More Kant and less cant from Parliament Buildings please

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Immanuel Kant


What is it about our politicians that decides for them to consistently do too little too late?

I paid tribute yesterday on this website to DUP leader Peter Robinson for his acknowledgement of the Parades Commission’s ruling.

“I condemn the decisions of the Parades Commission but when those decisions are taken then that becomes the legal requirement,” said the First Minister. ‘The legal requirement’ is exactly what it is.

In being so public with that utterance Mr Robinson slapped down both Nigel Dodds MP and Minister Nelson McCausland who judiciously avoided acknowledging what effectively is the rule of law. The Parades Commission is legally constituted.

We heard plenty from the North Belfast DUP public representatives on the raison d’être for the protest and trouble on the streets.

“We expressed the deep anger and frustration which this Parades Commission determination has caused. Once again this Parades Commission has proven that it is part of the problem, not part of the solution” declared Mr Dodds in the wake of a meeting with Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

Nigel Dodds is a barrister. He knows the law. He chose to ignore the legal status of the Parades Commission choosing to portray it as the grim reaper.

Politicians, including Peter Robinson really only appeared to respond remedially, when challenged to lead by the police and Ken Lindsay, the President of the Methodist Church.

The First Minister who met Mr Lindsay later told him he had been working behind the scenes. Accepting that at face value and people at his level are sometimes best working behind the scenes, he was too late nevertheless in nailing the legal writ of the Parades Commission.

Too little too late is not good enough – lead – lead- lead from the front… Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are still slow in getting off the mark in being seen to do things together.

What is inhibiting them from walking up and down the Shankill Road, Garvaghy Road, through the New Lodge, Tigers Bay, South Armagh, Coalisland etc?

Guys, give people hope. The community is craving hope, and leadership.

This hope should be transmitted through other instruments – key note addresses. What are these Spads and senior civil servants doing with their time? Where is the evidence of original thinking giving our communities a sense of focus, direction and hope?

This week we saw the importance of a small gesture from the Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution. Millar Farr apologised to Father Michael Sheehan for any offence caused by members of the Young Conway Flute Band which played music on July 12  outside St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Belfast. That music was deemed offensive.

This is not a one way street. Nationalists must stand up and be counted too. They too must stop talking out of both sides of their mouths. Gerry Kelly was correct in stating “September 29  is an important day for Unionists. It should be a good day for them.” That is Ulster Covenant Day.

It is only when people from all communities start thinking across the aisle and factor in the other community’s sensitivities that the anger will dissipate.

This necessitates an educational process – a series of public speeches to let people know that these politicians are not simply there to serve their own interests but the interests of  all the community.

I will write the bloody speeches for them myself.

Again I ask… What are these Spads, special advisors and senior civil servants doing up there on the Hill?

Is there a Kant in the House?



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About Author

Eamonn Mallie

I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. This is what happens when you define your voters by the flag they decorate the streetlights with,polarised communities represented by polarised leaders who are too afraid to lead for fright of not being re elected.Wise up people .consensus needs to be built,that means taking risks,not being re elected isn’t the end of the world,do the right thing,and if you dont get elected ,at least you tried your best.How many can honestly say that they did their best to sort things out.I know that I did, I didnt get re elected ,but at least I tried to earn my pay.

  2. For decades the ‘fur coat’ brigade of Ulster Unionism played ‘power house’ (even after Stormont was abolished) with a complete disregard for the lower classes of Unionism who ‘did what they where told’. They took huge risk in the negotiations that led to GFA but post the agreement they didn’t keep their electoral base informed or on board. ‘Politic Grandeur’ attitudes disenfranchised their support base which has almost finished the Ulster Unionists though I know sterling individuals perform hard work to reconnect.

    The agitators of the DUP who for decades thrived on attacking the UUP and basically everyone else risked nothing in negotiations and by electoral apathy to the UUP came by popular vote (by those that did vote) to be in a position of real political power which led to our mandatory government set up. For the first time they where in the ‘power house’ and they relished the dominance.

    If one looks at “Unionism” there is a roughly equal split of what I would class dedicated constituency workers and what I would class ‘career politicians’ where whole families are in the business of politic – not for love of their constituents or that they have a zeal for social or political reform but business: their role as MLA, MEP, MP or support staff to those has become a commercial family, literally.

    They will not take risks that will remove them from the ‘Power House’ of political business – why risk their livelihoods?

    In addition, very few of those elected in Unionism actually participated ‘in action’ during the Troubles. I know of only a slight handful who with conviction can state “I put my hand up” and so by experience have a better appreciation of ground truths. It is easier to lead from experience and on the Unionist side such experience is sadly lacking – 14 years after GFA, there are still individuals who refuse to risk the basic common courtesy of a hand shake with former enemies – hardly dynamic?

    Risk is alien to most “Unionists” today especially the career types.

    On the Nationalist / Republican side of our mandatory government we have the SDLP who like the UUP have suffered electorally – again apathy but I sense a realization in Nationalism that the safest way to avoid violence is to vote for SF i.e. an increased SF electoral success kept the hawks at bay. SF Policy has changed to include the aspirations of these voters and so the SDLP are in a way fighting for a political identity – things are risky enough without rocking ‘the community’.

    Then we have SF – with PIRA ‘exiting stage left’ there was, at last, the commitment to the total democratic process. With a sizeable portion of MLAs having been ‘in action’ and / or former prisoners they exude a confidence that only being part of a ‘movement’ can give. They want to move on at a pace in social reform community politics but are ham-stringed by their slow thinking Unionist partners who keep harping back to the past and the damage they did. Their risk needs to be patience, understanding and a less hypocritical approach to festering street sores they created.

    As you correctly highlight Eamonn, there is a growing sense of the need “to step outside the box”. The majority of people want evolutionary politics for real: an end to the sectarian inheritance we all have and the creation of investment, jobs and social reform.

    I’d happily engage and debate with anyone to bring about truth and consensus – if at first we don’t succeed then try, try again and I’d risk talking, debating & engaging with anyone…. but I am 1 voice ‘crying in the wilderness’ of the wide Unionist family.

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