Signs of real politics emerging from Stormont House Agreement

Be grateful for small mercies. With less than a hundred days to go before the election, implementing the Stormont Hose Agreement has had the effect of postponing the worst kind of  dog-eat -dog  sectarian  campaigning – so far. Sinn Fein like the rest of them have had to swallow the basics of the Welfare Bill in the interests of political reality. Syriza type resistance has collapsed.  To ask a different question: are there any signs at all of left-right politics beginning to develop or a progressive tendency emerging through the sectarian divide? Mick posed the question, rather hopefully I thought, arising out of an Economist piece some weeks ago, that if at least tacit agreement can eventually be reached on flags and parades, social conservatism may mark a new divide. What does that look like? Sinn Fein and the Alliance party versus the rest?

Up to a point Lord Copper. The SDLP are doing their best  to differentiate from Sinn Fein. On what may be seen as the left flanking movement, they’re doing it over the Welfare Bill. This may be gesture politics as David argues but it’s at least a viable position.  Over abortion reform in cases of rape or lethal foetal abnormality the SDLP are firmly on the side of the all-Ireland conservative majority.  Alasdair McDonnell’s political error here was to commit his party to what should be an issue of individual conscience as well as tarnishing his own reputation as a doctor.  The SDLP has backed arrangements to allow the National Crime Agency  to operate in Northern Ireland Agency but this can be seen as a right wing issue however much in the interests of the whole community. But at least the SDLP have been committing themselves to clear positions on which voters may pass judgement.

What of Sinn Fein? The position is mixed. Together with the DUP they will claim they have saved the Assembly by passing a Welfare Act consistent with Westminster’s current requirements. Whatever the post-election circumstances,  the DUP are in a stronger position to bargain for better terms because they will take their seats. Sinn Fein like to insinuate a progressive position over abortion but without real commitment. In the Dail, they have just abstained on the private member’s bill. But this is a dog that has not yet roared.

Is the Irish Language Bill progressive?  Although no doubt based on human rights arguments, in my book the institutional use of Irish in the public arena is profoundly reactionary, the politics of the 19th century. It runs directly counter to the creative adoption of the language for cultural enrichment and should be opposed regardless of the sectarian attitudes which coincide.

What of sharing and integration? Plenty of lip service to sharing will be paid no doubt but will anything more appear substantial appear in the manifestos?  Will the parties take their cue from the  British government’s incentives for integration in the Stormont House Agreement? Metaphorical bullets need to be bitten like a new programme  for schools networking to accompany closures and a single teacher education college. Economic pressure may prevail over moral – or moralising – argument. That may become the enduring legacy of Stormont House.



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  • Kevin Breslin

    In two weeks this forum will be back to “them and us” debates dominating despite its affection for “real politics”. If “real politics” is so real to you, then why don’t you debate it more often?

    The only “real politics” I see here is bemoaning the lack of “real politics” … that’s not really political, is actually anti-political, it’s trying to appeal to everybody with that one, that’s what that opinion is.

    Every politician up in Stormont bemoans the lack of “real politics” … so next time some snooty journalist thinks he’s better than Gregory Campbell or Phil Flannighan, remember they actually made the effort getting a mandate, and they did a little more than sighing and huffing in order to get it.

  • Zig70

    Alasdair’s mistake was having a crap argument. Whether abortion should be up to individuals is your opinion and in my view out of step with the core SDLP vote.

  • Joe_Hoggs


  • Tacapall

    Morph why were all the leaders of the so called free world arm in arm in Paris was it not something to do with free speech and free expression. Some people dont agree with censorship.

  • Tacapall

    Indeed Morpheus but the point being all the leaders of our so called free world agree on the idea of Free speech and expression, well except for people who deny the holocaust. While you might not agree with what Pastor McConnell espouses surely you would defend his right to express his opinions.

  • Tacapall

    Morpheus what is wrong for people who have lived in an area and who have sacrificed life and labour for generations for the right to exist in that particular area demanding they should be given priority over someone from another country who has sacrificed nothing nor contributed anything to the public purse. If he was willing to travel all the way from Africa surely he would have no complaints being housed somewhere not as well sought after as East Belfast. Should the locals who have lived in the slums that were there before those new houses were built move elsewhere or those waiting years to be rehoused just sit back and accept they have no say over who moves into an area or why someone from another country gets first choice of the new properties they have fought for decades to get built.

  • Tacapall

    Morpheus that might supposedly be the criteria in relation to waiting lists for housing but thats not quite how it works in this part of the world. We are a divided community and waiting lists and such are adopted to suit, if we were unemployed we can even refuse a job because its not in the right area and we wont lose any entitlement to benefits. You only hear the side of the argument the media wants you to hear you dont know what was happening behind the scenes like some old pensioner from that area who has lived there all their lives who although has a home its a damp ridden rodent infested hovel and she/he needs rehoused should someone from another country who claims they are homeless get priority over them ?

  • Tacapall

    All I can say then Morpheus is that obviously you dont know that particular part of Belfast nor do you know the rules that govern who is a priority on the housing lists. Believe it or not theres still people who actually do live in damp ridden rodent infested housing, theres slum landlords everywhere, and they are not considered a priority by the housing executive because they have a roof over their heads.

    If people demand segregation in the final resting place and the local authority agree then who are you or I to lecture local people on who should get priority on the housing lists for their area they have lived in for generations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Morpheus, one of the Charlie Hebdo regulars at least seems to agree with you about the World Leaders thing. At the time there was an interesting article over on Reuters:

    “For veteran Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop, the problem is with some of the paper’s new ‘friends.’ Holtrop, famous in France under the name of Willem, said he was happy if people worldwide marched to defend freedom of speech. But asked about support from Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, he said: ‘We vomit on all those people who are suddenly saying they are our friends.’

    ‘We’ve got a lot of new friends – the pope, Queen Elizabeth, Putin. I’ve got to laugh about that,’ he said. Willem says he is alive only because he does not like going to weekly staff meetings and was not in the Paris office when two gunman erupted and killed his colleagues and two policemen.”

  • Tacapall

    I know what the rules are Morpheus, for example, legally if I was on the housing list I would be allowed two refusals and be required to take the third offer of a home or go to the bottom of the list, but in this part of the world we get to choose what area we want to live in, if we are offered a home in an area that we would consider not suitable because of religion we can refuse and not be penalised. That rule would be for locals only so there are exceptions whether you like it or not and lots of people are offered housing in certain areas when they are not at the top of the list. Being top of the list for a certain area is not the same as being next on the homeless list

  • sean treacy

    Maybe I missed it but has 500 million not been set aside to ensure those on benefits do not endure the loss that the Tories intended for them?

  • Demolinguist

    Brian Walker,

    Your statement regarding the place of Irish in the public arena will no doubt be considered provocative by some but it is not as unreasonable as it may first appear.

    Culture Minister Caral Ní Chuilín does not speak Irish beyond a few token phrases. When interviewed by Irish language media (Meon Eile, TG4) she speaks in English. Yet she has launched a consultation process for an Irish Language Bill for the North.

    Among its proposals:

    – enshrining the right to use Irish in any court proceedings,
    – providing realtime interpretation services and translating documents emanating from district councils,
    – right to use Irish in all Assembly business

    Yet Ní Chuilín cannot or will not work towards fluency in Irish and is seemingly at ease with the fact that 99% of the jobs that would be created if the proposals eventually became law would go to members of the broad Catholic-Nationalist-Republican community, since so few unionists or Protestants can speak Irish or have interest in making it a central part of their lives.

    You could potentially have a situation where a native English speaker fluent in Irish provides real time interpretation of a speech made by another native English speaker speaking Irish (but who almost certainly speaks it with less ease and fluency than English) to a room full of native English speakers!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Too many parents are not sending their children to the schools this journalist wants them to go, that damaged feeling is a fate worse than being on a waiting list for a cancer drug. Imagine children being sent to a school segregated from your caveats … It’s almost not worth fighting against cancer that is! Surely this is First World problems sort of stuff, bruised ego, bruised influence nothing on the big things,

    I mean there’s the arguement that integrated schools save money that’s fine, but what about instead of doing an uneconomically productive career like journalism, people contributed to the economy through pursuing careers in engineering or medicine instead. Would that not boost the economy too?

    How much does journalism contribute to the export market, how much tax revenue does not selling papers and people not buying web advertised materials on a political website can possibly fund all these integrated schools?

  • Dan

    ….set aside at the expense of the rest of us in Northern Ireland.
    Still, Trolley waits for pensioners are ok so long as Sinn Fein’s client core vote is able to continue to steal off and fleece everyone else.

  • mac tire

    “Oldham 2001?


    Gary Glitter?

    Sir Jimmy Savile?

    And your point?

  • mac tire

    No point Morph – a definite neo-Nazi and possible holocaust denier, considering he is now talking in terms of race and white people.
    Slide on, racist child. Your likes are not wanted here.

  • Practically_Family

    Simple solution. Stop being divided.

    Where can I collect my award?

  • Tacapall

    I wonder why no-one ever thought of that before.

    Seeing as we’re being sarcastic and witty. Your simple solution doesn’t address the centuries of hatred and distrust nor does it address the reality that, even though we are all animals, no right thinking person would dream of expecting a penquin and a crocodile to live in the same pond.

  • Practically_Family

    Some of us do. Remarkably comfortably.

  • Tacapall

    Well of course you do, isn’t those areas the leafy surburbs where all the officer types and career politicians come from, but at the coal face, the interface areas, where all the cannon fodder reside, different rules apply for obvious reasons and when you choose to ignore that reality violence usually occurs.

  • Cagey Feck

    Your univariate analysis of the statistics of private housing is over simplified to the point of meaninglessness. If ethnicity was uncorrelated with any other predictor of housing location your conclusion would be valid. However, we know that ethnicity is correlated ith many other predictors including INCOME. What’s your evidence for saying that ethnicity is the primaryunderlying cause of location choice?

  • Cagey Feck

    Fair play, thanks for answering. As someone with an interest in statistics, though, I can tell you that ‘the conclusion you drew’ is in fact an assumption and is not supported by the evidence you’ve cited.