The problem people have is not the ability to change the government or D’Hondt allegations, but their own inability to change the Electorate. Only fascists argue the system controls the electorate, only fascists would argue that they deserve more of a share of a power block than those in a political group that represents the vast majority of the electorate.

    It’s the electorate that can change their government, East Belfast showed that it only takes a few thousand people voting together to dislodge someone from even the safest of seats.

    Jim Allister has as many votes he can physically cast as I do, as any SF voter has, any DUP voter has as any non-voter has. ONE. Perhaps that is what it comes down to in the end, a hatred of universal suffrage actually being universal!

  • Kevin Breslin

    My apologies, but Opposition is not a panacea … It’s the grassroots that change government in any system. No change will happen to the political culture here when it is detached from that.

    Lord Alderdice said it best that politicians can care too much about having their turn and have no objections in implementing the same policies as their predecessors that they were doing everything they could to object to while in opposition. Is a mere change in ribbons really a political change at all?

    The nobel job of an opposition is to scrutinise and improve legislation even when it does not have the power or responsibility to change it. That’s different from existing only to have a turn at the wheel.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What you forget is that there are many political causes that people from across many of the political divides work together on, wether it’s seeing union flags and 32 county soverignty movement banners at an anti-austerity march to seeing virtually everyone from The NI Tories to People before Profit backing the Radiotherapy centre down in the North West of Ulster (anyone’s version). Unity comes from partnerships wherever they can be found, and sometimes the most bizarre groups of Ulstermen band against the common enemy, the challenge will always be trying to work together without one.

  • Nimn

    Just for the record having a point of view is as legitimate as your own and something more that “utter lies spread about the system by you…”

    Our mandatory coalition system is a necessary evil (in my opinion) rather that a means to a functioning government. Its the only way that devolution can function here, between two sets of diametrically opposed views of the constitutional, political, cultural, social and economic future of Northern Ireland’ ‘the North’ ‘this place’, ‘the 6 county statelet’. The fact that neither nationalists or unionist parties can be trusted to deliver one of the most fundamental of functions of government – the criminal justice system – provides a clue as to the crock that mandatory coalition is.

    I would also suggest that the shift from a UUP/SDLP power bloc, (where the DUP could barely bring themselves to play in Devolution round 1) was not through the ballot box pre se but by the rise of the DUP and SF at the expense of the UUP/SDLP during the period of direct rule between 2002 – 2007.

    Has it brought stable government – has it Hell. Why? because it has created a coalition of 5 parties with the two largest so opposed to one another that government works not on collective responsibility for decisions taken,but by the ability to veto any decisions being taken at all.

    Your love in with D’Hondt may show a carve up of Ministerial portfolios based on electoral representation (within the 50/50 split of the population that actually vote), but it has led to Ministerial fiefdoms, where policy is based on the hubris or political prejudice of the Ministers in post.

    The elections in 2011 provided proof if proof were needed that to maintain power you need to pander to your heartland vote rather than reach out with broader inclusive policies. Little wonder that centre ground or right or left of centre ground parties got squeezed.

    So it has dawned on our parties in 2011that in the mandatory coalition system where the vote has been diminishing at every election since the GFA referendum, that rather than fighting a corner to stay in government you just have to revert to tribal type in spades to stay where you are.

    So what has that spawned in our so called government. The dawning awareness that if they can’t get their way at the Executive table they can pretty much do whatever they like within their own Ministeries and Departments following the pick and mix that D’Hondt imposes however fair that system electorally may be.

    “Only fascists argue the system controls the electorate”
    Yes you are right, because once in power the political parties use and abuse that power for their own ends. So suddenly its fine to paralyse government over the issue of parades or welfare changes. It fine to wake up one morning and decide that because of a Minister’s and party’s religious opposition to homosexuality that gay men (and a few other groups besides to take the bad look off it) can be banned from giving blood for life; that we need a Human Trafficking Bill which has little or nothing to do with the issue but everything to do with exerting your will on society as a political party because you can. Or its fine to say “I think I’ll start an Irish medium secondary school with 15 pupils, because I can” and I’ll oppose a primary school with 30 pupils from moving to an integrated basis for the best of policy reasons we are told.

    Or Sammy Wilson arguing in his News Letter column that he should no longer have to pay a BBC licence fee because the BBC has the audacity to be critical of the Executive; Nelson McCausland’s handling of housing issues, Conor Murphy’s tenure as DRD Minister and his handling of the NIW Board; pushing through changes to abolish post primary selection when the schools and the electorate in the form of parents are showing that they are not prepared to bow down to that sort of political doctrinaire fascism.
    Or where it falls to the courts increasingly to be the arbiters of policy decisions and where politicians can feel confident warning the courts that it is they who make the laws and make the rules.
    Or a Committee scrutiny system which treats witnesses who might dissent from a party point of view with contempt and distain as evidenced during the Human Trafficking Bill sessions.
    We now have a Stormont House Agreement, which some see as a deal brokered by the parties but which amounts to an ultimatum to this crock we call a government and you are so keen to champion, even to the point of regulating how Executive meeting should run and policy should be debated. This mandatory coalition government is unable to function at the most basic level of Executive meetings without outside influence and the threat of sanction
    As for East Belfast – yes in one electoral area a DUP candidate was ousted, but not on the basis of a policy choice , but as a predictible aversion and protest vote to the hypocrisy which surrounded the Iris Robinson affair, as well as the hard work put in by Alliance in the area. It remains to be seen if the same electorate will be swayed by the DUP’s gut appeal on flags and parades this time around, which they have done so much to engineer in that area.
    All of this is in addition to the personal venality of politicians to exploit the system on the Hill to their own ends; to display croneyism and jobs for their families and mates. they could make choices here and of course they do.
    What the outworking of mandatory coalition has demonstrated to me is a growing arrogance and confidence in a political class who use their position to exploit their own prejudices and bigotry at the expense of the electorate, not for a greater good.
    It is little wonder grass roots levels of frustration with politics here is as high as it is.
    However if you disagree as clearly you do you are entitled to that opinion and I won’t be so crass as to accuse you of peddling lies.

  • Nimn

    If mandatory coalition is a mechanism to ensure minority representation, then surely with the rise of SF that hardly holds true anymore, unless you argue that in a straight election the population here would revert to ‘type’ and ensure a Unionist government. Would it I wonder?

    You say “I can imagine there might be such a solution…”
    What would that solution look like Nicholas. You’ve responded to most of my ideas, but I’ve precious little by way of any sense of your own, other than to join an existing political party and try and change it from within.

  • Morpheus

    Wow, how long have you been holding all that in? 🙂

  • Nimn

    Sometimes its good to talk : )

  • Kevin Breslin

    You suggest that the rise of SF and the DUP was not due to the ballot box, it was not due to hundreds of thousands voters casting their votes?


    Firstly, our councils aren’t manditory coalitions, the European and Westminister elections aren’t manditory coalitions. So even when there is not mandatory coalitions, more people voted for the DUP and SF.

    Secondly, without manditory coalition for 40 years people voting in the Northern Irish Parliament could ALSO change their government but the voters were unwilling to. The only time people came to changing their government was during Sunningdale and even back then the logic was let’s not bother to use democracy, let’s strike or even support violent militias.

    Yet apparently manditory coalition is more rigid and voluntary coalition is not.

    Everything else you say is irrelevant, tribalism in Ireland, heck tribalism across Britian and Ireland has existed for hundreds of years. Nationalism and Unionism didn’t fall from the sky and every voluntary coalition body from Westminister, to the Dáil, to Stormont, to Strasbourg from the gerrymandered Londonderry Corporation to the county councils of Cork, across the Shetlands to Dover have constituencies where there are no political swings.

    Political loyalties in Britian and the Republic aren’t really that different. Does not the Labour Party have fiefdoms in the North of England, in Wales and indeed in Scotland, the Conservatives in the South East, the Liberals in the South West? There are safe seats could date as far back as the original Whig-Tory split during the English Civil War!

    Likewise in the Republic, since de Valera came to power Fianna Fáil was always the largest party in the Republic, some of these seats could go back to the Irish Civil War, the only way Fine Gael could get into government was with the Irish Labour Party while Fianna Fáil could govern by itself. Some of the makeup of Northern Ireland’s seats can go back to the Home Rule Crisis.

    Trust me on this, despite all the tribalism, despite all the fiefdoms, despite whatever structures of government may exist just as when the British people want Labour out and when the Irish people wanted Fianna Fáil out, if or when the DUP and SF lost the confidence of the local electorate they will lose power too.

    The greatest delusion in the local politics is that people say you can’t change the government, that is as big a lie as saying British politics always has to be Tory-Whig, Labour-Conservative, Irish politics Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael, with Labour often as the kingmakers.

    We get the politics we vote for, and in a democracy we deserve nothing more than the politics we vote for. How can we get the politics that the non-voters want if they don’t make the effort to network and form a rival movement?

    For groups like NI21 for example, yes they could campaign for a constitutional change like an opposition the way others have for UK union or a United Ireland in order to change or maintain the structure of power. They have every right to. Sinn Féin and the DUP changed the game when they got in.

    However, the only way anyone will change anything here is with a mandate, with cooperation, with difficultly held coalitions from time to time. Mark my words it’s the electorate who always deside the outcome of the game. If enough people decide they don’t want the DUP or SF in government they will build a strong enough coalition of the willing to beat them.

    D’Hondt and the structures of government cannot force people to vote one way or the other. Our voters will vote for the DUP and SF in large numbers regardless. If either were put into opposition, they would still carry the heavy clout they do when it comes to voting on things. Without the ugly scaffolding of petitions of concerns you will still have ugly politics.

    Here’s the thing, those Sinn Féin and DUP voters are in everyone’s community, they are holding down normal jobs, helping your community, probably are some of your freinds vote for them. Even if we couldn’t get rid of Sinn Féin or the DUP through the electoral millstone, we can create better Sinn Féins and DUPs through our interactions with them, with people changing them.

    The only reason any party is in power is that enough people support them, join them, and they have the politicians that can hold down their loyalties at the ballot box.

    The people we vote for represent our community, the politicians that get in honestly reflect where Northern Ireland is at the moment than the fantasies in people’s heads who want something different.

    If people keep saying we can’t change our government, then no one will believe we can change our government. That even Sinn Féin and DUP voters and members can’t lobby or change these parties from within. That SDLP, Alliance, UUP, NI21 or anyone else can’t change their party from within. That voters cannot change the vectors of political power.

    And that desperation in and disillusionment with politics suits the likes of Jim Allister, just fine.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I particularly hate it when left wingers say that manditory coalition reinforces tribalism or sectarianism. Left wingers were gerrymandered and marginalised by a voluntary government for thirty years, not just the nationalist and non-union obsessed even the slightest centre left unionist found themselves in opposition. You wouldn’t imagine someone like Sammy Douglas coming out and saying Jesus was probably a Socialist. You wouldn’t have the Official unionists saying, well maybe rich people should pay prescription charges, while poor people should get it from the welfare state.

    Even the DUP and the modern UUP are more left wing than the power consolidators of the Orange State. The DUP were formed by what was termed the left back then.

    Let’s also not delude ourselves that “nationalism” isn’t going to play its hand in any British or Irish vote outside of Northern Ireland either. People form their own nations, they don’t want their own nations to fall.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    On the first point, Nimn, I agree with Morpheus’s analysis immediately above and have nothing to add to it.

    I’m actually in favour of mandatory coalition, with perhaps a smoother opt-out than there is at present for those who don’t wish to take part. I see the only alternative as a Macedonian-style system where it is automatic that the largest party on one side and the largest on the other form a government and choose their coalition partner if they want. But it’s difficult to enshrine that in legislation, both politically and technically.

    I’m no longer resident in NI so am hesitant to prescribe too broadly. But you are correct to infer that I think recent historical evidence demonstrates that the costs of setting up a new party greatly outweigh any benefits of such an enterprise, especially if there is no obvious narrative – and even more so if the only goal is to get rid of mandatory coalition without a viable alternative in mind.

  • Morpheus

    “On the first point, Nimn, I agree with Morpheus’s analysis immediately above and have nothing to add to it.”

    I’m off to tell me Ma 🙂

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think an ideal suggestion would be to cherry pick the industries our first few members came from, someone from Marketing, Accounting, Graphics & Design, Computer Science, Law

    I’m fairly sure Basil came from Computer Science and their election candidate came from Marketing. You got John McCallister from the largest industrial sector to build the rural vote (i.e virtually anywhere but the Belfast conurbation… not to be forgotten (*cough Alliance *cough))

    It is very much like NI21

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have seen nothing, repeat NOTHING, to convince me that rather than a period of SF/DUP misrule we will get a period of misrule headed by political unionism

    What about the failed Unionist Forum?

    Even if they could work together on everything, would they really want to?? It would kill the DUP and UUP to even ponder a merger, where they couldn’t dig into one another.

  • Morpheus

    The DUP/UUP dig into each other around election time trying to show who is the Orangiest Orange in the land (ignoring the rest of the electorate in the process) but regardless, they don’t need to merge. In a coalition they will have their hands on all the levers of power to ensure they keep their own fiefdoms.

    Let’s face it, would you rule out the possibility that they will make Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh a single constituency with 6 MLAs? I say it jokingly but nothing surprises me. They have done literally nothing to assure the people that they will represent everyone fairly, something demonstrated nicely in the NILT which has combined Catholic support for DUP/UUP at a massive 0%.

  • Nimn

    “You suggest that the rise of SF and the DUP was not due to the ballot box, it was not due to hundreds of thousands voters casting their votes?”


    I didn’t suggest that. Of course hundreds of thousands of people cast their votes for SF and the DUP. What I was saying is that the shift from the UUP/SDLP in 1998-2002 to DUP emergence as the dominant political party in unionism came about during a period of direct rule. Part of that in my view was the failure of the first round of devolution to bring about the trust and cooperation needed to make devolution work and a growing impression, in unionism that the UUP had not held SF to account over its obligations in the GFA, in particular decommissioning, long after prisoner releases.
    I also entirely agree that for all the reasons of history from partition that a unionist government is not acceptable here, (a view I believe many ‘small u’ unionists also agree with) in the same way that a Republican dominated government would not be acceptable to unionists. Their political aspirations are as far apart today as they ever were.
    Therefore to somehow believe that bringing these same parties together in a mandatory shared government system and that it would work is aspirational at best.
    We can analyse that one to death, but one thing is clear. For the GFA to work required a seismic shift in behaviours and a genuine desire to reach out to ‘the other side’.
    This never happened; its not happening today and there are no signs that come 2016 anything will change. I was working in the public sector and close to the operations of the first round of devolution and the behaviours of the major parties around the Executive table bordered on distain.
    After five years in the wilderness we got back to devolution and mandatory coalition government. Has it worked? No. The same behaviours exist today and if anything are worse.There is no collective responsibility for policy and the exercise of government operates by veto, side deals and power grabs. It has also fostered an arrogance in our political classes because they know there is no option to mandatory coalition and pandering to the base fears or aspiration of the DUP and SF core vote will keep them in power, where we have around 50% of the population at elections saying ‘none of the above thanks’.
    The behaviours which give rise to the lack of functioning government in NI which you set aside as irrelevant are slowly bringing this place to its knees, as apart from being thrown together in mandatory coalition there is no sanction or responsibility to act collectively for the greater good. D’Hondt only reinforces this ‘solo run’ attitude to policy making.
    The SHA is now an exercise in micro-management by the two governments to force some progress.
    So I remain of the view that mandatory coalition doesn’t work in terms of delivering functioning government and as electors we can only shift the balance of power between parties within that coalition. What it won’t change are the diametrically opposed political positions the largest parties and their mini-me counterparts.
    Its pretty clear that any new emerging political party will take years to develop, assuming it can tap into a stream of votes which can articulate a significantly different political vision from the prevailing ones in NI.
    In the meantime we are all in violent agreement that there should be no return to government in NI which puts either unionism or republicanism in the ascendant because the trust is not there that either bloc would do the right thing by the other. So we are stuck with mandatory coalition as the necessary fudge for devolution, but as a system of functioning government its not working and when it comes to election time we have a choice. Either vote for more of the same dysfunction or don’t vote at all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Voluntary coalition solves NONE of these difficulties, it changes little and ultimately does not change the game.

    Look at Belguim’s wilderness years, Italy’s technocratic government, the current government crisis in Greece, the civil war in Ukraine. These are all voluntary governments with problems. Switzerland with a mandatory coalition has no problems, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedona works to.

    So looking over to Westminster or down south the Dáil is basically ignoring the fact they don’t have the broad coalition compromises that we do, and would still have to do in a voluntary coalition.

    Even in the Republic and Britain, you get protests, you get madmen with guns and knives, you get coalition partners falling out, you get the backdoor deals, the power grabs, and the pandering to the core vote. To me this is about having better scrutiny of the legislature.

    Also in both states there is an arrogance in the big two parties Conservative and Labour or Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that they were always assured of a spell of power.

    These parties are not beyond mudslinging and agitprop of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists.

    Big parties don’t always act with humility, big surprise.

    You get good and bad politicians in any system, no political system is ever going to end dissent, no system is reliant on good vision, and competent politicians.

    The only thing is assure it that no system functions without the co-operation of the parties and the consent of the people. We have enough of both at the moment to hang on.

    As for that section of the electorate complaining about not being able to change the government … No one voter has the right to change the government for the rest of the electorate. And that what the TUV, and some of the trade unions want, a state of despotism, either for them or against them so they can agitate better. It’s no different from a Labour voter in England saying it can’t change the government to a Rainbow coalition, just because the numbers add up and that’s preferable to the status qua.

    The opinion that voluntary coalition just in and of itself reduces any of the problems by a single iota is utterly false and delusional premise. The premise itself lacks the vision to change our system. At the end of the day the politicians and the electorate and the community at large to do that, not standards and procedures.

  • Nimn

    I haven’t argued for a voluntary coalition. I don’t know what the right answer is. All I do know is that after 16 years of experimentation with Devolution a la NI ,(with a five year gap to let Direct Rule get on with things) its not working for the people. We can point all over the world and make comparisons, but that doesn’t change things here and they need to.

    “no system functions without the co-operation of the parties and the consent of the people. We have enough of both at the moment to hang on.”

    And hanging on is the best we can hope for. Progress, as always here is for another day.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m glad you found the key point and the key part of the article: … Social change drives Political Change, not the other way about.

    We had massive political change with Sunningdale but not the Social change to support it.

    One way of changing politics is driving social change outside of politics. This doesn’t mean complaining about Sinn Féin or the DUP supporters or any other party voting for their bottom line, it’s asking them to tackle the realpolitik that would have to be faced in a United Ireland or a Secure Union anyway.

    The most important part of the Good Friday Agreement is on the cover it says “It’s Your Decision”.

    Self-determination is the point where Unionism and Nationalism meet, the natural equilibrium between them Some might want a secure union, others a united Ireland, but neither should want a system were people from here have no say in what goes on here.

    When people say we cannot change their government they are trying to kill the belief in self-determination that can change the government. That is something that even the most ardent dissident loyalist or republican, to someone who doesn’t really like politics but will vote for Paul McFadden could agree with.