Time for nationalism to provide representation based on an expansion of the future for ALL the people of Northern Ireland

So Brian’s cartoon made the News Letter’s editorial yesterday. I’ve only ever cited a leading article on a handful of occasions but this is worth noting…

On one hand, it’s just a statement of what ought already to be obvious. But after a year of Sinn Fein propaganda, a lot of people seem to have been convinced that the strange disappearance of the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement has no tangible cause.

Others uncritically take SF’s line that we are in this hiatus because the DUP has not implemented certain matters that SF itself was jointly responsible for taking forward for most of the last ten years. So in all the talk of a language act (which wasn’t agreed), where’s the language strategy (which was)?

For the DUP’s part, particularly since the June election handed their ten MPs a spectacular whip hand at Westminster, behind the scenes they have continued to fulfill their obligations as best they could without a willing regional government partner.

For all the easy talk to the contrary at the time, there was no money for the Orange order or any other DUP pet project: that £1 Billion was negotiated carefully in order to align with a Programme for Government they had jointly negotiated with Sinn Fein.

In order to achieve that the DUP maintained contacts with SF separately to official negotiations to make sure they were briefed and informed as negotiations with the Tories progressed.

Opinion in Westminster is adjusting to the idea that the May government will spin this arrangement out to end of the fixed term in 2022. In that time, there are big opportunities and big threats to NI. SF’s refusal to voice nationalist concerns seems calculated to maximise damage.

Early complaints raised against the DUP in the summer about the implications of this for Northern Ireland largely missed the point that after the Belfast Agreement there ought to be no need for the UK Government to interfere in the devolutionary settlement.

The instability arises, as Andrew Gallagher so eloquently highlighted last week, from Sinn Féin’s continual (and increasingly fruitless) pursuit of ‘transactional’ as opposed to ‘representational’ politics.

Whilst their abstentionism at Westminster may be principled, this new abstentionism at Stormont looks like a bad old habit that is spiraling out of control. And bad habits often give rise to further bad habits.

Speaking with all the certainty of a politician who wouldn’t touch social media with a barge pole, Sammy Wilson made a telling point on Wednesday, about how the perceptions of some SF politicians are at odds with their actions:

The words of 2017 have given way to the actions of 2018 and it is very clear that it is Sinn Fein and Mairtin O’Muilleoir who “don’t get it”. Whilst the spotlight has rightly been on the disgraceful behaviour of Barry McElduff there has been less focus on the fact these actions were endorsed online by Mairtin O’Muilleor.

Every profile written about Mr O’Muilleoir mentions his prolific use of social media yet apparently it had to be pointed out to him that the taunting of victims was causing offence, and this only happened after the video was finally deleted. We are all asked to believe that he found the time to take 16,000 selfies whilst he was the Lord Mayor of Belfast, yet curiously took a holiday from social media immediately after giving his approval to the re-traumatisation of victims.

 The self-proclaimed voice of ‘new Belfast’ has, like the rest of his colleagues, apparently lost his voice now in the hope the issue will be quickly forgotten. Perhaps Mairtin should explain whether taunting the victims of terrorism represents the kind of progressive and inclusive Ireland he previously talked about? [Emphasis added]

Sinn Fein’s two narrative approach to post agreement politics in Northern Ireland gives rise to exactly this kind of political psychosis.

So an Orange band marching in a circle outside a Catholic church playing the melody of the Famine Song is hugely offensive, yet the attendance of the then deputy First Minister a paramilitary display at the hunger strike commemoration event at Galbally is not.

As a result, Sinn Fein is the only party in Northern Ireland which continues to lionise its fighters from times like those immediately surrounding Kingsmill (think of the O’Dowd and Reavey families and the vilification that preceded and followed even into the Commons).

Kingsmill just was just one of many small but still very painful betrayals, the nature of which can be ignored but not hidden indefinitely. As Am Ghobsmacht put it so laconically yesterday, the problem is not just one underemployed absentee MP acting an eejit: the ongoing affront to the IRA’s victims is official policy.

That it falls to the DUP, whose own legacy from the troubles was on many occasions utterly indefensible and shameful, to call time on this kind of two-headed double-dealing only deepens the tragedy around this incident.

That alone should prompt serious questions from northern nationalism as a whole? Is this the best we can do with the huge opportunities promised by an island-wide democratic endorsement of the Good Friday Agreement?

Sophocles once said “if you try to cure evil with evil you will add more pain to your fate“. This is not, as far too many good and smart folks have convinced themselves, a one way game of religious demographics (Catholics increased by just one percent between 2001 and 2011).

So it is long past time nationalism provided a public representation based on an expansion of the future for all the people of Northern Ireland rather than being preoccupied in exacting endless vengence upon those very people a resolution of its own ambitions will ultimately rely on.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • mickfealty

    But why, in a mixed forum like this? Some say Derry, some Londonderry. We all know what they mean. Only those who say Londonderry get mugged for using it “to wind others up”.

    The objection to “our country” is indicative of a deeper malaise most perfectly expressed that civil servant effort to please Minister Conor Murphy when Northern Ireland became ‘here’ and the Republic became ‘there’. And yet, we exist. As what? A waiting room, a corridor, a conditionality? Who can or is willing to speak for us? And our interests without flinching?

    These are questions worth exploring. Policing or questioning the integrity who uses warmer and less abstract terms is almost purely transgressive.

  • mickfealty

    Lost the thread a bit now maybe but can I ask why commenters should be immune from this impartiality test?

  • mickfealty

    That’s kind of where we came in with A Long Peace (https://goo.gl/vFT1rt). What the DUP have been poor at is initiating new imaginative projects that cut across the culture divide.

    SIF has focused almost entirely on feeding division, particularly in the working class areas you’re talking about.

    The call for integrated education from Robinson calls exclusively on burning Catholic education to the ground. Although I support integration as a principle I’m very uneasy at the thought of abolition of the whole Catholic sector. It amounts to you do this good thing and we’ll all be better.

    Viewed pejoratively Unionism is incredibly lazy, viewed another way it suffers from the same one eyed vision Northern Irish Republicanism does. Perceptions of how even to speak in order to be heard on the other side, never mind running Catholic friendly policies of the flagpole. We warned Unionism fifteen years ago that it must always bear in mind a parity referendum and act as though the difference between winning and losing depended on a very few number of voters changing their minds.

    But as one senior DUPer said to me during the fleg crisis: “every time we get ready to walk out of the front door SF light a fire in our back yard.” Unionism has big problems ahead of it. But the Peace Process’s biggest problem is a lack of acknowledgement of SF’s addiction to transactional politics by manufacturing a series of contrived defaults.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Mick, who is a nationalist (contrary to some absurd recent Shinner comments), gets unionists better than most because he carried research some years ago on the future of unionism, in which he spoke in detail to ordinary unionists. And he appears to have done it with an open mind. It did not make him a unionist, but it has left him devoid of that sense of assumed moral superiority which so blights a lot of nationalist discourse and which so antagonises unionists. He shows to this critic of nationalist ideology that it is possible to be a nationalist without needing to twist history or denigrate unionist people. If everyone in NI were a bit more like Mick, who takes pride in being a Catholic Irishman and a nationalist without seeing it as the only way to be, NI would be incomparably fairer, more tolerant and happier.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, I believe in the Good Friday Agreement as a fair basis for NI’s future – observing its spirit and its letter.

  • babyface finlayson

    Can we not just discuss the content of the article and agree or disagree?
    It makes no difference what allegiance the writer has any more than it matters if he was wearing trousers or a frock when he wrote it. (Probably trousers but hard to be sure)

  • Highfield

    God not this tired old guff again!

    The facts are any change from unionists has had to be dragged out of them. They eat drink and sleep supremacy and are only even thinking of making any sort of move now because they know courtesy of the numbers game, in the medium to long term the game will be up

    Even then they STILL try to grasp on to anything that puts them as top dogs.

    Our wee country- or for the rest of us the pointless old stormont sectarian statelet- is what their first choice would be. Because it’s finally dawned on them that this ain’t returning they STILL try and scramble for what scraps of supremacy they can cling on to- even the most minor basic things

    For example minor changes – equal place for symbols of both communities, the statelets national holiday not being one side lording it over the other etc etc, and thats even without the basic rights re marriage language etc -if they really wanted the North to be fully inclusive -are still a step much too far

    Is it any wonder many in the CNR community are in no rush to see the shambles on the hill put back together again one purpose of which is to allow further feet dragging as unionists do everything to try and put off the inevitable

    Lord knows if/ when the numbers up there reached the stage where they no longer had FM post it’s highly likely they would lift the ball rather than have a taste of second fiddle role

  • Highfield

    3 way street

    Unionists have no problem with their OO eulogising, /commemorating unionist paramilitaries with parades banners bands etc and the British have no problem honouring their forces who murdered here too

  • Colin Lamont

    I make a point of voting in my local polling station (which I live right beside) after 9pm so that I can get an indication of the final turnout.
    This ballot box serves a mostly working class, mostly albeit not overwhelmingly protestant area in Larne (maybe 66% prod).
    From memory turnout was ~45% in Assembly 2016, yet only weeks later turnout was around 70% for the EU referendum. My uncle called in to see me, he is highly interested in politics yet never votes. He said the EU vote was his first in many decades. So when you have issues that people feel strongly about, or if they believe tangible change is possible, unionists/loyalists will vote. In the event of a border poll, these people will not sit at home. I’d guess turnout would be comfortably over 80% but probably nearer 90%.
    Now saying all this, I asked my UUP mate (who tallies the results at the count) to check my local box out of interest. Again from rough memory in 2016 the unionists were highly splintered on around 70% of the total, the SDLP and Sinn Fein only about 5-6% each and Alliance/others ~20%. So even though unionist turnout is low here, nationalist turnout is actually far worse.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Would it not be truer to say that it’s the electorate which has to make up its mind?
    “IRA veneration or Irish unity” is another example of duality as you point out. It’s this driving a double decker bus with one set of passengers on one deck and another set of passengers on another that typifies the blind spots of the electorate particulartly when the bus only goes round and round in the same circle. SF has now given itself the unwieldy task of driving a triple decker bus with its ‘equality agenda’ deck bolted on. It’s only worth jumping aboard to admire the view so at some point the passengers will have to realise that they’re going nowhere. Well some newer recruits might.
    Interestingly it might be the original passengers who are most likely to prevent the equality seekers from disembarking once the trip becomes repetitive. Repetition is also a method deployed in indoctrination too.

  • Colin Lamont

    Excellently put. I’d go further and say if every nationalist were more like him, we’d be much closer to a united Ireland too. Hope I’m not playing the man too much here…
    Here’s a broader point to muse: if the DUP or Sinn Fein lost their bogeyman status to the other tribe, would the same motivation still exist to support the opposing party? Just as the two have risen in tandem, I’m increasingly convinced the downfall of both if it occurs will be equally synchronised.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    That’s reminiscent of the inherent nihilism of punk. Shocking and outrageous creativity or whatever to bring down the bourgeois respectability that had immediately preceded it … but to what end and what replaces it?
    At the end of the day adolescence and its pointless lack of responsibility comes to an end and adulthod requires us to engage with society on mutually agreeable terms. We’ve had that opportunity since the GFA and we’ve only squandered it.

  • Smithborough


  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I guess you’re talking about SF’s brand of nationalism which some might say is unique and others might say is particuarly toxic. When the brand is examined in the cold light of day it shouldn’t be flying off the shelves. It says something about the lack of scrutiny of some consumers (and their lack of choice and brand loyalty) that it emerges as a brand leader.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Thanks Colin for them statics but as we head for the future elections that spins the border poll u think Unionism will court who it can get on an electoral register that is going to come out and vote for it ? I remember the last Westminster election back in June 2017 and it pissing down of rain saying to a friend, if unionism pulls out 50% they will be lucky, but they did very good in some polling booths but not others. It will be interesting how they improve the low turn out Ballott boxes ?

  • Colin Lamont

    I actually think TE if you look at the general trend of the last 16 yrs the turnout differential has been steadily converging. As examples, In June turnout was slightly higher in East vs West Belfast. In East Antrim turnout was 8% lower than Mid Ulster, which seems like a lot, but the difference was a huge 25% in 2001.
    Still, working class protestant areas are in the main underperforming on election day although there is a lot of complexity at the local level. For example, a friend told me that turnout in Ballysillan was v solid for Nigel Dodds last year, well over 70% in some ballot boxes. Strongly unionist areas west of the Bann also continue to demonstrate very high participation rates (85% in Brookeborough and Ballinamallard).
    It may be that rather than focusing solely on rallying your own base, the emphasis should be on ensuring you don’t needlessly antagonise your poltical opponents (Crocodiles, Kingsmill loafs, break the Bs…) into voting. The side which makes the ‘other’ content enough that they don’t strongly feel the need to vote will, I suspect, win in the long haul.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Very good points that you raise the DUP done very great work in bringing out the Sky Blue Shade of Loyalism in 2017 the big question is can it tap into the Purple Shade of Loyalism ?

  • Deirdre

    Nothing to see here Highfield except hypocrisy and duplicity –

    “No DUP aplogy for Ulster Resistance, despite gun-running leading to murders”


    When it comes to Unionism and the media it depends on who pulled the triggers and who the victims were.

  • file

    six counties in a united ireland is a different kettle of fish and has my full support and best wishes for success. Currently, if northern ireland were successful, that would be an endorsement of the great historical mistake of partition.

  • Colin Lamont

    Incidentally your home patch of South Belfast has seen a huge decline in unionism, from over 50% in 2001 to barely a third last year.
    Demographic changes have played a role but surely turnout in the likes of Sandy Row, the Village ect is a problem too? In contrast, places such as Stranmillis, Malone and Rosetta had very high turnouts last year.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that’s right. And both the DUP and SF know it.

    SF’s strategy is to keep the DUP as the main party of unionism because they make unionists look bad and allow SF to pose as progressive centrists. Though the **se has fallen out of that strategy in the last week 🙂

    I don’t think the DUP mean to keep SF in place, by contrast, but their inability to maintain moderation in their positions and words across the party has the same effect. A more moderate DUP, one genuinely intolerant of bigots in its ranks, would give SF a real headache. I sense some in the DUP get this but there is a battle on to marginalise the backwoodsmen and make sure. centrist, modern voices

  • mickfealty

    Granni just said “our country”. That doesn’t make her some class of alien. This legislating for what’is acceptable to say what’s not is no kind of ‘respect’ agenda.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It seems like change has to be dragged out of unionists because you’re talking about change in your direction. There are lots of changes unionists want to see that nationalism puts up such a brick wall to it’s barely worth asking. Nationalism sees a dynamic of resistance because it’s always pushing and pushing on stuff that unionists don’t want – so go figure.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They actually do have a problem with eulogising murder. There is no getting around the fact unionists have not voted in big numbers for the UVF or UDA’s political projects and a big part of that is the voters not buying the terrorist BS about themselves and their glorious struggle.

  • Steve

    ” that £1 Billion was negotiated carefully in order to align with a Programme for Government they had jointly negotiated with Sinn Fein”.

    This isn’t true I’m afraid. For example – of that £1bn, $400k was to go towards NI’s relatively poor infrastructure. Yet despite the presence of existing long-standing transport priorities that have been agreed at Stormont and are not yet fully funded, the only transport initiative specifically mentioned as a recipient when that £400m was announced was the Yorkgate Interchange project.

    Yorkgate has NEVER been an agreed priority of the Stormont Executive. Yet it was pushed to the front of the queue past the like of the A5 and the A6 by the DUP (perhaps a mere coincidence that York Street sits within the constituency of the party’s Westminster leader). Thereby committing c. 40/% of the total being made available for infrastructure to an unagreed DUP pet project in their Westminster leader’s constituency.

    This gets to the core of what is wrong with the DUP, and by extension how NI is run. The DUP are not interested in building a genuinely shared NI – only in carve ups for each community, with them using their influence at Westminster to ensure they get their slice of the pie in first. It was the same with the City Deal announcements in November’s Budget – only mentioning Belfast, and giving them a solo run to lead on the initiative, even though they don’t even have their plan ready yet whilst Derry has been campaigning for a City Deal for over 4yrs and is ready to go.

    Stormont doesn’t work because the DUP (and perhaps political unionism as a whole) isn’t genuinely interested in sharing power. The 20yrs since the GFA have done next to nothing for places like Derry, Strabane and Omagh, whilst Greater Belfast has been lavished with attention and become a boom town. I would personally like to see Stormont up and running again, but I won’t shed any tears if that doesn’t happen. Because it wasn’t working for anyone in the west of the province. I suspect we’d get a better shot at things through direct rule – though again, not with the DUP pulling the strings in the background to direct everyone exclusively towards their own poor bases in the east. At least things couldn’t get any worse for the West under Westminster control.

  • Senior Deplorable

    “look bad” according to whom? The libtards in the untrusted fake news mainstream media? The DUP are far more in line with the way public opinion is going across the West, if not too soft.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “black propaganda”

    Do you fancy a game of ‘Buzzword Bingo’?

    The first person to notice the needless insertion of sympathy-inducing buzzzwords such as ‘black propaganda’, ‘equality’ and ‘Anti-SF’ wins but has to shout “CONNELLY HOUSE!”

  • Steven Denny

    MU, you do realise that ‘garden variety’ CNRs view the DUP, in the exact same light as you do SF? It is a historical fact that NI was founded on the threat of PUL violence, and is celebrated every year, and in any other country Carson and Craig would be tried for treason. On another point, I have been thinking about this all weekend and Mick’s constant barrage that it’s all SF’s fault, is just absolute nonsense.

    I cannot help but thinking something has happened since the GFA, whereby we have lost the energy and opportunity it offered, but I think has come down to political personalities that we have had.

    1) John Hume has unfortunately left the political stage, and collectively, we are lacking this senior statesman type role on the CNR side. Personally, I liked Trimble, but he was run out of town by his own party and Paisley.
    2) Martin McGuinness was a real PR asset for SF, and this was capitalised on, and this saw a massive increase in SF’s respectability with the CNR voter base.
    3) As with no.2, this was the death knell for UUP and the voter swing to the DUP as a makeweight to that of SF.
    4) I am of the view now that NI is a busted flush, and Unification is our best option for us all. I don’t think we can get out of the quagmire that we are, because both of the main parties are by their very definition ‘opposition’ in the pysche – it’s where they have come from.

  • Steven Denny

    Mick seems to have taken leave of his senses…. it’s all SF’s fault apparently.

    All that is required is for us CNRs, is to stop being so mouthy, know our place as Uncle Tom’s, in the OWC that is the Plantation of Ulster.

    Laughable really, if it wasn’t so pathetic.

  • Colin Lamont

    I think short term a softening of their social conservatism would reap more rewards than of their ‘orange’ policies. Safer proposition for them electorally. They have the utter dominance within unionism currently to take such a risk with the base too.
    However, a move to less emphasis on Orange parades, flags and other cultural issues should be possible in the long term as well.

  • Colin Lamont

    If you support McElduff’s cruel Kingsmill stunt, his jokes about shooting police officers or believe burning dog lovers in La Mon alive was just the tragic but inevitable consequences of a war, then yes I agree you should know your place and shut your bigoted mouth.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Keyword; “were”.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Unionism has banked street names, flag flying, public holidays and public furniture…”

    I sometimes consider myself lucky to be married to a foreigner, some one with Irish (especially Catholic) sympathies as I have to explain things to her e.g. flegs and what NOT to say at Presbyterian funerals.

    Regarding street names and memorials/public furniture would be an interesting one to explain to herself:

    HERSELF: “So Catholics don’t like these street names or memorials?”

    AG: “No”

    HERSELF: “Then why did you put them up? Didn’t the Catholics object?”

    AG: “Well, there weren’t many in this town at that point”

    HERSELF: “So? If they did’t like the British army or monarchy then why mot respect their wishes and be nice”

    AG: “a valid point dear with two main features; 1/ we weren’t very nice to them, 2/ they didn’t hate the army or monarchy at that time”

    HERSELF: “But I thought Catholics hated the British army?”

    AG: “They do”

    HERSELF: “so none served, right?”

    AG: “Actually at times they were the majority of the soldiers in the army, e.g. at Waterloo”

    HERSELF: “Ah, I get it, so you guys put up the majority of the memorials and street names AFTER the political landscape shifted by which time Catholics had an antipathy towards the army and monarchy”

    AG: “No, most of this was done a long time ago”

    HERSELF: “What?! Did you KNOW that Catholics would come to hate the army and monarchy when you named the streets or put up the war memorials”

    AG: “How could we? Should there have been a survey on Royal Avenue in the 1860’s asking a Catholic if his descendants would be annoyed in 100 years time at the street’s name?”

    So on and so forth although yes, the more recent transgressions are fair game.

  • Colin Lamont

    So in a future, hypothetical united Ireland, you will understand if unionists take a leaf from your book and treat the newly imposed, ‘artificial’ state as the enemy and do everything possible to ensure its failure? Making everyone’s life a misery in the process?
    Come on file you’re not stupid. Two can play that game.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Yes agree with your assessment of South Belfast. Although as I have said in my previous post the DUP did very well in the Westie Election in June 2017 getting 70% Turn Out from the Sandy Row and 65% Turnout from the Village Polling Stations, where they did not do so good was the Donegall Pass Box at 50% Turnout. Like I said it will be interesting to see how the DUP tries to further maximise this vote in the Loyalist Strongholds across the province, I think just giving some certain children sweeties and toys ain’t going to cut it ? Will only create further disinfranchment away from politics with the nothingless communities ? I think this is the biggest challenge for Unionism ? On your point about Demographic changes do you know that there is no longer a state secondary school in Inner South Belfast, the closest you will find is Malone (Inrtegated) College on the Upper Lisburn Road ?

  • Steven Denny

    Well said, the DUP have continually salted away funding for their constituencies….Just look at INI expenditure and project funding.

  • Steven Denny

    MU, top 3 that Unionists want that Nationalists are blocking?

    How is it that Equality and Respect are seen as losses for PUL?

  • file

    I fully expect them to do that; it’s unfortunate, but maybe they will get used to not having to listen to Seamus McKee and his tortured diction … and there’s always Joe Duffy if they really want to complain. Mind you, Staters tend to fall over themselves trying to accommodate loyalists, so maybe The Twalf will be made compulsory in a re-united Ireland. I was chatting to a Gaoth Dobhair man once about the unsustainable situation unionists find themselves in and the fact that it was up to us – nationalists – to help them out of it through education. He regretfully accepted the truth of that, but He said it humorously, but with a touch of regret,

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    The SF idea of equality revolves around the idea of unionists losing something.

    SF want to rename towns, parks and streets, to take down flags, to stop parades, to disrespect and suffocate any notion of a northern Irish identity (much like the DUP ironically), to equivocate the PIRA with the army of a sovereign state, to declare symbols that they don’t like as ‘British’ (even of it has a harp or shamrock on it, go figure) so that they can replace or adorn it with symbols of their choosing, to erect symbols/memorials of a campaign that sought to destroy the state (I’m not sure how many states permit this aside from a few Peasant Revolt memorials here and there)…

    Nationalists want Irish, well there is Irish almost everywhere with a nationalist majority and even then very few people speak it fluently so clearly it’s not REALLY a big deal.

    Nationalists want roads in nationalist areas; I honestly Have not seen a level of road/by pass building to compare to West of the Bann in any country I have lived in, people along the A6 now see by-passes as a ‘right’, this is not a normal view to have in sparsely populated areas.

    Nationalists want inquires into state activities:
    A/ rightly so
    B/ how many have we had so far?

    Nationalists want equality for LGBT people; good.

    Nice to see that the influence of the church is waning, now how many gay clubs are there in West Belfast?

    Funnilly enough, the 2 items most hawked for publicly by SF are the latter 2 points, the very 2 points least enthusiastically embraced by the nationalist community in terms of day to day practice.

    But stick a vial of unionist tears at the end of a request and privately a Shinner will be all over it.

    Apparently that is called ‘respect’…

  • file

    mains stream media, for lazy typers :):)

  • file

    out of interest, why do unionists call the GFA the Belfast Agreement? What objection do they have to Good Friday? Serious question.

  • file

    as an annex …. as my Ma calls it.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Carson and Craig would not “be tried for treason”. Only in some weird Orwellian state would they dig up long dead people and put them on trial.

    The GFA has died the death of a thousand cuts. The knife was first put in by nationalists’ refusal to honour decommissioning. Trimble was not “run out of town by his own party and Paisley”. Trimble’s political position was fatally undermined by Sinn Féin’s shenanigans over IRA weapons.

    Sinn Féin’s duplicity significantly eroded unionist support for the GFA. Unionists watched as SF banked terrorist prisoner releases (the release of loyalist terrorists was never a significant issue for unionism) and were shocked and dismayed as they saw those who had inflicted so much hurt on them welcomed back with cavalcades and street parties (and then begin to people SF as ‘politicians’).

    Unionists then watched as SF danced around and prevaricated over terrorist weapons for years.

    Support ebbed away from the Unionist Party and the DUP flourished. The rise of the DUP was enabled by SF.

    We are indeed in a “quagmire”. However those that believe that some magical alchemy will take place on unification are living in la la land. The problems will not disappear in a puff of green smoke.

  • mickfealty

    I prefer it too. It’s the official. I also scrupulously say East Londonderry when talking about the Parliamentary constituency. And the sun is still up in the sky.

  • Croiteir

    It is Larne – nationalists just don’t bother or even vote alliance to keep the worst out. Even Carnlough is hard to get out unless it is a council vote

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Slightly loaded question there! Actual equality and respect would not be losses for PUL people; SF’s version of it – them posing as champions of equality and respect when they have been ethnically attacking British people in NI for 50 years – is a grotesque joke.

    I can’t speak for other unionists, but for me the things nationalist parties could agree to that would make most difference:
    – Troubles facts and figures to be taught in schools through an agreed common programme
    – genuine parity of esteem for P/U/L culture (no parties encouraging people to “take offence” at non-violent expressions of the other tradition)
    – a new requirement for all public representatives to renounce and condemn all terrorism past and present.
    There is no seeking of special advances for unionist people there, just common decency and a commitment to fairness over the past. Lots of other things I would like but I think stopping the campaign of ethnic denigration against P/U/L people is the main thing.

  • Croiteir

    The unionist council who sent people in the dead of night under armed police guards to destroy a 1916 commemoration in Carnlough are just the same as the vandals you describe.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes – and you accept then there is a problem?

  • mickfealty

    Smart woman your Ma… 😉

  • Croiteir

    The editorial by the newsletter is based on a falsehood, SF did not bring down Stormont on these issues. SF brought down Stormont on the basis of the fact that nationalists had been turning their backs on SF due to their appeasement of unionists. The fall of Stormont is a signal to all that project Ulster is over. For ever.

    The challenge now is to see if the political classes can accommodate nationalism or forever just try to convince them that they have to get on with it.

    The reality is that nationalists have no longer any intention to get on with it. And the letsgetalongerists can wail and gnash their teeth as much as they like.

    I do not swallow SF line that the collapse was anything to do with RHI or ILA or whatever. That is just a convenient hook to hang the coat from.

    The popular vote was deserting SF, what just started as people sitting at home and muttering into the cornflakes started to erode their base noticeably when a far left, (what would have written off, nastily, as a looney left character), actually had the audacity and gall not only to run but take a seat from them, on the Falls of all places.

    But SF was in a quandary. They knew the people were not happy at the lack of progress but having put so much capital into working the agreement and selling the line that they had the unionists in a cleft stick SF could not turn around and say that they had not, that they were appeasing them in just the same way that wee Joe had to, with the difference that they choose to. But the gig was up. Nationalism had had enough.

    Thankfully, from a SF perspective, RHI came along to save the day and with one leap our great heroes were free.

    People have to come to the realisation that we are now in a completely different landscape from the 1990s. Nationalism no longer has to rely on the gun to protect them, unionism can now longer rely on the gun to compel.

    To move on and to properly administer the six counties a completely different approach is needed. It is not one that has as its base the 19th century model of the nation state and authority imposition of control and deference. I do not know if unionism has the capacity to move in this direction. I do not know if the British or Irish governments, are ready yet to accept this reality.

    SF by staying out is representing nationalist opinion, Stormont is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be established, if at all, on the basis of total and equal acceptance of both unionism or nationalism identities and their expression are supported by the state according not only to their needs but also to their capacity. Only one that is accepted can we move anywhere.

    The destruction of a memorial on the orders of the authorities with the protection of an armed guard in the dead of night shows how far unionism has to travel but travel they must and travel they will or the nationalists will.

  • Croiteir

    Yes – there is a problem

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think a lot of nationalists seem to be sharing your rejection of the GFA settlement now. Which is not a huge surprise to be honest. I do think nationalist leaders mis-sold the GFA to their people as a vehicle towards a united Ireland and/or a way of eventually eclipsing unionists. They then set about trying to deliver ‘progress’ in that direction.

    It’s a fundamentally misconceived approach to the agreement, and an unfair one. Where the agreement offered security and stability for both sides based on respecting each community, with mutual vetoes and consociational mechanisms to help make sure no one has to feel threatened any more, nationalism has instead sought advances. The GFA is fundamentally NOT about one side advancing to the disadvantage of the other.

    But SF in particular has instilled that approach and the wider nationalist electorate has allowed itself to be swept along with that false expectation of advances and victories. What has happened is they have hit the brick wall of the reality of a consociational, power-sharing agreement, which is that there can be no dynamic in any one side’s direction. They feel like unionists are a blockage in their path; unionists though feel they are being climbed over, by people who are heading the wrong way using a dodgy map.

  • Croiteir

    Bye Bye McElduff

  • willow

    Provo nationalism doesn’t believe reconciliation is necessary because they believe demographic change will soon mean that a majority for a ‘united Ireland’ can be achieved without the need to persuade ‘ethnic unionists’ (ie Protestants) of its merits.

  • willow

    They believe they can have both. It’s a numbers game and they believe they can win while keeping their “narrative” in tact.

    Then history will look back on NI as a temporary aberration and the PIRA will be viewed in a positive light.

  • file

    I didn’t lick it from the stones. :):)

  • file

    Yeah but is there actually an objection anywhere to the words Good Friday that is going over my head? Is it like the Maze/Long Kesh thing, a signifier of religion depending on which term you use? Surely Protestants have Good Friday too?

  • mickfealty

    One, it’s the same thing. Two, in the profoundly ecumenical world of Protestantism (secular and religious), then you’d understand that mixing religion and politics with the use of a revered date in the liturgical calendar is an anathema.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they can’t though.

  • willow

    Why not?

  • Mimi Balguerie

    A call to action based on the premise that SF, and by extension their voters, should return to Stormont based on nothing more than a heckling call of “get your finger out and get back to work“. It neither resolves nor addresses any of the reasons why SF was compelled to pull the Executive down in the first place.

    So why would they return? What incentive do they have to go back to a job they’ve walked out of in protest – what’s in it for them?

    From where I sit, over a year into the impasse, the delivery of a few “baubles” that could and should have been delivered in the normal manner of business of the Assembly will not be enough to restore it. The longer Stormont remains dormant, the greater the need for any solution to be structural and long-term. That demands a change in the way the assembly operates.

    Mick likes to use the analogy that SF have put the “democracy car up on bricks”. It is a fitting analogy, but of course, it is not democracy that is up on bricks, but the devolved institutions. Democracy provided SF with 28% of the vote based on a platform of no return to the status quo and the democratic mandate provided to the largest nationalist party is being followed through on. The reason Stormont is up on blocks is because it is clear there is something badly wrong with it, it has not been functioning properly, it is not, at present, fit for purpose. It needs fixed. I do not advocate following the typical Irish practice of jimmy-rigging a piece of broken machinery with duct tape and baler twine, sending it out saying “job’s a good ‘un” and having to bring it back to the garage when it inevitably breaks down again a year later. When we have Stormont off the road, it is time to fix it properly so that the same problems don’t reoccur.

    In any case, at this point the car has been in the garage for over a year and is about to be SORNed, which suits me and a swathe of both nationalist and unionist opinion just fine. Let it stay up on blocks until we can find the time and motivation to actually repair it.

    That could take a while. SF have a leadership transition and a by-election to manage, the DUP are enjoying their time in the spotlight at Westminster, Brexit is on the horizon, and there are few concrete solutions proposed to address the underlying malfunction of our government. Time is on our side, and the restoration of devolved government is not a priority at the moment. It might be nice to have, but we have other issues to deal with first, and the population writ large don’t seem particularly emotionally invested in it. If we aren’t going to fix it, it can stay up on blocks through 2018, 2019, 2020, through Brexit and whatever comes next, until it rusts away, an unloved relic of old technology and thinking.

  • Pgeorgez

    I agree Mr Lawrence,one can tell a lot about a person from who they follow and who and what they choose to retweet on twitter,right down to rank hypocrisy

  • Balor

    Its only seen as a loss as SF are asking for it. Perhaps SF should come out and demand more potholes in our roads……….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There is a narrative we can buy into but it is an all Ireland modern European secularist ( small l) liberal narrative. We need SF to be not seen the principal face of nationalism they are locally, but to be encountered in a context where one can find strong allies who have a mutual interest in marginalising SF, and counterintuitivly that is only to be found in a reunified Ireland.