“A Week Is A Long Time in Politics”
Forty-Two years….is a very long time indeed.
Earlier this week I blogged about the introduction of Internment without Trial and its violent aftermath on 9th August 1971.
For several years afterwards the anniversary was marked by violent outbursts in West Belfast. Deaths often resulted.
In 1988, the Festival …An Feile…was started. The object of the exercise was to promote West Belfast and nationalist and republican culture in a more positive way.
It has grown and grown and now bills itself as Europes biggest and best anti-racist and anti-imperialist festival.
Its strength or weakness is that Sinn Feins fingerprints are all over it. Groups such as Amnesty International, Palestine Support etc host events…and other players in West Belfast (Catholic Church and SDLP for example) are struggling to play ” CatchUp”.
Big name bands like the Charlatans and Happy Mondays headline in open air concerts in the Falls Park.
Stand-Up Comics like Patrick Kielty.
Art Exhibitions, Writing Workshops, Irish Language events, Sport….music from the rebel songs of the Wolfe Tones and loads of DIDDLY DEE music.
West Belfast loves DIDDLY DEE music.
The World loves it.
And it seems to be a step up from Orange culture of Kick the Pope Bands.
There was a nice little bonus for the anti-imperialists. The World Police and Fire Games held in Belfast and a renaissance man in Mairtin O’Muilleoir of Sinn Fein, taking on the 2013-14 Mayor of Belfast.
He belongs to the “SUITED” not “BOOTED” wing of Sinn Fein….the type of person who wont scare off the tourists. Especially Police visitors.
And Mairtin had them eating out of his hands.
Americans love all that Irish charm which doesnt actually impress Irish people.
I mean it would be hard to find someone as charming, intelligent and amusing as “FitzjamesHorse” and yet I had to go to Texas to actually be told that I am charming, intelligent and amusing.
In Belfast…Irish Charm is not a unique selling point.
Mairtin has been all over Belfast this week.
His every movement has been tweeted. And lovingly retweeted by just about every Sinn Fein member….and indeed every member of Belfasts pretentious Artsy Crowd. That Poet Laureate thing got them onside.
He seems to have attended every event at An Feile, every event at World Police Games. Never missed a photo opportunity at either.
In between he has managed to get himself jostled and pushed around by Fleg protesting types at the Woodvale Park….and attended an event promoting Caribbean Culture.
A truly renaissance man.
There is a slightly risible side to all this Mayor for ALL BELFAST …it is just a little too CALCULATED. Of course its absolutely proper that he does so.
Twitter is over-loaded with multiples of 140 characters where people correctly state that the image of Belfast has been tarnished this week….by loyalists….AND enhanced by An Feile, Police Games and indeed the prrformance of Mairtin O’ Muilleoir.
Last night, while tweets told the story of devastation in Royal Avenue….just as many tweets told the story of the warmth of Belfast hospitality and the jollity on the Falls Road, with all that diddly dee music.
HOW BIZARRE IS THIS?
FORTY TWO YEARS AGO THE FALLS ROAD BURNED AND ROYAL AVENUE WAS A MILLION MILES AWAY (actually its no more than a mile)
IN 2013 THE FALLS ROAD FIDDLED WHILE ROYAL AVENUE BURNED (well actually thats a bit of hyperbole bit you get the point).
Occasionally earnest sounding tweets from West Belfast reported a sadness at it all. That worry about “IMAGE” …giving the impression that the Sender is concerned but actually quite glad.
Because the most popular Facebook Page and Twitter Account is LOYALISTS AGAINST DEMOCRACY (sic) which promotes PARODY OF ESTEEM (sic). It is a clever satire showing up the nihilistic nature of loyalist protest. Republicans and Nationalists are lucky that the “Stupid Wing” of Unionism….led by the nose or nearly a century by UUP and DUP has now effecively broken away.
Should we worry?
Are these people our fellow citizens? Or maybe not quite yet.
Unionism is in melt-down.
Their only hope post Good Friday Agreement 1998 was to deal with nationalists.
They have split and the only worry must be is …is it dangerous?
Belfast is now a Nationalist-Republican- letsgetalongerist- liberal unionist city (Alliance and NI21 MUST make Council gains as DUP and UUP implode).
What a difference from 1971.
Then Belfast was firmly unionist…with just Most of West Belfast “nationalist”. and of course enclaves in other parts of the City.
The situation is now reversed. The East of the City is of course loyalist but now there are small enclaves of loyalism dotted around the City.
Belfast …as we knew it…has gone.
Like the Old South in 1865….Gone With The Wind.
Following on from the changing demography of Belfast, would you agree that it’s in the interest of constitutional republicans (and the SDLP more broadly) to see a SF win in North Belfast come 2015?
If newly outed-royalist Big Naomi can scrape through in East Belfast, then think about the collective mental breakdown in unionist circles if they emerge with no parliamentary representation in Belfast.
Maybe the SDLP could think about standing down Alban for Westminster, and instead choosing a relative unknown: that could well swing things in Kelly’s favour. I’m sure a quiet, coy SF reciprocation in South Down, or even once again in South Belfast, wouldn’t be off-the-table – or maybe after the FST debacle in 2010 it might be!
I honestly dont believe in Electoral pacts.
of course I believe in Proportional Representation.
The thing I actually like best about Elections is that parties put their case to voters. Its precious.
To that end I am glad SDLP stood in Fermanagh-South Tyrone in 2010. I actually flew off to London about an hour after I voted and I remember spending all of that Friday lunchtime early afternoon in various internet cafes, checking the FST result. Of course I was glad that in a two horse race, that Gildernew won.
But I do like the principle that parties actually stand.
Pacts are not good for parties.
Look at Alliance in West Belfast, who have not recovered from supporting Joe Hendron.
And various pacts within unionism actualy boosted the DUP.
I think it would be regrettable if the nationalist parties did the same.
After all we NEED alternatives.
On the specifics of North Belfast, I would guess that Alban who is maybe a year or so older than me would stand down
There are young folks in North Belfast like Nichola Mallon, Peter Devlin (Paddys son) and Martin McAuley who might be given a run. They would have little hope of winning but need to build a profile for Assembly.
Nigel Dodds will still be in trouble.
If SDLP did not stand, he would make a big thing about Gerry Kelly having a chance. It would rally more unionist votes.
With two nationalists standing, moderate unionists will desert the DUP.
If SDLP did not stand in 2015, their vote in 2016 would be down.
Kelly still might not win but SF and Alliance would gain votes.
My thoughts…ALWAYS STAND.
I agree Fitz, but my point is that by standing down Alban and putting someone like Mallon (a serious prospect for the future) in place, some of Alban’s personal vote may go over to Kelly: it’s not a full-blown electoral pact, but a subtle manoeuvre which could ‘green’ the city, particularly if more discerning voters realise just how much trouble Dodds is in. You’re completely right about the propaganda that Dodds could make out of a green electoral pact and, in any case, I can’t really see the UUP standing in NB: that might have Nesbitt a free-run at Strangford.
Re. FST, I’m more conflicted but ultimately the correct decision was probably taken. The SDLP is dying there, however, and unless HQ take urgent action, it will soon be wiped out. Neighbouring West Tyrone (or at least outside of Strabane) is showing green shoots of recovery, but still a lot of work to be done after a decade of unmanaged, rapid deterioration.
A lot depends on…as you put it…the discerning voter.
Voters make better judgements than politicians.
Just to make a point about Strabane.
After 2011 they had only a handful of members there and a year later they had over SEVENTY.
Because they went out and made the effort.
The Strabane Branch ( jointly with Fergus Quinn of Mid Ulster) won the big prize at the 2012 SDLP Conference and in the speech, the Chair of the Branch mentioned how they had gone out and knocked doors.
That West Tyrone seat I consider very safe.
FST is of course marginal and I honestly dont know how much things have changed there. I dont know whats being done locally as I have no feedback.
But in 2016 Id say it was winnable.
2….SF did some spoofing there that SDLP was safe and that there could be 4:2 to nationalists.
3….there IS that possibility of 4:2
4….holding all nationalists seats there is a big task for SF
5…. They dont have Gildernew.
6…even a small drift from hardline unionists DUP 2 and UUP 1 to a credible NI21 or Alliance candidate could boost SDLP in transfers.
Good post, fitz. About time someone did some political anaylsis!
‘What to hell is going on in the DUP anyway?’ is the question crying out to be asked. It seems to me like Robbo is on autopilot and just as soon as the DUP win back E Belfast (or fail to win it back) he’ll be off to Florida. Unionism is rudderless and the mob are at the helm
Im actually working on a Post about this.
I tried with THIS post to get a sense that unionism looks completely screwed.
The truth is I dont know whats going on. I would not be surprised if Robinson resigned.
He has been totally humiliated.
I look forward to reading that, fitz. Slugger doesn’t want to go near the subject.