Friday, August 04, 2006

Do I want SF in government?

I felt Aileen's comment (#1 on my last post) deserved a reply too important to be left to the fickle ravages of Haloscan, so here goes ...

Quick recap: I was railing against Peter Hain for accepting that it's OK for IRA members continue in organised crime as long as it's not sanctioned by the Army Council. In his words: "There probably is still some localised individual criminality by former and maybe existing Provisional IRA members for their own private gain ... What there is not is organised 'from the centre' criminality any more ... To that extent the IRA are delivering on their commitments made last July, not just in respect of shutting down paramilitary activity but also shutting down criminality". I don't think it makes a hap'worth of difference - the IRA will only have stopped its crime rackets when the last mafia baron packs it in.

Back to Aileen's question, "why at the same time you are so keen to have SF in government and give the DUP a hard time for keeping them out"?

Truth be told, I'm no more keen to have SF in government than I am to have Ian Paisley as First Minister. But I have enough faith in democracy to believe that, given a free press, a decent judicial system, an informed electorate and some patience, Ulster people can only do a better job of governing Northern Ireland than the English have. Would I thole SF in government? Well as a democrat I really can't refuse to recognise their electoral mandate. The only thing I would expect of them first is that they recognise the legitimacy of the forces of law and order (preferably on both sides of the Irish border). I find the reports that this is close very encouraging.

Democracy also means that no party should be forced to coalesce with an other (as Peter Hain is trying to do to the DUP). But democracy means the no-sayers should be held accountable to the electorate, and that electorate should be able to vote with their feet.

At the risk of rambling, this post wouldn't be complete if I didn't add that the tribal voting pattern in NI and the recent dominance of two giants, one in each camp, is a restraining factor on the growth of democracy here. Unionists disaffected by the DUP can vote UUP in the near-sure knowledge their vote will be wasted, and for most Nationalists the SDLP has become a less-than-cool place to be. I'd like to see Ulster's electorate presented with vibrant, non-sectarian, constitutional alternatives to the DUP and Sinn Féin and, incidentally, I'm fairly sure these would emerge within 5 years of local democracy being given full sway.

OK so I rambled. Actually, I enjoyed it. Have a go yourself in the Comments section.


At 7:36 p.m., Anonymous aileen said...


Thanks for the full answer. I did wonder.

I agree with a lot of what you have said John and may even have said it on here myself.

I would be the last person to cast up rambling to anyone else ;o)

BTW. That's the first time I've ever seen "thole" written. I wonder if any of your non NI readers know what it means ;o)

At 10:08 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Aye well shor a thought thaun wos the Quain's English lack.
Resuming normal service, allow me to point out to non Fermanagh speakers that 'thole' is a verb meaning 'tolerate' and not, contrary to widespread opinion, a bunch of fish with speech impediments. I thank you.

At 6:27 a.m., Blogger The Maddog said...

"thole" gets used quite a lot in Ballymena too. I love to use it on mainlanders. Needless to say the puzzled looks amuse me

At 12:27 p.m., Anonymous aileen said...


I find "a quare gunk" raises the odd eyebrow as well!

At 6:29 p.m., Anonymous beano said...

Not sure if it's related but my own (Belfast-born) girlfriend looked at me like I had two heads when I mentioned the "scraic of dawn" the other day... for shame.

Oh yeah and some very good points BU. The more I think about this idea of having all parties in government with no real alternative, the less I like it. I can understand the objections to majority rule, but I'm not sure a system like this can possibly function well long-term.

At 9:08 p.m., Anonymous aileen said...


I've just realised the subtle difference in the way we both articulated what is basically the same point.

On a few threads back I said

"Compulsory coalitions are fundamentally undemocratic. If every bugger is in power how do you vote them out?. A decision to forma colaition in a democracy and the result of that is something that the parties concerned need to be accountable to the electorate for."

and you said

"Democracy also means that no party should be forced to coalesce with an other (as Peter Hain is trying to do to the DUP). But democracy means the no-sayers should be held accountable to the electorate, and that electorate should be able to vote with their feet."

I stressed being held to account for the decision to form a coalition and you the decison not to!
interesting ;o)


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