Belfast Barman

Causing a Nuisance since 1987

Protected: Are the DUP fascist?

Fascism is somewhat subjective – many definitions to many people. A story has run today in the Belfast Telegraph where an Alliance Councillor has received criticism for drawing a link between the Democratic Unionist Party and fascism. Is it valid? The Councillor, David Armitage, referred to the following list: So, let’s take them one by one. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism Nationalism is, by one definition, the sense and feeling that ones loyalty to the concept and identity of one’s nation is more important than all else. One example of this might be, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,” – one example might be the kind of national insularism that fights back against perceived foreign influence (European Union?) or the influx of people who don’t automatically have the same sense of national belonging (refugees and migrants?). Another might be the “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER” response to Ireland’s claim on Northern Ireland. Never? Really, never? What if the UK is actually democratically led by Muslim extremists, reversing Article 50, cutting the Northern Irish block grant to £7.50 per year, and making it illegal for education here. STILL the United Kingdom is the best place for Northern Ireland? That sense of nationalism, of Britain First, is, among the DUP a very powerful and very continuing nationalism. Disdain for Human Rights Have the DUP ever displayed disdain for human rights? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists the following articles: The Right to Equality Freedom from Discrimination Right to Equality before the Law Freedom to Arbitrary Arrest and Exile Right to Fair Public Hearing Right to be Considered Innocent until proven Guilty Right to Free Movement In and Out...

Sinn Féin have been barking up this tree before. And caved before too

Many commentators have been quick to make the point that Sinn Féin are hanging their hat (and the future of the devolved Northern Ireland institutions…) on getting agreement to implement an Irish Language Act, but yet no such red line was drawn in previous post-election talks. Not so. This Belfast Telegraph article from the late Liam Clarke highlights what has transpired previously. This was written 2 weeks before the Stormont House Agreement was signed. Sinn Fein has set out a list of demands – ranging from millions of pounds in Stormont funding to an Irish Language Act – it wants to see movement on before signing off on any deal on welfare reform and the budget. Conor Murphy MLA (then an MP), said: It (the government) has failed to implement commitments such as Acht na Gaeilge (an Irish Language Act), the Civic Forum, an all-island Consultative Forum, North South implementation bodies and a Bill of Rights…The British Government has also refused to address its role and responsibilities in dealing with the legacy of the past. One observation I would make here is that in 2014, Conor Murphy seemed to accept, from the above language, that the responsibility for an Irish Language Act lay with Westminster and not at the door of the DUP. Following Sinn Féin laying out their stall in 2014 (as they have once again…), the DUP’s Gregory Campbell MP infamously said that the DUP would treat Sinn Féin’s entire wish list as “no more than toilet paper.” As it transpired, Sinn Féin signed up to the Stormont House Agreement with no guarantee on an Irish Language Act –...

Foster’s giant leap, and the community that accepted it for what it was.

On Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, a little piece of history was made. Not the burial of Martin McGuinness, although that was undoubtedly an historic moment in these isles if not beyond, but in Arlene Foster’s attendance at the funeral of McGuinness. There in the church alongside the assembled mourners, was former US President, Bill Clinton. It’s with that in mind that I’d like you to indulge me whilst I quote President Clinton. We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more. – Bill Clinton A simple act, going to the funeral of a co-worker; an act which for most of us might be considered relatively normal. For Arlene Foster however, this was surely not such a simple prospect. There are those who will criticise her from each and every angle of this decision; but in their cynicism, they might be missing the other picture – the big picture of the person.  If I may quote one of Clinton’s predecessors. Never question another man’s motive. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives. – Dwight Eisenhower Was this a former (and possible future) First Minister attending the funeral? Or was it the person? Can it be both? Need it be both? Can’t it just be a daughter, a mother, a sister? I don’t want to go into her thought process too much, we know enough already – arguably too much. We shouldn’t know about the shooting of her father, an attempt to kill him; we shouldn’t know because it shouldn’t have happened. We shouldn’t know about the bomb which exploded on her school bus; we...

The Transfer Oddities of AE17a

I’m always interested in weird things – it’s a bit of an obsession. Ripley’s Believe it or not is kinda my jam. So after Assembly elections… after the counting is done and the candidates are returned (or crying at home), I like to look and see what bizarre things happened. The unlikely… the inexplicable… So, thanks to Bob Harper and Elections NI, I went through the counts, and, where possible (some stages aren’t calculable due to simultaneous events) noted down the kind of transfers that make you scratch your head and say, “seriously?” I considered it myself… In South Belfast, prior to going into the ballot box, my preferred order was: Paula Bradshaw (Alliance) Emmet McDonough-Brown (Alliance) Clare Bailey (Green) But I played with actually going with George Jabbour (NI Conservatives) Lily Kerr (Worker’s Party) John Hiddleston (TUV) Paula Bradshaw Emmet McDonough-Brown Clare Bailey Not because I wanted them to be elected, but because I knew they wouldn’t be… I wanted to give some fun to the counters, I wanted the following conversation to happen: “Who the hell went from the Tories to the Worker’s Party?? Who the HELL went from the Worker’s Party to the TUV?? WHO THE FUCK WENT FROM THE TUV TO ALLIANCE??” In the end though, I bottled it and felt the weight of democracy upon my shoulders, so I went with what was right, for me. Can the same be said for these other transfers from this recent election? North Belfast Julie-Ann Corr-Johnston (Progressive Unionist Party) – 14 transfers went from Corr-Johnston to Sinn Féin. 49 went from J-AC-J to the SDLP. Fiona Ferguson,...

Unionist Unity would be a disservice to us all

Many within the DUP have begun plan B, following the Unionist tanking at the 2017 Assembly Election. All members of society, from all political persuasions, should discourage this – we, the electorate, deserve better. The purpose of opposition, insofar as it exists in an infantile form within Northern Irish politics, is there to oppose. So says Winston Churchill. Churchill was on to something. Dissent, leads to growth, the critical friend should be cherished on par, or above, the sycophantic fanatic. The UUP have experienced an identity crisis (again), but why? Is the party at a weak point? 2017 saw the UUP lose 6 seats, but notionally, according to Nicholas Whyte, if 2016 were run with the new 5 seat constituencies, they would have 5 less to begin with. My own calculations off 2016 results showed a return of 12 UUP seats, so is it a huge loss? In comparison to the DUP’s, who lost 5 more than their notional seats 2016 on 2017, again, according to Whyte. So a notional loss for DUP of 5 seats v a UUP loss of 1….. not disastrous. It must also be remembered that the vote came out. The UUP had it’s highest ever voting figure since the Assembly actually sat: 2007 – 103,145 2011 – 87,531 2016 – 87,302 2017 – 103,314 Yes, voting turnout was up, but the UUP increased its vote in real terms by 18%, whereas the DUP increased by just 11%. (Compared to nationalist vote increases in real terms of 34% for Sinn Féin, and 15% for the SDLP). Further comparison to the other minor Unionist parties, TUV (14% drop), PUP (6%...

From severance, to returning – the SDLP payouts.

Following the 2016 Assembly Election, SDLP members John Dallat (who stood down), and Dolores Kelly (who lost her seat), received severance packages from the NI Assembly – public money – as is normal in such circumstances. It has been reported that the following sums were paid out following their no-longer being MLAs: John Dallat £50,784 Dolores Kelly £65,792 Quite a sum for being out of Stormont for just 302 days. For John Dallat, that works out at the equivalent of nearly £1200 per week, for Ms. Kelly, it’s over £1500 a week. The candidates may well seek to give the money back, if such a mechanism is permitted… I believe that both representatives have been critical in the past when RUC officers were able to retire, and receive a payoff, only to reapply, and join, the PSNI. One trusts that the newly (re)elected MLAs will act in accordance with their principles in accordance with this issue. Or perhaps John and Dolores can just make the payments directly to Alex Attwood and Richie McPhillips, and save the NI Assembly having to make a second wave of payouts to outgoing SDLP MLAs in the same year....

AE17 and two bookies – what do the odds say? Overall result

So, after the last few days of looking at the odds offered by Paddy Power in the NI Assembly Election-a (for there will likely be a ‘b’), today, ahead of tomorrow’s voting, I’m going to tote up the final scores. Not just of Paddy Power, but combining in A McCleans Bookmakers too. The method for this, if anyone is interesting, is quite simply ranking the top 5 candidates in each constituency based on profit made from a £1 bet. Here’s the full run down prediction. Note: This is based purely off betting profit averages from the above bookmakers. DUP  (34) Sinn Féin (27) UUP (8) SDLP (8) Alliance (8) Green (2) People Before Profit (1) TUV (1) Independent (1) So, starter pistol at the ready… Aaaaand we’re off. Belfast East Naomi Long (Alliance) Joanne Bunting (DUP) Chris Lyttle (Alliance) David Douglas (DUP) Andy Allen (UUP) So the big loser here, factoring in both bookies, is current (at least until tomorrow, anyway) Speaker of the Assembly, Robin Newton. 5/6 with Paddy Power and evens with A McCleans, he’s certainly not to be discounted, but it’s looking unlikely on these odds compared with the others in the field. Belfast North Gerry Kelly (Sinn Féin) Paula Bradley (DUP) William Humphrey (DUP) Nelson McCausland (DUP) Carál Ní Chuilín (Sinn Féin) Paddy Power had Nichola Mallon of the SDLP at same odds as Ní Chuilîn of Sinn Féin in this race, McCleans, however, drop Mallon into 6th place with a still-odds-on of 4/6. Belfast South Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (Sinn Féin) Claire Hanna (SDLP) Paula Bradshaw (Alliance) Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP) Clare Bailey (Green) Both bookies...

AE17 and Paddy Power – what do the odds say? The battle of the Independents.

Following on from previous odds-analysis, from Paddy Power’s spread on the Assembly Election constituencies, what about those with a more solitary route to election, or in some cases, re-election? Some constituencies have more independents than others, Foyle and East Antrim have just one apiece. North Down however has 3, and West Tyrone tops that particular league table with 4. But what do the bookies make of their chances? Not much, I’m afraid. East Londonderry If you’re running as an independent, this is the place to be. Both independents are odds-on for election, the best available odds on an independent by a furlong (or five). Claire Sugden is in the key-five spots at 4/9, returning just £0.44 on a £1 bet, and Gerry Mullan slightly outside of Sugden at 5/6, giving you £0.83 on your quid stake. Why such short odds? Re-election, that’s why. The odds-settters are clearly weighting the stakes in favour of re-election bids. Both of these candidates have a party history though, Sugden worked for the late David McClarty, who was in his later years an independent himself, but originally in the UUP. Gerry Mullan is a much more interesting tale, having been elected in 2016 as the SDLP MLA for the constituency, only to be de-selected for the 2017 race, sparking his race as an independent candidate (and a legal battle was suggested in the press). It’s incredibly unlikely that both of these independents could scrape in, but the fact that two party-less candidates are in the odds-on range does much to dispel the suggestion that the reduction from 6 seats to 5 per constituency could...

AE17 and Paddy Power – what do the odds say? Outside the top 5

Continuing on from yesterday’s post about the average returns offered by Paddy Power for each party’s full candidate list in the 2017 Assembly election, now I think would be a good time to look at the likely fallers, to use gambling parlance. In the 2017 Assembly election, there will be 5 candidates returned for each constituency, compared to 6 in previous elections. This will bring the total number of MLAs down from 108 to just 90. There are some who suggest that this will potentially hurt the smaller parties more than the larger ones, whilst that is true of sorts, it’s not the whole story. Yes, People before Profit might lose 1 seat, and the DUP might lose 8; the DUP obviously will be losing more MLAs, but that 1 loss for PBP will be 50% of their total MLAs, whereas the DUP would only be losing 22%. Swings and roundabouts, perhaps, but plurality of voice could be hit in this election. So, let’s see which notable figures, according to Paddy Power, are outside of the top 5 favourites in this election. Belfast East Straight off the bat, in with a potential big faller. The under-siege Speaker of the Assembly, Robin Newton. Currently sitting at 5/6, as the sixth favourite, still odds-on to be returned, but outside of the 5 strong favourites. Following yesterday’s article, a point was made to me that these odds are likely based on the form of the candidates from the 2016 Assembly election, and this is likely a big influencer on the odds given, however – the third favourite in this race, is David...

AE17 and Paddy Power – what do the odds say? Average Returns

It’s always interesting reading the analysis and predictions of political watchers, especially closing in on an election. The thing is, the likes of Alex Kane, Newton Emerson, Allison Morris, and David McCann all have one thing in common – they don’t really stand to lose anything if they’re wrong. Maybe a bit of egg on the face, or maybe standing in a dress at the steps of Stormont… As happened above when Alex Kane dared to suggest that Clare Bailey of the Green Party wouldn’t succeed in 2016. He was wrong. You know who does stand to lose if its predictions are wrong? Bookies. Which brings me to Paddy Power – who offer odds on all candidates *in the 2017a Assembly Election (why a? Because I suspect there’ll be a b…). *except one… they missed an independent candidate from Fermanagh & South Tyrone I took a deep look at the odds offered, and will try, over the next couple of days, to highlight some interesting points from the betting stakes. WHO OFFERS THE WORST RETURN ON YOUR MONEY? Assuming that you were to bet £1 on ALL of a party’s candidate – what is the worst average return offered? As odds work, if you aren’t aware, the lower the money offered back in return for your bet, the more likely it is to happen. Which is to say, that over a spread of candidates, the lower the reward, the likelier the result. If I was to bet £1 on someone at odds of 20/1, I would win £20 (plus the return of my £1 stake). If I was to bet £1 on...

#AE17 – What Are The Options? Direct Rule…?

The most recent Northern Ireland Executive was made up of Sinn Féin and the DUP, with the addition of the blesséd peacemaker, Claire Sugden as Justice Minister. And, mathematically, barring some absolutely generation-shattering political revolution, those two parties will return as the largest once again. On a linear basis, what are the likely outcomes from the Unionist and Nationalist parties, we’re hearing so much about the twin poles on offer, let’s be real. Largest two parties from unionist and nationalist designations: DUP and Sinn Féin – DUP have made it abundantly clear that they won’t be enacting such previously (disputed) signed agreements as the St. Andrew’s Agreement. No Irish Language Act. – Sinn Féin have made it abundantly clear that they won’t be returning “to the status quo” – which is widely regarded as meaning having Arlene Foster as First Minister. If we allow for an element of reason to be applied here, if Arlene Foster is shown by a public inquiry to be completely and utterly cleared of wrongdoing, corruption, cronyism, ineptitude or incompetence… Sinn Féin would have to step back from this brink. That, however, seems unlikely purely on a calendar basis… the results of that aren’t expected for some time. One DUP source tells me they don’t expect a report back on the inquiry until Autumn, and a Sinn Féin source tells me they aren’t expecting results until June at the earliest. Sinn Féin have also made it clear they won’t be joining an Executive which won’t endorse those previously (disputed) signed agreements which give provision for, amongst other things, an Irish Language Act (even though they...

The pejorative language of religion

“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes. I am an Atheist. Or actually, I’m a non-theist. Or is it Humanist… Language tells us everything, its importance cannot be underestimated. But when it comes to common parlance, the language of the day-to-day, the centuries old pervasiveness of religion in language is hard to avoid. I try, but, as a mere mortal, I fail. It frustrates me to hear an atheist say, “I don’t believe in God.” Do you mean the Christian God? The God referred to by the name “God”? Or do you mean gods, plural, all of them…? I always try to make the effort when saying such things, to phrase it as, “I don’t believe in any gods.” It just feels more accurate; it’s difficult as a non-theist to give any special credence to the religion identified with most prominently in my geographic locality, I don’t believe in the Christian God any more or less than I disbelieve in Queztalcoatl, Zeus, Thor, or Vishnu. But when I’m surprised, I may say, “Oh god.” When I’m expressing my disbelief or shock at something, I may exclaim, “Jesus Christ!” Goddammit, Christ alive, and others – all phrases that mean something, mean everything, and mean nothing – depending on your perspective. It is challenging not to fall into the deistic linguistic trap of giving status to what I believe to be an utter myth, as it owns so much of our culture. It genuinely is tough to keep a check on language which gives that special status...