“A plague on both your houses” narrative is great entertainment but very poor journalism.

Cllr Jim McVeigh is the leader of the Sinn Féin group on Belfast City Council. He argues here that in sitting on the fence or blaming both parties for the breakdown of Stormont, political journalists and other commentators are doing the public a huge disservice.

Am I the only person enraged by this constant narrative so prevalent in our mainstream media, ‘they’re all useless’ ‘all they do is bicker‘ ‘one side is as bad as the other‘?

Like me have you felt like screaming at the radio or TV and shouting with frustration, not because one party is as bad as the other but because it’s such a lazy and dishonest narrative. A narrative devoid of analysis, of an examination of the facts, of honesty?

The current political crisis was brought to a head by two specific developments, the RHI scandal and the actions of one specific DUP minister Paul Givan when he cancelled a rather small Irish language bursary scheme in an act of spite and pettiness.

One prominent radio and TV host spent weeks picking at the RHI scheme and Arlene Foster’s role in that debacle only subsequently to spend weeks and months winding up the public with a ‘plague on both your houses‘ narrative, and ‘isn’t it a shame that these political parties can’t agree and work together’ narrative?

Great entertainment but very poor journalism.

Of course these coincidentally came at the end of almost a decade of the sporadic goading of SF by the DUP or individual DUP ministers, of disrespect, of agreements delayed or betrayed, the failure to proceed with the Long Kesh Development, the failure to implement an Acht na Gaeilge, a Bill of Rights, and not least of course marriage equality.

Add to this the occasional outbursts of insulting and offensive remarks about Republicans and Nationalists, Muslims, LGBT citizens, and more recently, Irish speakers.

And let’s not forget the DUP’s propensity to want to implement many Tory policies here, policies that damage both communities, welfare reform, privatisation, Brexit, etc. Don’t start me on Brexit and the failure to seriously probe the black money funnelled by the DUP into Britain?!

The real miracle is that SF, a party now composed largely of liberal or radical Republicans and Socialists, did not withdraw from the Executive much earlier.

In addition to all of this, the duplicitous role of the British government itself in failing to implement its commitments, its agreements, legacy structures and inquests, Acht na Gaeilge, investment and the economic peace dividend promised, etc.

Never mind the DUP, the culpability of the British government has been lost or deliberately ignored in this lazy narrative of warring parties, equally to blame for the current crisis.

Whatever happened to analysis? The examination of the facts? Rational conclusions based upon those facts?

The recent comments by the journalist Martin Dillon about the inherent pro-British/Unionist bias within the BBC might give us some clue as to why entertainment media is allowed to pass for investigative journalism.

Is it really too much to ask that more of our media, our journalists, our commentators, examine matters rationally, fairly, speaking truth to power if necessary?

This crisis is not the equal responsibility of the two big parties. This is a crisis fuelled by DUP arrogance, incompetence and who knows, possible corruption.

Real commitments and agreements have been ignored or betrayed by both the British government and the DUP. Agreements documented, spelt out, dated and catalogued!

Not one single agreement or commitment given by SF or Republicans has been reneged upon. God rest him but Martin Mc Guinness pushed himself and other Republicans well beyond their traditional comfort zones in the necessary pursuit of national reconciliation.

Have Unionists or the British government done likewise? Of course not, not by a mile.

The commitment and the promise of equality is much more than just a slogan for Republicans. It is not a cynical political strategy or a negotiating pawn in a cynical political drama.

Many people within the LGBT community, within the Irish language community, among victims groups, the trade unions, human rights activists, have asked us, have pleaded with us, to defend their inalienable right to respect and equal treatment.

Many of the decent liberal Unionists and Protestants who support equality and liberal tolerance are rarely courted by some in the media in the way the ‘plague on both your houses’ brigade are.

We are not willing and cannot trade one set of rights off against another’s. That is not one side of an argument, this is the only rational and moral side of this particular argument.

  • Pang

    So it really was “them ‘uns” that started it. Well I am glad to hear that is settled.
    I do agree ‘a plague on both their houses’ is lazy, & not just lazy, but fruitless. About as fruitless as this one-sided picture.
    Add a few things SF could do better to build trust and I am listening. Guilt is shared here, even if not equally.

  • ted hagan

    Okay, we get the message Mr McVeigh. The DUP get to wear the black hats and you get to wear the white ones. Surely the media can understand that, and if not, why not?

  • David

    ‘One side may be as bad as the other’, yet both the DUP and SF saw major surges in the recent election, resulting in the complete erosion of the smaller parties at Westminster. The electorate get what they vote for and it seems they favour stasis and constant bickering over progression.

  • james

    “Am I the only person enraged by this constant narrative so prevalent in our mainstream media, ‘they’re all useless’ ‘all they do is bicker‘ ‘one side is as bad as the other‘?”

    If you’re enraged by it, surely you have the power to do something about it.

    Taking the case of Mr McVeigh personally, I can say that the main contribution he seems to be making (or at least the only times he really comes onto my radar at all) is when Nolan asks him to confirm or deny whether he is the same ‘James McVeigh’ who posts controversial sectarian things on social media.

    Standard procedure seems to be that he equivocates, refusing to confirm or deny it.

    So, would I describe that as ‘useful’? Or ‘useless’? Well worth the salary from the public purse?

    Sorry, but not really.

    Now, as I’ve said, that is just how I’ve perceived his contribution. I may well be mistaken. So go on then Jim – tell us all what you personally have done in the last three years that makes you worth keeping around….

  • The worm!

    I read lots of stuff on here which I don’t agree with, but at least it makes me think, re-examine my own position, re-assess how things look from another perspective. Sometimes I change tack slightly because of it, sometimes it totally re-affirms what I thought previously.

    But this?????

    About the only line you left out there was the traditional, “we’re right and everyone knows it”.

    An elected politician now has to come on here to throw dirt at their opponents.

    Have our politics really become this hopeless and desperate?

  • james

    In fairness, a leopard can – in extreme cases – change its spots. Having been an unthinking sectarian goon in the past doesn’t necessarily guarantee a person will be totally useless to society in the future.

    Mind you, that transformation is pitiably rare in Northern Ireland….

  • sparrow

    When you have a state founded on the basis of a sectarian headcount, what you end up with is sectarian politics. Rocket science it is not. In ‘good’ times, when tensions don’t run so high, there’s a few places left at the table for light-green, light-orange and middle of the roads / independents. When the blood is up and more seems to be at stake, people revert to type and vote for the most powerful voice from their own tribe. We can shake our heads and wring our hands and wish it wasn’t so, or we can do something to change it. Only by dismantling the sectarian state and starting over will we change the situation.

  • sparrow

    Ignore Jim McVeigh and the Shinners by all means. Here’s Eamonn Mallie saying something similar today.
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/how-arlene-foster-helped-nationalism-find-its-teeth-1.3208198

  • Granni Trixie

    I agree with Jim that ‘one side being as bad as the other’ doesn’t
    cut the mustard – Sf is out on its own in not wanting Ni government to get back to work.

    And tHe Dillon experience contributes little to your argument as it was so long ago.

  • Newton Emerson

    Cllr McVeigh seems to have raised a straw man. There has been no ‘both sides as bad as each other’ narrative. At the start of the year, there was a clear media consensus that the DUP was mostly responsible for causing the crisis.
    Now, there is a clear media consensus that Sinn Fein is mostly responsible for prolonging the crisis.
    Both assessments are quite different, fully compatible and substantially correct.

  • Karl

    Cllr McVeigh will be pleased to note that this particular political site does not go down the lazy ‘plague on all your houses’ trope that he cites.
    The firm editorial line on here is that there is to be a plague on just the one, irrespective of position or argument.

  • Mike the First

    “Examining the facts”, “rational conclusions” and “analysis” appears to Cllr McVeigh’s code for “please place all the blame on themmuns”.

  • hollandia

    Newton, in fairness you wrote this:

    “There is a clear media consensus”. The media are not the people. You of all people should be fully aware of that.

  • Newton Emerson

    It’s the media Jim’s complaining about.

  • Mike the First

    By the way I fully and strongly support equal marriage, but why is it now continually lumped in by SF (as the author has here) with supposed” agreements delayed or betrayed”?

    Is this supposed to be helpful to restoring devolved power-sharing government and/or achieving equal marriage in NI?

  • hollandia

    Correct. However, the point is, is that the media is supposed to reflect what people think, not tell them what to think. And if you’re seriously suggesting there is no “both sides are as bad as each other, why can’t they just get along” overarching narrative, I don’t know what media you are consuming.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree with Councillor McVeigh, it is lazy to blame everyone equally. We should apportion blame according to where wrongs have been committed, not just say it was everyone’s fault. An approach we could constructively take to other aspects of recent history in which Republicans have been involved. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment all people in N Ireland are equally to blame for its problems. A SF councillor though might do well to suggest we are (and a lot of SF figures do try just that narrative – SF of all parties has been pushing this ‘we are all guilty’ kind of discourse).

    On the current impasse most people can see the continuing refusal to form an executive at this stage is way more Sinn Fein’s fault by this stage than anyone else’s. It doesn’t want to form an executive for its own reasons and it’s using a series of issues as cover. First it was RHI, then there was a list of everything SF has ever wanted and hasn’t got, now it’s the ILA. Whatever.

  • ted hagan

    Fair points by Mallie although I get the feeling, perhaps, he tailored his article to suit a Dublin audience. He certainly wasn’t saying nearly as much just a few days before on the Talkback programme.
    Also when he states, on the RHI issue, that Foster ‘refused to stand aside for a short period at the request of Martin McGuinness to allow time to evaluate what had happened’, surely it was obvious to all that it would be quite a considerable length of time that she would have to sit in the naughty corner?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes because he’s not at all pro-nationalist …

  • ted hagan

    Mallie is generally a reliable observer on all things political.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    with a distinct green tinge though. It’s fair enough, commentators can have their own biases, it’s not a problem, I was just pointing it out.

  • Newton Emerson

    False dichotomy. The media isn’t choosing between reflecting what people think or telling them what to think. It is reporting and analysing events. This year’s elections clearly show that people are divided, as per usual, on what they think.
    You’re all over the place here.

  • hollandia

    You’re right. The media isn’t choosing. It’s doing one of them, and not the one you claim it is.

  • Newton Emerson

    Who are all these people being told what to think, and what makes you think they’re not as smart as you are?

  • ted hagan

    No, I think those issues were simmering in the nationalist community long before RHI; McGuinness finally had to succumb to that pressure when the RHI scandal broke and the arrogant attitude of Foster, and the DUP, that went with it.

  • ted hagan

    There is a stalemate. I’m not sure that there is ‘a clear media consensus’ that SF is responsible for prolonging it. Certainly SF will claim massive electoral support for its stance and is hardly going to risk losing face without gaining at least some serious concessions.

  • Granni Trixie

    I assume that Sf are lining up to take credit when equal marriage is achieved ….which it inevitably will when there are reforms to POC given most parties support the change and not to do so is on the wrong side of history.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The real miracle is that SF, a party now composed largely of liberal or radical republicans and socialists” The sad thing about this statement is people like McVeigh actually believe this nonsense that they spout out ! There is no doubt it is the hallmark and ingredients of being a member of a Cult ! You know SF are in diffs when they wheel out this champion of equality to now start blaming the media and journalism ! Remember Boys and Girls from the Cult don’t shoot the messenger you might be glad off him someday !

  • The worm!

    Yes but not solely.

    He’s complaining that the media aren’t complaining about the DUP, but then lays out all the usual SF diatribe as to why they should be complaining about the DUP, just in case we’d forgot!

    So actually just the usual DUP sleggin’ but this time in a (pretty thinly disguised) different context.

  • ted hagan

    No, a leopard can’t change its spots, otherwise the saying is redundant.

  • hollandia

    Oh dear. “what makes you feel they aren’t as smart as you are?”
    The response to challenging media narrative…

  • The worm!

    Unlike yourself I do not agree with the concept of same-sex marriage.

    But I agree it should be dealt with IN an assembly, not a side deal outside of it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    let’s not even start with what the unionist community wants from SF – the idea that unionists might get anywhere on its issues is so much the stuff of vain hopes, it’s not even part of the conversation. And yet unionists are prepared to go into government with SF without it. Then they have to take this stuff from SF, acting the victim again? Yeah right.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    How many votes does Eamonn have ?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    just like they somehow want to pose as Remainers, despite not campaigning as such last year

  • Aodh Morrison

    It’s the usual Sinn Féin sectarian rant – ‘it’s themuns fault’.

    Shooting the messenger (pun intended) is all they’ve got. The DUP has it seems bested them in the political arena with the Shinner ‘politicians’ proving themselves not up to it. Now running scared of any hint of negotiations (where they’d be outmanoeuvred yet again) they are reduced to shouting demands at TV cameras and radio mikes.

    Rather than respond to the Shinners’ bs the unionist parties should play them at their own game and withdraw any offer to work with a ‘political party’ that has a leader who has argued that the jailing of torturers and murders would be “totally counterproductive”. (Now that’s a pretty surreal take on ‘equality and respect’!)

  • The worm!

    Correct, I doubt that a great desire to point out glaring inadequacies in the media had much to do with the article.

  • Aodh Morrison

    That’s how Sinn Féin operate.

    Grab a SF banner and insert a few gang members at the front of any given cause, LGBT rights, language issues, whatever.

    Its got to the point that when my mother bakes an apple pie she locks the doors in case a bunch of Shinners show up and parade with her into the dining room with the dessert.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Haha!
    SF should be dancing with joy that they are dealing with a party of the DUP’s calibre, at least this way they have some one to make them look COMPARATIVELY ‘good’.

  • james

    You say that, Ted, but the reality seems to be that a lot of nationalists do not want a lot of money poured into Irish language, either – particularly at a cost to vital public services.

  • mickfealty

    Ball please? If there’s a dearth of unionist commentators (how many times have I called for Unionist bloggers), the resulting bias is hardly the fault of those who actually do bother to tog out, is it?

  • james

    And indeed being consistently, and vociferously, anti-EU for years..

  • The worm!

    Against that, their abandonment of an anti-EU stance saved me the ignominy of being on the same side of an argument as them.

    So I probably shouldn’t say much!

  • james

    Yes, Ted.

  • Dan2

    Here we go again with a deletion. Joke moderation as usual.

  • james

    I’m not ignoring him – I challenged him to tell us what he personally has done over the last three years of value to counteract the claims he is railing against ie. The apparently widespread perception that he, along with the rest of Sinn Fein – and the DUP are fairly ‘useless’.

  • The worm!

    I’ve seen him writing plenty of articles equally scathing of the shinners.

    The issue is that he doesn’t have to try to do the BBC thing and counter-balance every single point he makes at the time. So rather than have balance within an article, he will balance an article with another article.

    Therefore read one article in isolation and it could be taken that he’s being one-sided. I’ve never got the impression that he was any fan of Sinn Fein.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Yes it’s a really startling line to come out with. The Connolly House writing team are nothing if not well beyond any level of moral integrity, and are accomplished in linguistic inventiveness. But yes unbelievably you’re correct. They, and their followers, do actually believe this stuff.

    Looking in from the outside is, at first, a pretty strange experience. Like watching one of those TV documentaries where some serious looking guy (and it’s usually a male) relates how he was taken for a spin around the planet by aliens, or some racist telling the reporter in a calm matter of fact manner that another human is a lesser being simply because of the colour of their skin.

    Sitting awaiting the punchline, or the double take, ‘did he really say that’, quickly resolves into, ‘Jeez he actually believes this stuff’.

    As the incredulity fades comfort can usually be taken in the knowledge that the loons are geographically far away. Tragically in the case of SF there’s no comfort to be had in that thought.

  • james

    “I challenged (McVeigh) to tell us what he personally has done over the last three years of value to counteract the claims ……. that he, along with the rest of Sinn Fein – and the DUP are fairly ‘useless’.”

    And, apparently, he is unable to tell us what his contributions of value have been.

    How about it, Jim? Anything at all?

  • Karl

    While the posts have been mostly dismissive of the contributor, I havent seen anyone pick up what I think is the most interesting aspect of the article.

    “Real commitments and agreements have been ignored or betrayed by both the British government and the DUP. Agreements documented, spelt out, dated and catalogued!

    Not one single agreement or commitment given by SF or Republicans has been reneged upon.”

    Is this factually correct?

  • The worm!

    I seen your comment Dan, and while it was pretty hard to argue against, it was never going to get staying either.

    There’s more than one way to skin a cat!

  • Aodh Morrison

    Mallie was on Radio Ulster a few days ago on the same theme, although with a very much more ‘both as bad as the other’ style towards the end of his piece.

    He was nonplussed by callers (he was on a ‘phone-in show) who called him out on his bias and was forced to address the points that challenged his initial anti-DUP position.

    Nothing wrong with his green tinge, everyone has an opinion, even, heaven forfend, the self-proclaimed sages of the meedja. 😉

    (Seems that the Patron Saint of the Liberal Luvvies, John Snow, was right when he said that the media was out of touch with the ‘common (wo)man. Mallie obviously thinks that it’s too much of an intellectual stretch for people to both listen to Radio Ulster and read the Irish Times.)

  • Toye native

    The real problem for you (Newton Emerson)
    is that the media is not liberal enough, your part of the liberalisation movement (in my opinion).
    Many decent unionists in their thousands have left the uup, to support the DUP against liberalisation.
    Equality and liberal tolerance and the media throughout the western world are one.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a fair cop – it was a response to Sparrow citing Eamonn Mallie as evidence the SF view was more widely held, and I accept he is no Shinner – and was aware I was possibly crossing the line on being ad hominem there. I wasn’t trying to put him down, just flag that he is likely to agree with a nationalist viewpoint. But it was reductive and pointless, apologies. Certainly not complaining of a lack of effort to get unionist bloggers Mick.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    no I wasn’t saying he was a Shinner, I imagine he’s more SDLP – but it’s by the by anyway, it was an ad hominem comment that was irrelevant really and I shouldn’t have made it.

  • Dan2

    If it was fairly applied across the board, I’d say fair enough, but it’s not.

  • The worm!

    Indeed!

    It is probably worth adding however that your basic premise that Sparrow was incorrect in using the Mallie article to back up the McVeigh rant, is quite fair.

    The link he posted was no more relevant that using one of Mallies SF critical articles to support the DUP.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Eh?
    Where did that come from and how is it relevant?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well, their idea of ‘neutrality’ leaves a lot to be desired if McCreesh park is anything to go by.

  • The worm!

    Probably not, but you have to decide whether you continue to post stuff in a way that will probably lead to it’s deletion.

    Or play the game and get your point across in another way, there’s few enough here on the anti-UI side so I’d prefer you to choose the latter!

    Like I said, more than one way to skin a cat!

  • I Can Confirm This

    Jim’s argument would be logically sound if the British Government was a dictatorship that rarely had its personnel and leaders changing if at all. He isn’t dealing with a bureaucratic legalistic government like the EU, his St Andrews deal was framed by Blair who is a much discredited person more so with the passing of time.

    The British Government is a changing face, the old one he refers to has gone, in fact the key movers and shakers that did the deal are dead, Paisley Snr and McGuinness. Other key players have exited the scene eg Peter Robinson, Gerry Adams to down South. Back on point, the British Government of today is one that cannot be forced to honour that of the previous government, especially seeing as politically there has been a sea change and change of colour if you like in Downing Street. Priorities change, politics change.

    The fact remains the only place to do law making is inside the assembly.

  • Karl

    Im pretty sure that all successive British governments are bound by agreements made by their predecessors unless they formally repudiate. A government cant pick and choose what agreements it will choose to honour on a whim.

  • Karl

    I dont think neutrality was mentioned in my question or the contributors quote. Whats the relevance?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If neutrality isn’t a SF commitment then fair enough.

  • I Can Confirm This

    I am pretty sure they can as they ought to be otherwise the State could be bound to accept an agreement of a former PM, whose decision making was found or viewed to be faulty, hence the ejection of former PM and his/her party out of power; enter a replacement party and new leader to put things right.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    thanks

  • Karl

    I dont think SF have ever said they were neutral. Im not sure how they could be. Equality is what theyve said. Never heard neutrality from them.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    To be more specific i meant their idea of neutrality in public spaces, if I got that wrong then fair enough, ignore my comment.

  • Fraser Holmes

    I’m confident Gerry has gone out of his way to emphasise the radical socialist principles of Sinn Fein to these underprivileged denizens of NYC

    http://www.thejournal.ie/sinn-fein-new-york-fundraiser-2428169-Nov2015/

  • Stephen Kelly

    Wow what an article Eamonn Mallie really got inside my head. If only i was able to string words together like that it is exactly what i would have wrote. I was a slumbering crocodile until Paul Girvan and Arlene Foster let it all hang out .Now i am a committed crocodile come rain or hail i will be out to vote Sinn Feinn. As for Gregory Campbell and his likes I will just shake my head and move on.

  • Oggins

    Based on what? Your doing the hokey cokey on this act. It’s the left leg in, (no act), left leg out(culture act),do the hokey cokey..

  • Stephen Kelly

    I am going to Google a lot more of Eamonn Mallie and pass him on to my friends. But i will probably find they already read his great articles, just as i found to my surprise that they were all Sinn Feinn voters when i thought they voted SDLP. The only time i ever voted was for the good Friday agreement until Paul Girvan and Arlene the crocodile Foster now i will vote Sinn Feinn while i am still able.

  • Stephen Kelly

    LOLOLOLOOL

  • Stephen Kelly

    Thats exactly what Sinn Feinn is showing the DUP/UDA. Good man good saying.

  • David

    I assume by ‘liberalisation’ you mean attempts to bring certain social policies in line with the rest of the UK?

  • james

    Au contraire – I’m fairly consistent in my thinking on this point.

    Do I think we need a language act? Not really, no.

    Do other people think we do? Apparently yes. A deceptively small (because very vocal) minority do.

    Is there a compromise? There’s always a compromise. How about a limited-powers act to satisfy those who genuinely want to use it to improve society – but carefully controlled to prevent those who wish to use it to discriminate (quotas) or to be obstructive (the ridiculous demand for a mythical ‘right to be understood’ when speaking Irish whether buying a bus ticket, placing a bet, having shoes re-soled or making a dentist’s appointment).

    Do I feel said act could be paid for out of what is currently pumped into IM education? Well, only 50% because…..

    Should it be an act treating Irish and Ulster Scots equally (with some room for other languages, too)?

    Yes.

    No inconsistencies there – just an aversion to the simplistic paint-by-numbers b&w approach of the Little Irelanders on Slugger and beyond.

  • Oggins

    If you actually read through your historical postings, very simple on disqus. You can clearly see you did not support it, in fact were trolling the same nonsense again and again. Every time an argument was rounded, or you couldn’t respond, you randomly went through the same fallacy. It was groundhog Day,but on different posts.

    However when your party the DUP, mentioned a Culture Act, you changed dramatically. So if themuns get it, I want it. Very insecure and seige mentality of the no surrender brigade which is holding back Unionism and not trying to embrace the middle ground RNC voters.

  • eamoncorbett

    In terms of the GFA , it is an international agreement registered at the UN with more than one nation involved. Britain can unilaterally withdraw from this agreement, but if it does then all of it falls apart . Britain does not have the power to alter any part of the agreement on its own.

  • eamoncorbett

    So what’s to be done with them?

  • eamoncorbett

    It’s the old constitutional issue David , SF have decided to combine Brexit and DUP stalling tactics to create a constitutional crisis down the road .
    It is becoming apparent that the Good Friday Agreement basis for governing NI has failed , yet there are quite a few who still think it’s the only game in town. Nationality issues were dealt with in ’98 , constitutional affairs were not. Proper Joint Authority would encourage non sectarian politics, but that’s been ruled out by those who don’t want change.

  • eamoncorbett

    Yes Granni, but doesn’t the system allow either party to abuse its authority, there are no sanctions if one or other party decides to pull the whole thing down . Only Britain has authority in NI and it can’t take sides that is if you exclude the little side deal . The NI assembly operates as a quasi independent institution because of the delicate nature of the peace process.
    .Dublin having no role in internal affairs cannot intervene and the endless sectarian bickering continues unchecked ad nauseum .
    There has to be a better way but it will not be achieved under the present constitutional settlement .

  • Granni Trixie

    You are reminding me of the slogan since the early 60s of “power without responsibility”, a time when even Labour in Westminster were resistant to calls for them to take action to address grievances in NI. If they had acted or even taken interest before growing violence forced it history may have been different.

  • William Kinmont

    What is a side deal? Do side deals make it into international agreements or are they enshrined in law? If not why not?

  • I Can Confirm This

    I don’t think St Andrews was a treaty, it made some tweaks to the GFA, some actually quite insidious ones re the assembly D/FM nominations; aside from that I think it was the sort of agreement more so down to good faith than anything legislatively binding on the British. The British government couldn’t enact an Irish language law as the restoration of devolution after St Andrews meant that they the MLAs had the power to do what was needed. But no agreement could be reached to see it through. Right up to now. However Arlene has said that Irish language law considerations will run parallel to a new Assembly being formed and that at least gets the ball rolling. A commitment has been made by the DUP to address it.

  • William Kinmont

    they seem a bit furtive to me one side trying to get something with a degree of wool pulling over the others eyes. im not sure good faith is the correct term.

  • Cagey Feck

    Could you please open this up for me? I just spent a few minutes of my train journey wondering what it is that unionism wants, bar ‘stop Sinn Fein’.

    It’s the perception of many in my circle that Unionism has everything they want already, the denial of Irish culture, the ability to feel like they’re on top and themmuns are second-class, to continue the status quo and deny any change they don’t like in a state that’s been historically geared to favour their community.

    I think you’d disagree with this characterisation. Could you say why?

  • Cagey Feck

    It’s my feeling that they’d prefer the neutrality of having both, rather than the neutrality of having neither. Which then makes some of their actions seem more consistent.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The big thing unionists want but are resigned to not getting is truth and justice over the Troubles. The Republican Movement is engaged in a massive cover-up of what it did, protecting people in its ranks including its leader who ordered and carried out summary executions of their fellow citizens. So they went a setting straight of the record on the “armed struggle”, an end to the Alice in Wonderland narrative of ‘conflict’ we have been asked to swallow as a price for getting Republicans to stop killing us.

    Apart from that, I think unionists just want what’s in the GFA – a functioning assembly and executive, mutual respect between the two main cultural traditions – an end to the culture wars by which unionist people are frequently denigrated and in which some Loyalist elements show awful disrespect to CNR people too.

  • eamoncorbett

    The one between May and the DUP .
    Answer to second question; No.
    Third question , because they are made outside of the remit of the GFA in the context of NI . A propping up exercise involving cash for votes , in other words political bribery.

  • William Kinmont

    none very honourable I suppose so as they rely on good faith most are doomed. Guess thats how politics works but surely it could be a bit cleverer

  • Cagey Feck

    Food for thought, thank you. There’s much in there I can understand, apart from your use of ‘culture wars’ which I really dislike as a phrase. That’s another story though. Cheers!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes culture wars is a horrible phrase, sorry – but you know what I mean!

    Bottom line is unionists actually aren’t making many demands of nationalism, there are few big ambitions. All the demands seem to come from SF and they seem to be because SF needs to have demands and a sense of movement in its direction.

    Not even as a unionist but as an observer here, isn’t that the problem here? We have actually a deal, the GFA, which sets in stone a stable, balanced system of doing things by cross-community consensus. SF (and perhaps nationalism more generally?) seeks to make politics have a dynamic moving in nationalism’s favour. That is the fundamental reason we’re hitting all these crises. That and unresolved Troubles issues we’ve tried to suppress but keep bobbing up – like corpses we threw in the lack without enough concrete.

  • Cagey Feck

    The common rejoinder to the idea that ‘everything’s fine if the nats would leave it alone’, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that things really aren’t equal up here in terms of cultural expression, and that there needs to be movement in nationalism’s direction to get to a centre point. I think it’s also worth saying that this would be the case even without any overall trajectory towards reunification.

    Here’s a little thought experiment: if the police hadn’t been reformed as part of the GFA etc., do you think that we could use Stormont to achieve a more neutral force, with the hiring practices that had to be used to get us to where we are today? Or would the attitude be ‘everything’s fine if the nats would leave it alone’?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is it really true that things aren’t equal in terms of cultural expression? I just don’t think that’s factually true I’m afraid. It’s quite a stretch to suggest nationalist voices are somehow repressed, their art not seen, their films not watched, their books not published and read. If anything, popular media output (tv, film, literature) rather under-represents unionist viewpoints if anything. It has been a gripe among Protestants since I was a kid (that’s going back 40 years).

    Your question on the police is an interesting one and I think the answer is that it is very hard to do that big stuff without new over-arching agreement specifically on it. The problem with your point though is that, actually, what are the outstanding areas where N Ireland still operates unfairly to the disadvantage of CNR people? The big stuff actually has been addressed and it was addressed some time ago. But it feels like nationalist politics, so long having had a decent cause there, is still wanting to drive around even though we’re at the destination, out of habit rather than genuine need.

    The ILA stuff feels a bit like that – a sort of decent cause, but not all that, really – and actually something there is plenty to debate about and sort out. The self-righteous moral crusading act has long worn a bit thin (and never went down well anyway with people on the receiving end of its people-abducting and back-of-the-head-shooting branch. They have a kind of negative Midas touch on any cause they espouse, such is their ignimony).

  • Cagey Feck

    I suppose cultural expression wasn’t really the correct term to use, as I agree with you that people’s voices are not repressed. My bad! To rephrase, maybe a better way of saying it is to point to the PSNI badge, where the crown features as one of many symbols. Would you say that the same was true of the other state symbols about the place? And of the facilitation of cultural expression, the cost borne by the ratepayer? Even if you would say that, though, there are many who don’t agree; and they vote. There’s a perceived bias at the very least, and even if you disagree with this perception of bias, there should exist the power for votes to translate into change. People using their votes in this manner shouldn’t be written off as ‘oh, well this is leading us into crises, so let’s leave off it’.

    I agree with your saying that the big things are sorted, and that the Shinners’ past does their causes no good, just for the record.