“Yer Own’s The Worst”

Nearly everyone in Norn Iron will be familiar with the phrase “yer own’s the worst”. We have two (arguably three) tribes here. Basically “R-wuns” and “Themmuns”.

The theory is that one of “Themmuns” makes a better colleague, boss than one of “R-wuns”. The theory suggests that if you go into a promotion interview and see three people and two of “Themmuns” are there and only one of “R-wuns”….it is a much better sign than going in and seeing three of “R-wuns”.

Is it really true? Well ask any woman who holds a job and she will probably tell you that a woman boss is harder to deal with than a man boss. And I guess every man has received a phone call from a female colleague to say “I cant come in today….but I dont really like to say why”. Er…nuff said…..see you in a week. I remember once asking someone if she would rather talk to “Helen” and she said “oh God no”. Women ask too many questions.

Actually, it is interesting how most of my male colleagues were ok about improvements in maternity leave or new concessions about female colleagues taking two months off every summer. After all most of us had wives who benefitted or could potentially benefit somewhere.

And yet women colleagues…single women or older married women had the “it wasnt like that in my day….girls today have it far too easy” attitude. Mrs FitzjamesHorse was one of the first generation of women to benefit from maternity leave….rudimentary by today’s standards.  And if I remember correctly when our second child was born, I missed out on modern “paternity rules” by a few months. But as I recall I was encouraged to disappear for a couple of days bya boss who was one of “Themmuns”. As I said at the time…one of “R-wuns” would never have done that.

Of course I being provocativehere. It is just a figure of speech. What we really mean is that you get decent behaviour from all kindsa people, no matter their background. It confounds our prejudices.

Now I dont have much doubt that in the political arena that Ministers seek to favour their own. The Alliance Party…..the NIO’s favourite party always did well out of direct rule. But recent developments suggest that Sinn Féin have a tendency to look after their own…rather too well.

Just a month or so ago, a Fair Employment case went against Sinn Féin and just yesterday they were found guilty of defaming Declan Gormley. The case has already cost them £200,000 and we will know the damages on Monday. Seemingly they assumed Gormley to be …………a SDLP supporter.

Dear me. That seems that Sinn Féin have a very long list of “Themmuns” and a very short list of “R-Wuns”.

The nature of working in an office or factory is that the relationships between “Themmuns” and “Rwuns” get a bit complex. The boss might be one of “R-wuns” and the Trade Union rep who fights your corner might be one of “Themmuns”. An assembly line or open plan office is a mixteure of good and bad relationships which are very little to do with Religion and Politics.

Likewise at an equestrian event over thirty years ago, I have seen a committed unionist lend some tack to a competitor……..a committed nationalist. In sport, hobbies etc……the relationships are again necessarily complex. And let me emphasise thats a good thing.

But I wonder if thats a good thing……in Politics. I dont suppose anyone would say anything bad about Dennis Skinner the Beast of Bolsover. It is hard to imagine that he has any friends who are Conservative Party members. Yet if he goes to a loca football match in (say) Derby or Chesterfield he will probably encounter some Conservative Derby or Chesterfield supporters.

I like Dennis Skinner;s attitude. He mocks Tories. He doesnt……apparently socialise with them. Yet he is the least likely MP to turn up on the couch alongside Michael Portillo (as a replacement for Diane Abbot or Alan Johnson) for a cosy late night chat with Andrew Neil.

No doubt there are cross-party friendships. In the summer of 1973, I was in the balcony overlooking the Great Hall at Stormont looking down on the comfy chairs where the seventy-eight newly elected MLAs were sitting and Herbie Kirk the veteran Unionist made a point of walking over to Austin Currie (SDLP) and shaking his hand warmly.

For me…..then 21 years old…it was a moment I wont forget.

And yet I dont think I could actually DO that. I dont have political enemies (exception being a single Green) on my political “Facebook” account. On the non-political account, I have family………..and friends from various backgrounds. I dont (hopefully) have members of UUP, Alliance or DUP on my Twitter account.

And I get a little annoyed at the inter-party cross talk. It doesnt work for me. I certainly cant think of a situation where I would call a political opponent “Basil” or “Nelson” or “Naomi”. I think “Mr” and “Ms” works well for me.

And the same for journalists. Sorry Eamonn, Malachi, Newt……..you will never be on my speed dial. Professionalism. A journo has no divine right to know stuff that a rank and file party member back in Crossmaglen, Comber and Coleraine does not know.

I deplore the cosiness. With South-East Belfast………the corridor linking Stormont, various Party HQs, BBC, UTV, Queens University and Belfasts more fashionable greasy spoons…….effectively salons for discussing crap……and animatedly on Twitter and Facebook…….it takes the Politics out of Politics………making it little more than an academic exercise for nerds.

I think this is prevelant among young people. In July last year, I attended a debate in East Belfast which featured members of SDLP Youth and UUP Youth. Surprisingly perhaps relationships are good between the two. No doubt based on QUB. But I think this is a slippery slope.

There can be no doubt that the football match between the two (Good Friday 2011) raised a lot of money for charity and apparently it is scheduled for next Good Friday. But apart from the obvious good of raising funds………..is it not just a smokescreen? What happened in Belfast City Council last week is Reality. Lets keep it……REAL.


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6 Responses to “Yer Own’s The Worst”

  1. ardmajell55 says:

    FJH. I remember that when the Alliance Party had been in existence for about three years at the time of Sunningdale, it’s leaders, one from each side with the Catholic Oliver Napier as actual leader, and the Protestant Bob Cooper, i used to hear it said at home we would be better off with Cooper [if we needed to depend on Alliance, but we had SDLP], the locgic being that the one from the other side would feel obliged to lean a bit to the other side while your own man would take your votes for granted. In the end sunningdale only lasted five months as we know.

    • FJH says:

      I was in SDLP at that time. The feeling seemed to be that Bob Cooper was a nicer man than Oliver Napier. I dont think I ever met Napier and only met Cooper a couple of times.
      Napier was at heart a “liberal unionist”.
      But I think that both “tribes” tend to look on people who move away from “us” as traitors (Napier was unpopular with nationalists but popular with unionists) but those who move towards “us” are seen as heroic visionaries. (Cooper was unpopular with unionists and nationalists thought he was ok).

      Of course I am relying on vague memories from nearly 40 years ago.

  2. bangordub says:

    Something of a cathartic post mr Fitz.
    I get a sense of frustration coming across. I have to say that there is a certain groundhog day feeling to politics in this part of the world.
    Perhaps the SDLP should value your insights rather more as, apparently, people in more far flung parts of the world do.

    • FJH says:

      Well I dont really regard Twitter & Facebook as real political engagement. There is a political class which seems to transcend party politics. And especially reduced to 140 characters, people are really conning themselves. It is nothing more than wasteful banter between those in all parties who have totally embraced new media….people 18-30……who know each other from Queens.
      And then there seems to be people who are building each others careers (even in other parties).
      Being out of politics for over 30 years is both a good thing anda bad thing. I would never have been interested in a political career….but had I stayed the distance, I would probably have built up some kinda portfolio such as being on the Party Executive (on the basis “he has been here almost 40 years”) a constituency chairman, treasurer etc. So being a 60 year old “newbie” especially one who has voted SF for a number of years……..quite understandably makes me “untrustworthy”.
      Clearly being 60 year old and a blogger is a bit inconsistent.
      And of course there is always an “age gap” between me and younger SDLP people.
      In an odd way being “semi detached” is a good thing.

  3. My good lady and I were in Fibber Magee’s around 5 years ago and I noticed a table of the much vaunted SF base and sitting with them, enjoying himself like crazy, was Basil Mc Crea. My partner is quite apolitical and so I pointed our to her who Basil was and how great it was to see such a vista which then prompted her to go over and introduce herself. It must have been 20-30 minutes before she returned, having genuinely enjoyed the crack (I will have no part of that “craic” rubbish). I’d be interested to know how common such things are ie. genuine casual socialising.

    The OP is totally on the money regarding the sickening closeness of politicians and journalists with the resulting lack of analysis, save for the likes of Fionnuala O’ Connor (the woman is singualirly responsible for saving my sanity at times eg. her complete dismissal of De Silva) and there’s no finer example of the corruption than the sickening “interview” in Robinson’s gaff during Irisgate.

    Then there’s that strange and crude outlander, The Sunday World. How I wish they could become less tabloid it tone to gain more regard. It’s a paper (Or is it a magazine) that does not by the peace process propaganda and has paid the price with a journalist having been killed and an editor that was assaulted by loylalists, the people that the rest of the press like to pretend are inactive, whilst they are the most active group by a country mile.

    As for the SDLP, 2012 was the year (as I’ve said before) in which the party had it’s best chance to re-emerge with opportunities gifted by SF, unionism and loyalists. Margaret Ritchie is back doing what she is good at and Dolores Kelly is seriously on the ball at catching the SF/DUP gameplay out. I don’t know how aware they are of this collectively but they should be going in to 2013 with their heads up and ready to keep the battle against the panto on the hill going.

    • FJH says:

      Three different points here:
      The Sunday World is not a newspaper I would buy….it looks trashy. But about a year ago I read a complimentary copy in a fast food place in Armagh (while Mrs FJH and a future Daughter-in-Law were at a Wedding Fayre in a nearby hotel).
      And I thought this newspaper is brilliant. It is telling me stuff that I didnt know about various low-life. Why is nobody else interested in these stories?
      Secondly….Fibber Magee……a sore point as I was knocked down outside it in 1999………but yes I have seen two UUP MLAs being friendly towards some SF people at the launch of Líofa in August 2011. I am tempted to say I saw hugs but Im not 100% sure. I honestly dont “get” that……..I do “get” the whole post election count scenarios where it is conventional to commiserate with an opposition politician he has lost his/her seat in Commons, Dáil or Assembly (that seems like good manners) but all this Twitter friendship across party lines merely tells me that too many treat politics as a Big Game. I dont like that at all. Nor do I like the whole Facebook “argument” thing. These people in all parties who have 2,000 “friends”……..a total nonsense.
      Always difficult for me to comment on SDLP performance because I like to keep this Blog credible and the surest way of losing credibility would be to over-state the performance of the Party of which I am a member.
      I think 2012 has been a good year for SDLP……..in some ways because SF has lost some of its momentum. It is a confidence game. SDLP seem to have recovered their touch….and confidence breeds confidence. They are of course fighting on two fronts and in a minority scenario in both…….against two Alliance Executive seats and against 29 Sinn Féin MLAs.
      Yet as a body the Assembly Group is “experienced” and effectively SF seems to have neutralised their own numeric superiority by bringing in so many silent “co-options”.
      I wont over-state it. But I think SDLP does have a sense that the slide has stopped and probably turning a little in SDLPs favour. A LITTLE!

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