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.