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Northern Ireland Politics, or, A Guide to Serious Business

RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
edited January 2010 in Debate and/or Discourse
Okay, my fellow countrymen in the north east of a small island on the edge of Europe are being dumb again.

Spoiler'd for length
arties in Northern Ireland have until Friday afternoon to reach a deal over justice powers before the British and Irish governments publish proposals.

Talks continued until 0500 GMT at Hillsborough Castle, with insiders saying the mood was more constructive. They are to resume mid-morning.

Deadlock remains over the timing of the power transfer and handling of parades.

The US Envoy to Northern Ireland has warned of serious economic consequences if politicians fail to reach agreement.

Declan Kelly said the consequences for the Northern Ireland economy would be serious in the short and long term if no deal emerged from the Hillsborough talks.

But Mr Kelly added that the US administration believed the parties were "tantalisingly close" to a deal and was hopeful and optimistic they would find an accommodation.

He revealed that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has been playing a role in telephone diplomacy and has been kept up to date on an hour-by-hour basis with the progress of the negotiations.

'Secret talks'

It was also revealed on Thursday night that the Orange Order hosted secret talks between the DUP and UUP at the end of last year, aimed at promoting unionist unity during elections and preventing Sinn Fein becoming the biggest political party in Northern Ireland.

The issue of controversial Orange Order parades has caused friction in the negotiations, with Sinn Fein complaining that the DUP had made the abolition of the Parades Commission a "pre-condition" to a deal on policing and justice.

Earlier on Thursday, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams reiterated that devolution of policing and justice could not be linked to the parades issue.

"Anybody who thinks that the price of policing and justice is a walk down the Garvaghy Road or Ardoyne is just ridiculous," he said.

'Resolving disputes'

Speaking before briefing Sinn Fein party officers on the state of the talks, he said there was still a lot of work to be done.

DUP MLA Sammy Wilson said that his party was focused on addressing the parading issue and added there needed to be a mechanism in place to resolve parade disputes at "a local level".

At a roundtable session on Thursday afternoon, the talks were widened to consider the problems at the heart of the Stormont Executive.

The negotiations are being led by Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin after the British and Irish prime ministers left Northern Ireland on Wednesday without a deal.

Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen said they believed there was a "firm basis" for the parties to set a date in early May for the devolution of policing and justice and to "enhance the existing framework to deal more effectively with contentious parades".

And here's some background info on Parades.
Parading - a deal breaker?
As Northern Ireland's political parties reportedly move closer to a deal on the transfer of policing and justice powers, one issue is said to be key to any agreement - how the contentious issue of parading will be handled in the future.

BBC News Online looks at how parades continue to be at the heart of the political problem.

How did parading become a political issue?

The parading problem came into its sharpest focus in the mid-1990s when there were a series of disputes between nationalist residents' groups and unionist cultural and religious organisations, the most well known of which is the Orange Order.

The loyal orders had been holding hundreds of traditional parades each year since the 19th century and the vast majority are not contentious. However as demographics changed, a small number of the parades were held through or close to areas which were mainly populated by Catholic nationalists.

The nationalists said the parades which celebrate Protestant history and culture in Ireland were triumphalism. They wanted those which came near the areas they lived to be re-routed to other areas.

The loyal orders insisted that their parades were traditional, dignified and unthreatening and should be allowed to continue on routes they had taken for many years.

Nationalist parties generally supported the residents' view while unionists largely supported the loyal orders.

Over the past fifteen years, the lack of agreement on contentious parades often provoked street violence. The most well-known dispute was at Drumcree near Portadown, where the lack of a resolution provoked some of the worst civil disorder seen in Northern Ireland.

What has been done to try to resolve the problem?

Historically, disputes over parades were seen as a public order problem and a matter for the police. They would disregard the political issues and decide how the parade should proceed, purely taking into account policing concerns. As the parades become more contentious however, political pressure often meant the most contentious became a matter for the government.

The most notable example was in 1997 when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, decided that the Drumcree parade should go ahead, despite an original decision that it should not.

Nationalists, who historically distrusted the police, pressed for an alternative. In 1998, an independent body called the Parades Commission was set-up to rule on the small number of controversial parades.

Did the Parades Commission work?

From its inception, the loyal orders and unionist politicians largely had nothing but contempt for the body, refusing to recognise its authority. However its decisions were strictly enforced by the police and gradually the level of civil disorder at contentious parades was reduced.

Unionist politicians continued to believe the commission was biased and have pressed continually at negotiations for its abolition.

As part of the current negotiations over the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the largest unionist party, the DUP say they want an alternative to the Parades Commission.

What is the alternative?

Following the St Andrews Agreement in 2006, it was agreed to ask the international diplomat and former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown to conduct a review. His team was intended to include the widest shade of Northern Ireland opinion.

The presence of Sean Murray, a convicted IRA man, and Reverend Mervyn Gibson, a former Deputy Chaplain of the Orange Order, was indicative of the attempt to involve the strongest opinions on both sides of the debate in order to secure a lasting resolution.

In the summer of 2008, the Strategic Review of Parading came back with what it described as interim proposals.

What were those proposals?

The review said that "local dialogue" should be at the heart of resolutions.

It said that where possible the dispute would be solved in the first instance by dialogue between those organising the parade and those objecting - local councils would facilitate such talks, if necessary.

If such dialogue fails, the highest office in the Northern Ireland Executive, the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) would appoint a mediator, drawn from a list selected by public appointment.

If he or she fails to broker agreement, OFMDFM, would appoint three adjudicators, again drawn from a publically appointed list. Their decision will then be legally binding.

What do the parties think of those proposals?

The DUP says it largely supports the interim proposals but is increasingly perturbed by the delay in the publication of the final report. It has said the parading must be resolved before the devolution of policing and justice powers can take place.

Sinn Fein has said it wants clarification on the proposals but has welcomed the fact that "local dialogue" will be at the centre of a new system.

However the party is angry that the DUP are trying to link the transfer of powers with the parading issue. It says the two are different issues and that making parades a "precondition" is unacceptable.

Parades. That's what it all comes back to. Never mind policing. Never mind justice. Never mind that the country's main worries are the economy and health and education and stuff and didn't see the point of collapsing everything over policing and justice in the first place, it seems to all be about whether a group of people can engage in their fucking hobby in certain areas or not. A hobby that's all about celebrating a battle in which the victor didn't really give a shit about those who celebrate it, but used it as a means to get England's resources in his war with France.

Jesus Suffering Fuck.

And the Orange Order trying to unite the moderate UUP and hard line DUP, all to fight and claw and struggle against Sinn Fein getting any sort of advantage. Again, never mind that their might be a country with issues that need sorted out, we can't let the other side get an advantage. Never mind that we could end up inviting Sean Duke of Woodward to resume the currently vacant throne of Emperor of Belfast, answerable only to Gordon of Downing.

Jesus Suffering Fuck!

It all comes back to the tribal politics alive and thriving in this country. I think I can safely say I know how Democrats in America feel about polarized obstructionism. On the radio I hear people ranting about how "Sinn Fein IRA" are still taking orders from the army council. Nobody wants "themmuns" to become top dog. That's why we implement the Du Hont system of parliament, and every party gets a minister. It's also why it's easy to stall progress, since every government is a coalition. And yet, we couldn't adopt a slightly saner system of biggest party wins, because everyone votes for the same crowd, and if the currently warring Unionists split the vote and Sinn Fein becomes the biggest party, it'll make the (USA) Republicans look like they're bending over backwards to let Obama have his way. If the people of England had a vote, they'd cut the connection just like that. They view us as a parasite, clinging on and siphoning away taxes, even though our paychecks are shrunk by the same chancellor theirs are. I suspect the Republic of Ireland doesn't want us either at the moment. The logistics of integrating a province which half of will be outright hostile to Dublin is not what they need when their economy isn't doing so well.

And it doesn't have to be this way. We've managed to do some cool stuff in the last few years. I work with guys from America, India and Poland, which would have been impossible in the previous environment. We have the potential to become an economic powerhouse. Companies want to open up shop here, because we work hard and we're highly skilled and educated (and we have among the lowest wages in Western Europe). I work for an American Company.

But no, we have the biggest collection of fucking silly geese determined to wreck it all for "Tradition". We risk returning to being one of the only places in Western Europe not ruled by someone we directly elected. If it were up to me, I'd kick out everyone in the Northern Irish Political scene over 25 and ban them from seeking re-election. They're tainted, they built their early careers on denying "themmuns" a break and pandering to hard liners.

Jesus, I'm depressed. I mean, I work with Protestants, inclusing an Assisstant minister in the Church of Ireland. They're great people. We can have a laugh together. We can get our projects done together. Why can't anybody else?

RMS Oceanic on

Posts

  • ThomamelasThomamelas Only one man can kill this many Russians. Bring his guitar to me! Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    It's as if they can't see the growth in Belfast since the cease fire and peace accords. Turning back the clocks on that issue is just silly.

    Thomamelas on
  • BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Fighting The Rising Odds Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited January 2010
    I am Catholic but English. Who do I hate? I'm so confused.

    Bogart on
  • BobCescaBobCesca Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Bogart wrote: »
    I am Catholic but English. Who do I hate? I'm so confused.

    Everyone. But you do at least feel guilt about it.

    Also, fucking orange parades and their sanctimonious bullshit about not being sectarian can suck my (non-existent) cock. I may have a little rage from the joys of living in Glasgow.

    BobCesca on
  • HerrCronHerrCron It that wickedly supports taxation Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Oh sweet suffering fuck, not the fucking parades, not again.

    Christ.

    HerrCron on
    sig.gif
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    BobCesca wrote: »
    Bogart wrote: »
    I am Catholic but English. Who do I hate? I'm so confused.

    Everyone. But you do at least feel guilt about it.

    Also, fucking orange parades and their sanctimonious bullshit about not being sectarian can suck my (non-existent) cock. I may have a little rage from the joys of living in Glasgow.

    Oh don't talk to me about Glasgow. At work we're not allowed to wear any football shirts because of the animosity felt around two certain teams from around the River Clyde.

    The problem, I think, is that the hardliners are in charge. The moderates, the UUP and the SDLP, are not very popular now, although with a combination of this and the Iris Robinson scandal, some predict the DUP to be badly undermined. How does one go about encouraging people to return to a more centrist position?

    RMS Oceanic on
  • BogartBogart Streetwise Hercules Fighting The Rising Odds Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited January 2010
    No-one wants to be the first to choose the moderates of their side, for fear that the opposition will stick with the hardliners of their side and fuck them silly.

    Bogart on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    I dunno, the DUP aren't looking so hot right now. Between resentment from the true hardliners about working with "Sinn Fein IRA" at all, Iris Robinson, this current deadlock and the shaky economy, the UUP might just experience a rise in fortune, if the TUV (Splinter Party led by Jim Allister) doesn't take off.

    RMS Oceanic on
  • FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited January 2010
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.


    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Fencingsax on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.

    It's not the sex, it's the abuse of political power: She got her Toyboy a £50,000 business loan for his hotel/restaurant, and she failed to disclose this as a business interest. There is also speculation that Peter Robinson knew about this conflict of interest, and also failed to disclose it correctly. That's where the scandal is.
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Yes, although they're generally quite a formal occasion. The problem is that population shifts in the last 50 years mean a lot of these "Traditional" parade routes now go through or alongside primarily Catholic areas. And for some people, having a parade by a Protestant-only Organisation to commemorate a military battle that eventually lead to the Penal Laws that discriminated against Catholics (and Presbyterians) is rather akin to the Klan parading in Harlem.

    RMS Oceanic on
  • nescientistnescientist Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    You're right to hate me for saying this, but Iris Robinson and that inane blasphemy law are pretty much my sole exposure to Irish politics.

    With that admission of ignorance out of the way, I have to ask: is there any outcry against the parades (according to wikipedia the Orange crowd prefer them called walks, but also occasionally bring a marching band so I'll just go ahead and regurgitate the sensationalized media version) from protestants/non-catholics? As a foreigner with an obvious deficiency in understanding of the history and culture at work here, I have difficulty imagining that there's much sympathy for these silly, silly geese.

    nescientist on
    Carl Sagan wrote:
    The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars.
  • ThomamelasThomamelas Only one man can kill this many Russians. Bring his guitar to me! Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.


    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Kinda. It celebrates the victory of William the Orange (Protestant) over King James (Catholic). The Catholics tend to see the July 12th parade as rubbing it in their faces. The biggest problem is when the parades are routed through Catholic neighborhoods. You tend to get unpleasantness from both sides and violence has been an issue. There are a number of smaller parades that celebrate other events but if I remember correctly, July 12th is the big one. If any of the natives wish to correct me, feel free.

    Thomamelas on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Thomamelas wrote: »
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.


    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Kinda. It celebrates the victory of William the Orange (Protestant) over King James (Catholic). The Catholics tend to see the July 12th parade as rubbing it in their faces. The biggest problem is when the parades are routed through Catholic neighborhoods. You tend to get unpleasantness from both sides and violence has been an issue. There are a number of smaller parades that celebrate other events but if I remember correctly, July 12th is the big one. If any of the natives wish to correct me, feel free.

    That covers the main things. Also, on the Eleventh Night they usually have huge bonfires, sometimes burning Nationalist/Republican symbols like the Tricolour.

    Violence hasn't been as big an issue lately, however. Some ascribe this to the Parades commission that the DUP now want replaced with something not so "biased".

    RMS Oceanic on
  • ThomamelasThomamelas Only one man can kill this many Russians. Bring his guitar to me! Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Thomamelas wrote: »
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.


    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Kinda. It celebrates the victory of William the Orange (Protestant) over King James (Catholic). The Catholics tend to see the July 12th parade as rubbing it in their faces. The biggest problem is when the parades are routed through Catholic neighborhoods. You tend to get unpleasantness from both sides and violence has been an issue. There are a number of smaller parades that celebrate other events but if I remember correctly, July 12th is the big one. If any of the natives wish to correct me, feel free.

    That covers the main things. Also, on the Eleventh Night they usually have huge bonfires, sometimes burning Nationalist/Republican symbols like the Tricolour.

    Violence hasn't been as big an issue lately, however. Some ascribe this to the Parades commission that the DUP now want replaced with something not so "biased".

    Isn't their issue with bias simple due to the fact that they have a lot more parades and thus end up getting told no more often, rather then a true anti-Orange agenda?

    Thomamelas on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    Thomamelas wrote: »
    Thomamelas wrote: »
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    I'm still not sure what the whole sex scandal thing was, because they always said it was with his wife, and so I was wondering what the problem was.


    As for Parades, just to be clear, do we mean shutting down the city for a day and having people march down a previously described route, waving big flags, riding horses, people waving. That sort of thing? Like the Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?

    Kinda. It celebrates the victory of William the Orange (Protestant) over King James (Catholic). The Catholics tend to see the July 12th parade as rubbing it in their faces. The biggest problem is when the parades are routed through Catholic neighborhoods. You tend to get unpleasantness from both sides and violence has been an issue. There are a number of smaller parades that celebrate other events but if I remember correctly, July 12th is the big one. If any of the natives wish to correct me, feel free.

    That covers the main things. Also, on the Eleventh Night they usually have huge bonfires, sometimes burning Nationalist/Republican symbols like the Tricolour.

    Violence hasn't been as big an issue lately, however. Some ascribe this to the Parades commission that the DUP now want replaced with something not so "biased".

    Isn't their issue with bias simple due to the fact that they have a lot more parades and thus end up getting told no more often, rather then a true anti-Orange agenda?

    That's why "biased" was in speech marks: The commission says no a bit more than the DUP likes.

    RMS Oceanic on
  • Ed321Ed321 Registered User regular
    edited January 2010
    They could've saved all the money and manpower required to maintain these marches over the years, and instead just built a 300ft staue of William of Orange that doubles as a badass Cathedral.

    Ed321 on
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