The 10 most annoying political phrases in Northern Ireland

Nice wee Friday thread for you all to get your head showered from the madness of Northern Ireland politics.

One thing that really bugs me is the platitudes that pass for talking points in our political system. These annoying phrases can be heard on Nolan, Talkback and the Sunday Politics most weeks and if you watch politics as much as me they can become tiresome very quickly.

So, in that spirit I thought I would compile a list of the top ten most annoying political phrases in Northern Ireland. Feel free in the comments section to add your own and I will update as we go along.

1. “Let me be clear……” (Translation: I have no idea what the answer is, but I want to sound like I know what I am talking about).

2. “The reality is…..” (Translation: I am going to give you my point of view and make it sound like a matter of fact by adding the word “reality”).

3. “We will not be found wanting on this issue” (Translation: We know we will have to compromise, but I just am not in a position to sell it to the party).

4. “Our party is totally united on this issue..” (Translation: The divisions in our party are as a deep as the Atlantic Ocean on this policy).

5. “Haven’t gone away you know” (No real translation needed for this one, but this term coined by Gerry Adams has been one of the most over used phrases and makes the list).

6. “We need workable alternatives, going forward” (Translation: I am not totally sure about a solution, but when I figure out one, you should just agree with it).

7. “Now, I didn’t interrupt you Stephen” (This is typically used against Nolan but this is typically a coy attempt to cut off an opponent/presenter when you’re struggling to answer a question).

8. “On the ground……” (Politicians like to work on the ground, if you didn’t realise that ask them about a pot hole or a local phone mast).

9. “This is about parity of esteem and equality” (Translation: What’s yours is negotiable, and what’s mine is a red line).

10. “You’re losing the run of yourself” (A nice way of basically saying “calm down dear”, without looking arrogant).

This is my list and a bit of what most politicians actually mean when they say these statements (most of the time anyway).

Tell me yours in the comments section.

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  • Críostóir

    “People are more concerned with the bread and butter issues” (We don’t have any solutions to the major problems engulfing us, but we know how to get street lights repaired).

  • Ryan Faulkner

    “I condemn these actions.” – (bad things happened – nothing I can do about it)

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’ve never heard the ““We need workable alternatives, going forward” cliché from anyone.

  • Donal Tinneny

    Similar to 7 . “If you’d let me finish” ( I’m trying to claim the moral high-ground with manners and impress the crowd ). Gerry Adams’ interview with Gay Byrne is the best use of it I’ve seen.

  • chrisjones2


    Community representative

    My community


    The views of Victims are very important

    A society of equals

    Human rights

    Human Rights Lawyer


    We have made progress …..

    They are dragging us back ……..

    How dare they ………

    I was never in the IRA

    The Queens Highway ……….

    XXX may say that but they are anti agreement / have well known mental health issues

    they were really forced to take action …….

    righteous concern of local people that forced them to …………

    the best interests of Northern Ireland / The Community

    with the Lord’s help …………………………

    there is no evidence …………………………………

  • AMORR86

    ‘The most vulnerable……’, ‘In this day and age/21st century’ & ‘Dinosaur’. Clichés which have lost almost all meaning.

    ‘The most vulnerable……’ The sheer range of who is supposedly ‘the most vulnerable’ is vast, from those receiving benefits to asylum seekers to women to children. Not everyone can be ‘the most vulnerable’.

    ‘In this day and age / 21st Century’ translates: ‘Why can’t everyone just agree with me? My ideas are much better than other people’s. Democracy and public opinion are just a hindrance to people catching up with my ego. Everybody who disagrees with me is ignorant and irrational.’ This is often combined with an deep misunderstanding of the topic or what has happened in the past or the realisation that the idea being promoted is old and previously rejected.

    ‘Dinosaur’ – closely related to the previous ‘In this day and age’. Doesn’t factor in the hidden compliment that the ‘Dinosaur’ has managed to survive a devastating moment in their world and is surviving and striving to boot.

  • Jag

    “I didn’t interrupt you” = “shut your gob and let me speak [and by the way, aren’t you rude for interrupting, selfish for not giving me time and arrogant for considering your views superior to mine and denying the audience different viewpoints, pr*ck!]”

  • Nevin

    “Blue sky thinking” and “pushing the envelope” no longer seem to be in fashion.

  • Newton Emerson

    “Real people”.
    All people are equally real.

  • Jag

    “left the stage” / “left the field” / “gone and not coming back”

    “removed organisation structure, membership and rules of association” / “100% decommissioning” / “abandonment of all crime”

  • Jag

    “ordinary people” are the only people represented by ALL political parties

    “extraordinary people” and “below average people” are obviously being discriminated against!

  • Jag

    “I wasn’t the leader of the UUP in 2007 when Paul Quinn was killed and therefore shouldn’t be attacked for just now discovering PIRA didn’t vanish in 2005” = “I was one of the foremost journalists in this country at the time and would have known more than most politicians about the killing and who was responsible” = rank hypocrisy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Alas Newton, some politicians, journalists and commentators try to appeal to fictional voters and people who just don’t exist to be fair.

    Particularly commentators speaking on behalf of non voters … if they wanted a spokesperson, they’d have voted surely?

  • Paddy Reilly

    “We are the majority of the majority” Actually, that makes you a minority.

  • WindowLean

    “I’m not going to take lectures from a former killer/murderer/bomber/terrorist…” = You’ve beat me in the argument so I’ll drag up your past to try to fudge through the interview.

  • Críostóir

    “Well the message I’ve been getting on the doorsteps…” (…is conveniently the one I want to raise to deflect from the issue I want to avoid.)

  • Fobhristi

    “Un-elected Quango”
    “I won’t be lectured by…”
    “The masked has slipped”

  • Sergiogiorgio

    As in, I had a not curry last night and now I’m really “pushing the envelope”.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    We need some straight talkin’ politicians. From the mouth of the The Don –

    1. The only people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yamaka’s every day.
    2. Arianna Huff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her husband left her for a man. He made a good decision.
    3. On John McCain – he’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he got captured. I like people who didn’t get captured.

    Bring it on….

  • anntotton’

    Some blue sky thinking with nuts and bolts

  • murdockp

    We are a party of equality = we will promote all things that are part of the indigenous Irish culture and we will not support the promotion of any other culture, even if one of the ethnic groups such as the Poles, have a greater number of native speakers than there are speakers of the Irish language as the Poles have to remember, the Irish language was here before the were and we will be spending our budgets on Irish Schools, culture, street and road signs first before we will spend a penny on anything to do with your culture.

    Remember some animals are more equal that others..

  • Zig70

    I feckin hate the term ‘outcomes’ especially used by medics but politicians use it as well.

  • Robin Keogh

    ‘Moving Northern Ireland Forward’ = prioritising my community over yours

  • Zig70

    The dogs in the street – translated as – I’m a bigot and the rest of my bigot friends agree with me.

  • james

    “Let’s have the conversation” – typically used by SF underlings re: the fabled UI, largely employed to make unionists bristle and obscure the fact that they themselves (bizarrely) have little or nothing substantial to say on the matter.

  • james

    “Ye need tae understand” Gerry Kelly, typically used to shout down an oppo ent when said opponent has made a good point that Geraldo would rather djuke out of and instead open up another can of distracting blether.

  • james

    “The need for dialogue” – various concerned groups, though the dialogue tends to be more of a monologue where the concerned groups show little interest in actually talking.

  • murdockp

    we must protect the most vunerable in our society = our Lads are not willing to give up their DLA cars and exta benefits as the have got used to living of the pigs back

  • Sharpie

    “in the final analysis…” as my starting argument I have it sussed, now sit back and listen

    “We have to look at all of these things…” oh bugger, you’ve made a decent point there that I didn’t see coming

    “with respect…” – with anything but respect you twat

    “unrepentant terrorists” me good – they bad

  • Gerry Lynch

    This isn’t the time for soundbites, but I can feel the hand of history on my shoulder.

  • What about ” The People ” of we are the people? Are they not the realest people?

  • murdockp

    I think it is really important = Labour female politicians are in NI for a visit.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    A hate list of fairly neutral NI political clichés for me would include (and yes I have used some of these myself):
    “Our shared history …” (of mutual incomprehension)
    “People of his ilk …” (i.e. twats like him)
    “There’s a place at the table …” (this is one over-used, coffee-stained table by this stage)
    “The dogs on the street know …” (the dogs on the street sh** on it mostly)
    “Whataboutery” (like it’s possible to have a discussion without making counter-arguments)
    “Themmuns” (I just hate the appropriation of bogus street argot by people writing in a different register, as if they just can’t help talking like one of the lads; there’s an even worse one English politicians use but it escapes me at the moment, I’ll try and remember …)
    “I don’t answer hypothetical questions, Mark …” (like what you would do if someone kicked you up the a***)
    “Committed to peace” (like you should get a medal for not beheading people)
    “There’s only one poll that matters and that’s the one on [insert election date]” (so it’s not possible to ask people any question other than ‘what party are you voting for today’)
    I could go on …

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘There are more Polish / Mandarin / Whatever’ than Irish speakers in Northern Ireland.’
    Funny how the purveyors of this particular stat are often the same people who claim that ‘locals feel intimidated by the number of foreigners moving into the area.’ .

  • murdockp

    Not something I have ever picked up on, I am merely highlighting that what is promoted by our political lords and masters, is not equality in a multicultural sense of the world. They see it merely as green v orange. My personal view is it is immigration in NI can only bee seen as a good thing as it waters down sectarianism.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘No Surrender.’
    I’ll get me coat.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Hi murdockp, I agree that immigration can water down sectarianism in NI and is mostly a good thing (no more religious fundies though, got enough of them!). I do find it galling however that some politicians etc. trot out stats about more speakers of Polish than speakers of Irish when in fact they have no more interest in Poles or Polish culture than my cat and every interest in putting the boot in on Irish and Irish culture at every opportunity.

  • murdockp

    The politicians do value their own cultures greater than other immigrant cultures.

    But this is not a policy of equality. A Polish person who is resident here must find it bemusing to watch a party banging on about how equal the society will be under their leadership only to find that none of the main policies this party plans to deliver will ever enrich or benefit their lives as all the policies are focused on promoting Irish or the Unionist perverted interpretation of British culture first.

  • Tochais Siorai

    All I’ve done is attempt to highlight the hypocrisy of some NI politicians who try to use the number of foreign language speakers in an attempt to attack spending on Irish or simply to attack Irish language, culture etc when they themselves give the impression of having little interest in anything cultural outside their own narrow definitions.
    I actually haven’t mentioned anything about the value of one culture against another.

  • Gerard

    “We in Northern Ireland are just coming out of a conflict”….or words to that effect. They obviously don’t realise that the ‘troubles’ ended 20 years ago.

  • The Devil’s Advocate

    the dogs on the street know who did it…

  • murdockp

    amended as I picked you up wrong

  • Caita

    Ordinarily I wouldn’t call someone out on grammar or pronunciation, but these grate on me so severely:

    “An historic” – it seems pretty much every politician and journalist in NI parrots out this phrase. The “h” in “historic” is not a silent consonant. Please consider using “a historic”, regardless of whether the act in question is historic or not (hint: it won’t be).

    “Execative” – the word is “executive”, is it really that difficult to pronounce? How can I take your opinions (political or otherwise) seriously when you haven’t taken the time to learn how to pronounce basic words correctly? Peter Robinson, Gerry Kelly, et al. take note – you sound as stupid as George Bush trying to pronounce “nuclear”.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Ah, a fellow pedant.

  • Pasty2012

    Yes and Sinn Fein agreeing to the £25Million a year for the gibberish Ulster English with a Ballymena Accent “Language” Campaign Hey !

  • Andrew Molloy

    The word ‘mandate’

  • Mister_Joe

    Don’t jail him. He’s an old man and one of ussuns.

  • tmitch57

    Actually that was Jimmy Carter who pronounced it nukelar. But in his defense it is a common Southern pronunciation.

  • Virginia

    This article (with your permission) is going to be required reading for all my middle school students. They will have to translate the phrases into actual, everyday English ( without, then with the author’s help.) Thank you in advance.

  • Virginia


  • MainlandUlsterman

    The phrase I was trying to think of was “fess up”. It is the mother of all annoying politico-journalistic phrases. Made to sound like they’re an ex member of So Solid Crew, but usually uttered by a parliamentary private secretary or the director of the RSA. And I don’t think anyone vaguely street ever said it anyway.

  • paul david

    Unionists, media “Do you condemn the IRA” “But do you condemn the IRA” “Sinn Fein refused to condemn the IRA today”
    Unionists “We condemn all violence be it the IRA or whoever” when speaking after some random taig had been murdered.
    Media, “its believed the catholic man shot dead today was killed in retaliation because of the IRA” Ivan Little and Denis Murray were masters at this game.

  • Roger

    Good one.

  • iPhilomela