The fault lies in ourselves, not just the politicians

Slagging off politicians is so often the default of Slugger comment, sometimes  down to  the level of that useful word “trolling,”   which  for me recalls the fate of the troll in “ The three billy goats gruff,” when the troll richly  deserves to  get crushed to bits. It ought to occur to people by now that life demands a bit more than a bilious attack, a rant or a sprint down a favourite cul de sac.

Hand on heart  I  sympathise  with  politicians as a class  after nearly  half a century of acquaintance  at all levels with quite a few of them  in London, Belfast and Dublin. I would guess that meaningful access to the best of politicians has become more difficult for this generation of political reporters, due to the rise of media management for 24/7 news. And in NI, the enduring habits of conspiracy continue to inhibit anything like candour: but that’s another story.

Two very different recent posts tried to address  the problem of the deficit in political talent  which  so many people seem to think is universal. Ed Straw asked if there was a competition in incompetence in UK politics.  Limiting her attention to the home front, Helen McNeill called for more input from civil society. I sympathised with her but identified the constraints. To Straw I did own little bit of semi-trolling and blamed the people “the bastards”, who get the politicians they deserve. My rare rudeness was met by complete silence. Which was interesting in its way. Blaming “the people” is beyond contemplation.

I was comforted  when a more sophisticated version of my case appeared from that most original commentator Janan Ganesh in the FT (£)focusing first on that favourite new Slugger target ( me included) Theresa May.

Before  I quote him, we might just reflect that so far it’s working pretty  well for May. Her much criticised attack on Brussels for interfering  in the election will have helped to  obliterate UKIP in the  English local elections and  the Tory revival in Scotland can hardly be put down to English nationalism. In France too, if the conservative candidate Francois Fillon  hadn’t refused to be replaced over those compelling corruption charges, would we not be seeing the usual alternation between Left and Right?

Theresa May’s terse, scripted style of speech could be the impatience of a serious politician with momentous work to get on with. The trouble is that it could also be the paranoia of a deeply average one in continual fear of exposure. Either way, it is rational. The repetition of slogans in lieu of answers carries no cost. Voters take so little notice of politics that a thousandth prime ministerial allusion to “strong and stable leadership” seems to them as fresh as a line coined on the spot. If this reads like an attempt to blame the public for the debasement of political communication into disembodied catchphrases, it is. Mrs May could not survive an election campaign saying so little so often if people paid attention.

The influx of a few hundred thousand people should not be enough to skew a great party to the left, and perhaps to ruin. In the mid-20th century age of mass participation — when Labour claimed 1m members in a less populous Britain — the centre might have held against the new arrivals. In 2015, when there were just 200,000 members, the centre folded like a deck chair.

In all three cases — Labour’s mess, lacklustre office-holders, impoverished rhetoric — it is short-sighted to blame the proximate culprits.

In my role as a commentator, I encounter just two attitudes to politics: indifference and obsession. A civic culture needs more hobbyists, engaged enough to scrutinise the news and join a party, but removed enough to bring a perspective born of civilian life.

People must get involved to salvage the product. The reluctance is understandable. Politics is full of people who discovered it in their youth and called off the search for other interests. On the right, there is something of the humid handshake and the sweaty upper lip about it. On the left, there is teenage shrillness and a taste for activism as an end in itself. If most citizens want no part of this world — this eternal students union — that is natural. But do not then feign surprise when this sect of obsessives has a material effect on your lives. You left them to it.

Our nearest equivalent for originality (   sometimes stretching to perversity ) is Newton Emerson. While of course he has plenty to say about politicians on all sides,  his latest is in the Irish News is about  Michelle O’Neill who is  the political leader Gerry Adams  thinks  we deserve. I  must say, she doesn’t  seem like a  new broom, more a robotic straw woman.

The fault  lies with the media for kludging O’Neill into a trite peace process narrative of the progressive new leader, apparently based on little more than observing her youth, gender and failure to turn up for work in a balaclava.

A better analysis of her promotion is needed and deserved.

The key question arising over O’Neill’s leadership is not whether she is proud of the IRA (she has said that she is) but whether her party will ever return to Stormont.

O’Neill was openly and single-handedly appointed by Gerry Adams to be ‘northern leader’ in this period of Stormont limbo, so her qualities as a politician send a message on that question.

There may be some squeamishness in the media over acknowledging those qualities, for fear of seeming biased, prejudiced or rude. However, the blunt facts of the matter are that O’Neill has never been considered among the top tier of her party’s talent, that she is a dogmatic hardliner on the “freedom struggle” and that there is precious little evidence of her ever leading anyone.

On the contrary, Adams frequently speaks for her at press conferences, patronisingly asks if she has anything to add and even refers to her as “missus”. His behaviour towards her can seem like a disrespect agenda. It is certainly in sharp contrast to how he treats Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Féin deputy president and O’Neill’s approximate counterpart in the Dail.

Could that be precisely the point?

Perhaps indicating less respect for Stormont is the signal O’Neill has been chosen to send – and hardliners are the target audience.

, , , ,

  • Pang

    Sorry Brian, we’ll all try harder to deserve better politicians.

  • murdockp

    In the UK, people often give up very successful careers to become politicians and are doing it for vocation which means you get highlight competent people doing the job.

    In Northern Ireland, they are time served party members who are taking a huge step up to earn a politicians salary and benefits and in most cases have a low level of technical competence to undertake the job.

    This is why the respect levels are low, as most people will never be able to achieve political offices as we have moved into the era of career politicians. Take Chris hazard at SF, what does he actually know about infrastructure or leadership or controlling large budgets, answer absolutely nothing.

    Take Michelle O’Neil, comes across well and looks good on camera, but again what does she actually know about running an organisation located across 200 sites in Northern Ireland with 100,000 employees and all the issues that healthcare comes with, answer absolutely nothing.

    This is why our respect levels are so low for these people and they deserve what ever abuse and negative press comes their way.

  • james

    Don’t need to try very hard at all – just vote for the better ones.

    Supply and demand, isn’t it?

    If stupidity & secrarian bigotry sells, Sinn Fein and the DUP will come up with even more thick and bigoted goats for the electorate to vote for. Simple Darwinian logic.

    If crass, foul-mouthed politicians sell, we are offered people like SF’s Gildernew to vote for.

    If unrepentant, faux-intellectual former terrorists sell, we’ll be offered more Gerry Kelly’s to vote for.

    If slimy, moronic comments sell, we get more people like Sinn Fein’s Sean ‘Alligator’ Lynch to vote for.

    If ignorance sells, we get more Campbells to vote for.

    Simple enough, really. Vote for the more decent of the current crop, and the parties will react to it by bringing in better candidates. There’s no point going to McDonalds and complaining there’s only burgers on the menu….

  • Pang

    I like the idea of people from normal careers doing a decade or so in politics. Maybe term limits would help? In the dail they are mostly teachers or small town solicitors which is not diverse enough. That said I have normally voted on party lines.

  • james

    Very true.

    They tend to expertise in things we don’t need.

    Gregory Campbell is a leading expert in insulting nationalists.

    Nelson McCausland is world class at getting indignant with Steven Nolan.

    Conor Murphy is excellent at pretending to be a tough guy and snapping at people.

    Michelle O’Neill…uhm… not sure what she excels at. Not public speaking, certainly – though that actually would be a useful skill.

    Gerry Adams is perhaps the best in his field, a genius even, by international standards, at inciting sectarian hatred and personally profitting from it (hence all those Hitler parallels people like to draw).

  • Zorin001

    The Public: We want a politician who tells the truth

    The Politician: Ok the truth is we are in trouble, this is how we get out of it but its going to hurt.

    The Public: Boo!!!!

    The Papers: Politician talks down country, deserves the sack

    *Politician sacked from front bench*

    The New Politician: (Insert bland slogan, after bland slogan)

    The Public: Yay

    The Papers: Useless Politician says nothing, country a shambles

    The New Politician: Oh ffs

    *Country collapses in interim*

    Repeat ad naseum

  • Croiteir

    Why not make it a profession then, if profession is the correct word. Make councillors a full time job, pay them accordingly, about upper middle management levels, make a MLA pay very attractive and an MP even more so, and also add a decent pension for 5 years if they get the boot. In effect a reverse of pay peanuts get monkeys.

  • Jag

    Yes, leave the ickle politicians alone, and spare a thought for the £1,000 earned by (sorry, “paid to”) each of the 90 MLAs for their sterling work this past week, together with an average of £1,500 apiece in expenses.

    If it weren’t for the modest entertainment value we achieve from slagging them off, it would be a complete and absolute waste of our money.

  • james

    Ok, but have a 12-month hiatus after bringing in that rule to allow people with the skills and intelligence space to mobilise. I wonder how many of the current crop would last in that environment.

    It is unfortunate indeed that we seem to have slipped into a situation where, effectively, the pushy inadequate losers from QUB Student’s Union find themselves falling into important positions for which they have little of the necessary abilities or life skills.

  • Jag

    Oh, Oh, I know what Michelle excels at – saying “there will be no return to the status quo” and “it was the right thing to do”. She says these things with such perfected staccato delivery, probably practises for hours in front of the mirror.

  • james

    Granted, yes, she has that phrase fairly nailed down.

    Hmm…staccato, eh? Can’t argue with the aptness of that description – though I think that might just be the ventriloquist 🙂

  • johnny lately
  • Gopher

    Our politicains are beyond salvation, as the OP touches on Michelle O’Niell being a puppet which is true. The only unscripted thing she has done was wait till Gerrys back was turned and shake Arlenes hand. It could of course have been a muscle spasm or a string catching on a pew.

    As for the DUP, today a Conservative Unionist and professed Christain standing up for the UK in her hour of crisis not only smashed Labour in Scotland she also dashed the Lib Dem hopes of a revival and stopped the SNP in its tracks. After all that, seriously does anyone care if Ruth marries Jen? Is she going to be an unwelcome visitor in Northern Ireland if she visits? Hi Ruth here is our culture minister Jim/Nelson/Girvan, meet Mike he was once “minded” to do something. It is a complete pity there is no way for May to make her secretary of State just to show up what a bunch of halfwits you are!

    Leaders are there to lead Ruth has done that, ours are led by the meanest of society

  • Skibo

    I think you give credit where it is not due. Not alot of politicians in the UK are career served people. You will find most have come through University with a politics degree.
    As for those who have come from business, they seem to have used their position as a nationally recognised face to either be able to join the lecture circus with enormous appearance rates or find themselves on director boards getting massive salaries for very little.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Quite right – there are decent politicians there, people need to be a bit tougher on themselves for not voting for them, and stop making excuses for voting for idiots and sectarians. The polling booth is private. Really there is very little excuse.

  • Skibo

    Michelle O’Neill served her time as both an Agriculture Minister and a Health Minister, at a time when nobody else wanted to be the Health minister.

  • Skibo

    You give Ruth a foot up where it was actually handed to her. As the only realistic voice for Unionism in Scotland, that vote has rallied around her.
    It will be interesting to see just how much of the percentage of the vote her party gets in Scotland of the 55% that voted no.

  • james

    “Michelle O’Neill served her time as both an Agriculture Minister and a Health Minister, at a time when nobody else wanted to be the Health minister.”

    Rather seems to prove the point that our politicians are inept, self-serving, and somewhat bored by the jobs we pay them to do – and heavily implies that Michelle didn’t actually want to be Health minister, either. Do you think she’s more at home at the death cult rallies SF specialize in than actually being a politician?

  • Skibo

    One issue would be after all that education, could they get elected? If not it would be a waster three years at university.

  • Skibo

    I think you missed the UUP there with your sectarian bigotry. If you are going on policies, can you tell me the difference in SF and SDLP?

  • Jag

    Indeed she did, and who can forget that unfilled medical vacancies increased by nearly 50% under her watch, and the most recently published hospital waiting lists show the waiting list is 20% higher in N Ireland than in the Republic, where Louise O’Reilly wants to be health minister.

  • Skibo

    Jame if you are referring to attending commemorations of war dead, then there are alot of death cult rallies in the North.
    See you and a majority of Unionists look at SF and stop listening all together. At some stage you will actually listen to the words and not just judge the party that the messenger comes from.

  • Skibo

    Jag the whole idea of resolving the Health service was that it was to be looked at outside politics.That was what the Bengoa report was all about. It will take around 10 years to turn it around.
    Do you realise the Health specialists quote a 5% increase on health spending is required year on year just to stand still. That means in 15 years the Health budget could require the whole budget.
    Michelle O’Neill had the report ready but for the election and no executive since. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-37729603
    perhaps we need a closer link with the South and rationalise over the whole island.
    How come you did not mention the levels of waiting lists in GB?

  • james

    “At some stage you will actually listen to the words”

    Ok then. What is SF’s message?

  • Jag

    Skibo, health is an issue in nearly every country with which I’m familiar which probably runs to around three dozen (Cuba is the only exception). There’s just not enough money in the West for an aging population and exorbitant costs (down South, SF will be supporting the €400k a year per patient for the new cystic fibrosis drug)

    But ministers need to shoulder some responsibility, even in N Ireland. I compare with the South, and not GB, because SFer Louise O’Reilly says she wants to be health minister there.

  • Gopher

    Unlike MoN she is prepared to do it her way and tell Party HQ where to get off. That is leadership my friend.

  • Brian Walker

    There’s quite a wrangle here about what politicians need to know to be competent ministers. They don’t have to be experts in the brief: plenty of those around them are and they have access to the best advice outside. What they have to do is to ask the essential questions and make the best choice. This is usually done by matching the available solutions to their political beliefs and interests and their view of the wider public interest. This last is where our system is weakest.
    Taking a real decision in the common interest is tough, especially if you aren’t competing for votes with the other side. Why risk annoying your core by being utterly even handed if the system lets you get away with it? Easier at least to stall.

    How do they become ministers? By impressing the party and the leader, who has to strike a balance between areas, factions, youth and experience and now increasingly, gender.

    Although SF are to a great extent a closed shop which still operates as a politburo endorsed by the seniors in the Felons’ Club, I’d say they’re probably slighly above average at the game.

    To outsiders their main drawback remains the legacy of a secret society that for outsiders casts a shadow over the potentially wider appeal of the new generation. It must be said though that it hasn’t seriously held them back. I’d say they’re handling the slow transition fairly well.
    O’ Neill may be seen as a transitional figure. McGuinness could not be replaced by an authentic SF modernist with no direct links to the IRA in one move. Unfortunately so far, she shows little sign of being capable of independent thought. In the long run she’ll have to display a touch of independent authority and s more rounded character if shes going to carry much weight outside the movement, but I’d guess inside it too.

    The next few weeks could be crucial.

  • AntrimGael

    This DUP councilor’s comments are total vindication as to why Sinn Fein withdrew from Stormont. The DUP are what they are and will never change. Sinn Fein will now rightly put all their energy and focus into 32 county politics. Unity is just around the corner.

  • Katyusha

    There’s quite a wrangle here about what politicians need to know to be competent ministers. They don’t have to be experts in the brief: plenty of those around them are and they have access to the best advice outside.

    Like, why don’t we just appoint the most ably qualified people to run the country, rather that some kind of X-Factor contest? The civil serive practically run NI anyway, pay a decent salary and attract the top talent, and we are sorted. Democracy (of the Westminster variety) is overrated, and we never had much of it in NI anyway.

    To outsiders their main drawback remains the legacy of a secret society that for outsiders casts a shadow over the potentially wider appeal of the new generation.

    Au contraire. The younger generation provide them more support than the older one. The older generation calls the shots, in the media and elsewhere, but unfortunately they are not immortal, nor can they steadily raise the voting age to correspond to those who remember when Duran Duran were still on Top of the Pops

    O’ Neill may be seen as a transitional figure. McGuinness could not be replaced by an authentic SF modernist with no direct links to the IRA in one move. Unfortunately so far, she shows little sign of being capable of independent thought.

    I fear, you may be misreading Ms. O’Neill. It’s not that she’s not capable of independent thought, she’s simply an unrepentant Fenian. She’s laying out SF’s stall for he future (in NI), which is not in letsgetalongerism or unionist outreach, but a shift towards a newly fired-up republicanism and a renewed focus on the border and the ability of Westminster to call the shots on that matter. She may also need to display her republican credentials in a way that Marty did not have to.

    There is also the matter that Stormont is a toy-town parliament, and ever will be. Why should SF commit their top guns to it? MMG never held the title “Leader in the North”, aka six counties out of thirty-two. The title “cheif negotiator” held more prestige.

    the Tory revival in Scotland can hardly be put down to English nationalism. In France too, if the conservative candidate Francois Fillon hadn’t refused to be replaced over those compelling corruption charges, would we not be seeing the usual alternation between Left and Right?

    Eh, I’d argue with this. The Tory revival in Scotland is a backlash against separatism and a final rejection of any utility of the Labour party, and little else. Ruth Davidson is a visible, but hardly capable, leader. On the other hand, Macron is as Parti Socialiste as they come. If Fillon hadn’t been such a terrible candidate, his party may have been returned to power, but what we are seeing in France is not an upsetting of the apple-cart but rather a reinforcement of it’s unassailable status.

  • Redstar

    Surely the biggest ever mismatch with person for job was Mc Causland as Culture Minister!!!!!

    Akin to Jimmy Saville being appointed to child welfare

  • james

    McGuinness as education minister would have to be up there, too – given his membership, and many say long-term leadership of – a terrorist organization which sucked in a lot of not terribly bright young people and taught them to be murderers and thieves.

  • Katyusha

    To be fair, she operates in Scotland. Her party leadership couldn’t find it on a map, and would baulk at the idea of actually going there. The bauld Ruth is safe. NI is more insular.

  • Katyusha

    Ok, but have a 12-month hiatus after bringing in that rule to allow people with the skills and intelligence space to mobilise. I wonder how many of the current crop would last in that environment.

    Are you willing to pay those people a competitive salary, james?

  • james

    Me, personally?

  • Katyusha

    Well, you can if you wish! I’m sure the rest of the country would be grateful for your shouldering of the burden.

    A stable of our political “discourse” is that our MLAs don’t deserve to be be paid 50k/annum for the services they provide. Would we be willing to pay 100k/annum or higher to a group of technocrats who would likely implement swingeing cuts to our hospitals, schools and other public services?
    What would it take to encourage the brightest and best that NI produces to work in politics?

  • aquifer

    The people don’t want to pay politicians, so we got Thatcher paying them under the table with fattened up expenses that ended in a humiliating gutbusting. It did not have to be like this. Labour had a huge majority and could have freed themselves from their Union paymasters and string pullers by introducing party funding to build a membership out of a public that usually has other things to distract them, but they did not. The only crime in politics is stupidity.

  • Neil

    In the UK, people often give up very successful careers to become politicians and are doing it for vocation which means you get highlight competent people doing the job.

    This is frankly untrue. The cliche of a former Eton pupil heading off to Oxford for a PPE degree followed by either a spell at a consultancy arranged by Daddy or directly to Westminster to serve your time making tea for an MP as preparation for governance in the UK is well founded it would seem. Gideon Osborne was famously a towel folder for a while before he was put in charge of the UK economy (though in his defence he studied Modern History, and went to St Paul’s).

    Here’s a list of 100 or so Oxford PPE graduate MPs. See who you can spot.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees

    The rest of it is a bit elitist really. Should we only elect people with the absolute best of degrees? The majority of those people are of course going to come from well heeled backgrounds, so is the idea that the richest people in society should rule it, as they have the opportunities and the resources to ensure they don’t mix up their grammatical rules on TV when they grown up and are installed in government?

    No thanks, not for me. I think people should govern on a jury duty style system. You get chosen and you have to go be an MLA for a few years. Government departments have experts on hand to advise people on what to do, for the very reason that a gibbering idiot can become an MP and be put in charge of a department, so lack of experience is no barrier to being in charge (either here or in England).

  • james

    “A stable of our political “discourse” is that our MLAs don’t deserve to be be paid 50k/annum for the services they provide.”

    A large majority don’t, in my opinion. Right across the board. Paying a 100k salary to someone who will do a good job of it is much, much more effective than paying 50 large to someone who will not.

    “Would we be willing to pay 100k/annum or higher” yes.

    And here you wander off into Shinglish with “a group of technocrats who would likely implement swingeing cuts to our hospitals, schools and other public services?”

  • Croiteir

    The traditional role of the British army – if that fails they could always rely on emptying the jails

  • aquifer

    For journalists the price of access can be deference. The internet tends to make everything accessible so why defer? Journalists trade in facts, but actions stem from prejudice and motivation, so assuming the worst for politicians is a sensible precaution.

  • aquifer

    “we are in trouble, this is how we get out of it but its going to hurt.” Like it, never heard it. This planet is going to fry.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    That’s a splendid idea.

  • file

    But the fault also lies with the media and the exclusively confrontational style of interviewing which, obviously, creates only more confrontation. Seamus McKee’s laboured intonations (after some in-house training course obviously – he did not use to talk like that) hurt my ear, but his and everyone else’s style of always using a Paxman-like approach actually does damage as it leaves no space for expounding and explanation of ideas: the interviewee is always on the back foot trying to answer some attack from the journalist.

    When the Hillsborough Agreement was signed, I actually heard a journalist – before anyone else had really read the thing – inform a unionist politician he was interviewing that he would be opposed to section such and such of it. That is, the journalist did not ASK the politician what his opinion of the document was, he forced him into a corner by picking an all-Ireland aspect of the document, told him he would be opposed to that aspect and invited the politician to agree with his – the journalist’s – view.

    If we get the politicians we deserve, we also get the media we deserve, of course. BUT maybe the first past the post system is to blame also? The Europoliticos we have been hearing from seem somehow much more grown up and mature than our lot, less prone to point-scoring and more liable to give a useful insight or explanation and a measured, grown-up response. The DUP are wedded to the ‘insult your opponent first’ style of politics patented by Paisley pere, but all local politicians are more about opposing the other than rational debate and compromise. On the continent, most governments are coalitions due to PR – maybe this fact results in politicians who are used to compromise, to listening to the other and to co-operation?

  • file

    Do you have empirical evidence of the IQ scores of past IRA members? Or is this you own personal prejudice you wish us to accept as fact?

  • file

    i agree mostly, but in response would also point out that highly-paid top civil servants in Northern Ireland display high levels of incompetency too. RHI being a case in point with everyone ‘forgetting’ to re-apply for approval from the finance department, but also building a new central train station and ‘forgetting’ to make the platform long enough to accommodate the Belfast Dublin train (this may be the usual infrastructional sectarianism though rather than imcompetence, the same mindset that has double and triple carraigeways serving all points east and cattle tracks between Belfast and Derry).

  • Gopher

    May was able to find Scotland to campaign in it. Its a contrast of style Ruth being her own woman compared to the puppet MoN. The Conservatives unlike the DUP are able to see the big picture, the Union and put the best *person* in the job. Not only that they gave her freedom of action. I know for the left she will be the wrong type of Lesbian but you have to admit she done a pretty good job. Northern Ireland has Bovidae for politicains. Gerry does whats right for Gerry and MoN jumps, a few charlatans stand up on a Sunday and spout ignorance and the DUP jumps

  • ted hagan

    As far as the Tory revival in Scotland goes, I suspect that has more to do with the popularity of Ruth Davidson, rather than any great liking in Scotland for Theresa May.

  • ted hagan

    ‘Expounding and explanation of ideas.’
    In most cases that opens the door for politicians to waffle on at length about nothing and use up valuable interview time and thus dodge pertinent questions. As for the insults, sadly, the public here seem to like nothing better than a good old on-air scrap to reinforce their prejudices.

  • ted hagan

    Most UK Cabinet ministers throughout the ages, from whatever party, have taken on portfolios on subjects about which they know little and therefore they depend largely on their civil servants, as parodied in the comedy Yes Minister.

  • aquifer

    Do the media pursue political liars and fraudsters hard enough? They have the back issues for all the stories. The Tories had plenty of control in Europe via the commission, but preferred to let the EU take the heat for anything vaguely silly while failing to celebrate the achievement of higher standards for consumer goods, water and air quality. Not to mention cheaper mobile calls, free holiday healthcare etc. Boris Johnston. Nuf said.

    Any sign of that £350m a day for the NHS?

    The Tories are in the back room sharpening the axe.

    Who deserves it? Mothers, young people, farmers, nurses?

    The Tories are playing the pensioners like an orchestra, but the music will stop for them too when the economy seizes up.

  • Deeman

    Unionists are obsessed with death cults and worshipping murderers almost to a man. We see it every year in October and November.

  • Ed Straw

    Agree with the headline. As long as you mean all of ourselves including journalists and academics.
    Broadly, the better informed we all are, the better our governments will be.
    The problem is that our present system, and all the means of informing us, have the effect of dis-informing us.
    A major chunk of the design of the proposed Treaty for Government is to inform all equally and accurately, and thus to provide government by results. Those real and public results would change my mind about, say, welfare policy as much as they would a Tory or Labour ministers. To have credibility, these results would have to be independently produced ie not by the government but by the institution(s) responsible for checks and balances on the executive ie the second chamber, aka in the case of Westminster, the House of Lords. But maths and statistics is not a political task. It’s the very opposite. So, second chamber members should not come via political party elections. These parties already ‘own’ far too much space, to our detriment. So 2nd chambers would have to be assembled through a process that gives its members democractic legitimacy ie we would have confidence in their competence and independence.
    That’s one example of designing in intelligence to a new system of government.

  • james

    It seems to me a particularly stupid credo, which the IRA had at its core, that if you murder enough unionists the rest of them will want to live happily ever after with you in a UI. It also seems evidence of a particularly obtuse kind of mindset that fails to see that the leadership were in it largely for personal gain.

    Empirical evidence? Difficult, since IRA men spend their lives hiding – even to this day, perhaps out of some dimly perceived shame over how they wasted their time on this earth.

    But ok then. Let’s publish a list of all those who received comfort letters – then we can test my theory that the bulk of the IRA were cowards and stupid people.

  • Skibo

    Oh really, Ruth told the party they got it wrong with the rape clause in child tax credit?
    Catch a grip Gopher.
    Ruth Davidson is just picking up support from pro union supporters who wouldn’t vote for the Tories on any other policy.
    Just the exact way that the UKIP won seats previously in English and welsh councils and then lost them all but one when that policy went by the by.

  • Skibo

    SF’s message is that we have to work together to make this part of Ireland work. Irish culture has to be recognised as equal to that of Unionist culture and that includes the language.
    Either there must be parity of recognition of symbols or neutral for shared spaces.
    SF believe that the future of here is best secured within a reunited Ireland.

  • file

    It seems to me that the IRA would say that at its core was the credo of murdering enough English soldiers so that England would want to live happily ever after without Ireland. Granted, as that proved increasingly difficult, the IRA increasingly widened its definition of legitimate targets and rarely got around to killing English soldiers, spending most of the time killing UDR, RUC and prison officers, etc. For the IRA, the fact of these targets being unionist was irrelevant (and some of them weren’t unionist). So the credo you assign to the IRA is not actually the credo it had.

  • file

    When was the last time a local interviewer asked a pertinent question? Or pointed out glaring inconsistencies in politician’s stated position? Or challenged any statement starting ‘all right-thinking people’ which is a) shorthand for Protestant, and b) usually wrong. For example when someone claimed ‘the vast majority of people’ (more shorthand for Protestant) would have difficulty with Norn Iron playing a match on a Sunday. The journalist failed to point out that quite a lot of the vast majority of people a) play or watch Gaelic games most Sundays, and b) do not care what day Norn Iron lose on as they have no interest in the team.

  • ted hagan

    When was the last ime you examined your own bigotry or your own prejudices?

  • james

    “spending most of the time killing UDR, RUC and prison officers, etc.”

    You should add to that list a whole lot of men, women and children who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time/failed to pay protection money/made the mistake of standing up to the swaggering behaviour of drunken IRA goons in bars/were going out with someone the IRA felt they shouldn’t be/were the only son of border farming parents etc.

    Oh, and the occasional foreign tourist.

    Perhaps also the odd few who dared open their mouths about sexual assault by IRA men – if the stories of the few we do know about are anything to go by.

    Brave boys, the IRA.

  • james

    “SF’s message is that we have to work together to make this part of Ireland work.”

    If that is so then I see no evidence whatsoever that they have actually read the message themselves.

  • file

    You can add whatever you like. The point is that the killing of unionists was not a key credo of the IRA. Do you accept that point or not? And again, your generic statements that IRA members were a) stupid, and now b) cowardly needs to be recognised as opinion and not verifiable fact – or eevn generally held opinion.

  • file

    Tuesday. Why?

  • Granni Trixie

    I hope you said an our father and two Hail Marys afterwards?

  • james

    I think IRA men were stupid because of a) the moronic thuggery evident in most of their activities, and b) because most of them (aside from the few notable exceptions who got rich quick by either moving into career politician mode with SF, or moving into smuggling/fuel laundering/organized crime and got rich – both types at a huge cost to society in general) they wasted their lives in pursuit of a pointless, arrogant endeavour.

    I think they were cowardly because their many crimes included kidnapping women, raping children, homosexual rape, murdering unarmed soldiers and policemen, and indeed many innocent civilians.

    You think I’m wrong in the opinions I’ve expressed in this post. Fair enough. What have I written in this post that isn’t true?

  • file

    You have written your opinions. Those opinions are true for you.

  • file

    I got more than that!

  • file

    Also, I am not interested – at the minute – in your opinions. I am interested in finding out if you accept the point that killing unionists was not a central credo of the IRA.

  • james

    “Also, I am not interested – at the minute – in your opinions.”

    That would make you a fairly run of the mill Irish Republican then. Human beings are born with two ears and one mouth for good reasons. Irish Republicans sometimes appear to all the rest of us in NI to be born with two mouths and no ears at all.

    ”I am interested in finding out if you accept the point that killing unionists was not a central credo of the IRA.”

    No, didn’t you get that from what I wrote? That is what the IRA campaign to ethnically cleanse the border was all about. Now, I’m not saying they only killed Unionists – but it was a central plank for them.

  • file

    But you do not speak for the IRA. And neither to I. And I am not really an Irish Republican. My point is that yes, the IRA did in fact kill a lot of unionists but that killing unionists was not their goal. In the IRA logic, if these unionists had not been in the British security forces (or in the extended definition of legitimate targets when that became necessary), then they would not have been killed: they were not killed for being unionists. This is the only point I want you to accept and the one which was mentioned in your original post. As for your opinions, it is always a good tactic to make your enemy think you are stupid and cowardly.

  • Skibo

    There you go again. When people say work together, it means there has to be good faith on both sides. So far SF have held up their end of the GFA and the ST Andrews Agreement. They are still waiting for the DUP and the British Government to uphold their ends.
    Perhaps when the new government is formed and what seems to be an amnesty for all pre 1998 actions happens, the legacy issue may be easier resolved.
    Arlene has made baby steps towards an Irish Language Act and then rowed back about confirming that anyone she met has said they needed an Act.
    I remember hearing Linda Irvine talking about the need for a Act so maybe Arlene needs a few gentle reminders from all Gaeilgeoiri!