East Belfast: Is this the start of the Long goodbye for Naomi?

Today LucidTalk published their East Belfast poll in the Belfast Telegraph. The poll found that the DUP holds a  6% lead over the Alliance party in the constituency making them the favorites as we go into the final three months of the election campaign.

When you exclude undecideds the result is DUP-34.4% to Alliance- 28.7%.

When you include don’t know/Non voters you get this;

DUP- 21.2%
APNI- 17.7%
UUP- 9%
PUP- 4%
TUV- 1.7%
SF- 1.1%
UKIP- 1%
Greens- 0.9%
SDLP- 0.9%
Others- 4.6%
Don’t know- 38.3%

Naomi has acknowledged herself that she is the underdog going into this contest and this poll confirms it. Since the local elections the DUP have become more relaxed about East Belfast and their prospects for taking back the seat. One hindrance is the fact that the party leader still polls badly in the constituency despite the protestations about the 2011 Assembly election result. The fact that Gavin is linked (wrongly) to the First Minister is something that he will constantly have to battle over the next 90 days.

All of this is manageable, simply giving Peter Robinson a low profile and ensuring that Gavin stays on his message of ending “five frustratingly long years” in East Belfast he can pick up some of the dis-satisfaction that Alliance have garnered since 2012. Gavin has many talents in his own right and he needs some issues that give him some narrative and definition away from his party leader.

For Naomi, she can take comfort that Alliance is polling a good bit ahead of its local election result in 2014. She also polls well amongst women, who are more likely to vote come election day. This gives her a solid base, but can she bridge the gap? The DUP have other wells to take support from, aside from the UUP and the Greens, I don’t see where she makes up ground. (Maybe I am wrong on this)

Naomi has to make this campaign about her issues and she has to constantly press home her work in these areas. Last month I felt the DUP had stolen some of her thunder over animal cruelty with their slick launch and the favourable press it received.

Another thing this poll clearly shows is that she has to attempt make Peter and Gavin effectively seem like the same person. The slogans “East Belfast doesn’t need another Robinson” and “Robinson wants to take East Belfast back, I want to take it forward” need to be bolted onto everything that comes out of her office from now until polling day.

It’s an up hill battle for Alliance, Gavin is no push over and the poll shows around 40% of people surveyed are either planning not to vote or still have not made up their minds.


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  • Ernekid

    Purely a personal perspective but Gavin Robinson comes across to me as a bit of a slimeball. He might have a slick exterior but inside I feel that there must be a nasty DUP core of hate. I find that the younger generation of politicians are in many ways worse than the older generation as they’ve swallowed the old bullshit wholeheartedly but haven’t brought anything to the new table.

    I hold Naomi is able to get her vote out. The idea of another Tory government propped up the DUP and UKIP is truly horrifying.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “aside from the UUP & The Greens I don,t see where she makes up ground” (Maybe I am wrong on this). I agree David at best Naomi would get about 50% of the UUP vote.
    Gavin’s horse has bolted straight out of the traps, it is now a question as to what will the winning margin be. If the distance becomes bigger than this opinion poll then I can only see the Alliance Party taking one MLA seat in the constituency in the 2016 Assembly Elections.

  • Practically_Family

    I don’t believe that the real event will be anything like that close.

  • Practically_Family

    I’m fairly certain that is exactly the way it will go.

    A combination of the difficulties the DUP and the Robinsons in particular caused themselves at the time of the last election and the hangover from the flag dispute, the “Alliance Affaire” in Belfast, East is over.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Agree, like I said previously Alliance needs to try and keep the winning margin difference reasonable or they may start being content with a return of one MLA from the constituency in 2016

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I don’t feel this is a fair comment. Gavin comes across as quite a genuine and decent person, he is quite removed from some of the more mainstream members. I quite like some of the stances he has taken up on a personal level such as being an adoptive parent which is a wonderful thing to do.

    Naomi Long like many of our MPs hasn’t really impressed, I know she had many sick days over her term which obviously she couldn’t help but EB needs regeneration and she hasn’t been able to make a significant impact.

  • Kevin Breslin

    UUP voters may as well vote UUP, they don’t want either party gaining confidence at their expense. If the UUP can do Naomi’s job for her, shredding the DUP vote, or Robinson’s job by shredding the APNI vote, they won’t care either way.

    UUP may as well put their best foot forward to save Copeland’s seat.

    If the UUP even considers going into a unionist pact in a largely unionist constituency like East Belfast, they may as well close the party down because there is truely nothing left to separate them from the Democratic Unionists anymore.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The big question is what does Robinson have to offer the people of East Belfast other than “winning the seat back for unionism”, even the most ardent loyalists of the area are not buying that jingoism any more.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I completely agree. The other question is what have Alliance offered the people of EB that has progressed the constituency?

  • Guest

    “East Belfast doesn’t need another Robinson”
    “Robinson wants to take East Belfast back, I want to take it forward”

    “Tough on slogans. Tough on the causes of slogans”

  • mjh

    There are three key messages from this poll. Firstly, this is a two horse race. Secondly, the DUP started the campaign last month with its nose ahead. Thirdly, over the next 90 days either runner could pull ahead.

    Let’s look at the form. The two earlier contests with which we can compare this poll are the last Westminster election in 2010 and the Assembly in 2011. Unfortunately differences in boundaries make comparisons with the voting in last year’s Council elections too imprecise.

    In this poll the DUP are showing 34.4%, up 1.6% from their 2010 showing, but down 9.7% from the 44.1% they recorded in 2011. This must be a concern for them. Indeed if Peter Robinson were the main reason they did so poorly in 2010 they might be expected to have enjoyed a bigger bounce back with a different candidate.

    Alliance are shown at 28.7%, down 8.5% from their victory in 2010, but still 2.4% up on their Assembly showing. They may be relieved that this shows that they have held (or increased) their core vote, and that they are better positioned than in 2010 to campaign for tactical votes as the only alternative to a DUP victory.

    The UUP scored 14.6% in the poll. This is down by 6.6% on 2010 when many saw the UNUCF as the principal challenger to the DUP. However it is up 4.9% on their Assembly showing. As Kevin has noted in a comment above, this is a level which they will need to defend in anticipation of the next Assembly elections – especially if Copeland does not run again. They could however be squeezed between DUP and Alliance this time.

    No one else is in the running. The PUP are on 6.5%, TUV on 2.8%, Sinn Fein on 1.8%, UKIP on 1.6%, Greens on 1.5% and SDLP on 0.8%. Some of them may have already been squeezed by the two leaders. All of them will be the targets for further squeezing over the next three months.

    Intriguingly the pollsters found another 7.5% who are planning to vote for other candidates. But if those candidates do not stand maybe they will help to tip the balance between the two leaders.

    NB. All the poll percentages quoted are percentages for those respondents who expressed a preference. Won’t Vote/Don’t Knows (who made up 38.3% of the sample) have been excluded.

  • Pete

    I’m pretty sure the leaflet didn’t tell people to send death threats, did it?

    Blaming the leaflet for the violence is equivalent to blaming the council for having the vote. Blaming either is wrong. The Council was entitled to have a vote on the issue, the DUP and UUP are entitled to try to gain support for their point of view by sending out literature on the matter.

    (And I think Alliance will win East Belfast by the way, as whenever polls show it is very close now, a lot of people will tactically vote for Alliance.)

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Morph 2 in 5 will sum up the turn out. Them 2 voters will not vote. I believe the East, West, South Belfast Constituencies for the West Minister Elections will just about get over a 50% turn out, thats why I agree with david’s assessment, Naomi needed to be neck and neck in the polls now to have a chance.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Agree Anon. Good point raised in the equation.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Agree Morph I never write anyone off in politics I have seen things change on the last day before an election which has brought many an outsider past the post first but I think you are on the ball with your last comment. Since when did we ever had fair digs in NI politics ! The Bookies always win !

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Clarification for what actually occurred at Kincora, who was really involved, what really happened.

    Without Naomi’s pressure, this will sink back into the oblivion all too many would see it relegated to.

  • Pete

    “I never suggested that the leaflet told people to send death threats”

    Then why on earth are you continually insinuating that the leaflet was responsible for the crimes, and that the DUP and UUP should be sued for issuing it?

    What crime do you think was committed by sending the leaflet?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Is there not also a “fear” factor? Being an Alliance supporter may get your house attacked, being a DUP one will not, because Alliance does not attack peopel’s houses.

  • Kevin Breslin


  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t actually know why the family dispute was made a political issue …Iris Robinson had an affair hurt Peter Robinson, so East Belfast had to hurt Peter Robinson too?

    Well isn’t that mean?

  • Kevin Breslin

    PUP could theoretically take an Assembly seat in East Belfast with a transfer friendly candidate and a bit of campaigning.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Important development that I and all true Unionist would applaud and would continue to pursue regardless of what the outcome is.

    On a social and economical perspective what have Alliance done for this area. Of course one could ask what has the DUP done for North Antrim or Sinn Fein for West Belfast but we’ll stick with EB for now.

  • eireanne

    joe asked “what have Alliance offered the people of EB that has progressed the constituency?”
    reply: a much better image. The East Belfast MP now represents people who vote for a more tolerant party – which is a major step forward from the way it was!

  • carl marks

    it shows how far the unionist ascendancy has fallen that even with the combined vitriol of the main unionist parties the traditional unionist stronghold of east Belfast is not guaranteed for either party.
    times have changed eh.

  • carl marks

    well anybody remaining in the DUP/UUP after the disgraceful performances we have seem over flegs and twaddle probably is not a very nice person.
    it’s a dogs and scratching thing.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Lucid Talk’s poll is an interesting snapshot of the state of the constituency three months out from the election. My overall feel is that the DUP are not as convincingly ahead as they should be at this stage, and this suggests that the flags issue simply isn’t going to be a factor in the election (either against Alliance, or in favour of the DUP). This is consistent with the result in the council elections.

    As such, I think it’s much too early to write off Naomi yet. Some points on comments above (and on the article in the BT today in general) :

    – East Belfast has always been Alliance’s strongest constituency. Oliver Napier came within a hair of winning it in 1979. That’s a long time ago of course. But it shows that the seat is not necessarily natural DUP territory and that the right Alliance candidate can pull a vote without the benefit of the DUP candidate being embroiled in scandal.

    – for the first time in the constituency’s history, nationalists in East Belfast (who, contrary to popular belief, do exist outside of the Markets) have a candidate they can vote tactically for, unlike in 2010 when few commentators seriously believed that Naomi could take the seat. Alliance probably cannot be seen to be courting the nationalist vote, but nationalist voters may make their mind up to support Naomi on their own.

    – The DUP are vulnerable on abortion reform, marriage equality and animal rights, as well as on the general issue of fostering instability within the constituency over flags. Sammy Douglas’ intervention is in an interview a few days ago in the Telegraph was interesting, as he is easily the DUP person with his ear closest to the ground in the area. Again, contrary to popular belief, loyalist voters tend to be more progressive than the parties they vote for and this doesn’t help the DUP in this case.

    Expect Alliance to try to ensure these major social issues are pushed onto the agenda during the election.

    – it is unsafe to assume that a pact between the UUP and the DUP will automatically benefit the DUP. UUP voters are those who supported Trevor Ringland. It is also the case that Alliance’s decline in the constituency during the 1990s almost exclusively benefited the UUP – and Alliance’s rebound since then has been almost exclusively at the UUP’s expense.

    The UUP vote there is relatively liberal; Michael Copeland, the senior UUP figure in the constituency, supported marriage equality in the assembly. (it seems unlikely that Copeland will run – there were stories in the paper some time back about some trouble he’s been having).

    Moreover, many of those who voted UUP in 2010 believed they were supporting the candidate most likely to be able to stop the DUP. Naomi’s incumbency changes the game here.

    – as deputy Leader and a popular politician in her own right Naomi can use her existing profile to promote herself beyond the constituency. Since Alliance are going to be targeting only one seat, they can put Naomi front and centre of all the party political broadcasts, and can use her a lot in the 18 election addresses.

    – related to the last point, the DUP are defending several seats. South Antrim and Upper Bann look vulnerable and their sitting MPs do not have much profile, and they need to watch out in Strangford where David McNarry could damage them by running on a UKIP ticket (although it’s unlikely that there’ll be an upset there).

    Jim Allister’s decision not to run in North Antrim – ironically because if he did run he could have a chance of winning, and would end up exiled in Westminster where he is less able to land punches on the DUP – makes life a little easier up there. East Antrim, East Londonderry and Lagan Valley are all entirely safe enough that the DUP is unlikely to run any kind of campaign in those constituencies.

  • carl marks

    what do you thing the DUP will do for EB, after all when they had the seat they were more interested in walking past Short Strand and flying flags than improving the lot of 5the people there.
    and Joe a list of actual things would be nice not anything vague!

  • carl marks

    She outsourced it to unionist to do! so let me get this right the flag change was on the cards for ten years, the unionist parties ignored the whole thing till just before the vote, then produced a leaflet condemning alliance for it. Alliance people were prepared for it, the fools rioting were not ALLIANCE VOTERS they were loyalists/ unionists.
    that is the best bit of “it was all themuns fault” I have heard in a long time.
    Alliance votes according to a well advertised policy that was not a secret, unionists ignored the vote but it’s Alliance’s fault for not explaining it to loyalist corner boys. good one!

  • carl marks

    or the difference was that Pete wanted the seat back and decided to use the flag thing to attack Alliance, maybe that was the difference!

  • carl marks

    No surrender, not a inch, resist until the bitter end,
    so as far as you are concerned the street violence was the right thing, all those lads in prison were martyrs to the cause, and your reason wasn’t the policy(after all you approve of it in other council’s) it was the fact that themuns done it!

  • Catcher in the Rye

    East Belfast is far from one of the most Unionist seats in NI. It elected a non-unionist in the face of plenty of unionist alternatives. You won’t see an Alliance MP for East Antrim or East Londonderry.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Did it take its policy out of its party and down and out into the streets and work with loyalists and unionists and get them on board?

    Unionists were already on board. The UUP voted for designated days in other places, and the DUP abstained rather than attempt to stop it. There was no reason to suppose that the political unionist parties would react as they did.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Bigotry or inclusion – unionism, you decide.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    it’s a bit rich to demand Unionists stick to designated days whenever designated days is not stuck to by Nationalists.

    It has never been necessary to “demand” that unionists stick to designated days. They were quite happy to do it all by themselves – in many councils, and up at Stormont. It was typically the Ulster Unionists who implemented designated days, and the DUP who went along with it, raising little more than token opposition.

    Also, nationalists are not required to “stick” to designated days. They are required, like everyone else, to ensure their council does not break the law. Having a no-flag policy meets that requirement.

    The opportunity to expose nationalists for their hypocrisy over designated days was missed. You can blame the UUP and DUP and their leaflets for that.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It’s funny that you see him that way. I’m sure Gavin’s probably alright. I doubt he’s evil, or a hater. He’s not Gregory Campbell.

    That said, he cannot separate himself from his party and what it stands for. And the election campaign must be about that.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    26 out of 365 is not a compromise.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I completely agree Carl and right across the political spectrum one has to ask what benefits any of the MPs have brought to their constituencies?

  • Gerry Lynch

    A few thoughts for what they’re worth.

    * The “don’t knows” in LucidTalk polls tends to be a reasonable, if not absolute, proxy for “won’t vote” i.e. I “don’t know” because I don’t pay much attention to NI politics anyway. It’s why MORI NI were always wrong to push don’t knows for a lean, where they always found lots of vaguely Alliance and SDLP sympathisers who never actually showed up on polling day. 38% is a lower than average “don’t know” figure than recent NI-wide LT figures; East Belfast turnout has declined less from its 1990s levels than many other parts of NI in recent decades. I think we might see a reasonably healthy turnout by the standards of Greater Belfast in recent General Elections in the East this year, around 60%.

    * Factor that makes the figures a bit optimistic for Long: Alliance always does slightly better in polls than in reality (as does the SDLP), presumably because people want to be seen as nice and peacenik. LT’s figures tend to be less out of kilter than polling firms that push (who traditionally had really grotesque pro- Alliance and SDLP biases) but the issue is still there.

    * Factor that makes the figures a bit optimistic for Robinson: There’s an obvious difference between polling party names and polling actual candidate names. It’s impossible to know what way that would pan out, but my instinct is that Naomi Long has name recognition beyond the Alliance generic brand; her 2010 vote, even allowing for the perfect storm factor, was way ahead of what Alliance polled in any election in surrounding years in East Belfast. From tallies, e.g., we estimated an Alliance vote of 21% in the 2009 Euro elections, as opposed to the 37% Long polled in 2010. Alliance polled 26% in the 2011 Assembly Election. The perfect storm effect can’t really account for all of that, can it?

    * 2010 was a perfect storm largely in retrospect. In reality, Alliance were facing a tactical squeeze from a UUP who had come a clear second in 2005, and had an ultra-moderate candidate practically designed to appeal to Soft Unionist Alliance voters in Trevor Ringland. To some extent, that was overcome by an Alliance leaflet and poster campaign that simply blew Ringland out of the water, but it was never entirely overcome. Long certainly lost a significant number of tactical votes to Ringland, even though the UUP eventually came a poor third. I was not the only Alliance activist who had a number of people literally screaming on the doorstep (and in my case, directly on the phone) that all we were doing was ruining Trevor’s chances to get rid of Robinson. There’s no doubt in my mind the number of lost votes to erroneous tactical voting was well into four digits.

    * Issues move more votes that emotions and personality, but they still move some votes. Flegs remain a problem for Alliance; they didn’t handle the DUP leaflet in 2012 well at all, and still have never really got their position across. On the other hand, I’m convinced that the DUP are pushing all the other wrong buttons on identity politics, especially on abortion and homosexuality. For all the mythology about North Down, it’s East Belfast that is really stuffed with socially liberal, secular, pro-Union voters who aren’t massively different than their counterparts in Edinburgh or Portsmouth. Turning gay couples away from a B&B or sticking 15 year old rape victims on an Easyjet flight to Liverpool for an abortion are bigger vote losers than vote winners in the East. Bloomfield is not Ballymoney. There is, of course, a Loyalist Evangelical vote in East Belfast but that was never anything other than DUP or TUV anyway; it’s also a gross misrepresentation of East Belfast Evangelicalism to think it’s more exercised about gay marriage than the routine displays of (what many consider to be) unChristian bigotry outside St Matthew’s every year – particularly at a time when many Evangelicals are finding common ground with Catholics on social issues.

    * The DUP will get a better turnout (although still a thin one) among working-class Loyalists than in 2010. Looking at the council election results from Belfast in 2014, though, its a number in the middle triple digits across East Belfast.

    * Long will squeeze the Nationalist vote better than last time, especially in the Short Strand, where I knocked doors and delivered leaflets late on polling day in 2010 and was constantly told “I would vote for her if she could win” (they didn’t vote for her). That will also be a number in the middle triple digits. There’s also a fair degree of demographic change, not just in the obvious Ballyhackamores and Belmonts, where middle-class Catholics are buying cheaper property relative to BT9 in big numbers, but also many young university-educated Protestants in moderately paid jobs, English people and overseas migrants with British or Commonwealth citizenship in the inner city. Places like the Albertbridge Road are really quite dramatically changed in recent years. These aren’t people who’ll vote in massive numbers, but those who do really won’t vote DUP.

    * Did I mention women? There was obviously a huge gender gap in 2010 and I’d be surprised if it didn’t repeat.

    * All in all, I’d be happy to 6% behind if I were Long. Alliance closes better and gets its vote out better where it is organised. I’ve made the DUP favourites by 2-to-1 to anyone who asked by opinion for a while now, and I don’t see anything here to change my view. Given that she was supposed to doomed from the day aftershe was elected in 2010, I’d be happy with these figures if I were long.

    * Game on! A mouthwatering contest, although Upper Bann, South Antrim, and Fermanagh-South Tyrone all fit that description.

  • Gaygael

    Here bes me and you calling it for long in 2010. Nobody else did. Great stuff but off to bed. Comment tomo.


  • Colin Lamont

    Great summary! Although I’d be interested in you’re opinion on North and South Belfast, which to me look like being just as hotly contested.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Joe, I think that all those of good will from whatever quarter would wish that an accurate picture of what occured at that place should be achieved, no matter whose reputation may be damaged. “Let justice be done, though the skys should fall.” Only in that way may the long suffering of the children involved be recognised in the full support of the Civitas.

    It is simply that no other politician has engaged so powerfully with this issue.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Stick the Union flag up or on anything you want – I couldn’t give a stuff.

    I’m more interested in getting my kids educated, paying my bills to worry about this sad little unionist side show.

  • Granni Trixie

    Much as I don’t want to rake over ‘the past’, it is necessary to do so to respond to Kevin Breslin’s assertion below that a factor in perfect storm in EB last time round was “a family dispute made a political issue|”. NO it wasn’t. Many people myself included did regard the Robinson relationship problems as personal (though some voters may not).
    Rather, the image of PR was negatively affected by allegations amplified on TV suggesting corruption eg conflict of interests when decision making in awarding of a contract by a local Council and the Robinsons selling of a triangle of land.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    The only person thumpin’ their chest is you pal. Find a dark room, lie down and cry into your pillow about those poor, put upon Unionists. Diddums…..

  • Gerry Lynch

    “Are you totally dense!” didn’t help Robbo either.

  • willieric

    Both these candidates would carry the flag for Northern Ireland admirably in my opinion. Pity both cannot be elected. Yet more proof that democracy here is moribund.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It’s hard to know where to start with all the error in this.

    Firstly, the legal issues around designated days are not related to “good relations” as you suggest (although the policy is certainly in line with that idea). It’s about maintaining a neutral workplace free from fear and intimidation.

    Employers in this country cannot have symbols of any kind in the workplace. This is a good law and it protects everyone, unionists, nationalists or otherwise. It is important that this law is sustained as many councils, and Northern Ireland as a whole, moves closer to the point where there is a Catholic majority in the population.

    The city council is an employer. Ordinarily it would also be required to maintain a neutral environment, ie no flags. Because it is also a part of the government, and a historic building, the designated days policy is deemed legally defensible, reflecting NI’s status as part of the UK following the College of Arms’ Flag protocol (which is British government policy).

    Designated days is a unionist policy. It comes from England. It was negotiated by unionists and implemented by unionists in Stormont and in many other councils. It was strategically abandoned as part of the objective of returning East Belfast to unionist hands.

    My point is, if this, designated days, is the preferred outcome advised by a statutory body, the Equality Commission, it then must either apply to all councils or none

    No, it doesn’t. A council which flies no flag is not in breach of equality regulations as you cannot show that the council is openly hostile to one tradition.

    Unfortunately for you, you have missed the boat. You can’t belatedly convert to the idea of designated days at the point where you realize that it is the only way to protect your position. The time for that was 20 years ago.

    Your only choice is to negotiate with the nationalists. To do that you have to have something that they want. An obvious example is the Irish language act. Since Gregory Campbell regards that idea as no more than toilet paper, you’re not in much of a position to expect that your needs are accorded any more respect.

    I hate to break it to you but the days of this state being dominated by unionist symbols are gone. Your choices are either to lump it; negotiate it with nationalists; or go to war. Nobody has ever gone to war over what day a flag is flown on, and I suspect you don’t really have the motivation to do it in any case.

    It’s that simple. Or it’s game over.

    By all means please lay out for us what “game over” means and where you see this process going.

    The near future brings further issues. A nationalist majority in Belfast is likely to vote to remove the flag altogether. When it does, there won’t be a thing you will be able to do about it. Other councils that still fly the flag on 365 days are likely to face legal action – and the unionists who control those councils will end up having to introduce designated days themselves. You made your bed, now you get to lie in it.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    If it were entirely democratic, me and you wouldn’t be arguing right now, as Unionist majority councils would simply vote to fly the flag 365 days from whatever council building they wanted to and liked the most – and nationalists would do whatever they wanted. But they can’t.

    You are confusing democracy with majoritarianism. Democracy has to operate within the law.

    You also forgot to observe that it is the same EQIA process that prevents nationalist councils from hoisting a tricolour.

    A win win is: if it comes down in Belfast, it goes up in Londonderry for instance. Win win is what I am all about.

    It’s such a terrible shame that nobody really cares what you are about. The status quo is that councils may implement a neutral flag voluntarily, or – if they wish to fly a union flag – will be forced to restrict it to designated days. Either lump it, or offer the nationalists something in return for changing it. My money is on you lumping it.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    this sort of legal action is nothing other than a state-sponsored culture war against the British identity in Northern Ireland.

    It is nobody’s fault if you feel attacked by the absence of a flag.

    You might want to take a leaflet out of the book of the nationalists. They are not calling for the law to be changed so that they can fly a tricolour. They seem to be able to be confident in their identity with tricolours not being present.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    That’s one sided bollix.

    Let me use a simpler example.

    It used to be possible for women to be fired when they got married. That created vacancies which men could fill.

    It is now illegal to fire women for getting married or becoming pregnant. As a result there are now, proportionately, more unemployed men.

    Your argument here is that the change disadvantages men and amounts to discrimination against men. You can’t see that it is, in fact, the reversal of an advantageous position that was built on discrimination.

    I very much look forward to your day in court, where you will be defeated.

    It’s over – we will see your likes in court

    Those are the famous last words of Billy Hutchinson.

    There is no means by which you can use equality legislation to demand that a specific flag is flown. We know that the no flags position adopted by nationalist councils is legal – if it wasn’t, unionists would have already challenged it and had the councillors surcharged.

    , the days of asking Unionists to bend over and take one for the nationalist minority are well and truly over, and you know it, that’s why you are getting all worked up.

    I’m not worked up at all. This society is becoming one which is open to all, and domination is fading. You have no legal means by which to change this except through negotiation, and since you would rather suffer reversals than negotiate, there is no danger of any of that happening.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I told you Catcher I am not talking to you as there’s no point you talk like everything is a matter of fact simply because it comes out of your mouth, or from your keyboard or whatever.

    In other words, you cannot refute my factual comments. That’s because they are fact.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    If you think that a daily flag policy is legally defensible, then please explain why the UUP implemented designated days, why the DUP failed to resist it, and why Jim Allister hasn’t offered his legal expertise on forcing this issue to the courts ?

    Don’t you think that it’s odd that Jim Allister, one of the country’s foremost QCs, has carefully avoided refuting the legal advice on this matter ?

    Could it be that they are right – that the risk of losing the court case is significant ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Four councils have lowered the union flag to designated days as a mark of respect for the nationalist minority

    This isn’t the reason why designated days was implemented.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    , it only seems to apply to Unionist majority councils largely due to threat of legal action, highly suspect if you ask me.

    It only applies to Unionist majority councils because they are the only ones who insist on flying the union flag more often than the Queen does.

  • carl marks

    great analysis. I sincerely hope your right.
    on another thread it was pointed out the long history of radical and left wing politics in east Belfast.

  • carl marks

    it a bigger compromise than the council ever offered nationalist’s when it was a unionist cabal!

  • Joe_Hoggs

    So are you implying this is retribution?

  • carl marks

    no what I am saying is that you get compromise when nationalist’s have power but when unionist’s you don’t. the fact that the OO can walk in Derry but Ballymena wont permit a St paddy’s day parade.
    but tell me Joe what compromise did the Belfast council give nationalist’s when it was controlled by the OO.
    My father signed up for ww2 came back with medals and was refused a job in bbc because “he could not be trusted” by a man who sat on his ass during the war,

  • Guest


  • carl marks

    Joe there is something else you should consider, If unionists had not spent decades using the union flag as a territorial marker on lampposts to let nationalist’s know they were not welcome in certain areas, if unionists politicians had not wrapped themselves in it and loyalist terror gangs had not waved it at every opportunity, plus the burning of Tricolours at the bonfires on the 11 night (and just about every other opportunity) then perhaps we might not be having this discussion.
    but unionism disgraced the union flag and abused it without care , seriously Joe it’s speaks wonder’s for nationlist tolerance that it is flying at the city hall at all

  • carl marks

    but it is up in Derry, I passed through the City the other day and seen several on lamppost’s, at least I think they were union flags, bit hard to tell they were falling apart, and you will be also pleased to know they had the usual terrorist flags keeping it company.
    Really Anon (and all those other unionist’s gurning about the city hall flag) you lot treat the union flag like shit, which makes it strange when you complain about designated days in Belfast.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    And why should there not be a law at hand for Unionists to get nationalist majority councils to move out of their own comfort zone of never flying the Union flag

    Because you will have to negotiate with nationalists to get such a law through the assembly. Democracy is a pain.

    Are British people and the Unionist identity worth less in the eyes of equality powers?

    Worth less than what ? The symbols of the nationalist identity cannot, in general, be lawfully displayed on any public or government building. Seems to me as if the “unionist identity” as you call it enjoys enhanced status.

    It’s one sided, all about what Unionists should do for others.

    I cannot help you with how you choose to perceive things. My only advice is that you either negotiate it, or start getting used to it. If you keep electing politicians who describe nationalist cultural aspirations as “toilet paper” don’t be surprised when they respond to you in kind.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Unionists don’t support designated days anymore. Neither do nationalists. Unionists comprehensively rejected coming up with the flag compromise that you outline (which is quite reasonable – I’d be happy to support designated days at all councils). They refused to negotiate on the issue either at Haass or as part of the most recent talks process.

    Yet strangely you’re attacking me. I am simply pointing out the reality.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Joe, you cannot have a situation where unionists denigrate the Irish language and describe proposed legislation around it as “toilet paper” and then act surprised when nationalists find it difficult to work up the enthusiasm to back you up on how your cultural demands can be met.

    If it were me – and of course it isn’t, but anyway – I would happily negotiate with unionists to have an enhanced flag flying protocol. I would support ways to allow the union flag to be flown on other days as unionists would like. I’d also support ways to secure rights in terms of marches and parades, support for military coming-home processions, and so on.

    Unionists aren’t interested in negotiating any of that. They would rather fight and die rather than accept a compromise. And that’s exactly what is happening – they’re fighting, and they’re dying.

  • carl marks

    did love the completely ridiculous claim that the flags are put on lampposts because the flag came down from the city hall, unionists have been putting flags on lampposts as long as I can remember ( and I am going on for sixty) so we can put that one in the box marked “crude propaganda” and the flag did not come off the NI driving license it was never on it, so that is in the aforementioned box as well.
    Now most unionists may not put flags on lampposts or burn tricolours but they never shout about respecting flags when it happens.
    As regarding respecting British symbols like I say when unionists start respecting British symbols and respect Irish symbols then we might take you seriously.

  • carl marks

    yep a wee bit of respect would be in order, let’s start with the lampposts’, then we could also stop or publically condemn the terror groups when they wave the union flag (after all pimp’s and drug dealers are not the sort of people you want waving your flag around) now I am all for respect but if you want it earn it, simple!

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Could I be a precious princess and ask for a 4th option, the three flag option e.g. tricolour, union flag and a ‘new’ Northern Ireland flag?

    That’s one for Irish nationalists, one for British nationalists and one for Northern Irish nationalists (or people who don’t feel any great attachment to the other two flags, a sort of middle ground if you will).

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    For what it’s worth, I agree that nationalist councils should make a gesture and fly the flag on designated days, likewise I’d like it if the flag 365 unionist councils would reduce their flag flying to designated days.

    Now, given that it’s unlikely that this will happen would it not be an idea to (as suggested above) to negotiate?

    A (watered down/amended) Irish/Gaelic language act is surely a small price to pay for getting the flag back up West of the Bann (and reducing the sense of alienation there for the unionists living there)?

    Furthermore, regarding a ‘cultural war’, I think the anger and frustration surrounding this is not vented at the true villains i.e. those who make the various symbols and flags offensive in the first place with their appalling abuse and misappropriation?

    Carl Marks had point regarding the silence and alarming tolerance for such behaviour from unionist quarters;

    as soon as any unionist dares to criticise the minority of bandsmen and eejits for their behaviour then the whole wagon train is circled and everyone becomes all defensive (and offensive) and said critical unionist will be called a Lundy, or a patsy or a useful idiot or whatever, seldom will unionists agree and say “you know what, maybe we shouldn’t be so tolerant of drunken louts wrapping themselves up in a union flag, it’s a bad image and a misleading one….”

    Would it not be more difficult for a lawyer to argue about what defines a symbol as offensive or intimidating if said symbols didn’t appear to be totems for bands with anti catholic feelings or bands that are overtly pro-loyalist terrorism (as few as they are in number, but it only takes a handful)?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    In the meantime we could use a flag similar to your avatar, I reckon most of us are plugged into some sort of NI matrix anyway, red pills for every body!!!

    In fact, lets get Laurence Fishburne over to chair talks, have you seen him in ‘Hannibal’?

    Would tear strips of ye so he would (although not in the way Dr Hannibal would, natch)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It’s really an issue of precedent, Joe. The tone of discussion was set by origional Unionist habits of using intransegence to gain the maximum possible for their case. I’m “another cheek’ man myself, a long term pascifist and negotiation man, but I can easily see why others less masochistic might not be.

    Until we all learn how to strive for the good of the entire community in these things, as Yeats says “the lash goes on”, simply now in the hands of others.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “My father signed up for ww2 came back with medals and was refused a job in bbc because “he could not be trusted” by a man who sat on his ass during the war”, carl, my uncle had the same experience when put forward for a civil service job at Stormont in the early 1950s just after his extended service in Palestine. The man who took delight in telling him he was “untrustworthy” (as a socialist) was someone within our wider family circle.

    You know my thoughts, by now, about such people at the cenotaph service.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    You also cannot have a position where Republicans use the Irish language as a political weapon and then expect it to be protected from political attacks. I support the preservation of the Irish language but I challenge all Republicans to take the sting out of this language and stop using it as a weapon. If you are sincere about preserving the language you will not mind doing this.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I don’t disagree but the flag issue is far from over. If reasonable people think 26/365 days is a fair compromise then we’re really at a low starting point. My own suggestion was to have leadership backed by law enforcement that would enable the removal of all flags from lamp posts. I feel this would take the sting out of the Union flag and Nationalists maybe more apt to it flying daily from public buildings.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I agree with you, to a point. The problem is that even if republicans had the best of intentions ,their actions RE Irish would still be seen by unionists as suspicious.

    Culture is weaponised on each side. Republicans aren’t really interested in Irish (although some of them are); they’re interested in ways they can stamp their cultural symbols on spaces. Unionists likewise weaponise the union flag, parades and so on. Designated days was not a problem until nationalists strategically supported it.

    That said, my point still stands. Leading republican elected representatives are not going around comparing other people’s cultural symbols to toilet paper and then simultaneously demanding respect for their own symbols in return.

  • carl marks

    how about a Beige ( a mix of orange and green) Mobius strip on a rainbow tartan field!

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I’m going to challenge you as a Republican to make the Irish language more accessible to Unionists.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed Joe, we are at a very low starting point. For me, the time to really begin this dialogue was back in 1968, when my fellow middle class protestants did nothing whatsoever to support “British style equality” for all in the province that a few of uswere out on the streets to ask for, but tacitly supported the Paisley/Bunting Senior leap to violence against peaceful protest through their inaction, while tut-tutting at it all.

    I do however think that “formalising” the flying of the flag by taking it away from confrontational situations is a very good start, but, as they say, we should not be starting from here.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    what makes you think I’m a republican ?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    26/365 is not much of a compromise. How would you feel if the flag came down just 26 out of 365 days?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Just from your arguments or are you another Alliance supporter?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    This is part of the UK, we rely on UK subsidies to maintain this country, it is only right that the UK flag is given its proper place here.
    What compromises do you want Morpheus?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I suspected as much.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Now Morph, that was an awful mopey post, you can do better than that.
    You have not stated thus far what exactly you want???

  • Joe_Hoggs

    So if there’s a UI in the morning should we start flying Union flags from certain public buildings?
    What your proposing is a secterian carve up across NI which is disgusting.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    We need a uniform decision on the flag so that all councils are operating the same policy rather than it being determined on a Prod V Catholic basis across the board.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    If we are part of the Union then a proper flag policy is required beyond buildings making it illegal to hang any from lampposts. I believe if there were less on lampposts, Catholics would be more accepting of them.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    We are either in the Union or we are out but we are not Switzerland.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    which of my arguments was a republican argument ?