Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Riddle

As expected, the annual big day of marching secured its fair share of newspaper space, blogging time and news coverage.

Every year it’s the same arguments and positions though sometimes the buzzwords are replaced e.g. in the 90’s it was ‘civil and religious liberty’ and ‘unionist intransigence’ and now it’s ‘shared space’, ‘equality’ and ‘tolerance’.

One thing that doesn’t change is the predictable nature of pan-unionist response whenever Sinn Fein is believed to be behind something.

I understand the antipathy many unionists have to the Shinners, I’m no fan of them myself (ask any nationalist blogger on Slugger O’Toole).

What I don’t get is why unionism nearly always feeds SF PR & political points.

I mean really, if I had a nemesis I’d do my best to make sure that he/she does not benefit from my actions. Surely that’s the point of having a nemesis??

With that in mind, let us assume for argument’s sake that all of unionism hates SF as much as Willie Frazer.

Let us now apply this scenario to some of the more questionable positions of unionism and see if it is GOOD or BAD for SF. (Sorry, it might seem like SF overkill but this is angled at the SF paranoia that is prevalent throughout unionism)


In some, not all unionist controlled councils, they go against the UK norm and fly the Union flag all year round.

This could be because of immense pride or defiance or habit or simply to get it up themuns.

BAD FOR SF: Unless there are some SF councillors having their noses put out of joint by this flying then this is of no apparent detriment to that party

GOOD FOR SF: Well, as has been articulated repeatedly during City Hall’s Fleggergeddon the obsessive flying of the Union Flag is seen by some people as a 2 fingered salute. A constant reminder of who’s in charge of the turf.

With this is mind, if you were to place a 50 quid bet on the following horsies, which would be your favourite to win:

Horsie 1: Middle of the road types from a nationalist background who may not bear any particular ill-will to the Union Flag are nonetheless pushed away from the unionist family on account of the ‘in your face’ nature of flying the flag unceasingly

Horsie 2: Middle of the road types from a nationalist background would feel an INCREASED sense of ‘loyalty’ to the UK on account of seeing the British tri-cross flying every day, in addition to the hundreds of other flags flapping from lamp posts.

If you think it is horsie No.1, then you believe that this overtly pro-union stance is ironically damaging to the union in that it drives away potential pro-union voters.

If you vote for horsie No.2 then might I recommend that you never set foot in a casino or race track in your life.

So in my humble opinion, I would label the insistence of flying the flag 365 as free points to SF. From their point of view, the less people who see the Union in a favourable light the better.
Horsie No.1
Horsie No.2



At least one unionist controlled council flies the Union Flag on designated days.

GOOD FOR SF: They can still press the ‘equality’ button with regards to arguing that the tricolour should fly alongside it (FYI, this matter is soon forgotten about if one counter-proposes the 3 flag compromise http://amgobsmacked.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/three-flags-real-compromise.html  )

BAD FOR SF: If all unionist councils fly the flag on designated days they would then have some moral ground to demand similarly of nationalist controlled councils. SF does not like that idea. Not a jot.


Not so long ago a DUP task force was sent to the IFA bunker to make sure that they didn’t have any daft notions about bringing in changes that would make supporting NI a more attractive option for many people


A few measures could make a big difference to fence sitters who would be tempted to go to a game or wish NI all the best:

1/ Drop GSTQ. It’s the NATIONAL anthem, not the regional anthem. End of.

2/ A flag. The Ulster flag is not the official flag of NI, it is the favoured flag of loyalist bands and is burned into the minds of many Catholics and nationalists in the same way the tricolour is burned into the mind of Protestants and unionists

3/ A new stadium. Windsor is hardly the most welcoming area for people who aren’t of the unionist persuasion, is it?

If these logical and reasonable changes were enacted then we could see an increase in NI supporters from people of a Catholic background

GOOD FOR SF: Making Northern Ireland in any shape of form appealing to people of a nationalist background is the stuff of SF nightmares. It has to be presented as an illegitimate statelet born of oppression at all costs. Keeping the Ulster flag, GSTQ and Windsor Park makes this task much easier as they hold no appeal for many people of a Catholic background

BAD FOR SF: It’s not. Making it difficult to support NI is a gift to SF. (Hint: hence their opposition to a new flag for NI during the Haass talks)


See above.
Appeal: Really, why would anyone from a nationalist background wish to support this?



1/As long as unionist politicians tolerate aspects of terrorism then the easier it is for people overlook SF’s terror connections and history, if there is no one on the moral high ground then there’s no one to look up to.

2/ Such tolerance to said list can be exposed on camera for all the world to see e.g. terrorist banners at band parades or paramilitary murals. A great help in the PR war.

3/ All condemnations of IRA violence and connections fall on deaf ears

4/ It makes unionism even more of a cold house for Catholics orpeople who dislike terrorism and sectarianism. The less unionist converts the better as far as a united Ireland is concerned.

BAD FOR SF: It’s not. As long as unionists tolerate this sort of thing it’s money for jam as far as SF and PR are concerned (though obviously not for people who are subjected to such intimidation).


BAD FOR SF: It’s not. If unionists didn’t blindly support all controversial marches then SF would have to work hard to make something else controversial (NOTE: I’m just for sake of argument taking it as a given that this is the case, otherwise someone will pull out the old Athboy conspiracy card and derail the whole thing).

GOOD FOR SF: Does anyone remember the amount of PR and votes SF gained in the mid late 90’s from Drumcree? What does that tell you? Controversial parades and mayhem are manna from above as far as SF are concerned.

Do you remember the red face SF received from the SpAd Bill controversy? Neither do I as shortly after marching season appeared on the scene and all was forgotten.

And on the topic of flags, SF have played a blinder on this front: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-28479010 (Hat's off, credit where credit is due).

Choice: What's good for the union may not be good for the Orange Order


BAD FOR SF: It ‘may’ cause them to lose a few potential Protestant voters, but…

GOOD FOR SF: The Catholic population is on the increase and the Protestant population on the decrease. Do the math people


Now, if one’s raison d’etre or main priority is to ‘smash SF’ then it’s harder to imagine a more flawed strategy short of Willie Frazer or Mike Nesbitt actively canvasing for SF door-to-door.

Votail Sinn Fein?
The short comings of all of the above stances are evident to all.

But remember, if you point this out to any one from the tribe then you’re a Lundy, a pseudo-liberal (whatever that is) or a communist.

Well maybe not a communist, but you might as well be, pinko.

I’m well aware of the myriad of responses and rebuttals that fly from some unionist quarters when these points are highlighted. But many of these rebuttals revolve around feelings and the heart as opposed to pragmatism and the head.

Yes, I understand the unwillingness to change as it might be perceived as a ‘surrender’.

But by not changing they’re losing. But they use this sense of losing as a reason not to change, which compounds the feeling of loss, which in turn causes them to oppose change, which in turn….

I understand why some people feel it is better to be defiant than be pragmatic, but I also understand why some people think the Earth is flat.

Worse still, if the memory of the IRA’s campaign is sufficient to make unionism hand points and votes to SF, well, surely that would be an argument for the justification for the IRA’s campaign? That they are rewarded by their actions of decades ago because unionism is so scarred from the campaign that it constantly makes all the wrong moves?

Not a nice thought.

Parades commission treatment of Protestants in Downpatrick is akin to how Hitler treated the Jews.
James Molyneaux once said “a prolonged IRA ceasefire could be the most destabilising thing to happen to unionism since partition”

Is it possible that a streamlined unionism that tackles the shambolic loyalist underbelly and which is free from Orange intervention could be equally destabilising for nationalism?

To be honest, there’s only one way to find out.

 And if it doesn't work, well, we can always go back to the current way of doings things.


  1. I think one of the major flaws in your thinking there is retaining SF as your enemy. You quote James Molyneaux there, interesting.
    Molyneaux described a "quarantine period" beyond which he (& fans) could deal openly SF. Molyneaux stated "we're talking somewhere 5 year plus probably."
    We are now 16+ years into a SF led peace process and where are we? We are in a situation where most Unionist politicians, of whatever hue, STILL can't even bring themselves to say a civil word like "hello" or even make eye contact with SF representatives in our parliaments and councils. DESPITE SF delivering peace, disarmament, democratic politics, support for PSNI, Catholics in the same, unequivocal condemnation of attacks on armed services, living under death threats etc…
    Conversely unionism? Alignment of the DUP/UUP/TUV with CURRENTLY active proscribed terrorist organisations like the UVF and UDA. Organisations that are STILL murdering people and organising large scale violence on our streets. Last week we see poor Edwin Poot’s ( a gov. minister) son “straying” (for an hour forsooth) into an extreme loyalist commemoration of two serial murderers of Catholics (not reps., Catholics). Apparently he was “on his way back from church” and got “lost”, for an hour plus, in the exact location of this event. How many platforms have we seen DUP/UUP/TUV sharing with active UVF and UDA commanders in the last year alone? The utter hypocrisy which unionism trots out daily, which to be fair you indulge in as well “easier it is for people overlook SF’s terror connections and history”, about terrorism. The very few inquiries into state sponsored violence tell a very different story. For goodness sake the DUP, the biggest unionist party, were due a third of the shipment of weaponry that came from South Africa. Where are these weapons? Did the DUP decommission then? Recall it was unionists who first brought weapons into politics here. UUP-UVF, UUP-Vanguard, UUP-Tara, DUP-UlsterResistance, DUP-ThirdForce etc.... Not even to mention the “official” crown forces using NI as a human safari park. So spare us the “oh SF are terrorists” crap.
    SF are NOT your enemy. They may want the antithesis of what you feel is right for you, but they are using solely democratic means to achieve that. So why not get over yourself and deal with them as politicians?
    Most of your article is aimed at SF. Your annoyance with unionism seems to be that they are not challenging your traditional enemy. Au contraire I say that you should be focussing your ire upon unionism and kicking it for its abject failure to evolve beyond its 18th century programming. The DUP/UUP/TUV are riven with fundamentalist religious, OO and paramilitary thinking.
    Try this activity. Take an A4 piece of paper and write down what “unionism” means to the WIDEST spectrum of people self-identifying as “unionist”. After doing that put a line through all of those points that are a) out of place in 2014 in the 21st century or b) do not recognise the evolving demographics/politics/economics or c) unacceptable to a 50%+1 majority of people in this region.
    I’ll wager that what you will be left with as an acceptable 21st century vision of “unionism” is pretty threadbare. Unionism cannot stop Irish nationalism. Nearly 100 years of trying that here and have failed. You feel some last defensive action to say to CNRs (faute de mieux) “oh we aren’t like that anymore”, “sure won’t we make this place wonderful for all of us”. This overlooks the 300+ years of programming put into the wider PUL (faute de mieux) community that a) “we are the people” b) “your are British and so different” c) “you are Protestant and so different” d) because you are A,B&C you hold an elevated place in society compared to “themmuns” and e) you must fight to retain A,B,C& D and the whip hand in this society by any means. You can’t turn 300+ years of engrained sectarianism around in a generation, no not even two. Unionism is dying on its ass, out of place and time.

  2. FDM

    It's SF orientated as every argument with a unionist always comes down to "what SF do".

    With that in mind I tailored this article specifically along those lines.

    If taking the sting out of unionism can only be done by making them believe that it'll "get it up 'em" then so be it.

    Jeez man, you've been on SO'T long enough to know this.

    And as for the unionist tolerance of terrorism, that was touched upon in section 5, you know I'm not a fan of this behavior at all, because it is wrong, (not just because it makes SF seem good)

    This is written for the paranoid SF haters by someone who has spent a lot of time in their company.

    Granted, not many of them will read it, doesn't mean it shouldn't be written though, does it.

  3. AM,

    I know there is a significant measure of "John the Baptist", crying in the wilderness to your own people to change their ways, for their own good, in your blogs and posts.

    There is absolutely NO evidence that they are listening or are even willing to listen to you or other more sensible voices.

    Everyday mainstream unionism continue to lurch to the right and to the extremes of loyalism. The evidence of the past two years for instance is irrefutable in this regard.

    It is unabated and shows no sign of stopping. Each day mainstream unionists attempt to out-perform one another in who can be most offensive to the CNR community. Absolute fools, but there you are.

    Their electorate seem quite happy in tripping along and voting for these eejits. Where are the QUALITY leaders in Unionism? Foster? Sure she was air-pumping in the studio live on air when she thought (wrongly) that the combined sectarian Orange Order candidate Cooper had unseated Gildernew. Classy. She can't get away from what she is. Sammy Wilson? Christ the night. The rest are a laughable list of simmering religio-diluted-supremacist maniacs, who struggle to make a speech without grossly insulting a massive swathe of the wider population.

    So basically you have stubborn donkeys, sitting on their ass (pardon pun), denying progress, leading an electorate of stubborn donkeys, who refuse to move an inch (Never! Never! Never! No Surrender! etc...).

    Grim for unionism, but there you are.

    Everyday unionism wastes alienating the CNR community, SF just continue to press forward. SF are now the largest party AGAIN on this island. Remember John Major used to call Gerry Adams Mr. Ten Percent? Changed times.

    You don't need a crystal ball to see where this is going. The main point I would make is that unionism is powerless to do anything about this anymore.