Jude Collins

Thursday, 14 November 2013

N21: the road to somewhere?

I remember a couple of decades ago having a conversation with a senior SDLP man. For some reason the question of organisations came up and the SDLP man said something that’s stuck with me. The best of organisations, he said,  still depends on, is made or broken by the quality of the individuals who make up that organisation.  

I found myself thinking about that this morning as I gird my loins (such as they are) for a visit this evening to Strabane, where I’ll chair a debate (in the Fir Trees Hotel, 7.30 pm) about unifying Ireland. There’ll be a range of speakers from different parties (no, I don’t think the DUP will be there, Virginia, or the UUP) including one very interesting party: N21.

Yes, yes, I’ve heard all the gut-busting jokes about a political party naming itself after a road, about the 21 representing the number of people in it, and the rest of it. What’s significant for me is that its leaders are Basil McCrea and John McCallister. Of all the unionist politicians I’ve met, I’ve found myself warming most to these two men. 

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just that they strike me as decent likeable people. Maybe it’s that you don’t get the impression they’re sizing you up, taking your political temperature with a mind as open, in Heaney’s words, as a steel trap. They seem to respond to others as human beings. And what they appear to be doing with their new party is something that could ultimately be very good or (from a nationalist/republican perspective) very bad.

The very good thing they are intent on doing is something which I suspect chimes with the thinking of many garden-centre Prods. They don’t want to be cut off culturally or any other way from their Catholic/nationalist/republican neighbours, they want to make this state a place that treats everyone with dignity and equal respect, and they believe that the old ways of narrowness and bitterness are a sectarian cul-de-sac that needs its end-wall bashed in. 

Which would be good. Anyone with half a brain-cell knows that sectarianism and bigotry take us nowhere. Instead, like revenge, it digs two graves: one for the person that’s hated and the other for the hater. It’s also the case that N21 have made that rapprochement a central plank of their policy. Were they to succeed, it would be a day of great rejoicing among nationalists/republicans.

Or maybe not.  Because the ultimate goal, the holy grail sought by Britain and unionism over decades if not centuries has been to have a Catholic population here that is happy to remain British, is not sullenly passive but happily active in supporting the union. When that day arrives, there’ll be no need to garrison British troops here because on that day, nationalism/republicanism will have died.

The N21ers:  charming or chilling? I’m still trying to make up my mind. 


  1. At least it'll be good to have a "neutral" chairman whose views on unification are "as open as a steel trap"!By the way who is organizing this debate?Could it be some grouping allied to Sinn Fein?

    1. Thanks for thoughts, Anon 09:58. As chairman, alas, I don't get to participate in the debate/discussion. You're probably right that 'some grouping allied to SF' has organised it. And your point is? I attended and participated in a debate organised by Young Unionists earlier this year - should I not have?

    2. It's funny that you agree to be Chairman without knowing specifically who has organized the debate.Of course you are free to attend whatever debate you choose.Can we assume that William Crawley just wasn't free and the organizers just happened to pick your name out of nowhere?No doubt you will be studiously objective in your chairmanship!

    3. Why would it be funny, Anon? It's all over Twitter, if you care to look. I suspect they couldn't afford William and besides he's a busy man. I'm a layabout. 'Studiously objective chairman', eh? You're putting bad in my head. Maybe you'd tell me how I could be biased and I'll put same into effect - with source acknowledgements of course...

    4. Jude,don't be so coy about acting as Chairman for a Sinn Fein sponsored event.They obviously trust you to do a good job and why wouldn't they after the professional job you did for Martin when he was running for President.Look forward to reading about the night in one of your future blogs.

  2. ‘Turnout in the 2011 Assembly election was 54.5%, a decline of almost eight percentage points from the previous Assembly election and down over 15 percentage points from the first election to the Assembly in 1998.’ Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Assembly_election,_2011

    People don’t care about politricks; our politicians are bought and paid for by Brit-merica Inc, along with the media. Voting pointless, protesting pointless, just one large fascist nightmare.

    Richard Haas can help that how exactly?

    The Pseudo dissidents attempting to funnel support towards the Pseudo Politicians. Green White and Orange Tories argue with Red, White and Blue Tories over who can implement corporation tax for their funders fastest. You couldn’t make it up. Basil and John, nice as they may be, are just more of same, big money backing with a more acceptable face.

    Include me out!

    1. Whether you vote or not election results will affect you. You are in whether you like it or not.
      If the 46% who do not vote all voted, for example,for NI21 they would govern us.
      The difference that would make may be small but it would be real. And small changes over time add up to a different society.
      That is democracy. Any better ideas?

    2. Thanks for the reply,

      I feel like I should have some secret spy phrase like, ‘hello Henry did you forget?’ http://ottawa-rasc.ca/articles/rush_carmen/astro_facts/g_bruno.html , well at least you are not John Dee 007 or Cecil Williamson. http://www.examiner.com/article/john-dee-007 , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_Williamson .

      Democracy has an opposition, this isn’t a democracy, imperfect though that has always been, and freedom of speech is nothing without the freedom to question, which lands you in the pokey these days, if you’re lucky.

      But was it ever different?

      Please examine the case of Hilda Murrell. Look at Major Frederick Boothby and the APG Army of the Provisional Government in Scotland?

      Spookyness aside.

      One prerequisite to democratic choice, you know when we get to choose who lies to you for a few years, is to know who bought the liar?

      Yeah I got a few ideas; I doubt you will like any of them, they all involve not being a slave to Bankers and their token shills.

      I would prefer real representation to pretend democracy; I doubt anyone cares what I want. But they still want my deference, but they don’t have it. Tuff at the top.

    3. It's all lies I tell you. I was just doing a book tour.
      Anyway I broadly agree with your sentiments, particularly about the lack of an opposition here.
      Yet we have little choice really and so we keep chipping away at the establishment block, until Jude starts his revolution.
      Just because we can't change everything, doesn't mean we shouldn't change anything.
      "Yeah I got a few ideas;"
      But what are these ideas of which you speak? Have they been tried successfully elsewhere? I'm all ears.

  3. Bangordub had a thread which posited a similar idea(that NI21 could kill Republicanism/Unification with kindness.) Plenty of worse fates than to have Pro-Union politicians who want to move on from the Troubles and treat Nationalists as neighbours rather than enemies. The best case future for Norn Irish people could be one in which they feel happy enough in the Union, and see the referendum as choosing the better of two options, rather than a matter of life and death.

  4. The tragedy of it all (from a unionist perspective) is that most unionists don't 'get' this idea i.e. make NI a more acceptable place for everyone (as opposed to a wet and cold 'Israel') and it'll stand a greater chance of surviving.

    But no.

    The DUPers and their ilk do their best to ensure that Windsor will be a cold house for Catholics, that 'flegs' are a priority and that anything Gaelic is a tad suspect.

    So many flegger types see the live-and-let-live approach of NI21 as treacherous all the while failing to see that their protests, violence, intimidation and hijacking of British symbols speeds up the process of unification.

    So, if you want a united Ireland sooner rather than later, vote DUP, Jamie Bryson or TUV (so to speak).

  5. No fear Jude. Unionism for centuries has been defined by supremacy, intolerance, and bigotry. I can't see these two noble exceptions changing the face of unionism.