Foster’s focus on belief in a better future will require a strong dose of ‘unreasonable generosity’…

Several things struck me about Arlene Foster’s speech. One was a fairly subtle dig at a media (“there is not an old DUP and a new DUP”) which had long ago discounted the possibility of a former UUP MLA ever taking over as head of the DUP. Too tribal they said.

Well, they were wrong.

This was less a departure from the Robinson formula so much as an amplification of some its subtler themes. Not least in her treatment of the past relative to the future:

Can any of us imagine what it must have been like for our founding fathers back in the early 20s? Building a new state from scratch. One that was under threat from the very start.

No one thought Northern Ireland would last. Terrorist campaigns and less than loyal governments sought to deprive us of our birthright. Yet the people of Northern Ireland stood strong and withstood whatever was thrown at them.

Now, we stride confidently towards our second century. Safe in the knowledge that Northern Ireland’s place within the Union is secure.

When I was growing up, many of our family and friends firmly believed that a United Ireland was inevitable. I can recall people talking about emigrating when that fateful day would come.

But it never arrived. Something that seemed so certain for many in a generation battered by terrorism and betrayed by governments in London they looked towards to defend them, has given way to a new found sense of certainty that Northern Ireland is here and it’s here to stay. [Emphasis added]

The lengthening of the frame is both clever and important because it shifts perspective away from the Troubles and onto the constitutional frame in which ordinary life is lived in Northern Ireland whatever the residual aspirations of its citizens.

Critically it connects to a point in the near future. Not 2016, but 2021 and the 100th birthday of Northern Ireland (or Partition, whichever you are having yourself?) and a sort of closing ceremony of the decade of centenaries.

Why does that matter. Well as game theory tells us if you want to enlarge the shadow of the future (and reduce the darker shadows of the past) you do so by creating an expectation that the future will be better than the present.

She uses the words of two great literary sons of Ulster – the first inevitably from the “Planter” – to drive home this core strategic message:

These are better days. But we can have better still. A few weeks ago, Peter helped to unveil a portrait in Parliament Buildings of one of Northern Ireland’s literary giants – CS Lewis.

The portrait includes some of the great man’s own words. A quote that reads “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind”.

Aspiring to far, far better things is not something we have been familiar with in this part of the world. Hoping for better than we have has been hampered by a past that deprived us of our dreams. But we have moved on and we can go further.

And then the “Gael” (in almost every honest and true sense of that term):

Northern Ireland should no longer be somewhere where second best will suffice.

We aren’t held back by the Troubles. Or the inability to shape our own destiny. We don’t need to look to anyone else for help. Or point the finger of blame in another direction. Our future is in our own hands.

Alongside that portrait of CS Lewis is another of someone from a very different background – the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. The quotation on his painting reads, “Believe that a further shore is reachable from here”.

A further, better shore may not always be the clearest to see or seem the easiest to reach. But it is there. And it is not beyond us.

There’s nothing new here of course. A year after Peter Robinson delivered his “if we want a better society it can’t be ‘them and us’” speech, the flag came down from the City Hall and all hell broke loose.

Words of course are cheap, unless they presage action. And action of course in Stormont is impossible unless there is a joint effort to make Northern Ireland work. And yet, perhaps, with a woman in charge at last the overall tone will change:

[Would it be impolitic at this truly wonderful moment to mention the new @DUPLeader‘s famous unwillingness to suffer fools gladly? – Ed]. Er, maybe.

In truth, although the DUP was late to the plus sum game, there has been a longer and general trend towards moderation amongst all parties.

Margery McMahon noted in 2002, ‘Northern Ireland’s politicians are now acutely aware that just as they were voted in, so they can just as quickly be voted out. This has resulted in a moderating, not of their political viewpoints, but of how they present them.

And as Ms Foster herself pointedly notes:

People who get up early in the morning, get their kids to school, go and do a hard day’s work and come home tired, don’t want to turn their TVs on and hear us sound completely and utterly out of touch with real life, arguing over things that don’t matter to them or their family.

If there’s a possibility of making an actual fresh start, it will rest on what one friend refers to as ‘unreasonable generosity’ to create clusters of the type of cooperative political action needed to get anything done in power sharing Northern Ireland. Nothing less will suffice.

As I have argued before, if there’s no policies then there’s no politics and the drift from the ballot box will continue apace. Ms Foster will be judged on actions. Her own. Her party’s. And those of her political opponents cum partners.

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  • Robin Keogh

    I think Arlene is quite correct to shift focus tothe fact that NI will soon celebrate 100 years of existence as a poor relation within a disunited Union. That is the bread and butter of Unionism, we have fought and we have survived, Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.
    But the future is far from certain, Scottish Independence, Brexit, Demographics etc. ? Celebrating mere survival is a far cry from celebrating the future.

    A friend of mine recently celebrated the 100th Birthday of her grandmother. They went all out for it, even fireworks. She explained that given her grandmothers age and slow but sure failing Health, they wanted to make the best of her anniversary given the grim reapers inevitable arrival.

  • OneNI

    Good though that Cameron has her in the palm of his hand!

  • Kevin Breslin

    “Well as game theory tells us if you want to enlarge the shadow of the future (and reduce the darker shadows of the past) you do so by creating an expectation that the future will be better than the present.”

    The self-appointed expert on game theory speaks again, where in game theory does this say that it? How can you measure these variables in terms of game theory pay-offs.

    Where is the bloody game you are talking about?

    How can Arlene Foster’s little game of solo run/story-mode gameplay that is party speechs and party business have any direct impact on the multiplayer arena (Assembly/constituency work/elections) anyway?

    There have been great futuristic achievements come from science and technology … have they been created without stress, without conflictedness, without resignation or despair, without long hours and hard work?

    Hard work from dark and depressing places … look at John Forbes Nash, heck look at a lot of successful people’s personal demons.

    There’s been great medical advances built on the knowledge taken from human suffering and misery.

    As for partnerships and co-operation, there’s been successful marriages kept alive by arguing and divorces coming from pretense and lack of communication.

    NOTHING says the future gets better by forgetting the experience of bad history, NOTHING says that telling people to expect a better future is going to boost the passion in other individuals to change the here and now.

    People can be inspired to act from a large scale disaster and sit on their hands in the presence of inspirational artists leaders

    There’s no universal human programming to react to these events.

    We live in a chaotic universe with factors well beyond our control, no amount of being optimistic in the here and now will make our future’s any better, and no amount of pessimism will make our future’s any worst over factors that stem well beyond things we have no ability to control.

    So while I dispute your non-traditional interpretation of Game Theory, Chaos Theory trumps Game Theory big time on this.

    You may as well be saying “Science says … My opinion is Right”

  • mickfealty

    Are you making that up Kevin? I’m no self appointed expert on game theory, but you might try reading “The Evolution of Cooperation” by Robert Axelrod published by Basic Books in the USA back in 1984 if you really think I am spoofing?

    Or you might try reading The Long Peace, Chapter Three Facing the Dilemma where you’ll find an extrapolation within the very context Foster is speaking? In fact, the whole thing is quite readable and largely still relevant.

    You can buy one here (, even though we gave most of them away for free to all MLAs and political parties north, south and east and as an insert in Fortnight.

    Easier, I’ll send you a copy, or easier still you can read it online here: Now, Arlene’s speech?

  • mickfealty

    You would say that, wouldn’t you? 🙂

  • Zig70

    Which is more delusional? The constant liberal hope that political unionists are becoming more moderate or the DUP hope that nationalists will assimilate and start seeing things their way without the need to accommodate or show actual generosity.

  • mickfealty

    Political psychosis is a general condition, and certainly not confined to hopeful liberals. Just joining some historical dots for context rather than predicting sunny uplands ahead.

  • Gopher

    The fact that escapes people is all the DUP has to do is be less worse than the rest of the parties which despite its many handicaps including abortion, anti gay marriage, creationism and various other biblical superstitions, latent corruption, hypocrisy and bouts of secterianism it has been achieving for some time now. If the other parties were any good and the second fact is they are not, the DUP would not have a representitive more than 1000 yards from a tabernacle. Examples are legion in the pantheon of incompetence but Chris Hazard’s Nolan Show performance on economics out did to every practical purpose any damage McCauseland could do explaining Dinosaurs dont exist. The DUP’s ideology might be quite frankly absurd but at least they are not going to turn you upside down and shake the cash out of your pockets and at the end of the day MLA for MLA they have better operators than any other party. Once the other parties get their head round these facts perhaps they will give them a game

  • Gingray

    Reckon you are reading a wee bit too much into it – unlike Peters speech, Arlene is more general waffle, strong focus on how unionism has won, but with a token quote from a nationalist thrown in just to show she knows they exist, and have letsgetalongerists gushing at how clued in she is.

    As you say, she will be judged on her actions, not this quickly forgotten soundbite.

    Hopefully she can breath some fresh air into the institutions.

  • mickfealty

    That’s a point of view, certainly. I’d give her a bye ball on the quality of the rhetoric as compared to Robinson for now at least. The messages though are in line with each other. And that kind of continuity matters no matter what the ‘whatever you are having yourself’ brigade say about it.

    The DUP knows only too well the scale of the narrative challenge they face. It’s impressed upon them over and over again via the passive aggressive hostility of the northern press, which includes both the letsgetalongerist and letsnotgetalongerist wings.

    Literally no one likes them. And I really mean no one but their quite considerable voter base. Millwall be damned, they need a fan base in the media (however small) too if this is project is to go anywhere close to their ambitions.

    Using the Heaney quote was inspired, in way that it continues Robinson’s consistent take ( on “the sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael..” It won’t be believed of course. And that’s to be expected. The DUP have connived at the intolerance box that people have put them in and it will take them a long time to get out of it.

    But then again it’s not their vote that’s falling…

  • Kevin Breslin

    I am going to have to severely disagree with the belief that philosophy of co-operation and conflict and game theory are the same thing. I don’t believe they are and so yes I do believe you are spoofing a bit. The “facing the dilemma” book seems to have nothing to do with the topic.

    I have very little confidence that Axelrod said anything on these matters the phrase doesn’t clarify where the co-operation or conflict comes from. So forgive me for saying whether this card game is Solitaire, Poker, or even Tarot. It seems more determinism vs free will dilemma than any dilemma of human interaction, and to the best of my knowledge the only gaming I’ve ever heard covering vaguely both is Pascal’s Wager.

    There’s a mantra in the crestive writing trade I got from a group I regularly attended. It says “stick to what you know”.

  • mickfealty

    You’re not wanting a copy then?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Game Theory at first principles is very much about decision making in a probability space. There really isn’t any element of chance here so that’s a red mark that what you are talking about isn’t the theory of games but rather some sort of confidence psychology, that doesn’t even give the degree of confidence.

    Confident, Happy, optimistic messages have been spread by organised religions since the beginnings of religion. At least religious groups seem to know the limitations of who they can convert.

  • mickfealty

    Just a question. A yes or no would do? 😉

  • chrisjones2

    “don’t want to turn their TVs on and hear us sound completely and utterly out of touch with real life, arguing over things that don’t matter to them or their family”

    ….but Arlene …that’s SF and DUP Policy – to promote division and keep the sheep corralled from thinking too much about things that might matter and you have an election to win and if SF get 1 seat more than you you will be labelled as the DUP Leader Who Lost It

  • chrisjones2

    I just assmed it was the same person writing the speeches as last week

  • chrisjones2

    “its many handicaps including …………..”

    you damn with (accurate) slight praise ….but you have to admit they are GOOD at all those things

  • chrisjones2

    “very much about decision making in a probability space……”


    “There really isn’t any element of chance here”

    Bunkum. When you are dealing with human relationships in a political space impacted by external political events there is ALWAYS a huge element of chance.

  • chrisjones2

    “a poor relation within a disunited Union.”

    well if for almost half its life your Party’s fellow travellers had blown up its businesses , murdered its people, kidnapped industrialists, extorted, robbed and created mayhem it might not be quite so poor.

    As for ‘disunited’ you will note that the Scots recently voted to stay. The Welsh have no interest in leaving and nor (from all the Polls have we – including a substantial % of Roman Catholic voters in the North) have we Northern Ireland .

    Your party not only lost the war Robin, it lost the battle for minds as well. That’ s one of the reasons the IRA gave up and why history will view the IRA campaign as putting any hope of reunification back by at least 70 years

  • chrisjones2

    I agree but I bet there will be a charm offensive to see if they can keep her firmly in the Tory fold. Those votes may be handy over the next 4 years and she is a clean skin image wise in a way Pete the Prod stridently wasn’t

  • chrisjones2

    He’ s a theorist … they dont do simple answers

    {smiles self-knowingly}

  • chrisjones2

    “NOTHING says the future gets better by forgetting the experience of bad history”

    Really? What about

    Germany’s position in Europe post WW II??

    The Marshall Plan and post war development of Japan

    Burma’s efforts to promote reconciliation – a work still in progress

    Spain post Franco

    and above all

    post aparteid South Africa?

  • mickfealty

    Not sure about that Chris. It might be but the flow *seems* different even if the content is similar.

  • Granni Trixie

    Talking of the future..the immediate future leading up to election, no matter how Arlene tries to rebrand the DUP surely the forthcoming NAMA investigation is likely to remind people of DUP practices involving individuals still in the DUP.

  • submariner

    Chris the Union will not last another fifteen years, the Scots will not make the same mistake again. The political thugs of the English Tory party look to be in power for the foreseeable and that coupled with a possible brexit and the inevitable Tory lurch further to the right will make it inevitable

  • submariner

    That wont matter a jot to their voters. Once the election campaign starts and the DUPes start screaming about a Taig being first minister Unionist voters will do what they have always done and vote for them in their droves.

  • chrisjones2

    Fancy a £10 on that? The Scots will vote economically.

    The SNP are running up debt at a fierce rate. Shale oil has changed the entire oil market. OPEC is divided

    The Union is secure

  • submariner

    your on

  • Robin Keogh

    And for the first half the sectarian state operated on the basis of dishing out as much misery as possible to its minority community; dont be surprised if u get scalded after pouring boiling water over yourself.

    The Scots have rejected the traditional uk political establishment and have brought britain within a whisker of partition. If thats Unity, then u set urself a very low standard.

    Your last paragraph sounds like something out of a dissident republican handbook. Martin McGuinness is your dep First Minister with other shinners in positions of power in your government. Ruling over you via Dublin. Not bad going for people who apparently lost a war.

  • mac tire

    “The SNP are running up debt at a fierce rate.”
    Since April 2015. And they have limits on their borrowing. They also are only in control of a limited number of councils – so someone else was/is behind any debts.

    “well if for almost half its life your Party’s fellow travellers had
    blown up its businesses, murdered its people, kidnapped industrialists,extorted, robbed and created mayhem it might not be quite so poor.”

    Chris, the north has always been the poor man ever since partition. To blame that, as you have (and as you tend to do), on one side is foolish and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    This single transferable post of yours adds nothing to the debate.

  • Granni Trixie

    Pretty insulting to voters,aren’t you? I was reading that it is looking like anti corruption is likely to be a big issue in Irelands next election could be it impacts here?

  • submariner

    Nope its not insulting is called stating the bloody obvious

  • Ernekid

    Every election in Ulster since the 1880s has been carried out along similar tribal lines. 2016 will be no different

  • Croiteir

    Many handicaps that include policies that people actually support

  • Croiteir

    Danger of him making a fist?

  • chrisjones2

    “Martin McGuinness is your dep First Minister with other shinners in positions of power in your government.”

    Yes indeed. Martin McGuinness is my dep First Minister and he is quite good. Other Shinners are in positions of power in my government. They range for the competent to the bloody awful.

    But rule via Dublin? Do get real Robin.

    All are British Ministers in a Local British Assembly, paid British Salaries by a British Government in London. They use powers devolved to them by a British Government that also sets their budget to spend within the limits approved by the British parliament and the British Treasury. Every Bill they pass requires Royal Assent before it becomes law and many powers are still held in London

    I am delighted to see them all there. I fully accept that they represent those who vote for them – my neighbours whom I wish to live in peace with. I know that a number of them have very dark pasts where they have murdered my friends and neighbours but I feel we have to move on from that for the sake of the future of all our children.

    I also recognise how hard this must be for them as every day demonstrates that they have lost and had to settle for this. It shows that they are in effect the implementers of British Policies in Northern Ireland and no matter how hard they try to dress it up and huff and puff about ending British Rule they are just its current manifestation and will be for the foreseeable future

    The are the tools of the sovereign UK Government and I know that must be hard for them

  • chrisjones2

    I dont but for the last 50 years that was the dominant factor that held back development.

    As a Unionist I firmly believe that had we not had the troubles by now we would all be a lot richer and might well have reached some sort of agreement on a much closer relationship with the republic. That would have been better for everyone but we are now where we are

  • chrisjones2

    Forecast Scottish Debit is £50bn by 2020 or 160% of their total annual budget

  • Robin Keogh

    Nothing happens in belfast unless SF is on board. The SF leadership decides in line with party policy what is agreeable and what is not. SF leadership speaks out of Dublin not London, therefore it is from Dublin where Stormont is controlled. You can have your Royal assent any day of the week if it helps you convince yourself that British Ulster isn’t fading. But you are deluded.

  • Chingford Man

    I can remember the Horseman’s blog that dealt frequently with demographics. Unfortunately his own demise came first.

  • Chingford Man

    Why is that Irish nationalists can never move beyond variants of Tiochfaidh ar la?

    It’s one reason why Project United Ireland isn’t going anyway, as shown by the election results of 2014 and 2015. So, apart from making mischief, I really shouldn’t be complaining.

    Coimeád suas an dea-obair, guys.

  • eamoncorbett

    I think she’s Church of Ireland , they usually have no truck with that flat earth thing but it does not mean that she will weed out those that do.

  • Gopher

    I’m not so sure reliance on fundamentalist principles alone makes the DUP the biggest party. I dislike their fundamentalism and all their nonsense stands against abortion and gay marriage but they were the solitary party at the Westminster election with a workable strategy so they got my vote. At the assembly election they will not get my vote unless of course they get rid of passenger duty or put a train halt actually at the city airport in the meantime. At the Assembly election I will vote for the socially liberal candidate that wont turn me upside down and shake the cash out of my pockets.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If I had the time to read the book, I’d be able to point the many things you took out of context to have your own ad homenium Da Vinci Code version, Mick?

    The thing you said that happens according to game theory about shadows and futures has nothing to with either co-operation or game theory. And using the bits of a book that didn’t bore you that dealt with any bit of the topic and skim read conclusions abandoning methods.

    Game theory does not suppose anything. It’s about the Governing Dynamics of a Game. Heck Ron Howard gets this better, and he actually directed the Da Vinci Code.

    Keep the book on the Evolution of Cooperation and just read it better, skimming through and regurgitating a mental image or so isn’t good enough.

  • Gopher

    I dont care what anyone believes its when they try to impose their beliefs on others. Thats the fundamental problem with the DUP socially and SF politically. People judge the social dictatorship less of a threat to their well being than the political one. For example, SF’s famous economic manifesto written on the back of a fag packet and handed to Chris Hazard 5 minutes before the Nolan show was seen as a bigger evil than the DUP’s U turn on Abortion 5 minutes before the election or their blocking of gay marriage.

  • Kevin Breslin

    3 Words … Least we forget.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think you might be late to the debate here.

    The self appointed expert in game theory didn’t even use a conditional tense here, so where was the conclusion that anything he said factored chance or probability into the game.

    No Mick was happy to say increase the shadow of the future win the game against the past.

    No maybes, no probabilities, no uncertainties, no leaps of faith … No chance.

    How can you make a “game” out of a causal deterministic self fulfilling argument?

    It would be like me saying, according to game theory if you breathe in oxygen, you breath out water vapour and carbon dioxide.

    According to game theory the earth revolves around the sun.

    According to game theory my rabbit died.

    Why use the phrase “according to game theory” whenIt has absolutely nothing to do with games?

  • Gopher

    “Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan”

    The DUP success has meant they are attracting a better class of candidate from the pond and because they are a broad church politically if not spiritually. You get more latitude. SF, SDLP and Greens have a shallower pond because of their political dogma. Credit has to go to Peter Robinson for broadening the catchment of the party and blocking the UUP as a career path for bright young things. It will be interesting if Alliance can transform their increase in support to better candidates.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well that can often be the case with authors and such. They die before their prophecies or predictions come to pass.

  • mac tire

    I disagree with you here, Chris, but it’s refreshing to read something different from you than the normal dismissive ‘baa’ stuff.
    Those type of comments, while sounding great in your head, diminishes your input here.
    Keep it like this and many of us might even have a decent conversation.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good heavens, chris, actually go out and look at the literature of Game theory before dismissing some very important analysis of human interaction with the one word “Bunkum”. You’d perhaps have realsed that the absence of “chance” is being used here as the inevitable determination of certain factors and not in the very general sense you have taken it to mean.

    I have my reservations about the more rigid claims of some but game theory certainly works to illucidate just why individuals and groups may act as they do in particular situations. “Freedom” is something that requires constant alertness and a strong personal involvement in its maintenemnce, not simply something that automaticly occurs in situations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, “but we are now where we are ‘, and that’s somewhere we could have been in the 1970s if the more moderate people in Unionism had had the imagination to support NICRA in any numbers.

    The important thing for everyone in all of the varied political “camps” of our community is to deevlop some imagination and flexibility, and a real ability to think outside the box they grew up inside. Perhaps above all they require an ability not to simply react with a flat “no” the instant they encounter something that they have not heard first from the mouths of one of their self-seaking leaders.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, are any of those countries entirely free from a simmer of resentment at the supression of harms done? The Germans are finally begining to debate (in normal circles, outside the complaints of self-seeking neo-Nazis) those atrocities they suffered from area bombing. In South Africa and Spain, there are regular ground level “revenge” actions (I know of white people killed in South Africa, and of some Franco associated families targeted for rape and lesser abuses). The Japanese are painfully aware of the world’s perception of their actions, but many, many thousands attend the Yasukuni shrine, despite controversy regarding ashes held there associated with Japan’s war record in the Shōwa period.

    Yes, I’ve read the paudits for these examples you offer of simply walking away from the past, but much of this apparent “progress” is only achieved at the expense of simply ignoring such contradictory evidence. As with an individual, so with a community. The repression of a personal or a collective event produces a festering neurosis in those who cannot genuinely rise above things, remembering these ugly aspects of their past and accepting what it implies.

  • Gopher

    I’m not really sure about the “game theory” stuff (Schiffelen, Midway and Barbarossa were all gamed to death and failed) but I will agree with Chris here what Arlene is proposing is ironically evolutionary and the path of least resistance so automatically has appeal. Evoluton being progressive, the eighties better than the seventies, the nineties better than the eighties etc etc etc. A twenty year old in Germany does not wake up every morning and wonder why Kassel was eviscerated, he looks forward. That is what Arlene is tapping into. Electorally people are more than content with the Status Quo as proven by the DUP, Alliance, Green, PBP and even UUP performance so its a no brainer for Arlene to press home that advantage politically. She is basically saying in a polite way “we won” no point fighting yesterdays battles and inviting “everyone” to move forward the future will be good for everyone Unionist, Nationalist, Socialist, Marxist and Green. The principle problem she faces is managing the invevitable clamour for social change before in the bright new society the DUP is replaced by social liberals electorally. Fortunately (for her) she has always got SF to bail her out.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Heavens forbid a theorist rather than a non-theorist would be better at explaining Game THEORY.

    They also have nothing to do with the games people play.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Maybe if Unionists moved beyond being obsessed with Irish nationalism if they think the union is so secure they could sacrifice lowest common denominator politics for something of greater practical relevance to them. Otherwise it’s simply a need for Irish nationalism, but no need for Irish nationalists.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There is an enormous misunderstanding going on here over terminology, Gopher. “Game Theory” is actually technical term for “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.”

    Wikipedia does not give a half bad summary here, although anyone familiar with the literature reading it will keep saying “but……….” a lot.

    The whole point is that it is not a matter of playing out things before you do them, but is the study of human and organisational interaction where mathematical models (models that use mathematical concepts and language, as in philosophical logic) are used to analyse probability to reveal significators that are not evident from a normal “surface” analysis.

    The world is full of current attempts to ignore historical memory, especially from an epoch of imperial expansion where inconvenient histories were square peg hammered into neat round holes. I have liberal friends who worked in South Africa against apartheid in the 1970/80s, who actually fill me in on how bad it is at ground level today, as against the shiny rainbow image. And, yes, twenty year olds in Kassel are wondering why their father’s generation made so little of those war crimes committed against them, as a familiarity with a growing literature on the subject in Germany, something well separated from the neo-Nazi exploitation of this glaring moral weakness in the allied war effort, would have shown you.

    And perhaps broad stroke comments such as the progress trajectory might be qualified by a more detailed examination, for were the 1970s in the Wee Six really “better” than the 1960s for anyone but the extremists? I could even pick out aspects of the later decades you extol to seriously critique, if only with the simple question “better for whom?”. No, the times were “better” in some ways for some people, perhaps, but much worse in some others, certainly for some groups within our community, and across the world. The simplifications of this sort of broad “and onwards to Mars” progressivism has become utterly redundant ever since post structuralist analysis entirely undermined the credibility of the simplistic neo-liberal fallacy it is founded on.

    Burke perceptively described the state as a growing tree, and a tree only grows from its roots. “Moving forward” is a relative concept that in itself seamlessly invokes the past (forward from where?). As Jung carved over his door (and on his grave) at Bollingen, “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit”, and history too is present “bidden or unbidden”, for if you ignore it, you will only find it surfaces again in some other uncontrollable place. I’d have thought that anyone who actually lived here in NI would have had the continuing effect of histories from centuries past presented daily in our faces, and accordingly would perhaps have understood this instinctively.

    I’d fully agree that Arlene’s job description appears to be that of presiding over the slow death of a DUP that no matter how much it struggles to pretend it may transform into a modern economically oriented middle ground party, shares with its alter-ego SF a crippling history rooted in the ugly facts of its inception as a party that surfed its first elections on its anti-NICRA credentials, and whose founder was one of the central architects of the troubles. “Bidden or unbidden…..” he will not simply go away, you know.

  • Gopher

    Well I don’t believe Arlene could be much bothered about “game theory” whatever it is. She is outlining her strategic vision which leaders tend to do in acceptance speechs, how much substance there is will become apparent to us in the months ahead. Interesting it is a solution based speech if you discount the social issues which as I said offers the path of least resistance. As I have said also, so far this is appealing to voters. Her party, Alliance, Green, PBP and even the UUP are reaping the benefit.

    As for Kassel when a Neo Nazi speculates I just tell him dont be “sowing the wind”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, much as I enjoy our private conversations, it might have helped for you to have read the thread and understood where the discussion of “game theory” came from and how it relates to Arlene. Mick brought it up in the lead piece, and this led to a rather interesting discussion with Kevin :

    Perhaps if you’d have read my piece, it’s actually the increasing number of entirely respectable younger liberal Germans who are now questioning the enforced silence about area bombing from a cowed and beaten generation that I’m referring to, not those neo-Nazis who have always found in clear evidence of an allied war-crime a most gift for their “whataboutery”. I’d mentioned the new wave of objectively critical German historians, and the young people who are inspired by their work, as neither chris before you, nor yourself, had apparently taken them into account in selecting an entirely amnesiac German youth with which to make your own point.

  • Gopher

    I have absolutely no interest in “game theory” I have no interest in knowing anything about game theory, I am simply commenting that Arlene’s speech whether it fits some theoretical crib is the smart strategic play. She is making it self evident that SF and the SDLP are single issue parties and obselete. She has defined in words what has been happening in the last to elections and as the OP echoes this has its roots in the direction Robinson was going.

    I do take issue with the “drift from the Ballot box” in the OP the number of people voting increased by 45,000 the fact none of them voted for single issue parties like SF and the SDLP suggests Arlene and the DUP arnt at the theory stage anymore.

    “Objectively critical German” Dont think there has been one of them since Clausewitz.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Far be it from me to compel you to examine “Game Theory”, but I was simply pointing out that you were misinterpreting comments over something you quite honourably admit to not being really sure about.

    I’ve just changed my varifocals over to my close reading glasses, and pulled out the old magnifier my mother used to use. Yes, you really said above that there are no objectively critical Germans. Ho humm………I’d imagine that a lack of familiarity with post-structuralism, and with the literature of “Game Theory” is also matched with an entire absence of interest in contemporary German thought, especially historiography. But such blindsiding inevitably makes for rather less than authoritative, occasionally even Blimpish comments.

    But, still, I’m delighted to find some thin slivers of agreement over Arlene, even if I’m inclined to see the attempt to entirely ignore the DUP’s lugubrious past in favour of a kind of reverential Futurism as a serious limit on their worth.

    It’s really more complex, is it not? Neither SF nor even the SDLP are single issue parties. You have only to examine the plethora of SF party policy documents to see this. Over and above the constitutional issue there are party policies on the economy, on health, on local government, on Government accountability, on minorities and women (not that GF can credibly represent the party in this) and on Education. You may not agree with these policies, (and I’d not trust SF any more than I’d trust the DUP to actually carry out their declared policies in full) but it takes a rather interesting kind of one sidedness to suggest that SF are any more of a one policy party, or any more “obsolete”, than the DUP ( whose unfeatured “lead policy”, at least the one that ensures the core votes, is still for keeping “themuns” as down as any party may in the modern world while being scrutinised by Westminster and the Dáil). Neither party has actual copyright on our future, no matter what Arlene would imply with her (probably borrowed) magniloquence.

    And probably even more significantly for the coming year, if Arlene is at all sincere in what she says, even after the various “MacSpideog Purges” of the old guard, she will still have to persuade the parties hardcore voters to vote for modern middle of the road policies few would even dream of supporting where she not perceived as leading the party of the late Lord Bannside. The DUP may have absorbed many other “new thinkers” (such as Arlene) from the UUP and even from the middle ground with the siren charisma of being “first party” in the polls, but the elastic band of voter support is stretching very thin, and its still attached firmly at its fixed end (from what I hear on the ground) to the old popular Paisley nexus. And blood, as they say, will out…..Peter could be remembered fondly by the faithful with the trailing glory of Clontibret (no matter how Opera buffa some of us might have thought of his showing), but it is notable that Arlene is beginning to have to bring up her own, and her families, very real Troubles experiences. None of this points to a modernist politicians complete escape from the dead hand of a determinist past.

  • Gopher

    When I know absolutely nothing about something I tend to admit it, I also admit it when I have no understanding or want to understand a field like Game Theory. Cut and Paste has never been my bag.

    As for German Histories the only author I enjoy outside Clausewitz is Gorlitz though I frequently use others for cross referencing. Though I enjoy Gorlitz’s history of the German Genral Staff one could hardly accuse it of being critically objective but a good read none the less. I have absoulety no interest in contemporary German thought, I have read enough autobiographies by Germans to understand breadth of understanding is not their strong suit when dealing with history. Interesting in parts but not up to the standard of their British contemparies

    Thankfully there is a new generation of mainly English historians who tend to be the best kind, doing sterling work debunking those autobiographies. Nope I’ll pass on German Philosophy, German Music, German Art, German Poetry, German Historians and German Liberals. Just too teutonic for my liking. Might buy a German car though when they stop faking the emissions come to think about it thats what they do with their history,fake it!

  • Kevin Breslin

    SPAD Bill? NCA? NIO use of the national security veto?

    And are we going to say Red Sky, Cerberus, Flag Protests and other matters had Sinn Féin approval?

  • Hugh Davison

    Nice to know where you stand on Germans, after your extensive study of their writings. btw Who or what is ‘Schiffelen’?

  • Gopher

    Schlieffen, my apologies if my spelling is frequently poor. Schlieffen was a efficent technocrat with an obsssion with Cannae, which is quite at odds with Arlene’s strategy.

    I take my lead from some illustrious Germans, Frederick the Great, considered one of the greatest Germans could hardly be accused of running his court in the Germanic style. Sans Souci was his Palace, I believe thats French for “without cares”. If your ever visiting Berlin its worth the trip. If you are in Berlin the Pergammon museum is also a must. I have a few German friends find them perfectly nice people but I aint going to buy a Ramstien CD anytime soon

    Charles V famously said.

    “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, and German to my Horse.”

    And he was the Holy Roman Emperor!

  • WindsorRocker

    Maybe a note on that last point. When Trimble made the major argument to go into government with SF in 1999, Eoghan Harris who was helping him with his speech to the UUC that Saturday, implored him to bring up his own experience of grief which he did when he invoked the memories of Edgar Graham and Robert Bradford whom he knew personally.

  • Robin Keogh

    I clearly meant the power sharing arrangements Kevvie. So, lets not be silly.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There are two things occurring here, WR. Both Arlene’s “close misses” regarding the assassination attempt on her father and the bus bombing, and the deaths of David Trimble’s associates, all occurred, and will invoke sincere feelings. But their mention in both contexts is not without the flavour of a political ploy to show publicly that a person who has suffered is making a sacrifice in interacting with those who are associated with the violence. Both these recalls of credentials from the violence invoke “the dead hand of a determinist past” and are disingenuously targeted at keeping on board the support of those who will be politically repelled by any interaction with persons associated with the violence. The sincerity of grief and of the experience of violence is being politically employed to suggest that even as such interaction with persons associated with violence is underway, in some way the politician employing their experience of violence is still with the intractable parts of their support base. This is a “lie on your belly with your toes in the air” prevarication. While the politician may be of two minds about this in themselves, they can only act fully on one policy, so someone is effectively being gulled. But, hey, that’s politics……….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, have you come across Voltaire’s reaction when “Old Fritz’ attempted to collect him? Strachey describes it most amusingly, and perhaps underlines just how completely German Fredrick remained under the surface trappings of French culture:

    And I find it interesting that your example of an illustrious German was one of the greatest single influences on the little Bavarian army corporal with the Chaplin moustache. But I entirely agree about a visit to Sans Souci as a must. Also, have you encountered Wilanów? I have something of a weakness for Jan Sobieski (who saved us all from the Turks in campaign that included our own Lord Mountjoy of later Derry fame)…………..

  • WindsorRocker

    Indeed that is Politics. I interpreted your “dead hand of a determinist past” phrase to mean she was looking back not forward hence the reference to someone else who employed the same tactic when they wanted to make moves into the future with the possibility of not being able to bring along his base.

  • Gopher

    I believe when you research history you have to follow Ariadne’s thread and if something was a profound influence you have to investigate that. On face value you would expect Hitler to lean to the Bismarckian school of diplomacy but it seems he had more of a penchant for Freddys risk taking and reliance on chance and boldness. So I believe it was more character traits that appealed to Hitler, like the stubborness and single mindedness, the sharing of the recourse to suicide rather than capture. Whilst Freddy an absolutist German trying to drag a poor peasant state out of the swamp by culture and learning mainly imported as Prussia had little. ( Catherine the Great (a German) did the same in Russia). Hitler an Austrian was trying to tap into a developed state from the swamp so rather than Voltiare and Mendelssohn, it was cranks like Rosenberg, Arthurian Tuetonic knights and stabs in the back . Talent in art, music, literature, film and science was hunted from Germany and the masses did nothing which is fundamentally the opposite of Freddies attempt to galvanise the masses through culture and learning. Hitler took great care over his personal protection, Freddy did not which is telling. Nope Hitler just used the character traits that suited him just like for example Jackie Fisher took the “audacity of Napoleon and thoroughness of Cromwell” but none of their vices, Hitler took Freddy’s traits with none of his virtues

    Never been to Wilanów

    I recently finished “The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe” by Andrew Wheatcroft which I would recommend. I always get the feeling Jan Sobieski was the Pyrrhus of Epirus of the 17th century.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for outlining your ideas on Hitler. I’d be inclined to agree about his utter superficiality, and can only imagine that it was the fact that the nation was reeling from utter defeat in WWI that even offered him an opening to manipulate what is usually a most level headed people into a most uncharacteristic extremism.

    I’d also be inclined to agree about Pan Jan, and Alex’s nephew. While the Poles produced brilliant cavalry armies and were almost unbelievably courageous, their obsession with their “freedoms” through the “liberum veto” left them prey to anyone from outside with enough money to dismantle the best intentions of the Commonwealth through corrupt payments for one vote. Haven’t read Wheatcroft’s book, but will do on your recommendation. I have something of a weakness for Adam Zamoyski’s work, and found his “The last King of Poland” a brilliant historical tragedy, and his slim “The battle for the Marshlands” a most concise version of what Norman Davies describes in “White Eagle Red Star”. Nietzsche ( who could not bear to be called German) perceptively described the Poles as the “Irish of Eastern Europe”, and a familiarity with the histories of both nations is highly instructive.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I doubt though, that she will carry her base support very far. The comparison with Trimble is most apt in other ways. The DUP has been pulling in several different directions for some time not, sloughing off annexes like the TUV. While I can see how Peter kept the faithful of all shades in line, I simply cannot see Arlene repeating the trick with the fractiousness building within some wings of the party. I often think that the DUP would only really hold together if every front line member could be leader at once!

  • Gopher

    Nothing surprising about Nietzche, David Hume never considered himself Scottish.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Poor David, as Erasmas said “Bidden or unbidden” the Scot was ever present…….

    Sorry not to have replied sooner, travel intervened, but I’d wish you happy new year where I will look forward to your stimulating historical responses.