Posts

Showing posts from May, 2009

Help Northern Ireland, and unionism, to embark on a new path on Thursday.

Cleaning up Westminster by recruiting MPs from I'm a Celebrity. Perhaps the stupidest idea ever?

Image
I appreciate that Joanna Lumley made an effective campaigner and offered the Ghurkhas a recognisable public face. However, on the strength of one semi-relevant precedent, I cannot quite understand why the prevailing mood seems to be that our discredited MPs should be removed at one stroke and replaced by a cohort of celebrities.

Radio 4’s ’Any Questions’ panel included Esther Rantzen, whom the nation seems to have decided would make an excellent representative at Westminster, as adept at ferreting out misuses of public money as her extensive team of researchers proved at finding tragic human interest stories for the audience to coo over on ‘That‘s Life‘. Apparently she is still deciding whether she should stand at the next general election, prompted by a popular clamour. ‘Don’t bother’ shouted one discerning audience member.

Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong in pursuing fame and fortune on television, is someone who has taken that path necessarily going to be less venal th…

Emerson on Northern Ireland's 'community' problem

I normally try to avoid simply quoting lumps of articles without at least commenting upon their contents. However Newton Emerson’s Irish News column is so good on the topic of community (in the aftermath of the McDaid murder) that I will let the requisite sections speak for themselves albeit with a little unobtrusive emboldening. The author is considering DUP representative Adrian McQuillan's initially equivocal reaction to the murder.

We are so inured to the term “community” that we no longer marvel at its many uses and misuses. In this case, Mr McQuillan conjures up a “loyalist community” which is enough of a corporate entity to react yet not enough of a corporate entity to bear responsibility for its actions. How does that work, exactly? How is Mr McQuillan able to read this mysteriously amorphous hive-mind?

Our readiness to invoke a concept like “community” when a mob beats a man to death is disgusting. It might help to recalibrate Northern Ireland’s moral compass if everyon…

Don't be duped again! (4) - either Diane Dodds is stupid, or she thinks you are!

Image
On Monday morning the Conservatives and Unionists European manifesto was launched. Based on the national Conservative party manifesto, it outlined a vision of the United Kingdom’s place within a cooperative, outward looking European Union, based on common values and a common market. I observed that in standing on a coherent, relevant platform, based on careful consideration of Britain’s relationship with European institutions, Jim Nicholson was putting faith in the Northern Ireland electorate’s political maturity. The document offered a glimpse of what politics here could become.

Today the DUP has released its manifesto (PDF). Predictably it relies upon the Northern Ireland electorate’s political credulity.

There’s an awful lot of revisionist post 1998 history. There’s the usual carping about ‘unionism topping the poll’. There are four pages about the devolution of policing and justice! And just when you'd given up hope, the first mention of European politics comes on page …

NIHRC - as a good teacher says, 'always read the question'. No Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland under Tories.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recently intimated that no Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, based on the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s advice, is likely to be drafted. David Cameron has reiterated his party’s commitment not to advance rights legislation specifically for this part of the United Kingdom. Instead he foresees any special provision being included in a subsection of a UK wide bill, which the Conservatives will draft during their first term in government. The problems with the NIHRC’s recommendations are clear. The Commission did not stick to its remit and it made an enormous and undeliverable set of proposals. Indeed, under Monica McWilliams chairmanship, and despite the best intentions of its unionist members, the body has assumed the worst characteristics of Quango-tude. It has become an autonomous pressure group, advancing its own agenda with scant regard for elected political opinion, and far too mindful of a host of unelected NGOs.

Exa…

West must view Saakashvili's regime with clear eyes as Tbilisi protests gain momentum

Image
Yesterday the Georgian opposition held a 60,000 strong rally to demand that President Saakashvili resign. The culmination of six weeks of protests, the event was timed to coincide with a military parade marking Georgia’s Independence Day. The parade was called off to prevent possible violent clashes.

Following calls for ‘direct action’ by some activists, a large crowd converged on Tbilisi’s main station and tried to block trains. The change in tactics is controversial as some opposition leaders suspect it might give the president the perfect excuse to step up his government’s occasionally brutal suppression of protests.

The clamour for an election to replace Saakashvili has been growing since his military adventurism in South Ossetia last year. The recent ‘coup’ by an army battalion, due to participate in Nato exercises, heightened tension. The opposition claimed, with possible justification, that the so called mutiny had been staged in order to distract from its protests. Saa…

In the wake of Kevin McDaid's murder the tribal drums should stay silent.

I have struggled, over the past couple of days, to form a response to the ghastly sectarian murder of Kevin McDaid. Initially my feeling was that I would not write about it at all. Condemnation of a brutal and senseless killing should go without saying and theorising on the strength of a tragic event can sometimes lose sight of the individual grief which it has precipitated.

In the aftermath of murder diagnoses of continued sectarianism in Northern Ireland are inevitably accompanied by words like ‘sickness’ and ‘cancer’. Although these descriptions describe the virulence of the hatred which still exists within our society accurately enough, familiarity deadens their impact. The very vocabulary which we use to express our abhorrence has been worn threadbare by repeated violence.

Setting aside the predictable political exploitation of such events and the apportioning of wider blame, which no tragedy experienced by human kind has as yet been terrible enough to abate, the known facts …

Kinahan to replace Burnside

A quick snippet. Antrim Councillor Danny Kinahan will replace David Burnside MLA who announced his intention to quit politics in February. (H/T Ignited)

Food for constitutional thought.

The Guardian’s ‘A New Politics’ debate has been running for the past week or so, featuring submissions of varying merit and practicability. This morning, pre-empting a speech to be given in Milton Keynes on the topic of constitutional reform, David Cameron outlined, in some detail, the changes his party intends to make in order to shape British politics for the better. Clearly, whilst the paper is seeking to instigate an open dialogue around this subject, a contribution from the man likely to lead the next government carries special weight. Cameron conceivably will have the means to realise the alterations which he advocates in the article, which is divided into four parts for the purposes of Comment is Free.

Many of the themes which he touches upon form familiar territory for the Conservative leader. The idea of distributing power to localities, rather than centralising it. The notion that the United Kingdom should assume responsibility for its own laws and judiciary, rather than…

Two fewer snouts in the trough? Winterton and Robinson

Image
Sir Nicholas Winterton, the Conservative backbencher, gained notoriety by defending the right of MPs to retain undeclared interests in conjunction with their political work. Unsurprisingly, in the current climate, he has decided to stand down at the next election; a decision which will no doubt cause his party leader little enough distress.

Winterton, you’ll remember, addressed an audience of DUP members back in January, criticising the UUP-Conservative pact for undermining ‘unionist unity’. With his attitude to expenses, it is easy to see how he could be drawn towards a party containing the Swish Family Robinson.

The fewer sitting MPs of Winterton’s ilk that seek re-election, the better it is for the reputation of the House of Commons. And with his ally, Peter Robinson, also likely to step down from Westminster at the next election, at least two of the most notorious snouts could have been withdrawn from the trough.

Hague launches Conservatives and Unionists manifesto, as Nicholson puts faith in Northern Ireland electorate.

Image
I spent a chunk of this Bank Holiday Monday morning at the Waterfront Hall, where former Conservative leader, and current shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, became the latest high profile Tory to speak in support of Jim Nicholson, the Conservatives and Unionists European election candidate. Launching the force’s Northern Ireland manifesto, David Cameron’s ‘deputy in all but name’, gave a polished and persuasive synopsis of the document and branded the current Labour government the ‘worst in recent history‘.

I offered some initial thoughts on the manifesto yesterday evening, and provided a summary of the main Conservative version, which forms its basis, a week ago. O’Neill provides a little more detail and reaction on ‘Unionist Lite’. A PDF version is now available on the ‘Vote for Change’ website.

Although the Conservatives and Unionists arrangement is perfectly calibrated to offer Northern Irish voters something new in European politics, the pact is built for Westminster, …

Conservatives and Unionists to launch Euro manifesto

Image
The Conservatives and Unionists will launch their European election manifesto for Northern Ireland at the Waterfront Hall tomorrow morning. It will offer a local slant on the main Conservative party manifesto for Europe and has as its basis the same pledges and commitments which prospective Conservative MEPs signed, in the presence of their party leader, last Monday in Lancashire.

The ’Vote for Change’ theme is reflected in the Conservatives’ and Unionists’ view of the European Union, which is considered, “too inflexible; too bureaucratic; too out of touch with the spirit of the age“.

“The Conservatives and Unionists offer a modern vision for Europe - one that is firmly in tune with the instincts of the British people.”

The party is committed to pursuing a Union which has a single market of independent but cooperating nation states at its heart. It rejects the federal model favoured by France and Germany, which it believes remains entrenched within the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty…

How real politicians avoid propaganda in schools.

John Redwood has been outlining, on his blog, the nuanced relationship between Parliament and politics. He provides a number of examples, including the following:

“When I am undertaking a school visit, for example, I need to ask the basis of the invitation. If they want me to visit as MP and representative of all my constituents, then my Parliamentary office can organise it for me. I have to remember not to make political remarks. If they want me to talk to students as a Conservative politician, I need to ask that they have invited in people from other parties on other occasions to balance , and to remind the pupils that I am speaking politically. In that case the visit should be arranged by the MP or by a political assistant paid for from party money and is probably only appropriate for six forms.”

A summary of proprieties which rather brought to mind the story about a veritable mob of DUP representatives descending upon Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn, in order to ’educate’ t…

Cameron - no pacts and in it for the long term

Image
On Slugger, Turgon has picked up on David Cameron's determination that the Conservatives and Unionists will not stand aside in certain constituencies, in favour of the DUP. In an interview with the News Letter the leader of the opposition stated,

"We're a United Kingdom party. I don't stand aside in Glasgow because it might help the Liberals. I don't stand aside in East London because it might help the Greens.

"This is a UK party and I want everyone in Northern Ireland to have the chance to vote for what I hope will be the next Government of our country."

This position is entirely consistent and entirely necessary. Depriving voters of the ability to vote for pan-UK unionism is no basis on which to contest elections. There are profound differences between the Conservatives and Unionists and their supposed unionist rivals, which must be played out at the ballot box.

Those who have entered into the UCUNF arrangement in the belief that it can be easily seve…

Hostile reactions to Irish Policing Board meeting undermine arguments for Union

I have written before about unionists who adopt a default reaction of hostility towards the Irish language. It is a particularly unconstructive, counterproductive approach, which fosters a feeling, amongst nationalists, that unionism is unreceptive towards any manifestation of culture in Northern Ireland which it perceives as ‘Irish’.

The DUP in particular, but other unionist parties too, are accustomed to presenting any blow to the Irish language as a victory for unionism. Of course, it is not right that the language should always be accorded precedence, or allocated funds, which it does not merit but, whatever the political misuses it has been put to, it is patently ridiculous to subject an aspect of the United Kingdom’s cultural wealth to blanket animosity.

I am sceptical about the need for many of the things to which the various Irish language lobbies aspire and there are other suggestions, made by language enthusiasts, which I would categorically oppose. I am not convinced, …

Cameron in Ballymena

Earlier I complained that a lack of Wifi prevented me covering Cameron Direct, live from the Braid Centre in Ballymena. Alas there was no mobile phone reception in the building either, so even the tweeting option was not possible. Perhaps the Conservatives and Unionists leader should have conducted the event in my parents’ house, where they do extend to a broadband connection, which I am taking advantage of. Although given that the town hall was full to capacity, a marquee might’ve been required.

Neill Armstrong, one of Ballymena Borough Council’s Ulster Unionist team, and a strong supporter of the Conservative link, introduced Mr Cameron to an audience of nearly two hundred. It appeared, to begin with, that a group of hardcore types was going to dominate proceedings by crying treachery for the entire meeting. But various pre-prepared histories of the troubles could not occlude the genuine concerns of local people, who quizzed Mr Cameron on education, the prospect of an enterpri…

Twittering Cameron Direct from wireless free Braid Centre!

Cameron Direct comes live from Ballymena’s Braid Centre (the town hall in old money) this afternoon. I will be in attendance, all being well, and I had intended to use ‘Cover it Live’ to bring readers a sense of the event, as it happens.

Regrettably, I’m informed that Ballymena Borough Council’s new, state of the art, multi million pound facility is not equipped with broadband, still less wireless broadband! Which is surprising, to say the least, in a modern civic building which opened only recently.

So it looks like the best I can do is refer you to my Twitter feed, which I shall update by text (in the mean time). Hardly the same, but needs must.


Twitter Updates

follow me on Twitter


Cameron plans to end double jobbing by 2011

Image
Ahead of his visit to Northern Ireland today, David Cameron has announced that the Conservative party intends to end dual mandates before the 2011 Assembly elections. In an article in this morning’s Belfast Telegraph the leader of the opposition will indicate that his government could legislate to this effect, after the general election, should other parties in Northern Ireland refuse to accept that double jobbing should be brought to an end.

Cameron’s article reflects comments which he made in a speech to the Scottish Conservative party conference, last week. He is adamant that representing one’s constituents at Westminster must be a full time job.

“Our new electoral force as Conservatives and Unionists has explicitly stated that “the holding of joint mandates will not be permitted”. I would prefer all the Northern Ireland parties to respond to the public’s justified anger over politicians’ failures and reach a similar voluntary agreement to end all dual mandates before the 201…

Is Miliband incapable of keeping his nose out of other countries' affairs?

I am reassured to learn that I am not the only one who gets a mite irritated every time David Miliband appears on the evening news, or signs off another print article, sanctimoniously lecturing another state as to how it should manage its internal affairs. Simon Jenkins devotes his Guardian column to the Foreign Secretary’s interventionist hectoring and moralising. Miliband’s trite approach to diplomacy has been touched upon by ‘Three Thousand Versts’ before, and whilst a new incumbent at the White House has encouraged a more subtle method of practising foreign affairs across the Atlantic, New Labour has continued to condescend and patronise.

The FCO is, I’m sure, a repository of informed and nuanced knowledge of all manner of political and military situations, across the globe. I do not know whether Miliband is inclined to draw sufficiently from this reservoir of expertise, but his simplistic synopses and glib statements suggest that he does not.

I have avoided, thus far, commenti…

No value for UUP in hedged bets

A confused functionary of the Ulster Unionist Party from North Down has defected to the DUP. It isn’t clear if Mark Brooks, who chaired the party’s branch in the constituency, supports Sylvia Hermon’s stance on the Conservative and Unionist pact, or whether he feels that the leadership was not firm enough in its treatment of the errant MP. Whatever analysis he prefers, it nevertheless seems an odd choice to join a party which has little in common with either Lady Hermon or the Conservatives.

Despite a lack of clarity in Brooks’ press release, his defection has the potential to further unnerve UUP members, already unsettled by Hermon’s denunciation of the Tory deal. Indeed party leader, Sir Reg Empey, himself sent out a number of ambiguous, even contradictory signals, when he fielded interviews with the BBC yesterday, on ‘Stormont Live’ and ‘Evening Extra’.

Although much valuable work has been done in creating the Conservatives and Unionists shiny new force, there remains an apparen…

A lesson in credulity. UDA poster story a smear?

In a story yesterday, detailing the launch of the Conservative election manifesto, I rather lazily gave way to the assumption that there might be some truth to rumours that a UDA ‘brigadier’ had erected Jim Nicholson posters in North Belfast. In the absence of any denial from the UUP, and appreciating the tangled situation which exists on the ground in many of these areas (I live in one), I suspected that local laziness or thoughtlessness might have made such a scenario possible. It was a hasty judgment to reach and, I suspect, quite probably an erroneous one.

It is my understanding that, contrary to claims on Slugger O’Toole, the Sunday World’s story was not confirmed by a photograph. Indeed it is based on the supposed testimony of one witness, an unnamed pastor. A pastor in North Belfast who clearly believed he could be identified as the source has contacted the Sunday World to deny any involvement in the story.

It just goes to demonstrate that these type of smear stories, whic…

Paterson outlines benefits of involvement in real UK politics

This article from Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson MP, appeared in the Irish News on 7 May 2009. I’m afraid that I missed it at the time.

A reader has kindly forwarded the text and I believe that it is worth reproducing in full. Particularly given that the Irish News’ online content is subscription only and I’m sure other readers won’t have encountered this very fine synopsis of what the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists wish to achieve with their electoral pact.

Paterson has, from the beginning, been a strong proponent of the Conservatives and Unionists idea. He has driven forward the project from the Tory perspective and this piece lays out concrete, practical benefits which the alliance wishes to offer voters.

It is a lesson in how the arguments should be laid out, to appeal to voters across the community. We need to hear more of this and less of the negative stories which have undermined UCUNF over the last week.

Irish News article- 7th May 2009

In recent mo…

Cameron launches Euro manifesto for change whilst Nicholson hopes to silence 'ancestral voices'.

David Cameron today launched the Tories’ European election manifesto. Conservative and Unionist candidate, Jim Nicholson, attended the event, in Rossendale Lancashire. After a turbulent week for his campaign, culminating with tabloid revelations that a UDA ‘brigadier’ may have been involved in erecting UCUNF election posters in North Belfast, Nicholson will be delighted to concentrate, for a day at least, on the message of change in Europe, which he is charged with communicating to voters in Northern Ireland.

Although neither Nicholson, nor any other senior Ulster Unionist, bears responsibility for a baleful grassroots error, the Sunday World story carried an unfortunate echo of ‘ancestral voices’ characterising a brand of unionism which the new force is keen to repudiate. Unfortunately the influence of paramilitaries is pervasive in many working class areas of Belfast. That is not to offer an excuse for the oversight, but goes someway to explain that it is sometimes not easy to di…

What a pair of (pricked) pricks!

Image
Not ‘Three Thousand Versts’ usual material I grant you, but I simply couldn’t let this tabloid story from Pravda sail past without comment. Two Russian tourists were treated in a Florida hospital after a drunken escapade during which they attempted to have sex with a porcupine! Apparently relations with the animal are not permitted under state law, and this formed pretext enough for the boozed up chaps to give it a go. For those of you unfamiliar with Pravda’s English service, rather singular English, coupled with the newspaper’s populist bent, renders almost any story hilarious, but this is particularly good.

Some of the best quotes:

“Consequences appeared to be very sad. The poor fellows had to take needles from their genitals and treat inflammation for several months.”

“As it is known, forbidden fruit is always sweet, especially for Russians.”

“With victorious shouts the drunken friends dropped their pants and started making unambiguous movements with their hips. Having sobered up t…

The UUP's miserable week and why it's not irrecoverable

Wednesday, as Bobballs observed, was a bad day for the UUP. Subsequently, after a decisive initial response, predictable vacillation from the party’s leaders rendered it a miserable week for Ulster Unionists and their new electoral force.

To get the misery started, North Antrim MLA Reverend Coulter, seemed to imply that no Muslim candidate should have been considered for a top BBC post, Head of Religious Affairs. As if to make it harder for party colleagues to extricate themselves from the mess which he was wilfully creating, he specified that, rather than speaking as a Christian minister, his comments were issued in his role as ’an elected public representative’.

In comparison to another member of his family, the senescent Presbyterian should normally be renowned for talking stout common sense. Faint praise, because he is vague, ancient, rambling and one of an almost entirely unnecessary breed, clergyman politicians. Whether he meant to make a point about faith leaders taking a gr…

South Stream progress casts doubt on Nabucco

It has been a couple of years in the planning but it seems that Gazprom is gathering the wherewithal it needs to push forward the South Stream pipeline. Agreements have been signed with transit states - Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Italy - in Sochi.

The pipeline, which is scheduled to be finished by 2015, would carry gas from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. As such it poses a threat to the EU sponsored Nabucco project which aspires to bring natural gas to member countries from producers in Central Asian and the Caspian without the involvement of Russia or Gazprom.

Although the more rabid anti-Moscow elements within the EU will see South Stream as a serious reversal which increases dependence on Russian gas, there is a strong argument that the pipeline will increase energy security, by bypassing erratic transit states like Belarus and Ukraine, whose payment disputes with Gazprom have disrupted supplies in recent winters.

In conjunction with Nord Stream, which comes into operat…

Fnar, Fnar - Blogpost headline of the day

I know the expenses' controversy has shaken the political world but perhaps Seymour Major's demand is a tad harsh:

Cameron must probe all Conservative Euro MPs urgently

The hungriest couple at Westminster?

Image
You’ve got to admire Peter Robinson’s audacity. Sorry, strike that, start again. You’ve got to deplore Peter Robinson’s mendacity. After the DUP declared itself confident that it had nothing to fear when the Daily Telegraph investigation touched upon its expenses, the First Minister has defended £30,525 (thirty thousand five hundred and twenty five pounds only) claimed for food bills, submitted over a period of four years by he and his wife.

Peter claims that this equates to an average of about £73 per week. How did he arrive at this estimate? Three Thousand Versts has investigated, and can exclusively reveal that if one divides £30,525 by four (the number of years which the claims cover), then fifty two (the number of weeks in the year, for slower readers) and then further divides the resultant figure by two (for the number of Swish Robinsons in the House of Commons) one arrives at the princely sum of £73.38.

It’s good to know that Robbo went to such extravagant lengths to accou…

Russia - Nato meetings postponed indefinitely

In the wake of Nato's exercises in Georgia Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has admitted that no new Russia - Nato Council meeting is planned. Whilst it is hardly surprising, this represents a blow to any nascent partnership with Moscow. Although I have acknowledged the Kremlin's excitability as regards the alliance and its activities, I also believe that the choice of Georgia for manoeuvres was an unnecessary provocation.

Inevitably the trickiest aspect of western relations with Russia to 'reset' will revolve around a military organisation which was brought into existence to combat the Soviet Union. A genuine spirit of respect and compromise is a prerequisite, and unfortunate posturing in Georgia has set the process back, almost before it had begun.

'Irish MPs', green ties, can Lady Sylvia really have been offended?

The Belfast Telegraph claims to have insight into Lady Sylvia Hermon's disgruntlement with the Conservative and Ulster Unionist pact. It cites, as instances of insensitivity to Ulster issues, a senior Tory referring to ‘Irish MPs’ in a meeting with the North Down Member and David Cameron wearing a green tie to a unionist event!

Without accepting the paper’s interpretation as gospel truth, if the MP was influenced by such petty nonsense, she ought to be ashamed.

Lady Hermon should be delighted to identify herself as an Irish MP. She should be proud to be part of a continuous tradition of Irish representation in the House of Commons stretching back more than two centuries. She is privileged to represent the part of Ireland which did not secede from the Union. If an ‘understanding’ of Northern Ireland entails dancing around the Irish component of unionists’ identity, then it is refreshing to approach our politics with less ‘understanding’.

As for the green tie, which event was…

Bad timing and hypocrisy from Hermon

So Sylvia Hermon has ended speculation as to whether she will eventually participate in the Conservatives and Unionists electoral force. She has chosen to do so during an election campaign, accompanying her comments with a bizarre rant about Conservative expense claims. Given that Hermon's press conference was called to explain her own embarrassing over-payments and considering that, as a New Labour groupie, her own favoured Great British party has proved astonishingly insensitive and unresponsive to public anger, it was a particular unfortunate choice of topic.

If Hermon intends to contest the next election, and if she has any sense of integrity, she will align herself explicitly with the Labour party.

Sir Reg Empey issued the following statement in response to Lady Sylvia's interview:

The Party Officers and Executive Committee of the Ulster Unionist Party have unanimously agreed, with the Conservative Party, to jointly endorse her UUP colleague Jim Nicholson as the 'Co…

Can Conservatives solve the Scots' Nat conundrum?

Two unionist bloggers, O’Neill and Scottish Unionist, interpret Conservative attempts to foster a ‘constructive’ relationship with Scotland’s minority government quite differently. O’Neill, arguing from the perspective that devolution weakens the Union, is adamant that cooperating with the SNP merely bolsters the nationalists’ popularity. It should be Scottish Conservatives’ task to oppose separatism in Scotland; and by helping the minority administration to govern effectively, Annabel Goldie, and her party, are abdicating that responsibility, encouraging support for the SNP and simultaneously damaging both the Union and their own long term electoral prospects. In contrast, Scottish Unionist implies that devolved government, if it is popular and is perceived to be responsive to the public, can actually diminish the urge to independence. An emasculated SNP administration, its worst excesses curbed by a requirement for cross party support, can flourish without a commensurate fillip …

No unionist Garlands for Roy

I find myself tempted, when I consider two articles sourced through News Hound this morning, to present Roy Garland’s Irish News piece as thesis and Alex Kane’s News Letter column as antithesis. However, ‘thesis’ rather suggests a degree of coherence which, with the greatest of respect, Garland’s article does not possess. Indeed it begs the question, in exactly what fashion does its author consider himself a unionist? Because it exhibits (at best) indifference to Northern Ireland’s participation in the United Kingdom and carries at least a whiff of anti-English xenophobia in its arguments. Garland demonstrates all the ‘ourselves alone’ traits which might be used to identify the Ulster nationalist, albeit that he is keen to promote a touchy feely relationship with Irish nationalism within his vision of Northern Ireland.

The article takes as its starting point Jim Nicholson’s ‘Vote for Change’ motif and its alleged inappositeness. Although I have rebutted this charge in a previous…