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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Recognising Similarities, Delivering for the People

Mick Hall • 12 May 2005

With the results of the UK general election hardly dry on the page, David Trimble was being championed in much of the world's media as a fallen political moderate whose rejection by the Upper Bann electorate was something we should all regret.

I have looked hard for examples of Mr Trimble's moderation the media speaks so highly of, but I am having a job finding any sign of it. Nothing in his Vanguard years caught my eye, nor when he walked triumphantly down the road at Drumcree, arm in arm with Mr Paisley, not long after having had a cosy chat with the LVF murderer Billy Wright. It seems to me if one looks at his voting record in the UK parliament, whenever there was a vote on an issue that deprived working people, Mr Trimble was only to keen to step up to the bar and raise his hand.

In effect David Trimble, like all Ulster Unionist Party leaders before him, was the bagman in the north of Ireland for the political establishment in London. As to his support for the GFA for which the media is now praising him, once London decided in the 1990s to go down this road, Trimble's support was assured and no one with power in London were ever in any doubt about how he would act. As was his custom when London asked him to jump, he simply inquired how high.

After years toiling for the British establishment in the northern wilds, Mr Trimble, like the nationalist Gerry Fitt before him, will quickly be rewarded with membership of the renowned gentleman's club the British House of Lords. His home in northern Ireland will be placed on the market and in not an unsimilar manner to those touts within para-military organiations who have out-lasted their usefulness to their English masters, he will do a moonlight flip; although for him in all probability a far more salubrious accommodation awaits him in the south of England.

As to the outcome of the elections in the north, one can only welcome the result, for by voting en masse for Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, the people of the north displayed contempt for those political parties who down the years have been in complete hock to the English government.

Of course, as far as constitutional matters are concerned there is a deep chasm between SF and the DUP that is unlikely to be bridged, as they are diametrically opposed, SF's core demand being the political reunification of the island of Ireland and the DUP's mission statement is to maintain the link with the United Kingdom. However this unbridgeable chasm should not necessarily stop the two parties working together in the medium term. For in reality SF, when they signed up for the GFA, accepted the status quo in the north, having agreed to partition until such a time as when the democratic will of the people demands otherwise.

Thus if the Assembly could be got up and running and ministers nominated all would be to play for. On many issues the gap between SF and the DUP is not as wide as some may think. Many of us have been so busy being blinded by the two parties' constitutional differences; we have hardly noticed where they stand on things like schools, hospitals, transport, water charges, etc. Plus, it should not be overlooked, one of the main reasons for the growth of the two parties has been the commitment of their activists on the ground and the level of support they have been able to provide their electorate with.

The DUP opposes the introduction of water charges, so does SF; both parties oppose the Euro and the introduction of the new EU constitution. They are both, or so they claim, against racism and recognise that Ireland is becoming a multi-racial society. Both SF and the DUP support a substantial increase in old age pensions, free travel for OAPs and better health care for all. They also are in favour of campaigns to alleviate the AIDS problem in Africa and recognise that something must be done about third world debt. They even have common ground on smoking in public places.

Of course, I'm not saying there are not major differences between the two parties because there are; although it has to be said if the issue of the border was taken away many of those who vote for these two parties would in all probability have a great deal in common —and not only politically— not least both party leaders and a fair number of their constituents can be found in church on a Sunday morning.

If these two parties were to concentrate on what they agree on, they have an opportunity to deliver an upgrade in the level of services the people of the north so badly need.

Of course the DUP, understandable from their perspective, will not sit down with SF until PIRA is stood down, nor incidentally as far as entering government is concerned, will any party in the south of Ireland. So at some time if they are to carry on their present course, Mr Adams and his comrades will have to bite this bullet and spit it out once and for all.

How they perform as part of the northern government is the only real barometer Sinn Fein has to demonstrate their trustworthiness to those wavering nationalist voters in the south, who were swinging SF's way prior to the party's annus horribilis at the start of 2005. In the north, Sinn Fein have almost reached what Mick Fealty called their glass ceiling; that is, due to the sectarian manner in which Northern Ireland's electorate vote, there is only so many votes available to SF, the rest being divided up amongst the Unionist parties, the Alliance and the SDLP.

Thus if SF is to continue to grow electorally it must look South to do so. For it to continue to hoover up the votes of the southern electorate it must break out of its core support base. This means gaining the confidence of a section of the Irish middle class and rural workers who are not part of SF's natural constituency. It is not an impossible task, as there is a core of liberal minded middle class people who may be attracted to SF policies, and who are certainly fed up with the two establishment parties in the south. But their support depends on trust, which it has to be admitted as far as this section of the electorate is concerned has taken a bit of a knock in the first months of this year.

There are interesting times ahead for the two parties. The main question is, can their leaderships keep their egos in check and begin to deliver the services the people deserve? If so, we will not have to suffer any more "sackcloth and ashes" nonsense from Mr Paisley or any more "they have not gone away" bravado from Mr Adams.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

31 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Justice is the Right of All Our Victims
Gemma McCartney

Quis Separabit? The Short Strand/Markets UDA
Anthony McIntyre

Civil Law as an Instrument of Resistance
Peter Mason

A Salute to Comrades
Dolours Price

Behaviour of Young Gets Worse
David Adams

Recognising Similarities, Delivering for the People
Mick Hall

One Republican Party
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: A Common Brotherhood
Tomas Gorman

May Day versus Loyalty Day
Mary La Rosa

One Eyed Morality
Anthony McIntyre

Lying in Wait for the Dutch Tsunami…After the French Earthquake

Michael Youlton

22 May 2005

How Those In Power Respond
Anthony McIntyre

Seeking Clarity — And Safety
Justice for Jimmy Campaign

Behind the Betrayal
Philip Ferguson

Self-Deception and Distortion
Tomas Maguire

Civil Case/Witch Hunt
N. Corey

No Entry
Anthony McIntyre

The Moral Reason Never to Tell
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: Beginning to Borrow Some Revolution
Tomas Gorman

Dangerous Drugs
Sean Fleming

Rebel City
Liam O Ruairc



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