A Little Perspective on the Spat at Stormont

On a day when the front page of most of the newspapers on these islands carried a heart-wrenching photograph of a little boy drowned on a Turkish beach, we really need to catch ourselves on and make sure our politicians do likewise.

Like Jude Collins, I heard PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton on the news setting out that the IRA does not exist as a paramilitary organisation and that its members are pursuing their goals through exclusively peaceful means.

You know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like the RUC.

The RUC was disbanded as a result of the Patten Commission’s recommendations and whilst some of the former members remained in the new organisation, there was a cultural change. Now we will argue til the cows come home about the depth of that cultural change in policing, with some arguing sell-out and others arguing not enough has, in fact, changed but we do all accept that it has changed greatly. There was an affirmative action policy, decommissioning of a large number of RUC Barracks and a move to a community-based policing model. The RUC ceased to exist as we knew it, yet it remains a part of the fabric of the past and presnet. We can’t change the role played by the RUC any more than we can change the role played by the IRA in the conflict.

So forgive me if I don’t quite understand why we are in this so-called crisis.

Last week at a Debate in Derry I shared the panel with Sinn Féin President Declan Kearney, Chief Constable George Hamilton and Alan McBride on the day the Ulster Unionist party signalled their intention to resign from the Stormont Executive. I remarked that the UUP could find itself like a man who storms out of the house after a row; A long, cold, lonely night in the car lies ahead.

Or a long Assembly term on the back benches with only Jim Allister for company.

The DUP meanwhile wants to exclude Sinn Féin from Stormont but at the same time wants a four-week suspension so they can enter into talks with them. That’s a bit like throwing your partner out of the house whilst at the same time you both go to Relate!

It’s as if the two Unionist parties have taken political advice from a divorce lawyer who’s told them by all means move out of the marital bed but on no account leave the house.

At that Derry debate I was also said that the policy we’ve seen operate to date where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed needs to end. We cannot keep lurching from crisis to crisis because of political horse trading.

The Conflict Transformation Centre at the Maze Long Kesh site has fallen and along with it a world class stadium to be shared by soccer, rugby and GAA. The upgrade of the A5 has fallen victim to politicking. The Social Investment Fund, which was targeted at alleviating poverty in the most deprived areas of the north has only 6 months left to run and there’s still £30 million unallocated because politicians can’t agree on whether to give the money to poor nationalists or poor unionists.

The Irish and British governments will push forward talks in the coming days to drive forward the elements of the Stormont House Agreement. What they will need to be careful about is that there is no renegotiation but rather that the focus is on an implementation plan.

A lot hinges on this for the political parties. The Alliance party won’t follow the UUP and leave the Executive because they want to retain the Justice Ministry, knowing how central that is to the whole house of cards not falling. They’re probably on the moral high ground on this one, to be fair, given that David Ford has cited the need for evidence. Now there’s a thought…

The SDLP won’t resign from the Executive because they know it will be electoral suicide within Nationalism if they are seen to allow Unionism dictate the pace.

Sinn Féin will struggle to keep its electoral strength because those Nationalist votes they have won over the last 3 or 4 electoral cycles may just stay at home. What’s the point voting if the Unionists always have a veto, they will say.

The DUP and UUP will continue to slug it out with the only question being who will draw first blood. Might it be the DUP, who refuse to re-run D’Hondt and let the UUP back into a Ministerial position? Neither is likely to make significant electoral gains as a result and, like Sinn Féin, could see only party stalwarts coming out to vote at the next election.

But in the end, what’s happening at Stormont isn’t that big a deal. A crisis is when a three year old child lies face down, drowned, on a beach because his parents tried to bring him to a place where he could live safely.

Aylan Kurdi’s death really puts the spat at Stormont into perspective.

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  • Am I missing something? Did the RUC shoot somebody?

  • Chingford Man

    “A crisis is when a three year old child lies face down, drowned, on a beach because his parents tried to bring him to a place where he could live safely.”

    The poor children were already living in a place they could live safely. It is called Turkey. Is Patricia MacBride not aware of this?

  • Zig70

    That’s cold. I’m fairly confident the English aren’t as heartless on the whole and will eventually help.

  • Ernekid

    Comment deleted

  • Chingford Man

    If you can stop making blatantly abusive comments in breach of Slugger’s posting guidelines, maybe you can point out any inaccuracies in my post.

    The family was living in Turkey. The parents chose to set off from Turkey to Greece in a dinghy, taking their children with them. Turkey is a safe country. The family was in no physical danger there. Sailing across the Mediterranean in a dinghy was foolhardy.

    Normally a parent is condemned for putting a child in physical peril. Why not in this case?

  • Chingford Man

    No, it’s called the facts and it’s not heartless to point them out.

  • gendjinn


  • Chingford Man

    How are facts disgusting?

  • gendjinn


  • Chingford Man

    Do you know any other words? Or is reasoned argument beyond you? The parents put their children in mortal danger by trying to cross a major sea in a dinghy. Their children are dead as a result. Why aren’t you angry at that?

  • gendjinn


  • PeterBrown

    How is callous to point out a factual error?

  • PeterBrown

    Not disgusting but it is accurate (unlike the post)

  • chrisjones2

    Just the English? What about the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish. Perhaps we should have 4 or 5000 here.

  • Kev Hughes

    Hi Patricia,

    I think it’s valid to point out that whilst we have an argument about political grandstanding (this is not even remotely about the murder of an old IRA man) more serious matters are happening elsewhere that should be taking our focus (the death of that poor boy and countless others), I wonder if pieces like this and the narrative of ‘you think it’s bad here, look elsewhere’ are actually that productive? Not that I didn’t enjoy your piece but as you can see below, some keyboard warriors who are rent a comment see this as anything but what you wished to highlight.

  • runepig


  • Robin Keogh

    How can u not be ashamed of yourself?

  • Barneyt

    Personal crisis versus national crisis! Whilst its horrible that this child and so many others have died, your categorisation of a tragedy as a crisis has killed off what could have been an interesting discussion piece.

    Who knows of Chingford Man is factually correct? I find his remark heartless at best. I don’t think they turned the key in the door of their Turkish home and on a whim elected to take a precarious journey towards Greece. How are they housed in Turkey? It was a desperation that drove them towards the measures they took and this is not a case of deliberately endangering a child.

    Back to your article, for me it seems that evidence regarding the PSNI claims will not be forthcoming and the mood on this site is, “how dare you ask for it, can you see we have SF on the rack and you are at risk of compromising personal titillation for so many political commentators”.

    You will also fail to get certain people to respond to questions such as, “why don’t the police act and simply arrest if they are confident in their claims” and “why are they prepared to go public with such information (knowing how destructive it is if not substantiated).” There is a whiff of playing to the gallerys about this and I hope that is all it is.

    Your parallel between the RUC and the IRA is not accurate however for two reasons. RUC were legal and I think they have categorically disbanded. I appreciate the sentiment of course.

    Should the IRA disband? Well yes, but we need to properly consider the space they would leave and who would occupy it. This has been mentioned before.

    If the IRA continue to exist and remain inactive as an organisation, and do whither, no alternatives can be “invited in” to fully take up the mantle of activist republicanism. If members of this organisation carry out crimes (which are agree d fall outside the controls of the organisation, they they should be pursued through normal policing methods and court structures, not via political hustings.

  • Chingford Man

    If you want to point out any factual inaccuracies, go ahead. Just don’t mount personal attacks.

    The children died because the father took his family on a dinghy across the Mediterranean from the safety of Turkey where they were living. Why aren’t you angry at the adults who endangered their children?

  • Chingford Man

    If you are going to attack what I said, fine. But shouldn’t you find out whether I am factually correct before you do so? The family had been living in safety in Turkey for 3 years and I read that the father even had a job as a barber.

    If you want to stop the tragedies, then you have to do what Australia did and stop the boats.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Not necessarily. To stop the tragedies Europe needs to introduce coordinated measures that will let these people in because these people will come anyway. Europe needs to stop burying its head in the sand and introduce means of getting these people to our shores safely when they can be processed systematically, effectively and humanely.

    Interesting to note that Sturgeon has made an offer to accommodate 1,000 to begin with yet neither McGuinness nor Robinson have made any such offer. NI’s got plenty of space.

  • Chingford Man

    No they won’t come to Europe if they see that they will not be able to overwhelm established migration procedures by sheer weight of numbers.

    It is the disgracefully flaky behaviour of those holding out the prospect that large number of economic migrants (for such if what they are if they are trying to enter Europe from a safe country like Turkey after having travelled from Syria, etc.) might be admitted that is fueling the present exodus. Unless the exodus is stopped then many more people will die.

    Australia managed to stop the boats of economic migrants by letting it be known that there would not be automatic entry through pressure of numbers or any relaxation of rules.

  • Zig70

    I just alluding to the fact that the English make the decisions for the UK. The Tory party only really have a presence in England. I’d be glad to see truck loads arriving here out to alleviate some of their suffering. Lets face it, they’ll not be put up anywhere near me. 😉

  • Zig70

    Funny how the Germans are helping the needy and the English are advocating putting them into camps.

  • David McCann

    EK, you know the rules, knock if off right now

  • Chingford Man

    I see the poor children and their mother have been buried today in their home town of Kobane in Syria. That’s Syria, the country from which they were supposed to have fled in fear of their lives, but to where the father can return to bury his family in safety.

    I’ll accept your apology now, Robin.

  • Robin Keogh

    He doesnt have much left to lose now does he? Perfectly reasonable important civil knowledge.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It’s heartless to point them out while ignoring the context.

    It may be a fact, for example, that miscarriage is a statistical inevitability in certain cases, but you wouldn’t (I assume) share that fact with someone who had just had one.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Back in the day when the IRA shot a soldier, Gerry Adams used to say that he regretted all deaths but that it happened because of British policy in Ireland, and that British citizens should look to their government for answers as to why they put the soldier in harm’s way.

    That’s basically the same as the argument you’re using here. What Gerry Adams used to say was factually/technically correct – had the soldier not been deployed here he would not have been shot. On the other hand, it’s an argument deliberately ignores all of the context. It’s no good saying “point out the factual inaccuracies” as a matter like this is not as simple as selectively analysis facts for correctness.

  • IRF

    The children who died were Kurds. Turkey is at best a cold house for Kurds and at worst guilty of human rights abuses against its own Kurdish population. (Granted the family in question were from just across the Syrian border in Kobane, but Turkey was very reluctant to assist in relieving the siege of Kobane – going so far as to physically prevent Turkish Kurds who wanted to cross the border in solidarity to help defend the town against the ISIL attack.) So it is easy to understand why they didn’t feel safe in Turkey.

  • gendjinn

    Not really. The Germans only put in people in camps for a decade, the British have been doing it for centuries – Boers… Kenya…. Ireland….

  • Chingford Man

    But they were not in physical peril in Turkey, which is my (much repeated) point.

  • Chingford Man

    No, it’s not the same argument at all. There is no comparison between a father who put his children in mortal danger on the open sea and someone who donned an RUC uniform and was murdered by Gerry’s mates.

    I know this tragedy is nautical in nature but no red herrings.

  • Chingford Man

    The context is everything: someone took his family from safety in Turkey and put them in mortal danger. That’s what I said. Patricia MacBride wrongly implied that the family was fleeing from danger.

  • kalista63

    Is A Tangled Web having an overflow crisis?

  • kalista63

    You can start with Patrick Rooney

  • Catcher in the Rye

    By donning an RUC uniform you put yourself in mortal danger.

    Is that factually correct – yes or no ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    What you said was :

    No, it’s called the facts and it’s not heartless to point them out.

    Actually, pointing out the facts, irrespective of everything else, at this particular point is heartless. Whether you are right or wrong.

  • Chingford Man

    Yes. It also has nothing to do with this issue.

  • Chingford Man

    You may not want to hear the facts, but I usually find them useful, especially when someone is repeating a falsehood, as Ms MacBride did.

  • Chingford Man

    Given the cynical exploitation of a tragedy by the liberal leftist MSM I am not surprised.

  • Chingford Man

    Pointing out facts is very useful in response to those peddling falsehoods or those believers in the benefits of mass immigration who have been exploiting a tragedy for their own purposes.

  • kalista63

    We on the left have been posting pictures of bodies on beaches for weeks and getting attacked for it. I’ve no idea why this photo caught on but lives could have been saved if the media caught on earlier.

    Cameron boasts about us being one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Either, its a lie or we can take these people. I’m old enough to remeber the Bangladeshi community coming here and the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ (effin’ awful term). Both communities came here and then shifted on.

    As for the right, how about the Mail upping Hitler, the royal family kissing his arse, The British upper class wanting to send their staff back to Europe when they knew what was happening (the Jews were becoming lefty, demanding rights0, Oswald Mosley who was finally taken down by the unions & working class people. The right have never opposed the worst of humanity but created it, supported it or manipulated it.

  • kalista63

    Turkey has taken 2 million Syrians and it will not give refugee status to any of them, they live in a limbo. Would you be happy with that if you were one of them?

    You know, Turkey is no safe haven. Its infamous for its murder of journalists, its denial of civil rights. Its grand for an all inclusive holiday and a visit to Ephusus but I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.

  • Chingford Man

    Lives would have been saved if only you on the left had realised that you had to stop the boats reaching Europe in the first place.

    Now you are getting a hard lesson in the law of unintended consequences and the ghastly results can be seen on that beach and in the lay-bys of European motorways.

  • kalista63

    Yeah, Cameron did that earlier in the year when withdrew the Med rescue. Thousand drowned.

    Are you Irish? Do you remember what was said in Parliament about letting nature take its course, for our own good?

  • Reader

    I think you are confused. Cameron’s plan is to take some out of the camps that already exist in Lebanon and Jordan. These people will be the more needy and less able.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You are talking rubbish. A refugee just wants somewhere safe to live for the near future. They dont care about legal issues. Turkey is a safe country. Don’t start bullshitting to make a point on the Internet when the subject is people’s lives.

  • Barneyt

    You are indeed correct. I should have looked at the case and facts. Fair point. So I did. This is what I found and you may not expect this response.

    It would seem that the family in question were in fact economic migrants in terms of the transition they wanted to make from Turkey to Canada.

    They were however refugees making the original Syria to Turkey pilgrimage. This was a quest for survival and safety, which I understand they would have secured in Turkey.

    I cannot see why they left Turkey in the way they did, especially in light of their ongoing asylum application placed with the Canadian authorities. There were claims their application was rejected however the Canadians state that there was no rejection but a return, based on an incomplete application.

    Did their residence (regardless of status) in Turkey compromise their Canadian aspirations (for want of a better word)?

    I agree, why take such a precarious means of transport to Greece…from Turkey when it appears their asylum claim was still active and they were technically not in danger…which was your original point.

    I read a piece in the guardian today and it did nothing but confuse. Perhaps it was bad journalism or poor translation. I would advise anyone to read it,,, starting on the front cover and continuing on page 5. It made little sense specifically with regard to how the tragedy transpired. It raises more questions than it answers.

    I don’t to say this, but for some reason I smell a great big dirty rat.

    What am I guilty of? Emotional reaction minus all the facts. Hands up!

    This was a brutal and senseless end to the lives of two boys and their mother. I can see the metaphor it paints, but if you look at the specifics, it is not representative of the direct perils facing those leaving Syria and Libya today.

    I have to concur, having read up and reconsidered, that there was no reason for this family to travel to Greece via sea, in a dinghy. It does seem they were safe and also in the throws of securing a place in Canada. Given their family connections in Canada, and their plight over the last 3-4 years, the sad thing is, they may have been successful.

    I find it also very odd that the father would now travel back to Syria to repatriate his family, given the dangers they originally fled. Am I wrong?

  • Barneyt

    I see your point Chingford. I do. I feel your frustration. This is emotive, and many like myself earlier are reacting in that vein. You have asked a straight forward question here, but I don’t know your profile and history on here, so maybe that is conspiring against you? Which for me may not be fair.

  • gendjinn

    “Don’t start bullshitting to make a point on the Internet when the subject is people’s lives.”

    Yes, you really should.

  • Croiteir

    Just a small point of accuracy, the RUC was never disbanded the British would never accept the implications of that.

  • mickfealty

    Erm, is anyone going to discuss Patricia’s piece? (Kit, not just Kaboodle: http://goo.gl/tZja5Y).

  • Granni Trixie

    Not fact at all – it is opinion.

  • Nevin

    If I can borrow from Declan Kearney’s recent B-IA contribution, Patricia’s piece reads like an attempt at diversion from the activities of various parts of the Provisional Republican Movement.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You were trying to say that you are not heartless. This shows that you are.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I can’t see how it is a mere opinion that the IRA targeted RUC officers.

    I am not saying in any way that I agree with this republican perspective. I reject the idea that RUC officers were somehow complicit in their own deaths, and I similarly reject the idea that Chingford Man is trying to push, namely that the little boy died because of the choices made by his father.

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record (.since we appear to be going off topic) without stating it. the analogy being made appears to be about
    “legitimate targets” a strategically constructed concept to justify murdering not only RUC personnel but people in other occupations.

    I take interest in this as in the early 90s I wore a T shirt saying “Am I a Legitimate Target?” – a form of resistance you might say.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You should try and make a point when you comment. Go on use your words !

  • Paddy Reilly

    Not in even in physical peril in Kobane. But the town is in ruins because of the failed attack by ISIS. Perhaps we should be helping to build it up again, then there would not be so many migrants.

  • Yes, I’ll discuss it.

    She has a go at the police, then the unionist parties. Strangely, the murderers that precipitated this don’t seem to come in for any criticism at all.

    And the linkage to Aylan Kurdi bothers me a lot. The overall message of the piece seems to be that because of this child’s awful death, we should just turn a blind eye to the nasty stuff that continues to go on in NI. Unbelievable.