|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
We didn't really need yet another illustration
of how bipolar Northern Ireland is, but the recent elections
certainly provided an unfortunate and classic example of a
divided society. It's not that we believe in 'the politics
of the middle ground', the idea that Alliance and other so-called
'moderate' parties would grow to become infectious, and balance
out other people's 'bigotry' - fortunately or unfortunately
that theory bit the dust a long time ago and, for example,
this time the Alliance Party vote was again badly squeezed
(though they managed to retain their six seats) and the Women's
Coalition disappeared from the Assembly altogether. It was
as if people heard the Alliance Party's slogan "Alliance
works. Tribal politics doesn't" - and decided the exact
People can vote how they like, and they do -
for all sorts of reasons - but individual decisions add up
to have larger consequences. With the Democratic Unionist
Party and Sinn Féin as the largest two parties, having
put the skids under, respectively, the Ulster Unionist Party
and the SDLP, anything more than a virtual Assembly in the
near future looks unlikely. It is not that David Trimble's
Ulster Unionist Party did particularly badly in the voting
but that the DUP did very well (see statistics below). The
war may be over but the cold war continues. Perhaps at some
stage the DUP will provide a go at accommodation with nationalists
in general and Sinn Féin in particular but that seems
a long, long way away, almost certainly after the effective
departure from the scene of Ian Paisley Senior. It would appear
very difficult to consider any rapprochement in the near future
but one rule about Northern Ireland is 'never say never'.
With the relative annihilation of the representation
of smaller parties in the Assembly, the bipolar nature of
Northern Ireland comes back more starkly into view. And also
perhaps disappearing again over the horizon is the period
when, around and following the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement,
it seemed that for once politicians might be rewarded for
attempting accommodation with the other side rather than confrontation.
And within each of the two sides, Catholic/Nationalist, and
Protestant/Unionist, we see also more clearly the bipolar
nature of each camp. So we have now, as in the title above,
The removal of the relative plurality of parties
in the last Assembly is sad. Democracy is about including
minorities as much (and sometimes needs to be emphasised more
than) allowing majorities a key say (because the latter will
get they say anyway). The failure of the UDP/Ulster Democratic
Party to make it into the last Assembly, and thus provide
it with a voice, must have been a contributing factor in the
UDA losing patience with the 'peace process'. If you're not
in, you can't win, and losing means also losing face and credibility,
and, ultimately, political oblivion. While the proportional
representation system with the single transferable vote (PR-STV),
as used both North and South, has its merits it has no mechanism
for 'topping up' representation above and beyond individual
constituencies so that the proportion of seats mirrors the
proportion of votes as near as possible. And PR-STV is not
as good at encouraging cross-community voting as the voting
mechanisms propounded by the de Borda Institute.
Now that the two challenger parties have overtaken
the two previously largest established parties on either side,
it might seem that there are no more changes to happen. What
the DUP and Sinn Féin have been aiming for has come
to pass. Whether they can hold and extend their new prime
positions remains to be seen in the years to come. The one
silver lining in a rather dark sky is that as the more militant
parties on either side they are in a better position to deliver
on any agreement should one eventually be forged. But that
is unlikely for some time.
So Northern Ireland is in for another sustained
period of direct rule from Britain. This is hugely ironic
insofar as the Stormont institutions, and local decision making,
were very popular across all the parties. But it seems that
Protestant disenchantment with the Good Friday Agreement's
outworking regarding decommissioning, changes to the police,
and so on, were felt to be too much to bear. This seems to
be akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater; the bathwater
did certainly seem to have got somewhat dirty, but the baby
of local decision making in Northern Ireland should not have
been abandoned so lightly. And it is all doubly ironic in
that republicans, in the shape of Sinn Féin, have arguably
had to journey further than anyone on the Protestant and Unionist
side. And while no one would exactly describe Northern Ireland
as a 'peaceful society', it is also patently not a society
at war, as it once was.
Getting out of the mess that history inflicted
on Northern Ireland was never going to be easy. It has now
proved to be as difficult as anything the most cynical or
negative person could have predicted. And as we have said
before even at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, history
For those who do want to build, not just across
the divide but a just and peaceful society where everyone,
and their contribution to society, is welcomed, the challenges
have just got greater. Eventually we will be able to rise
to meet at least some of those challenges, and maybe the end
result will lead to DUP-type loyalists feeling more included.
But don't start counting because mathematics may not have
developed a number sufficiently large. There are plenty of
things people can do, at any level, as we mentioned in our
last editorial. But climbing out of the hole just got a little
bit more difficult.
THE RESULTS: Party, seats, +/- seats, percentage
vote this time and gains or losses in seats.
- Democratic Unionist Party 30 seats=
+8 (25.71% first preferences, 18.1% in 1998),
- Ulster Unionist Party 27 = -1 on 1998 (22.68%,
21.3% in 1998, so ironically its % vote was slightly up),
- Sinn Féin 24 = +6 (23.52%, higher
than the UUP but getting a few seats less, 17.6% in 1998),
- SDLP 18 = -6 (16.99%, down from around 22%
- Alliance 6, previously 6 (3.67%, down from
- PUP 1 (David Ervine) = -1 (1.16%),
- UKUP 1 (Bob McCartney),
- Independent 1 (Kieran Deeny, hospital campaigner,
- Other parties standing in a number
of constituencies included the Workers Party and the Green
Party whose largest vote was 730 in North Down (2.37%) though
Eamonn McCann in Foyle standing on a Socialist Environmental
ticket got 2,257 votes (5.53%) and made it to the 6th round.
Further details and discussion; see www.sluggerotoole.com
'Georgia on my mind', and what a contrast it
is in this instance to the popular disunity of Northern Ireland.
It is of course the Georgia in the Caucasus where Eduard Shevardnadze
got booted from power through a popular, nonviolent revolution
during November. Given that Shevardnadze was himself a survivor
from the Cold War era, when he was foreign minister for the
USSR, made it all rather ironic. He was autocratic and corrupt
and another fiddled election was the straw that broke the
back of his rule; the opposition and people had had enough.
It was all rather reminiscent of the popular uprisings which
overthrew communist rule in eastern Europe almost a decade
and a half ago. It is also a timely reminder that power does
not necessarily grow out of the barrel of a gun but from the
acquiescence and acceptance, or not, of the people.
Nonviolent News hopes to have a regular poetry
slot with Lothar Lüken from Co Cork - we're delighted
to welcome you to these pages, Lothar, and we look forward
to sharing your poems with readers - Ed.
Cuddles for Hitler
What if that screaming baby boy,
Born to the Hitlers in Braunau
By the cool grey alpine river Inn,
Had been picked up by passing gypsies!
Had with a gaudy painted wagon for home
Conquered sleepy eastern market towns
With ancient sweetly haunting tunes
Which wildly would flow from his fiddle.
His for ages wandering tribes mates then
Might not have been herded to Auschwitz
What if that lonesome brooding lad
Home from school had been welcomed
By a smile and a kiss and a tender hug
From his gentle, affectionate mammy.
He'd have befriended and understood
All sorts of folk with a difference,
And without prejudice, shame or disgust
Perhaps even made love with a man.
His warm brothers might not have suffered then
From cold men stoking ovens at Auschwitz.
What if Hitler'd been born with Down's
And his daddy gave him a football!
He might have dazzled with leadership skills
As German captain at the Special Olympics.
Or if he'd suffered from Polio,
And been taunted from early youth -
He would have won his 'Triumph of Will'
Just by learning to walk upright.
His disabled pals might not have been dumped
As worthless sub-humans at Auschwitz.
What if some devoted teacher had,
Full of faith in Christ and the Bible,
Founded in Adolf a fervent faith
To channel his passion and searching.
His visions of heaven and threats of hell,
His ardent sermons and warnings,
Would in time have roused his fired flocks
To build themselves Kingdom Halls.
His brethren might not have witnessed then
Their Jehovah's desertion at Auschwitz.
What if a job-less young Adolf had
Been given a factory job,
Had led his colleagues in militant strikes
And been chosen to head their Union;
If he'd joined a party of the left
With red banners and communist slogans -
He'd have led a column of delegates
from Central Committees to Moscow.
His rounded up comrades might not have been
By the 'Labour Makes Free' of Auschwitz.
What if an artistic Adolf had joined
Some New Age Bohème in Vienna,
Had studied astrology, yoga, tarot,
And read Keyserling and Tagore;
Had met Carl Jung and chatted with Freud
Had been analysed and counselled
He'd have picked the best from his 'Master Race'
From the East and the 'Chosen People'.
His Jewish fellows might not have been culled
As Holocaust cattle at Auschwitz.
What if there had been plenty of toys
And playgrounds and playmates for Hitler,
If there'd been tickles, giggles, friendship,
And warmth and love and cuddles;
What if we dealt with our demons in time,
If we really cared for those suffering -
We'd teach our children to help and to heal,
Not to hoard and to hurt and to hate.
Only then Hitler's fellow humans might
For an Earth that is safe from Auschwitz.