Jude Collins

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Republican- and unionist-dominated councils: you mean there's a difference?

I see where Derry unionist politicians are being true to the spirit of their forebears. At the council meeting on Monday night, Sinn Féin’s Kevin Campbell was appointed mayor, with the UUP’s Mary Hamilton as deputy mayor. To say Ms Hamilton took up her new post with grace and dignity would be to stretch the truth. She saw fit instead to reject any move by Councillor Campbell to put the chain of office on her and got the Council’s chief executive to do it instead.  Not to be outdone, the outgoing DUP mayor, Maurice Devenney, didn’t put the chain of office on the new mayor. Devenney said “I wouldn’t get too worried about this as this is normal”.

I suppose it all depends on what you think of as normal. Back in the 1950s, it was normal for the Derry council to be manipulated and gerrymandered so that the unionist one-third of the population somehow managed to have two-thirds of the council seats. That was back in the days when to say you’d been to a Catholic school at an interview meant you could forget about getting that job, and where discrimination in terms of housing eventually sparked the Civil Rights movement.

In fact, here’s an interesting question for Councillor Devenney or Councillor Hamilton: if the Civil Rights movement hadn’t been started, what would this little corner of ours look like today? Judging by Monday night’s shenanigans, exactly as it was in the 1950s and ‘60s. Would Derry City Council be a model of fairness and friendliness? Would jobs and housing be awarded on the basis of ability and need? Not if you look at the operation today of those councils throughout  the north where a unionist majority operate.

Where there is a nationalist/republican majority, as in Derry, the major posts are revolved, in line with representation. In short, power is shared. In those where unionists are a majority…forget it. In council after council throughout the north where unionists dominate, power-sharing doesn’t come into it. In fact  there are unionist councillors throughout the north who respond to openness and power-sharing by continuing to drag their feet and block the exercise of power by nationalists/republicans wherever possible. Last Monday in Derry was a good example of how they react to power-sharing. All this more than fourteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

You’d think there’d be a media uproar, wouldn’t you? Here we have this stark contrast between the actions – not words, actions – of nationalist/republican-majority councils and those dominated by unionists. Yet the media, ever alert to snubs to QE2 and past actions by republicans, fail to cross-examine or even question unionist politicians and councillors who hold this not-an-inch attitude. Or  maybe the media have decided to dodge this one.  Walk on tiptoe past the issue, let the gorilla go on sitting on the sofa scratching itself.  Life’s easier that way.


  1. The mainstream media, as you will know Jude, are not interested in upsetting the status quo. Having experienced sectarian bigotry at the highest levels of DSD I believe that the GFA has only created a facade of normality. There is no evidence of real equality. Republicans/Nationalists or the numerous others outside the unionist/British bloc are second class citizens unless they "behave properly". Keep up the good work Jude.

  2. Allegedly you don't read the Irish News any more but your old comrade Dr Feeney opinion piece today covers the same topic.

  3. As you don't read the Irish News, you must have picked this story (and all its details) up from one of the numerous other media outlets that covered it. So why are claiming the media didn't cover it?

  4. Jude,
    Chris Donnelly also documented the discrimination against appointing nationalists or republicans to the position of mayor in unionist majority councils ( June 8, Slugger O'Toole ). Apparently, the SF candidate for mayor in Craigavon Council, Mairead O'Dowd, received the most votes so the UUP candidate withdrew at the last moment so the DUP candidate was elected instead. Mairead has spoking out about this blatant discrimination on Craigavon Council in the past.
    However, SF does bear some responsiblity for worsening this situation. Yesterday in the Assembly the new 11 council boundaries were passed, with ALL SF and DUP members voting in favour and ALL SDLP UUP and some Alliance voting against. Why SF voted in favour is inexplicable, since under the new boundaries the current nationalist councils of Limavady, Moyle and Armagh will be incorporated into new unionist majority councils. NO current unionist majority councils will come under nationalist control. Why did SF vote to transfer councils with over 100,000 people ( 60,000 nationalist ) to unionist control? What is the point of complaining about unionist discrimination in unionist controlled councils and then voting to make the situation even worse ? I am certain that nationalists in Limavady, Moyle and Armagh are not happy about being transferred to unionist controlled councils. Ironically, the original 7 council model proposed by the NIO and supported by SF would have put Craigavon and Bandbridge councils in a new nationalist majority council. If SF had not voted yesterday in favor of an obvious DUP gerrymander, then Mairead O'Dowd could be elected mayor of the original proposed new Craigavon-Armagh-Banbridge-Newry council and there would be nothing the unionist minority could do about it.

  5. Any comment ,Jude on the point made by Anonymous (01.58)?Is there some complicity between Sinn Fein and the D U P in this area?Could there be another carve-up as in the situation whereby no nationalist seems likely to hold the Justice ministry?But then S F are above all that aren't they ?!