Gerry Kelly: North Belfast is still winnable and is determined to challenge politics that are “sectarian in the extreme”

Today Sinn Fein launched their plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in North Belfast. As pacts have dominated the headlines I caught up with the party’s sitting MLA and Westminster candidate, Gerry Kelly to get his views about deal announced on St. Patrick’s Day.

I began by asking him what his initial thoughts were on the pact?

Kelly told me that it whilst four constituencies were included it was really a two seat pact to deal with East and North Belfast. In his view, the UUP did not really feature in the negotiations as he believes that the DUP “took them in and spat them out,” but the Sinn Fein candidate told me the DUP wanted a pact as he knew that Sinn Fein were getting closer to taking the seat as evidenced by the recent census figures and the 2010 General Election result.

Sinn Fein have called for an arrangement with the SDLP, I wondered why he thought that Alban Maginness and the SDLP leadership have refused to step aside?

Kelly argued that if you look at the three seats the SDLP currently hold they are appealing to a Nationalist, as well as, a Unionist vote. The Sinn Fein MLA made reference to a comment from his party colleague, Conor Murphy about the SDLP being “silent partners” in this pact and wonders himself “just how silent they were.” Kelly argues that the SDLP have no chance of winning North Belfast as he says that at the recent elections both Carál Ní Chuilín and himself have outpolled Alban Maginness.

Moreover, he rejects the assertion that a possible pact would be “sectarian” arguing that Nationalist politics is about equality and securing things like power-sharing government, rights for the LGBT community and protecting the most vulnerable. For Kelly these are policies that are massively different from Unionism and a pact should be about maximizing that progressive vote.

I put it to him that a realistically Sinn Fein cannot win this seat now?

Unsurprisingly, the Sinn Fein MLA believes that while it has become more difficult with the announcement of a pact, he still believes the seat is still winnable. Citing the surprise win of Naomi Long in 2010 and the response he is getting from canvassing, he believes that many Nationalists in North Belfast think now that the SDLP have got it wrong.

I finished up by asking why would it be such a bad thing if Nigel Dodds was returned on May 7th?

Kelly told me that Nigel Dodds and the DUP’s politics are “sectarian in the extreme” if you look at their attitudes to parades, opposition to Nationalist housing and the Holy Cross dispute and the inability to reach out to other sections for the community. In contrast, he believes that Sinn Fein look outward to all sections and helped force the DUP to look at the impact that welfare cuts would have on working class Protestant areas.

The Sinn Fein candidate, pledges to reach out to Unionism and highlights that Sinn Fein are the only party with an Outreach Department, were as he believes that “the DUP are a sectarian party and I don’t think they actually make any bones about it.” Kelly argues that Sinn Fein’s politics are to the left and the DUP are fundamentally conservatives in outlook.

 

 

 

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I supported it – and it seems from your comments that you didn’t. Or if you did, you didn’t perhaps read it so carefully. The bits where it says NI is legitimately in the UK based on the wishes of its people. So much for the union only being maintained at the point of a gun – even Martin McGuinness has agreed that’s nonsense.

  • Sp12

    Well, what seems to you and reality are two different things.
    I didn’t say it was maintained at the point of a gun I said it was created, and again, let’s see how that majority thing holds up in the future, not that I’m suggesting Unionism has a shifting attitude with that concept based on it’s past actions on everything from Independence to Derry City to flag protests.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You said: “If the UVF started killing people in the late sixties, that’s when the troubles started, I hate to be a stickler …”
    Then you said: “The troubles started when the state was formed.”
    Forgive me if I’m finding the argument hard to follow.
    On the dissident thing, I’m sure you don’t think of yourself as one, but I wasn’t being completely facetious there – if you’re claiming NI isn’t legitimate, you’re at odds even with SF, which signed up to the following statement:
    “… the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies on that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.”

    Sinn Fein’s words, not mine.

    So it’s a genuine question: are you disowning SF’s peace process commitments now to recognise the legitimacy of Northern Ireland – and if so, why?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    touching concern for the victims of the Troubles there …

  • Sp12

    Nigel’s rumoured plans to be the next speaker of the house went a bit tits up tonight 🙂

    ohh dear

  • Sp12

    This is like punching fog.
    The troubles started with the formation of the state, regardless of the lulls.
    If you want to ignore that and define the troubles as the most recent bout of violence that’s fine, but you don’t get to ignore the UVF’s actions in the few preceding years of the formation of the PIRA in order to as you put avoid blaming the troubles on the UVF. I get why you do, because then you can’t blame everything on republicans.

    And to be honest, I don’t really care if you think I’m a dissident, any more than I care if my views put me at odds with SF.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think you’re a dissident, Sp12. I was just pointing out a fundamental contradiction I’ve noticed in the Republican position around the recognition of NI, which you gave me an opportunity to highlight.

    If it’s like punching fog, stop trying to punch. Conversation is better.

    I don’t blame *everything* in the Troubles on Republicans. If you read what I actually say, rather than what you expect me to say, you’ll see I don’t take that position. What I do say on here repeatedly can’t really be contradicted because it’s so patently and provably true: that Republicans carried out the bulk of what we refer to as The Troubles (i.e. the violence of the 1969-1998 period) and therefore must take the lion’s share of responsibility for The Troubles. Other wrong-doers must also take responsibility for what they did and the effects of loyalist crimes (on a big scale) and rogue state agent crimes (on a much smaller scale) were just as keenly felt by their victims as by the victims of Republicanism – I wouldn’t for a second suggest otherwise. None of it was good. But given that “The Troubles” mainly consisted of Republican violence, it would be odd not to put the bulk of the blame on them. They are the people who devised the “armed struggle”, planned it, carried out, promoted it, defended the right of Republicans to kill their opponents and indeed anyone else who happened to get in the way, for the “greater good” of achieving Irish unity by force. The PIRA Army Council decided in January 1970 to go for an all-out offensive against “the British occupation system” as soon as it was able; they didn’t stop until the late 1990s. Really, they can’t try and wriggle out of it now. There are a couple of thousand reasons why that can never happen.

    But if you want to think it was just as much the UVF’s fault, you can believe that. I’m not sure though how you explain why then Republicans killed twice as many people as Loyalists? Over 2000 by Republicans, just over a 1000 by Loyalists. What’s more, for a good half of the Troubles, the 1977-1990 period before the “loyalist backlash” kicked in, Republicans actually were actually killing 71 per cent per year, Loyalists 17 per cent (and security forces 10 per cent) [figures from Sutton Index of Deaths, CAIN]. It’s hard to see that period as some kind of even struggle – it looked and felt at the time like an unremitting Republican campaign with a much smaller response from Loyalists and an ever more disciplined and restrained security force operation against both.

    You may go on thinking The Troubles as a whole was as much the UVF’s fault as the IRA’s, but do so at least in the knowledge it doesn’t square with the facts of what actually happened. Gusty Spence’s crimes of 1966 were awful, but did they really cause armed-force Irish Republicanism to launch its “armed struggle”? And even if they did, could they be held to be the cause of every single thing the IRA did after that? Seems a very, very, very, very big stretch.

  • barnshee

    As I understand it the IRA campaign long preceded the (current?) UVF farrago

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Republican_Army_%281922%E2%80%9369%29

  • MainlandUlsterman

    maybe put your fists away? 🙂

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what was it?

  • siphonophorest

    .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sorry I thought you meant murdering them in their homes.

    Here’s a quiz question for you:
    Q1: how many people did the “murderous B Specials” actually murder?
    Q2: how many people did Republicans murder?

    Apartheid?! That’s quite an abuse of the term, as I suspect you know – and it belittles the experience of the South African people. People from the two communities in Northern Ireland sadly live often separate lives not because of some legally imposed division, but because of self-imposed divisions and because of mutual antagonism, born of decades of physical attacks on each other as well as the verbal assaults of which your post is I think an example. I think you’ll find those on the nationalist side no less to blame for that than those on the unionist side, as indeed our current exchange suggests.

    On the RUC and UDR – imperfect organisations who made many mistakes and also had issues of internal culture that needed to be addressed, and have been addressed. However, it’s a pretty massive logical leap to suggest this therefore made them no better than the terrorists. I hope you’ve thought through the meaning of your comments and what it would be like as the family of a murdered policeman to read them. You can’t seriously be suggesting the police deserved the treatment they got from the paramilitaries?

    Just a reminder of what happened in the Troubles, lest we forget:
    RUC was responsible for 55 deaths
    UDR was responsible for 8 deaths
    Republican paramilitaries were responsible for 2,055 deaths
    Loyalist paramilitaries were responsible for 1,020 deaths
    (source: Sutton Index of Deaths, CAIN)
    In terms of who got killed:

    UDR lost 203 to the Troubles
    RUC lost 302 to the Troubles
    I think to come from a Republican or nationalist standpoint and criticise either of those organisations’ work during the Troubles – and of course some criticisms are perfectly valid – it can’t be done without putting those figures centre stage. Republicans obviously don’t have a leg to stand on; but even the more moderate nationalist critiques of the security forces I think need to be more careful to understand what those organisations gave, as well as talking about their mistakes. We owe them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Oh, not shooting them then?

  • Steve Larson

    By putting them down.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “putting them down” – is that a euphemism?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is that a euphemism?

    (btw I replied to this several times, days ago, and it never seems to be there when I go back to check … effing Disqus … anyway …)