A good reason to return to Stormont? “What have Sinn Fein ever got you? Nothing.”

Here’s a revealing exchange between LBC’s liberal shock jock James O’Brien and ex-Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers:

James O’Brien (JOB): How can Westminister observe rigorous impartiality to the political traditions in Northern Ireland when it is writing a seven-figure cheque for one side.

Theresa Villiers (TV): The package of financial support is for Northern Ireland as a whole actually. It is very similar to kind of financial packages which have supported agreements to take powersharing forward in the past.

JOB: But the DUP can go to the people in NI next time they go to the ballot and present themselves as having secured this funding for Northern Ireland in way Sinn Fein simply will not be able to.

TV: I don’t think that affects the government’s ability to act entirely fairly in relation to the Good Friday Agreement.

JOB: I need a bit of help with this. So, here’s two parties in Northern Ireland sharing power. Westminister is bound by the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is bound to observe rigorous impartiality to both of them. Next time those two parties in NI go to the country, one of them can say we go one and half billion pounds off Theresa May and the other lot didn’t. How can that be a semblance of rigorous impartiality?

TV: I think it absolutely can. It’s frequently been the case that parties in Westminster have worked with NI parites and still managed to maintain a fair and constructive and impartial approach in cross-party negotiations in Northern Ireland.

JOB: Perhaps I’ve not been clear enough, this is the point of my question. It looks very different from everything that’s gone before. You have one side, you have the DUP who can hold up a one and a half billion pound cheque and wave in the face of the NI electorate and say at the same time, “What have Sinn Fein ever got you? Nothing“. How can that square with rigorous impartiality?

No one in NI believes the British government is impartial: certainly not Sinn Fein. A glance at Seamus Mallon’s resignation speech from 1999 shows a perfect willingness by the British to roll over to pressure from one party or another, despite the outline terms of that Agreement.

Then it was Sinn Fein. Now, increasingly in the latter Peace Process era, whether by luck, preparation or opportunity (pace Seneca), the preferential outcomes seem tilted towards the DUP. (Although perhaps the military covenant is a blessing in disguise for old IRA men.)

O’Brien puts his finger on a serious issue. But it is Sinn Fein’s dilemma, not the Brits. On Drivetime today, Declan Kearney was pressed four times by Mary Wilson on whether they would accept Arlene Foster as First Minister. Four times he dodged the question. Hmmm.

But to anyone who thinks it is an insurmountable object, the last word goes to Patrick Murphy, again…

The party’s return to Stormont will be easy. It will just claim victory in overcoming its hitherto ill-defined concepts of corruption and inequality. The nationalist electorate will cheer. The party’s MLAs will return to eating assembly food, which is subsidised by the taxpayer, while 23 per cent of children here remain in poverty. Another victory for old Ireland.

  • Gaygael

    It was an Executive decision. For it not to be left it open to further legal challenge.
    I think it might be worth refreshing yourself on the staggered and disgraceful history of this particular story.

    If all you have to show for 10 years in Government on LGBT equality is the blood ban deferral changing then you need new parameters or a better negotiating team. Or a leadership that really believes it.

    LGBT Sector orgs were very clear in their need for a sexual orientation strategy. They have been repeating this since 2007. I would prefer a reform of the PofC, and SF stop wasting our time with pretence that Marriage is the Holy grail of queer equality. A simple listening exercise would work.
    Suicide is endemic in our community. Approx 1 gay or bi man a week in Northern Ireland gets HIV. LGBT women can’t access IVF. Hate crime continues. LGBT Kids are being booted out of their homes and horrifically bullied at school.
    A properly funded sexual orientation strategy would begin to redress these and other issues.

    As for sign language at schools it’s actually Green Policy!

  • Gaygael

    I would say look at the court challenges and Arlene’s statement that Minister Hamilton was ready to move.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Skibo I still think there is more Unionist Votes to be tapped into from them non voters. I know the DUP anoraks are already looking at this source of juice for their machine I also believe that Unionism will now go hunting the middle ground who it has lost to return especially now that the DUP have brought home the bacon from Westminster. I have spoken to a couple of Alliance voters who have confirmed that their vote in Westies is wasted and will now vote DUP in future Westies so basically there is also room to work on such people that their vote in assembly elections is wasted too. With regards to a pull back to the ramparts that sounds like cantons to me ? Might work and be the solution ?

  • Skibo

    Yes everything is an executive decision if it is successful yet who was in the executive? Do you really believe that the DUP brought it about?
    Is your problem actually that Sinn Fein have been able to raise the profile of the LGBT plight? I know this would have been a mainstay of the green party.
    Equal marriage is important. It makes the relationship of a same sex couple equal to that of mixed marriage.
    The issues of hate crimes and bullying and suicide has to be addressed across the board.
    We need to show equality for all and only addressing it in the LGBT community is setting them out as different. That should not be the case. They should have equal rights, not separate rights. It is their right to be LGBT and accepted as equal not different.
    Education is where this needs to be addressed and as one who has come through a Catholic education, I can see how the weaker mind could be moulded but I am still a product of that education as are quite a number of my generation who believe the same.
    HIV is on the rise across the board and the DUP have to be held account for the kind of things their politicians preach.

    As for the IVF treatment, I believe in the North a couple is entitled to one treatment while on GB they are entitles to three. It should be open to the LGBT community also.

    It is open to LGBT couples to adopt, something a DUP minister tried to block but was prevented by the courts.

  • Skibo

    Simon Hamiltion had the chance and hinted to it. That was to test the water in his gene pool. He didn’t do it. He might have been minded to do it but Michelle did it. Give credit where it is due.

  • Skibo

    Obviously the DUP insisted on pulling it. If you remember back, that did not stop SF raising it on three different occasions if i remember correctly.

  • Skibo

    SF did not hand the Communities to the DUP, the DUP chose it. That was to stop SF raising the issue of an Irish Language Act again.
    Which ministry do you think they should have dropped to take Communities?

  • Zeno3

    Tell me all the foreign investment SF has brought to the North?
    List as many as you like.

  • Zeno3

    “The main one I like is the end of the 11+, a devious test that classes children of 11 and 12 as either successes or failures.”

    Now children are doing up to 5 tests and having to pay for all of them. The rich kids get private tutors obviously giving them an advantage.
    Well done shinners.

  • Skibo

    As with the Unionist vote, so to with the Nationalist vote. The reduction of six to five votes resulted in a strong Nationalist representation across the West. Voting percentages per community are fairly similar I do not see that changing. In the east the Nationalist vote held but it still as a bit to go to catch up on the percentage of the community.
    The Westminster result has been bounced by a DUP candidate coming through the centre and what will be a tightrope in North Belfast if it still is a constituency come the next election. John Finucane will build on what he did this time round and will be knocking on the door next time.
    When that happens the writing will be on the wall.

  • Damien Mullan

    Why don’t unionists put UI to a vote and lets see what the peoples verdict is Mick. From a northern nationalist/republican perspective, we have been amputated from the national narrative and life of our fellow countrymen and women for nearly a century, people talk nonsensically about reconciling the two communities here in the north, the only genuine and lasting reconciling that has merit or historical validity will be the reconciling of fellow Irishmen and women north and south in a UI. The collateral damage that will be unionist sensibilities will be something to be managed, and if necessary, merely contained.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The last time I saw Finucane he was in a NLR taxis being driven from the count at the Titanic Centre ! I thought he handed his partime SF membership card back to Bill & Ben the Flower Pot men ? On a serious note though the decision to bring the Shankill Bomber Kelly out onto the streets to canvass for Finucane was a monumental political mistake surely even republicans who post on this forum would agree ?

  • Starviking

    Indeed, who needs a non-extremist government running the country?

  • mickfealty

    Useful question, but one that comes with what ought to be an obvious answer: Unionism has no investment in seeking a united Ireland nor creating unnecessary instability in NI particularly there’s no realistic chance of a border poll being won (which qualifier is out of the hands of either Unionism, or Republicanism).

    Furthermore, they’ll be puzzled to hear this question persisting, especially after SF made it clear the last election was a referendum on whether there should be a referendum. I think we can say that test was comprehensively failed. In which case cynic might respond to you suggesting (I certainly wouldn’t) that “northern nationalist/republican sensibilities will be something to be managed, and if necessary, merely contained”.

    Almost every way northern nationalism pitches for a UI betrays the sort of precipitative tribal triumph unionists can expect should such a wild gambit finally win through, which as we saw in the most recent Westminster election only fires the pulse of the most indifferent unionist voter/non voter. It’s a more peaceful simulacrum for the failed military campaign of some 25 years but which is similarly destined to fail: precisely because it seems unable to admit (and therefore learn from) its own past failures.

    Unionism had this debate 15-20 years ago. It’s long overdue within Irish Republicanism.

  • Gaygael

    I think SF dodged Communities as it was the Ministry that had implementation of welfare reform on the horizon.

    The LGBT Sector had spent years demanding a sexual orientation strategy. Here was the ministry that could deliver it. It was left to last and the DUP took it.
    Here was the Ministry that could deliver an equality strategy for lgbt people. SF didn’t pick it. Says it all really.

  • Gaygael

    No SF (and others) put it in the PfG. Twice. They then dropped it.

    So much for commitment to equality.

  • Skibo

    Well getting Loyalist terrorists out to electioneer for the DUP seemed to work. Were the Unionist community happy with such a relationship? It seemed so. So much for the support for the law and the condemnation of terrorist groups.
    John Finucane is not gone and will be there the next time.

  • Skibo

    And as I have said, they could not get the DUP to accept it into PfG but they did not walk away and raised it three times I believe with the DUP constantly using the POC to block it. It could have passed on the last vote if they had accepted a majority decision.
    I do not simply blame the DUP for blocking this issue, the UUP and TUV will walk the same line while Mike is still making up his mind.
    I notice you do not mention the Alliance and the SDLP, both of whom had problems getting their members to support the issue.

  • Skibo

    Was health not left to last?
    SF didn’t pick it? They cannot pick them all. Should they have picked it ahead of finance?

  • Gaygael

    A sexual orientation strategy is not a marriage equality motion.

  • Gaygael

    Not in the 2016 choices. Communities was last.

    The Ministry that could have secured an LGBT equality strategy and an Irish language Act.
    SF did not pick it.

  • Skibo

    Are you sure? I thought Sinn Fein got the last pick as it should have been SDLP and they did not take part. As far as I remember Michelle O’Neill was the last Minister to be nominated and that was for Health.

  • Skibo

    Was the sequence not DUP, SF, DUP, SF, DUP, DUP, SF?

  • Skibo

    I didn’t say it was. We will not change the world in a day or in one sitting of the assembly.

  • Gaygael

    No, and although (rightly) critical of the SF approach on these issues its broadly in the right direction and we work together.

  • _NMcC_

    Why? What have DUP/SF ever done for you politically apart from stirring divide and burning £500m of everyone’s money. People vote for them out of tribalism not out of politics. Why not try to remove tribalism from the equation on both sides?

    The UUP/SDLP were showing great enthusiasm before RHI for working together and Alliance will work for everyone.

  • Damien Mullan

    Precisely, that’s why they are unionists, I have no love for the northern state, but as a democrat I accept the political institutions and state that presently exists, until such time as the self determined will of the electorate of the six counties says it otherwise.

    Do you charge that English republicans in their advancement of constitutional change in the UK are promoting instability? They may not like the status quo, but no one seriously suggests that their radicalism is a threat to stability, to the stability of the established order perhaps, but hardy society or civilization in the UK. On the grounds of stability we wouldn’t venture to hold elections at all.

    I have no great insight into the unionist mind, even though my late grandmother was a Presbyterian until her marriage to my grandfather, and even thereafter she retained her ecclesiastical independence, by hardly, if ever, attending catholic service, religious she was not. Which is probably where I derived my deep skepticism of religion, but not my skepticism of nationalism. She loved my grandfather’s weekend drives across the border into Donegal and further south. There’s nothing quite like the Romanticism ideal of landscape to flush one’s mind and body with the exhilaration of national identity and pride.

    I’ve been flush with that drug since my early infant and childhood summers spent in Culdaff on the Donegal coast. A village like most in that county, with a beautiful Church of Ireland church in its center, with the nearest Catholic church almost a mile out in the wilderness on the approach road into the village. Again, like many protestant churches in the Republic, the interior is adored in places with vestiges of the local community’s, indeed Ireland’s, British history and connections. And although the townspeople parted directions on their way to Sunday service, I never seen anything but tranquility and mutual respect.

    There was no tiresome and constant contest of identities that is the daily grind in these six counties. Every time I cross that border there is a release, a weight lifted, the constant microscopic evaluation of your identity disappears, of the ridged myopic siege mentality that has unionists chiseling awkward phrases like, ‘the union is our guiding star’, or chastising nationalists use of the term ‘the north’, especially when they hear it from southern Irish correspondents.

    I want a United Ireland, not because it shows how terribly progressive nationalism/republicanism is, but because I want it for myself.

    Those who seek to build a consensus for a United Ireland by outreaching to unionists are deeply misguided, they are using Enlightenment techniques for something that is profoundly Romantic in nature, its an utterly futile exercise, greater success will be had by energizing the apathetic of Lir’s Children, for that’s truly how I perceive my fellow northern Irishmen and women, we are the Children of Lir, cruelly cast upon with a spell of separation from our closest kith and kin. That spell will only truly be broken when that separation falls away, when our national stories once again align, when nation and state are in harmony once again.

    As for what unionists are to expect in a United Ireland, your guess is as good as mine. I think it would be rather presumptuous of nationalists to start a ‘road-mapping’ exercise in that regard, like all the best of plans once its made contact with the reality it will likely prove to be utterly unless, I suggest that in a vote for reunification, that like much else in life, it will be mundane ad-hoc solutions that will prove the most effective. We won’t know this of course until it happens, until then nationalists/republicans need to stop talking to unionists about it and begin the deep and thorough conversation within nationalism/republicanism, as well as lifting political and voter apathy within the nationalist/republican constituencies.