The pendulum swings – time not for Unionist panic nor inaction

So the elections results are in: a sea change has occurred. The bark of unionism’s boat is near overflowed. All may not yet be lost but all is about to be. Wail, lament, tear clothes, put on sack cloth or more realistically start surfing rightmove to find a nice house in the North of England or Midlands or maybe Wales (house prices preclude the south and Scotland will soon be gone).

Well maybe and only a naïve unionist would dismiss this result. Equally:

In 1992 the Conservatives under John Major triumphed for a fourth successive electoral victory. Wise political commentators intoned that Labour could never win another election. Then came 1997 and 2001. Many of the same wise commentators intoned that the Conservatives could never again win an election.

Equally there have been changes which have seemed pretty complete: the eclipse of the UUP by the DUP, the eclipse of the Liberals by Labour within a few elections of their 1906 triumph. After 1906 they never had another majority.

The problems about sea changes in politics is exactly that – they are like the sea and the sea has no memory. Often political commentators seem to have none either.

After the last Westminster election many NI political commentators (including some on this site) said that the revival of the UUP especially the South Antrim seat showed that unionism was becoming more liberal. I pointed out it had a lot more to do with local short term factors such as Willie McCrea never having gelled with the constituency and his getting older etc. Then came the last Stormont election and Arlene’s triumph. Suddenly the demographic time bomb seemed diffused. Suddenly it was “discovered” that some Catholics were suspicious of social liberalism and that the voters were much more volatile than people thought. Suddenly Arlene was part of the new wave of elections like Brexit etc.

Now the pendulum has swung. In reality the previous Stormont election flattered Unionism and damned Nationalism / Republicanism and Alliance. This one has done the reverse. That is the thing about pendulums – simple harmonic motion -oscillation about a mid point.

All that said this election must be taken absolutely seriously by the DUP above all others. Although the UUP lost most that was in large part because of the reduction in the number of seats to 5 per constituency and some bad luck. Personally I suspect Nesbitt has been very premature in falling on his sword.

Foster on the other hand has serious thinking to do. In the last election the DUP very wisely ran it as Arlene’s team. She was the friendly young solicitor who just happened to be First Minister and extremely good at it. Her fall from near impregnability is far from complete but shows marked feet of clay.

The blocking of homosexual marriage and abortion whatever the respective rights and wrongs of those issues is being held up as relevant. However, Arlene and the DUP held exactly those positions less than a year ago and indeed those views were accounted as gaining them some ground from conservative Catholics.

The real change has been not demographic nor policies but RHI. The utter debacle of this scheme whereby people were paid to waste energy is breath taking. The fact that controls were not put in place is beyond belief.

When the scandal broke Sinn Fein initially played it badly, later they played it very well. The DUP on the other hand played it badly initially and then made a bad situation worse.

The drip, drip of revelations that assorted people and organisations close to the DUP were making substantial sums of money from the scheme was bad enough. When it transpired that some had built empty sheds etc. it got worse. The nadir was when Jim Allister claimed in Stormont that Stephen Brimstone (he of previous Red Sky fame) had removed a new pellet burner from his house to install a commercial one on which he could claim the subsidy. This crystalised the scandal perfectly and has not been denied.

Arlene’s response was inept. Where Peter Robinson had shown humility (albeit in personally worse circumstances) Arlene seemed to think her triumph of last year insulated her from the disaster. Then she relied on straightforward old fashioned unionism which whilst it may well have helped ensure that these elections were not a total disaster still produced a relative one.

Had she been cleverer in her actions she might have been able to avoid an early election and by the time of the next scheduled one all would have been forgotten. As it is despite her narrow victory she should consider her position. Then having considered it she should probably stay in power. Then she needs to ensure that that pendulum swings back. As a start she needs to ensure that any whiff of scandal is punished remorselessly. That may mean the end of a number of SPAD careers. Arlene needs to lay down her friends for her (and unionism’s) political life.

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  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Yes it does, which means they should pay.

    Why then give them free political fodder at every turn?

    Everyone knows that the DUP’s attitude to the ILA and RHI and other 3 letter acronyms (e.g. the UDA) made this happen.

    If you do not support SF and do not wish them well then do not vote for their biggest ally, the DUP.

    Do not argue, the DUP is solely responsible for this mess.

  • Tom Smith

    SF will not “pay”. The vast majority of the nationalist community votes for SF. Allegedly even those who voted in ‘protest’ sidestepped all the other smaller parties to put their number 1 beside a SF candidate.

    Why do you suppose that the DUP ended up as the largest party and increased its vote? Despite the issues that you raise? In my opinion they did so in opposition to the SF agenda (a UI and an enforced ‘greening’ of their neighbourhoods).

    I suspect that you any not live in NI. It is as divided now as much, if not more, than it ever was. And that twenty years after the Belfast Agreement. An agreement undermined by SF from day one and saw the ‘middle ground’ sidelined. All of which was rewarded by an increase in the SF vote.

    How much more would SF have been emboldened if, as you suggest, the unionist voters had abandoned the party they obviously regard as their bulwark? For better or worse, probably worse, in NI it remains a ‘green-orange’ dynamic. And just in case you may be tempted to suggest that a UI would sort that out. It wouldn’t. The people would remain the same. Indeed in such destabilising conditions the situation would become more fraught.

    You mention an Irish language act. My view is, as I’ve expressed before on this very site, go for it. I don’t care, break the bank, produce every official paper in Irish (alone if you would please, start with the Rates bills and then I can happily ignore them), put a tricolour on every government building you can. Put Irish only street signage, those who seek it will understand it, wherever it’s wanted. I believe however that it would be a mistake to force it where it is not acceptable.

    (And yes I have a tiny bit of sympathy for those Irish speakers who approach it from an apolitical position. However it is politicised. Those who stood with SFers on their recent protests know it is, like flags, a community denominator)

    Finally, if you don’t mind, I’ll argue any position I choose rather than follow any dictats presented by you. Thanks.

  • David Crookes

    And if you allow for double or triple jobbing, 05OCT68, you may see the loyal orders as having at least thirty-nine representatives in Stormont.

    Think of a less contentious group. If nineteen MLAs declared themselves to be Friends of the Ulster Orchestra, the allocation of arts funding would come under the most rigorous scrutiny.

    We saw the real power of the OO not long ago, when that nice American lady and her friend Richard were chairing talks over here. The DUP appointed Mr Mervyn Gibson to speak for them.

    In my youth I often heard fervent Protestants complaining about the priest-ridden education system down south.

    The unionist political framework is still goat-ridden.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Paddy, my being suggested as a possible model Turgon should follow came as something of a surprise to say the least. Just out of a long bout of pneumonia, I wondered if my delerium had suddenly returned!

    But I have to take issue with you on something. Seriously, Turgon is rather more three dimentional than you suggest. He is not only a voice for one political party here, he also frequently has made many very important and telling points outside of his chosen “one party remit.” His comments on Churchill, his frequent posts on the old pre-Blair Labour party, readily come to mind. While he has certainly never seemingly understood my caricaturist’s penchant for irony and disparagement (an encoded cognative bias “anchoring” habit I find difficult to ever break), I’ve never failed to respect and enjoy his many sharp and telling insights on issues, usually about things beyond what goes on in NI. I know that Turgon has frequently been contemptious of my quoting my grandfather, but in this context my grandfather’s statement “the truth remains the truth, even if the entire world affirms a lie” can readily be applied to quite a bit of what Turgon may say in his role as an excellent examplor of our “thran” dissenter tradition. Mind you, not on this particular piece on the issue of “pendulum swing” Unionism, however, where I feel that a great historical inevitability has now occured, the fulcrum point has been passed and we are into a new dispensation where Unionism must change dramatically if it is to have any future whatsoever, something I see little sign of.

    But any genuine liberal pluralist must insist that Turgon should be part of that change if we are not to simply repeat the mistakes of Unionism in 1912/20 which have ensured that a pluralist community here has been a very long time in even starting to come. Just an illustrative quote from F.J. Bigger describing the first pipe band he funded:

    “One definite feature has been maintained; no two costumes are alike in colour. All the old Gaelic hues have been used, and they were of the most varied character in the heroic times, thus getting away completely from any modern sameness of military appearance, and by a very variety of colour and difference of tone arriving at the true Celtic spirit where unity of the whole was best seen in the variety of detail.”

    Turgon is an important part of that variety of detail which makes up genuine Irishness, although I doubt he will thank me for saying it in such a way, but long may he continue to critique us all through his particular interpretation of Irishness.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you David, very much my own perception of how our people should behave, and as such areflection of how they should have acted in 1912 to save us from a century of woe.

  • Barneyt

    Yes I see what you mean. The point I make is that the SDLP are regarded as the nationalist party and yet this sometimes does not stick, and I concede that SF are the republical AND nationalist party. Absoutely. Nationalism in whatever ilk does not sit easy with me in all honesty.

    However, how many like you think of the United Irishmen when republicanism is mentioned? Also, how many think Presbyterian when they hear of the United Irishmen. How many consider the role Presbyterianism played in the insurgence against Anglican control? Perhaps not enough.

    There is a grave distance between the Presbyterianims we see today and their Irish Republican heritage. uneasy bedfellows for obvious and more recent reasons. I wish more would consider this and then extend their thinking towards the notion that Presbyterians can lay as much claim to Ireland as any.

  • Paddy Reilly

    But your enumeration of Turgon’s virtues proves my point. “His comments on Churchill, his frequent posts on the old pre-Blair Labour party”. This is history, not politics. As I say, his interests are those of a Historical Society and Social Club. It is a waste of time trying to convert this into politics.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    You are correct, at present I do not live in NI but i do return home for extended periods of time e.g a year ago I returned to live and work, more than enough time to gauge the temp of the political water.

    I understand why people thinking that voting DUP is somehow a ‘bulwark’ against SF but the reality has shown this to be a myth, they they protect no more against SF than a dreamcatcher protects against nightmares, this election is further proof of that, it was the DUP that brought the nationalist vote out in such number; we were warned of this before, during and after the vote.

    My suggestion is not a dictat but advice;
    don’t eat sausage suppers for dinner every night, drink water instead of soft drinks and don’t needlessly antagonise nationalism, the advice is yours to ignore at your leisure but the results of ignoring it should be plain for all to see.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As you may be aware from my other postings, I see our politics as the result of our history, just as I see an individuals life in the current moment as drawing on a lifetime of experience to even begin to function meaningfully. Actual “present moment” politics without historical roots are going to be just as lost in the real world as any other amnesiac. As the wise man said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    A easy proof of this, simply attempt to imagine Unionism without those decisions of 1912. It does not exist. It is only that opting for physical force in 1912 which has has brought about a century of violence in our part of Ireland, without that we would be living in an entirely unrecognisable situation (assuming, that is, we’d been born). And it is only by understanding the pattern encoded at that moment and still running its course in our collective thinking that we may begin to break free from it. the history is present, “bidden or unbidden”.

  • 05OCT68

    Unionists aren’t stuck in the past, they are stuck in the present. The glorious revolution has become a failed project in Ireland at least. Unionism had to retreat to a small corner of the Union, a Union that is under threat from no less a place than the Ulster protestant Heimat. 1690 ended in 1916

  • 05OCT68

    They aren’t British either, I’ve lived & worked in Britain, Ulster Protestant Loyalists are just that, they bear zero resemblance to the British.

  • 05OCT68

    If only Unionists would do what they have lectured Nationalists to do for years, keep religion out of politics. The OO,AOB, B institutions have played the triple game for years, and slippery as an eel when challenged, are they a religious, political or cultural organisation or like the holy trinity all three at once?

  • David Crookes

    Let me say, Seaan, with no disrespect to those passengers who died in 1912, that we have made a whole industry out of remembering a ship that sank.

    What follows is written by a unionist-in-transition whose family has done very well out of the union. The actions of many unionists in 1912 represented a form of rebellion against legally constituted authority.

    What would have followed the devolution of many powers to an Irish parliament would not and could never have been Rome rule.

    We should all still have been British as well as Irish.

    The British monarch would still have been head of state.

    The Bible tells Christians to submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. In 1912 professing unionist Christians said no.

    We have never got away from that fundamental rejection of legally constituted authority. Today we have a parades commission which has been established by our democratically elected government. Mr Mervyn Gibson tells us that he and his fellow-Orangemen do not accept the authority of the parades commission.

    He and they are therefore rebelling against Her Majesty’s Government, and against the Word of God which they falsely claim to uphold.

    ‘We’ll keep the law only if we like it.’

    There is the ultimate doctrine of undemocratic, unBritish and unBiblical Orangeism. That doctrine underlies a fantasy which does not yet dare to breathe its name in public: the Little Ulster fantasy that Antrim and Down will be able either to stay in the UK, or to constitute a new independent statekin.

    The Orange Order has lost about sixty thousand members, or two-thirds of its strength, during my lifetime. In the face of unpleasant reality, many of those who remain are surrendering themselves — to sordid fantasy.

    Those who are able to think must direct those who are not.

    For all of my lifetime it’s been the other way round.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    David, we appear to be pretty much one on the significance of this moment for our collective lives. I entirely agree.

  • David Crookes

    A lot of what passes for warm-hearted evangelical baggage turns out to consist largely of hatred when the bags are opened. I’m a part-time evangelical preacher, and I didn’t get my first sentence out of a book.

    Some of the ‘tightest’ or most exclusive professing votaries of the Christian gospel — many of them are too ‘tight’ even to vote in elections! — cherish a lawless Orangeism in their hearts.

    Here is II Kings 17. 32 in the New International Version.

    “They worshipped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places.”

    Here is the first part of the very next verse in the Authorized Version.

    “They feared the LORD, and served their own gods……”

    Syncretism, we call it in the trade.

  • Neilo

    Hi David, i just want to compliment your clarity of thought and writing style.

  • David Crookes

    Bless you, sir. The creation of a UI will compel whatever powers may be involved to deal with a form of lawless squalor which has never been seriously dealt with before.

    One manifestation of this squalor was provided by the ghastly flegs business. After being warned by their party not to support the rioters by their presence, several elected representatives supported the rioters by their presence.

    (“We’re only acting as observers.” Of course.)

    The most dangerous alliance in NI is the alliance between unionist politicians and violent breakers of the law.

    It appears that the former will always need the latter.

  • Tom Smith

    That, as an old uncle was wont to say, is in my opinion ‘the road to no-town’. How do you differentiate between needless and needed ‘antagonism’? I would suggest that any variety of ‘antagonism’ would be regarded in much the same way by a recipient who regards a different worldview as beyond the pale, or antagonistic as you may prefer to caricature it.

    And what is the alternative when presented with a position that is felt to be unacceptable? Rollover, appease? When dealing with a group that believes the very fact of being a unionist is a sectarian act in itself how do you challenge without it being perceived as ‘antagonistic’ by an (always hyped up to be offended) adversary?

    You may believe that the SF-voting nationalist seeks a compromise with unionism. I don’t. I do believe that in reality they wish to compromise unionism. They regard that as an essential step on their dreamed of path to a UI nirvana.

  • David Crookes

    Bless you, Neilo, my best friends are the people who tell me when I’m wrong, so if you ever hear me coming out with nonsense please gub me in the metaphorical sense.

    Political debate in our wee country is normally so robust that when someone pays me a compliment, well! — as Billy Simpson’s genteel heroine would say, ‘Ay nearly hev ay messive hort etteck.’

  • 05OCT68

    Do you mean they have become a sect?

  • Barneyt

    Yes. Spent few decades there myself. As many have said on this site they see us as all Irish and in some cases a heap of trouble. I found the British of GB tremendously welcoming. I dreaded meeting a fellow northerner as at some point your first name would not be enough and as sure as eggs the “which tribe” query would land.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Tom, respectfully let me post to a reply to a poster here who also sees cooperation and compromise as ‘appeasement’:

    My aims (and that of many other ‘do gooders’) are simple:

    A flag and anthem for Northern Ireland

    A Gaelic language act of sorts (even a cursory glance would show it’s not just Shinners that want it)

    A British mainland approach to the flying of flags from public buildings*

    A code of conduct for parades

    A clamp down on poppy abuse

    A separation of Protestantism and unionism

    These aims are valid with or without the existence of SF and nationalism in general, as far as principles go they are decent and denying them ‘because themuns’ is childish and ultimately detrimental to unionism.

    *I am prepared to compromise on the flags issue as I’ve stated elsewhere.

    Big ‘U’ unionism has got itself in a twist wrt to thinking that almost anything propositioned by SF is automatically bad for unionism, this is not so and in many cases saying no out of spite (like an ILA/Ulster Gaelic Act) is of no benefit to Unionism and is votes in the bank for SF.

    There was even an entire article on here dedicated to it.
    Of course they wish to compromise unionism but this heel digging and not-an-inch attitude is the greatest acquiescence that unionism can provide.

    Adams mustn’t be able to believe his luck at how easy unionism is to manipulate, he simply plays ‘Gerry says’ and watches unionism resist it, cause a fuss and then he gets votes out of it.

    Money for jam.

  • 05OCT68

    Antrim’s largest city Belfast is going to be a problem re: staying in the Union with Down, Will the west of the city be like Gaza? So imagine if Loyalists had redrawn the border in the 70’s, Belfast now a nationalist city would be a nightmare. The inevitability of unification was just too scary to contemplate. A benign Unionist state would have been the greatest defense of the Union, a century of misrule has Unionism at the mercy of Nationalism.

  • Tom Smith

    A “do-gooder”. Is that ironic, self deprecating or what? If you don’t mind me saying you do seem to have a soupçon of a persecution complex going on (yes, I’ve read some of your back catalogue).

    Your manifesto?

    A flag/anthem for NI. Northern Ireland as far as Irish nationalists are concerned does not exist. Even as a two-word combo it’s nil-by-mouth. Are you trying to be ‘antagonistic’?

    An Irish language act? Fill your boots. Go for the Welsh option, the more restrained Scottish model or the full Krakatoa as proposed by a one time SF Minister.

    A GB flag policy? Try it on for size. Nationalist controlled councils have a no-flag policy. You’re being ‘antagonistic’ again.

    A code of conduct for parades? Hasn’t the Parades Commission got that beat?

    I’ve no idea what “poppy abuse” might be. Is it a typo? Did you mean puppy abuse? The USPCA is the go-to there.

    Separation of Protestanism and unionism? What, you can’t be both, one or the other, what exactly? It, in common with Catholic/nationalist, is a quirk of history. Weren’t there a few Prods in the United Irishmen before they started burning Prods in barns down Wexford way?

    Anyway religion (thankfully) is withering on the vine. Even now I’d imagine only a few Orange folks see the inside of a church on days other than the few the arrive at the door sashed and booted. Give it a few years and the religious will be museum pieces.

    So ok then. When you’ve got agreement for your “aims” with Irish nationalism come back to me and I’ll use my massive influence to sway the remaining non-goodies to the cause. Peace will reign, the rivers will flow with real ale and Man will lie down, and have a snooze.

    Jam for sandwiches.

  • David Crookes

    Yes. The large nationalist section of Belfast’s population makes a nonsense of repartition, unless the lunatic doctrine of ethnic cleansing is invoked.

    Another doctrine, whose name used to be spelt ‘genicide’, is occasionally articulated by the odd Seawright-type.

    All part of a mad world of drum-beating buffoonery, lubricated with alcohol, in which Daddy has a little shrine to Hitler in one corner of his bedroom, and flags of Israel flutter in the wind outside along with the Protestant bunting.

    Don’t think I’m sitting in the seat of the scornful, 05OCT68. When I was a young ass, as for example when I acted as an armbanded steward at an Ulster Loyalist Association rally, I listened to a lot of oul wild talk without feeling any kind of disgust.

    It may take a man decades to get to know himself and his ‘ain folk’ comprehensively. You have to reject wrong in your own person, and on your own behalf, before you can start advising your ‘ain folk’ to reject it.

    My good and upright republican friends warn me every so often not to idealize the other side (meaning their own side!). ‘Much of what you denounce on your own side,’ they say, ‘has parallels on our side. For example, there are people on the republican side who dream of making the new Ireland so uncomfortable for Protestants that what happened to the Free State will happen to the New Ireland.’

    It doesn’t do to be sanguine.

    NI needs to be intellectually prepared for UI.

    There must be no ‘going-down-fighting’ on one side, and no settling of scores on the other.

    An unprepared NI, confronted with UI on the basis of fifty-per-cent-plus-one, will explode in horrendous violence.

    Perhaps the most dangerous enemies of a harmonious new Ireland are the people on both sides of the fence who resolutely refuse to employ their intellects.

    The people who refuse to think.

    Quite a few of these people hold university degrees.

  • David Crookes

    Worse than that. They have colonized the minds of people who belong to several different sects.

    Even the really austere ones.

    You may be too marvellously holy to join the army in time of war, and you may be too spiritually exclusive to vote in elections, and you may be such a prisoner of daft sabbatarianism that you think it would be sinful to cut your nails on Sunday, but you carry an insane notion about the chosen-people master-race in your subconscious, you spend an absolute fortune in keeping yourself permanently well-dressed, and you believe that the inner and outer cleanness of a man’s car is the index of his moral probity. At the same time you feel an inarticulate sympathy for those who engage in squalid protests at Drumcree and Twaddell, and if some blethering so-called Protestant got bumped off for talking treachery about UI, you would growl a quiet approving ‘Good riddance’ in the unctuous chambers of your own imagery. All the while you tell yourself that you are born again, that you believe every word of the Bible, that you give money to missionaries, and that we did well to leave the EU because the EU is 100% popery.

    The Christian idea that the UK might have done good to others by staying in the EU, like the Christian idea that present-day unionists might do good to others by going into a UI, never occurs to you.

    In your heart, you approve of any lawless violence which is committed in the name of loyalism. (No matter how vulgar and barbarous it is.) You shake your head solemnly, wipe the lenses of your incredibly expensive gold spectacles, and murmur, ‘But the people are angry…..’.

    What are you?

    A worshipper of Moloch.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Oh, there’s a bit of context missing there, i was called a ‘do gooder’ by the original recipient of this answer so i responded in kind.

    Every one seemingly has a persecution complex these days.

    You’re right about nationalists and northern Ireland but a percentage of people born into the nationalist community aren’t ‘nationalist’ per se, it was a point of gloating by many unionists on here at one point.
    These people aren’t represented by the defunct Ulster flag.

    As nationalists don’t give a stuff about a flag then it’s hardly going to be antagonistic is it?

    Flags policy – i’m talking about unionist councils.

    Parading – judging by the drinking at the Belfast 12th and the odd paramilitary style banner i’d say the PC haven’t sorted it yet.

    Poppy abuse – loyalist paramilitaries bedeck their memorials and murals with poppies, this is a disgrace.

    Unionism and Protestantism – one of the uup councillors who balked at nesbitt’s transfer remarks clearly framed unionism with in Protestantism.

    I don’t think i’m asking a great deal but if you think these aims are unreasonable then please explain why.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Great stuff Gopher.

    You should write a post on slugger (and maybe offer your services to the UUP for a price)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    There used to a Hindu flag bearer for Cookstown Sons of William, and maybe even for Limavady Orange and Black (I might have got their name wrong, its been a while…)

  • Tom Smith

    You simply skirt over the challenges I raised leaving not much for me to “explain” in response.

    Look you’re obviously one of those “Bright Side of The Road People” a south Belast SF MLA has included as an acceptable entrant to the future. You too appear to see unionists as the problem.

    Fine with me. Everyone has an opinion. It’s (still) a free country (even though your manifesto seeks curbs on personal freedom- as an example, and odious as the practice is, I’d be interested to see how you’d stop loyalist terrorists using the Remembrance Poppy on their memorials: copyright the flower?)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    It was brief because i’m on my phone, i shall expand on them later.

    I don’t see unionists as the problem (I am one) but certainly I take issue with the uncompromising stance of hardline unionists who shout never and then have to back down later with an even worse deal.

    As for the poppy;

    1/ it is copyrighted

    2/ no laws needed, just a common front help by all the unionist parties, the OI, the RBL and maybe the churches.

    If they were to apply pressure and public condemnation then the practice would be frowned upon and hopefully decrease over time.

    Is it unreasonable to ask this of unionism’s representatives?

  • Guilty of Wrongthink

    NICRA was merely a trojan horse, so of course it would use the name “Northern Ireland” – the IRA foundations are well documented.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Hello again.

    Right, in more detail:

    “A flag/anthem for NI. Northern Ireland as far as Irish nationalists are concerned does not exist. Even as a two-word combo it’s nil-by-mouth. Are you trying to be ‘antagonistic’?”

    1/ What do you define as a nationalist?

    In the true sense of the word you are correct, they shouldn’t even be interested.

    But as we all know (as is cited on here by unionists regularly) a considerable number of people who are from that community are not ‘nationalist’ in the anti-Northern Ireland sense.

    If we take them into consideration then surely they should have a say too?

    And if we ignore them and pretend they don’t exist, well, we still need a flag and anthem anyway, so, the destination is the same e.g. NI needs a flag and anthem.

    And before you get bogged down in the machinations let me simplify it further, what we need for starters is the DUP’s blessing.

    If they could just issue a statement saying that they would not oppose any efforts to find a new suitable flag & anthem (or preferably actively encourage it) and that the IFA need not fear interference from the DUP as in the past (when they send a heavy mob down to the IFA headquarters to soundly quash any notion of replacing the UK national anthem with a local one) then that would be enough.
    Just permit the conditions for change.

    That’s it. The grassroots can do the rest.

    “An Irish language act? Fill your boots. Go for the Welsh option, the more restrained Scottish model or the full Krakatoa as proposed by a one time SF Minister.”

    Great, so you wouldn’t consider this ‘appeasement’ then?

    “A GB flag policy? Try it on for size. Nationalist controlled councils have a no-flag policy. You’re being ‘antagonistic’ again.”

    And the nationalist councils would lose a moral highground in comparison to the unionist councils if the unionist councils simply adopted standard British practice.

    “A code of conduct for parades? Hasn’t the Parades Commission got that beat?”

    No, the OO say they don’t even recognise the PC and I’m sure you’re no stranger to the Belfast 12th?

    “I’ve no idea what “poppy abuse” might be. Is it a typo? Did you mean puppy abuse? The USPCA is the go-to there.”

    I’ll reiterate my earlier piece:

    ‘1/ it (the poppy) is copyrighted

    2/ no laws needed, just a common front help by all the unionist parties, the OI, the RBL and maybe the churches.

    If they were to apply pressure and public condemnation then the practice would be frowned upon and hopefully decrease over time.

    Is it unreasonable to ask this of unionism’s representatives?’
    “Separation of Protestanism and unionism? What, you can’t be both, one or the other, what exactly? It, in common with Catholic/nationalist, is a quirk of history. Weren’t there a few Prods in the United Irishmen before they started burning Prods in barns down Wexford way?

    Anyway religion (thankfully) is withering on the vine. Even now I’d imagine only a few Orange folks see the inside of a church on days other than the few the arrive at the door sashed and booted. Give it a few years and the religious will be museum pieces.”
    Clearly there is still quite a link between Protestantism and unionism, the UUP councillor that criticised Nesbitt was symptomatic of this.
    None of these objectives require negotiation with nationalism, it’s all pretty much in-house stuff.
    If you see any of this as ‘appeasement’ then please explain it to me.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    This is maybe the most unlikely conversation I’ve ever seen on SO’T.

    I agree with you Mr P but I see where Mr Ui Neill is coming from, he very much sees Turgon as an indispensable part of the broader Ulster tapestry of thought (ironically so as I imagine Turgon would happily see the back of Seaan if he were in charge).

    This is so weird…

  • Paddy Reilly

    Turgon is indeed an indispensable part of the broader Ulster tapestry of thought. I do not dispute that or challenge his right to keep thinking and informing us of same.

    It is only his political activities that seem to me pointless, and not really political.

    The Covenanter movement inspires the lifestyle of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Though only 3,500 or something in number, they milk cows, raise children and keep their farms and homes clean. But the Covenanting movement is not going to take over Ireland, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Back in the 17th Century that may have seemed like a possibility, but those times are long gone. So, sensibly, they have excommunicated the authorities of the United Kingdom and concentrate on their own affairs. This Quetistic approach is how I see the future of the TUV and all who sail in her. No pendulum is going to restore the Ulster of the 1950s.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Very nice, but you lost me at ‘quetistic’, word of the week methinks!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A Trojan horse to what exactly?
    The place teetered on civil war, how could NOT attacking them and giving them the inevitable UK standard rights to which they were entitled have made things worse than what happened?

  • Paddy Reilly

    By Queitism I mean the practice of withdrawing from worldly concerns (i.e. attempts to rule the country) and focusing on your own inner spiritual peace.

    There was a lot of this after the Restoration in 1660: the Quakers, who had held centre stage, were obliged to withdraw from politics and listen to their inner voice.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d be on much the same ground in my feelings about this as Thomas Davis in “Celt and Saxon”:

    “What matter that at different shrines
    We pray unto one God?
    What matter that at different times
    Your fathers won this sod?
    In fortune and in name we’re bound
    By stronger links than steel;
    And neither can be safe nor sound
    But in the other’s weal.”

    While Turgon might want to be shot of me, I still think we’d be poorer in our Cultural Irishness without the strain he represents.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d agree with you that the TUV will not be taking us back to the 1950s, but to tell anyone they cannot express opinions hints to me of the atmosphere of those 1950s here, something I experienced at first hand, Paddy. About fifteen years ago over a long wet summer afternoon in rural West Cork I remember, during a long political discussion, strongly supporting Anthony Lester on the issue that our only recourse if we genuinely believe in pluralism is to prersent the more compelling arguement. If there is a reversion to genuine violence, we have to act on such things, but as long as we are discussing things peacably, to tell anyone that they have no right to a political opinion is to my mind, to repeat the mistakes of majoritarian Unionism in its years of success. Telling Turgon he is wrong in his views is one thing, but claiming that such views have no place in politics is censorship. Turgon himself has tried this silencing strategy on me, but like Voltaire, I’d entirely defend his right to speak and consequently put the onus on me to counter what he is saying with reasoned arguement (and sometimes with a degree of hyperbole).

  • Neilo

    I live two miles or so from the border, so I maintain a fierce interest in NI politics. Whatever the demographics hold for the future, the Unionist people of this island will need some parity of esteem on their identity and status. I think it was Sam McAughtry who in paraphrase self-identified as an Irishman proud of the liberties he enjoyed as a Briton.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Well documented,” GoW, lets see that in a posting perhaps so those who were there can show what mendatious nonsense such “documentation” actually is. In reality NICRA, supported by many people of good will in politics over the water as welll as teh entire range of our own community, was the last real hope for reforming the Union and giving it any meaningful future. Do you imagine that if the broad body of liberal Unionism had fully supported NICRA, as so many young Unionists actually did, that we’d have had the return to the violence of 1920/22 which Unionist extremism percipitated. It was middle class Unionists (“anything for a quiet life”) singularly failing to challenge Bunting Sr and Paisley and in doing so affirming the common values of Britishness which polarised the situation decisively. Calling for the basin to wash ones hands and ignore their own unpleasant inheritance of sectarianism was the crucial factor which tipped the issue over.

  • Katyusha

    the IRA foundations are well documented.

    Indeed, and they have nothing to do with NICRA.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Several decades ago someone started a Homosexual Party and was filmed by the BBC soliciting (votes, that is) in the street. Unfortunately I did not move to London till some time afterwards, so I wasn’t able to use my prepared retort, if asked such a question:-

    “I’m so sorry, I’ve promised my vote to the Sado-Masochists”.

    Alan Bennet’s Lady in the Van, Miss Shepherd, had her own political party, Fidelius. She did wonder whether she could adapt to 10 Downing Street and hoped, when she got there, they would let her park her van outside.

    Then there was the ubiquitous Screaming Lord Sutch and Rainbow George, who very kindly extended his scope even to the benighted territory of Northern Ireland.

    A home grown political movement on the opposite side of the spectrum to the TUV is the Workers’ Party, once the Stickies and the other half of the Provie split. Amazingly they were once a force to rival Provisional Sinn Féin but continued in an eternal downward cycle in demonstration of Zeno’s paradox and don’t seem to realise that the time to stop was decades ago.

    It’s not that I wish to censor Turgon: I am just advising him, and Miss Shepherd and her like, that energy is being unnecessarily wasted on political projects which are hardly going to succeed. This energy could be put to more profitable uses. It would be better to create a society of like-minded people, perhaps a model village, like the Moravian Brethren created Gracehill near Ballymena, or some sort of (voting eschewing) Religious Sect like the Reformed Presbyterians.

  • Guilty of Wrongthink

    Wolfe Tone Societies.

  • David Crookes

    Brilliant, AG, right off the Gobnascale!

    Imagine someone proposing DECENCY. What a novel idea.

  • Tom Smith

    “None of these objectives require negotiation with nationalism, it’s all pretty much in-house stuff.

    If you see any of this as ‘appeasement’ then please explain it to me.”

    Appeasement is generally thought of as applying to external relationships. As you suggest the issues that are exercising you are, in simple terms, intra-community matters. Perhaps council flag policies and the Irish Language would fall outside that interpretation.

    I’m not so sure that it is the business of politicians to offer “blessings”. Front loading an unasked for opinion strikes me as potentially unhelpful as an agent of change. If, for example, you believe there is a groundswell of opinion within the IFA to adopt a new flag and anthem, in other words the supporter base is in favour of change, then politicians should leave it to the association to get on with things.

    As I have started (three or four times now I think) I have no issues with an ILA and its manifestation in the public space. My only caveat is that it only manifests where it is desired by the local community. Is that not respecting the wishes of the people who live in a particular area? Driving from where I live down onto the Antrim Coast Road I move from a flag-free zone with English-only road signs to bilingual road signage and the odd Irish tricolour in a coastal village. It doesn’t phase me at all.

    I am in fact indeed a “stranger” to the Belfast 12th. Never been. Although I did once catch about fifteen minutes of a BBC programme covering the event. Turgid tv. I do hope that in attendance is is more enjoyable.

    My view on Orangeism is, on a personal level, not a scintilla of interest. To those who enjoy that sort of thing: fill your (walking) boots.

    If, as you aver, the poppy is indeed copyrighted then it is for the copyright holder to take whatever action they deem fit to challenge any inappropriate use of the symbol. Or perhaps planning authorities can specify the design of the memorials and then ensure that they comply with the planning approvals. If they are erected without planning permission have planning enforcement require demolition.

    I still can’t see how you can separate an individual’s religious belief from a political position they may adopt. Do any political parties operate a religious bar to membership? Should someone say, for example, ‘I am a Protestant and that is why I am a unionist’ simply ask them to explain the connection.

    Trying to shut them down or to suggest that their stated life choices are incompatible seem counterproductive to the removal of the scourge of religion from the public arena. (But that is a personal perspective. As a libertarian I’m not about making windows in other people’s ‘souls’)

    That’s more than enough about religion I think.

    In my opinion NI is moving towards the politics of minorities. No individual block will have an operating majority. I see the potential for agreement on many of the ‘bread and butter’ issues, with stasis on contentious community ‘signifiers’.

    I have no concerns with separate development, call it cantonisation if you prefer. Maybe direct democracy in the form of local referendums can illuminate local opinion to overcome obstacles that appear on the road? Call it “equality” if you will.

    I’d advocate a border poll before the end of this year. Results to be published on a ward by ward basis. That’ll tell everyone where we’re at.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “It’s not that I wish to censor Turgon: I am just advising him, and Miss Shepherd and her like, that energy is being unnecessarily wasted on political projects which are hardly going to succeed.”

    In this context. Paddy, it is important to remember that through the hard work of John Redmond and the IPP to bring Home Rule to the point where it was an entirely credible possibility, by the time of the 1910 election support for the Irish Republican Brotherhood dwindled to the point where that seperatism which looms so large in the wake of Easter 1916 had shrunk to a tiny and negligable fringe group of a few hundred people, and serious mainstream Irish politics was all about devolution within the UK. I’d recomend Owen McGee’s excellent study of the IRB, if you have any illusions about this:

    What revivified the seperatist tradition was the Unionist Covenant of 1912, and the creation of the UVF to ensure taht constitutionalist Home Rule was confronted in arms. The Irish Volunteers formed to respond to the UVF became the vehicle through which the IRB was revivified and attracted people such as Pearse. Without the UVF, 1916 would have been impossible, and Bulmer Hobson and Dinny McCullagh would have been writing angry articles for Arthur Griffith until the end of time. So its a very dangerious thing to laugh at a marginalised opinion as the history you assume to be an irrelevence at this moment is far from over.

    Minority opinions arrogantly dismissed by the mainstream politicians have a habit of coming at you out of nowhere, and sometimes even have the final laugh, as with the IRB, Sinn Féin and that eventual 1948 which moved Ireland forever out of the last traces of John Redmond’s dream. This is especially true where one surcumbs to the temptation to underestimate them, as the UUC did when the assumed that the UVF would only have to see off Johnny Redmond, and could not even begin to imagine facing anything like a MIchael Collins. Perhaps even I will yet be rewarded for my fidelity to King Francis by seeing him restored to his Irish kingdom, although I’d not risk a fiver on it even at current odds.

    But it is important to remmeber that Turgon has an organised and analytic mind and in his work reflects a particular strain of Unionism which has considerable appeal well beyond the TUV, as comments on his posts over some years clearly shows. It is worse than a crime to ignore this reality, its a mistake. What he says is sometimes very wrong, buy is never foolish and as such requires serious attention and proper challenge, so simply trying to laugh him of the stage may be an almost indulgent underestimation of what he is doing. Unionism has been making a very similar mistake by endlessly refering SF back to the IRA campaign until the “terrorist” trope is so stale that it has little or no impact on any side, becoming simply a stock insult.

  • Tom Smith

    Lest you think me rude I did reply to you. However that reply ‘was detected as spam’ and disappeared into the bowels of disqus.

    Not an opinion I take offence at whatsoever you understand.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I did wonder where it went* the same happened a mammoth comment of mine last week. So frustrating…

  • David Crookes

    Here is what we’re up against (from today’s ‘Belfast Telegraph’).

    The Irish News reports the inclusion of the Noel Clarke Memorial Flute Band in the Lisburn parade has been branded an “insult to victims”.

    According to a letter to the band from the lodge, the march is organised as counter to the traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

    Organisers say they want to highlight that St Patrick was “not Irish, but a British saint, born and bred”.

    Noel Clarke was jailed for five years for his link to the murders of three young people in a mobile shop in Drumbeg.

    Eileen Duffy (19), Katrina Rennie (17) and Brian Frizzell were shot on March 28, 1991.

    Clarke originally faced three murder charges but was acquitted of involvement and was later charged with hijacking a van used by the killers. He maintained he didn’t know what the van would be used for after it was handed over.

    Clarke was found dead at his Lisburn home in 2012.

    SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney said the inclusion of the band was an “insult to victims”.

    He said: “We must all work to ensure there is a space for respectful celebration of culture and tradition, not only in Lisburn, but across Northern Ireland.

    “There is a positive accommodation to be struck between people of a unionist background, a nationalist background and others. But a band named after someone associated with the sectarian murder of three people, two of them teenagers, flies in the face of the shared community that we’re working hard to build.”

    He added: “I am calling on the organisers of this parade to urgently reconsider involving this band. I am hopeful that this can be resolved locally with respect for everyone in our community.”

    Secretary of the Bateson’s True Blue Lodge John Millar told the Irish News that raising Clarke’s past had “no real relevance”.

    He told the Irish News: “Everybody is welcome to attend this event, which is about bringing people together.

    “There are parades that take place honouring IRA members, so it would be hypocritical to say anything about this parade. There were terrorists on both sides.”

    The Orange Order in a statement said it’s a matter for local lodges.

    A spokesman said: “The engagement of bands is a matter for local lodges and as such we were unaware of the decision of the organisers to engage this particular band.”


    I wonder if the band will play the Horst Wessel Song.