Jude Collins

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Politics: what's possible and what's impossible

I was listening to Mick Fealty being interviewed on RTÉ radio today. It was about the flag protest and why it was that Peter Robinson was not prepared to appear on camera, shoulder-to-shoulder with Martin McGuinness to denounce the violence and law-breaking of the protestors. After all, McGuinness had done the shoulder-to-shoulder thing when the two British soldiers had been shot dead at their barracks and when PC Ronan Kerr had been killed. Mick’s response was that “it was politically impossible” for Robinson to do that. 

Crikey. What does that mean, “politically impossible”? Well, I presume it means that if he did, Robinson's constituency would be sorely displeased with him and would vote against him in the next election. I’ve tried to think of another interpretation of the two words but that seems on the face of it to be the only possible one. Which, if it’s accurate, is profoundly depressing.

Because it means that the unionist population of East Belfast - and probably beyond - looks with approval on these law-breakers. In other words,  the unionist population of East Belfast - and maybe beyond - are behind the people who opposed to the workings of democracy in Belfast City Council. They're of one mind with the audience (barring a few exceptions) at the Nolan show the other night.

But hey - let's be optimistic  and assume  Mick got it wrong - that in fact the unionist people of East Belfast have no time for these police-attackers and  road-blockers.  I know if I was an East Belfast unionist, rather than embrace them I’d be embarrassed and disgusted by their actions. I’d also have a pretty low opinion of the guts displayed by the man who used to be my MP before he was defeated by the Alliance Party's Naomi Long.

PS I just got this link to his interview from Mick - he promises to comment later



  1. Mick? are you serious? Much as I like Mick, and I do, he is trying to engineer a middle path. An ideal middle between the extremes. Unfortunately it doesn't exist. As soon as push comes to shove Unionism reverts to type, always. I invite comments with examples to the contrary.

  2. The fear of being called a "Lundy" runs deep among unionists, it seems to matter little who the accuser is, dregs of society or otherwise - which is indeed depressing as the default setting follws that the knuckle dragging tail will forever set the pace of change for the dog.

    Bangordub - agreed on Mick. Nice guy, very intelligent, but also frequently very transparent.

  3. Bangordub - you have jogged my conscience. I too like Mick; I cannot say that he was ever anything than friendly and fair in his dealings with me. So I'd stress that it's the implications of the phrase used I'm examining, not the man.

  4. If there's something worse than being talked about, it's not being talked about!! ;-)

    Comes to something when being transparent, in a supposed age of transparency, is a problem. Dub, here's my take on the middle: http://goo.gl/nRMcp. You've allowed yourself to transfixed by FJH's exuberent overuse of what I think is actually quite a useful term.

    For reference, here's the link to the podcast ( I should have it up on Slugger tomorrow with some light supporting analysis)...


    What I said it was almost impossible. Nothing in politics is absolutely impossible.

    Machiavelli 101: Martin's asking Peter to politically disown protests that 'support' his own position on the flag issue. He knows Peter's already come out against the rioting. But he also know that semiotics will communicate capitulation on the flag issue. It's a delicious chess move.

    Now, what's Peter going to do? Well, I guess he could buy the analysis that there is an equivalence between a lethal planned attack on the British Armed forces and and the riots be seen to back down.

    Yep, he really could. Hey, not impossible. Just a mezzanine up from impossible.

    OFMdFM must be such a fun place to work these days... ;-)

  5. Jude / Anonymous,
    I wasn't implying man playing, I just think Mick tries too hard sometimes if you get my meaning. I have to admit that sometimes it gets on my proverbial wick that things can't be called as they very obviously are. There are rights and wrongs and sometimes it just has to be called as it is. :-)

    1. You'll just have to take my word for it I'm the same Anon as above and I whole heartedly agree with what you're saying.

      If you watched "The Newsroom", a hit US show, a theme from the start of series 1 is to just "do the news", not have to put a slant or balance for the sake of balance. That just sticks out in my head as I agreed with it, but mainly because it's a good show!

      "There are rights and wrongs and sometimes it just has to be called as it is" - that pretty much sums it up for me.

  6. Bangordub, you are simultaneously complaining that there are no moderate unionists and no such thing as moderate unionism. Like Mick, I think you should extricate yourself from the unpleasant echo chamber of FJH's blog as you seem to be falling victim to his circular argument disease! His "Not on my watch" comment was a real jump the shark moment.

  7. Apologies for appearing anonymous (I can never understand) the Blogspot system but I am FJH an exuberant over-user and I happily plead guilty to that. Its par for the course for all bloggers. When something happens that is a perfect example of our agenda, we all happily point it out. On Slugger O'Toole it might be argued that the term "Baron of Northstead" is over-used ...exuberantly...because it suits an anti-republican agenda.
    As much has happened recently which has exposed the frailty of letsgetalongerism, unionism and the whole "nationalists outreach", "new Norn Iron", "unicorn" narrative, I think its entirely reasonable that I point it out...beyond the point of irritaion.
    On the substantial point of Judes original post...there are two views on Robinson not standing shoulder to shoulder with McGuinness.
    One is the view that it would be political impossible...but this is to accept the analysis that EVERYTHING in last two months has been about getting that seat in East Belfast back for the DUP back from Alliance.
    This is the analysis from the "middle".
    The republican/nationalist analysis is that its about more than Naomi Long (yes its certainly a factor) ...its about Robinsons support for the broad (peaceful) protest agenda.

  8. Mick- apologies if you put an 'almost' before 'impossible' - although I don't know that there's an angel on a pinhead of difference between the two. If PR standing by McGuinness would be seen as conceding defeat on the flag issue, how did McGuinness manage to stand with PR and the CC and not concede 'defeat'? It's a question of supporting each other when the chips are down and McGuinness has supported PR repeatedly - including the time of Irisgate. I don't recall any instance of payback. I still see it as an absence of political guts/leadership - esp. since PR let the flag-people out of the bottle in the first place.

    1. Fear of the term "Lundy" and a lack of testicles... :)

    2. For me it's pretty straightforward Jude. On Masserene Martin and Peter were on the same side. There was no case of one man losing face to the other. In this case, whatever its merits or demerits, they're parties were pitched against each other on the matter in hand.

      What Peter needs to get sorted (forget poverty or an anti sectarianism strategy) is to work out what the next crisis is going to be and work out how he's going to handle it.

      In the meantime, it seems we're drifting again... What we need is leadership and commitment between the two parties of OFMdFM to work together on these things and come up with some workable solutions...

      Without that leadership we can just keep going round in these circles for ever, if we choose. My feeling (which won't be popular round here) is that SF are stuck on a plateau and without a map. That won't be good for nationalism in the long run.

  9. How much tripe does yer man Fitzjameshorse type into the net all day? He's on every blog I read now, and all the same rambling nonsense.

  10. I actually stopped reading Slugger a while back because Mick let FJH turn every thread into a boring conversation about himself and his single transferable idea. I've been back since and things have improved but I really don't want to see the same happen here. FJH - please go away.

  11. There will (probably) be occasions when Marty is unable to show leadership/guts/balls or some combo thereof. For example if MI5 who, still lurk armed in the undergrowth, accidentally/deliberately shot someone there could well be trouble on the streets and Marty would have serious difficulty in standing shoulder to shoulder with Robbo and commending the 'good work of the security services' whilst simultaneously condemning those not happy with their 'good work' who had taken to a bout of rioting.

    ...having said that, given the relative weakness of the political opposition to the DUP then it does look more 'almost possibe' than 'almost impossible' for Robbo to make a stand with Marty on 'law and order'.

  12. Mick - I think I disagree. MMcG had something to lose when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with PR: to some people on the republican side it looked like a classic case of siding with unionism and the forces of law and order. That 'some people' may be small in number but it still took cojones to so bluntly side with PR. Ditto on Irisgate - a lot of people would simply have left PR to twist in the wind. I also don't think they're pitched against each other on this matter - or I hope not. The flag protesters broke the law - parading, blocking roads and attacking the police. I'd hate to think that it'd be a political risk verging on the impossible for him to come out alongside McG and denounce such deeds and such people. Or are we saying that DUP voters kind of agree with the flag protestors - i.e., refuse to accept a democratic vote? Now that WOULD be worrying...