“I hope I am wrong but I suspect that the Assembly could collapse” – by Danny Morrison

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Danny Morrison

Danny Morrison


It will be sad and a major setback if 5000 jobs are not realised and £300 million in investment lost. More important than Peter Robinson reneging on the MLK project, is what his decision symbolises. Yes, it is far bigger than jobs and investment: it is whether there exists a workable political process in the North of Ireland.

For whatever reason, democratically elected unionist parties have allowed their authority to be relegated to and their direction dictated by those who do not really believe in parity of esteem and equality. There are others who feel left out: but this is hardly the fault of Sinn Féin, but is a failure by unionist leaders.

It was Billy Hutchinson whom I first heard use the slogan that there is a “war on unionist culture”. This mantra was immediately taken up by mainstream unionists, perhaps because they felt it provided them with an excuse for stalling political progress, when, in truth, it revealed their lack of leadership and the fact that they hadn’t explained the reality and cost of compromise with Sinn Féin.

This is an invented and imaginary conflict for which the gullible will fall and for which innocents might well die.

Let’s examine how Sinn Féin wages this war: it supported the amendment of Articles 2 & 3 of the Irish constitution (articles described by unionists as “the raison d’être of the IRA”); it ended its 70-year-old policy of abstentionism and agreed to take its seats in Stormont which symbolised 70-years of nationalist oppression; the IRA decommissions its weapons and calls upon former activists to work politically for a united Ireland; Sinn Féin recognises and supports the police; Martin McGuinness meets and greets the British Queen; the Union flag continues to fly from Belfast City Hall on designated days; Sinn Féin raises no objections to the Orange Order parading past Ardoyne on the morning of the 12th  July.


Maze/ Long Kesh Prison – view of the retained controversial H-Block and Prison Hospital


On the other hand, we have seen unionists attempt to goad republicans that their decision to compromise means they recognise that the North is British, that they have to repudiate their struggle, inform about past IRA actions and name those involved, that former IRA prisoners cannot serve as ministerial advisors, and that republicans cannot commemorate their dead, including the sixty who lost their lives in Tyrone.

Peter Robinson used the Castlederg commemoration as the excuse to sink – hopefully, just – the MLK project, 5,000 jobs and the investment.

There hasn’t been a republican parade in Castlederg (which is 60% nationalist) in almost twenty years. But in those same twenty years there have been almost 400 Orange parades in the town, including an Apprentice Boys parade through the town centre on the eve of the republican commemoration. Yes, that’s some war on unionist culture.

I don’t think I have felt as despondent since the night the IRA broke its ceasefire with the explosion at Canary Wharf, blaming John Major for dragging his feet and frustrating progress or for acting as if republicans could be rolled over, as if he could win politically what he hadn’t won militarily.

Not that for a moment I think that political stalemate will trigger a resumption of armed struggle. Too many of us are relieved that those days are over and done with and are pledged to politics alone.

I hope I am wrong but I suspect that the Assembly could collapse.

If unionists are thinking this cannot happen, they should think again.

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  1. that would be victory for diss and the i told you so brigade loyalist must never be able to repeat 1974, unless you get joint authority stay there face them down let them walk and see what the brits say then who they will support really cant see the british people supporting loyalist this time no ruc or udr to threaten with mybe uvf but if it come to it they will not take on the british army 1912 its not

    • They won’t walk Philip, either of them. That would be a case of sawing off the one branch they’re both sitting on. There’s nothing in NI for either party anywhere but OFMdFM and Stormont.

  2. When I read Ken Reid’s tweet that the rat was dead but the wheel was still spinning I was waiting for this sort of assessment . Basically this is a crisis of unionism, Peter Robinson is not in charge of his own house as Eamonn said on the radio this morning but he refuses to go. Robinson created this crisis by doing a U turn on what was agreed. The DUP needs to put its house in order, until then we are looking at inevitable collapse imv..

  3. Too much self interest and back scratching going on. Election mode now the only play for each side! Republicans wil always play the ‘victim’ card and how it is not their fault and blame everyone but themselves.

    Where is the breakdown of the multiple thousand MLK jobs?? What about the potential thousands of John Lewis jobs???

  4. Glenn Bradley on

    If the 5000 jobs don’t come to fruition and M-LK doesn’t go ahead then SF share the failure to deliver the project.

    The Programme for Government doesn’t state “peace and reconciliation center to include historical buildings” as a caveat? As such, the withdrawal of SF support for the overall project is the venting of political frustration at their supposed ‘partners’ in government: nothing more & nothing less.

    Commemoration in a dignified manner can never be objectionable. Remembering the fallen is a sacred right. In wider Unionism that is usually completed 1 day of the year during the annual religious Service’s of Remembrance in November, and in constitutional Nationalism 1 day of the year during the Ceremonies on Lá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta in July. If SF believe commemorating fallen Volunteers every other week, and using such a scared occasion as a political platform to make insensitive public statements (or to endorse reckless Republican Army action) helps the process of reconciliation then someone in the Movement is deluded.

    I am unsure why you choose to relate Acts of Commemoration to the Fallen (or if you prefer to, the Patriot Dead) with Orange Processions because as a veteran (who attends Remembrance Sunday & Lá Cuimhneacháin Náisiúnta) I see no similarity or connection what so ever.

    All sides compromised in the negotiations of 1994-97 that led to the Belfast Agreement. Primarily from political Unionism that compromise came when they recognized the status of prisoners & agreed to early release. Such a move essentially led to a majority supporting the Agreement. Importantly, it provided a majority Unionist support for the Agreement led at the time by the spokesmen or representatives of the UDP & PUP jointly as architects with the UUP on the Unionist side.

    I agree ‘culture war’ is a smokescreen for a misaligned and misdirected frustration that denies reality. I agree that Unionist leadership, unshackled, is terribly lacking BUT collapse the Assembly? Then do what? Call for more outside help to tell us what we already know in our hearts? More elections to reassure nervous Parties or individuals of their electoral standing or political aspirations?

    Perhaps, go back to conflict so we can injure or kill one another until the last working class ‘hun’ and ‘taig’ are left standing while the upper classes live in self-righteous loopy-loo land?

    Tell you what, if the Assembly collapses, it better be caveat that no salaries or benefits are paid until operational again!

  5. Open Unionism on

    “I hope I am wrong but I suspect that the Assembly could collapse.

    If unionists are thinking this cannot happen, they should think again”
    And Mr Morrison should think again if the collapse of the Assembly would be lamented by the whole or even quite possibly a majority of Unionists.
    He needs to get a closer grasp of grassroots Unionist apathy and in some cases antipathy towards the Stormont administration. The threat of “joint authority” (which inevitably awaits us apparently if the Stormont coalition falls) is thrown at Unionists but is it really the same bogeyman than he would have been in 1974 or 1984?
    In reality, the Dublin government is very careful indeed to keep away from any meaningful involvement in NI’s affairs and I can’t see that changing in the event of a Stormont collapse.
    FF and FG have much less (or no) incentive than SF in NI to fight the culture war against Unionists.

    • What do you mean by the “culture war”, do you think that the parties across the water want to be involved here, or that the average citizen over there understands whats going on here. We have a chance to make this place better and we are throwing it away for reasons I can’t figure out never mind citizens on other parts of these Islands

      • Open Unionism on

        The “culture war” involves issues over what is perceived as “culture’ by one “side” or the other: language issues, parades, flags, interpretation of the past etc. Just because we may not think they are not progressive enough issues for politicians to be bothered about doesn’t mean that there isn’t a “war” being fought over them.

        “We have a chance to make this place better and we are throwing it away
        for reasons I can’t figure out never mind citizens on other parts of
        these Islands”.

        The question you and Danny Morrison need to ask of yourselves is does the Stormont Coalition make this place a better one?

        Has it potential to make it a better one?

        The evidence suggests not.

        • Before the GFA Stormont meant nothing to nationalists, now it is the seat of government here, is that not progress? There is a more bitter war going on against poverty in all working class areas. Reality, not perception.

          • Open Unionism on

            “Before the GFA Stormont meant nothing to nationalists, now it is the seat of government here, is that not progress?”
            Only if it was delivering even a half-efficient form of governance. It isn’t- along with Bosnia-Herzegovina and presently the US(!), we have the most dysyfunctional government anywhere in the developed world. Re the war against poverty, has the Stormont Coalition delivered much in tangible terms in that direction?
            Nope. Too busy fighting pointless battles.

          • First, there must be an acknowledgement by all parties that the present system isn’t working. Danny Morrison has basically done that in the above post; it may be difficult to get the same honesty from those who are financially generously from the present status quo but it needs to be the first step.

            Second, we look at those areas which do not create any meaningful dispute between the parties- agriculture would be one I guess. These areas can continue to be dealt with by local representatives.
            Others, for example, culture quite clearly cannot not. These should be devolved back to the SoS.

          • It won’t work if you choose to run away to your comfort zones, that’s what our “leader” has done.

          • Well, if that’s what he does, then it (Stormont) will quite clearly never work and it should be closed down asap.
            Time to find another solution.

          • Open Unionism on

            I think folk need to stand back.
            Are the present arrangements working (ie delivering a functional form of governance)? Clearly not.
            For that state of affairs, you can blame who you want- it seems fashionable on here to target w/c prods or the DUP but ultimately it doesn’t matter why… quite simply the present arrangements don’t work.
            I challenge anyone to prove me wrong on that.
            So, bearing that in mind, what am I open to?
            Firstly, NI’s future constitutional status should be determined by those of us who actually reside in NI.
            Secondly…whatever. Seriously, whatever works, whatever performs the best form of governance for NI If it means going back to direct rule, then fine. If not, then also fine.
            But do not base the decision solely on the opinion of those who benefit very well, thank you, from the present stasis.

          • You’ll not get very far in a three legged race if your partner folds his arms and says this isn’t going to work. Good luck

          • Open Unionism on

            For this site, that is a rather appropriately gnomic remark.
            OK, I admit… I do dare to speak as only one of the little guys, merely a citizen and taxpayer of the UK, a resident of NI.
            I am not one of the media elite, Peace Process Select, or an elected representative. I am most certainly not a “partner” of Sinn Fein.
            The present stasis does keep an incredible amount of politicos, journalists and NGO/Peace processers supping cafe lattes in very nice Armani suits but I do also know the present shambles isn’t working as a system of governance and while that may be an inconvenient fact, you haven’t provided any evidence that it ain’t so.

  6. Ciaran McNally on

    I heard Alex Kane discussing this piece on Nolan this morning, and I think Alex touched on the core of the problem when he said (I don’t quote him verbatim) that Robinson is responsible to nationalists and McGuinness is responsible to unionists. It is very clear that these crucial responsibilities are not being attended to in such a way that allows our political arrangements to be sustainable in the long term.

    The Assembly, at least as far as the two big parties are concerned, seems to feel not that it is elected to represent the People of Northern Ireland, but rather the Two Opposing Peoples of Northern Ireland. Until it can begin to work for us instead of merely functioning as a public expression of our division, it will be neither stable nor productive.

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