How Not To Compromise by Jeffrey Donaldson



Words are slippery things. We think we have a grip on their meaning, then someone uses them in a different sense and they slide out of our understanding again. One such word is “compromise”. In my lexicon it has implications of two more or less equal parties with markedly differing views who move towards a middle point to find agreement.  This has some bearing on the article by Jeffrey Donaldson which appeared on a Queen’s University Compromise after Conflict website.

Jeffrey compliments Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan for the work they put in and adds with a note of sadness that the parties involved failed to reach agreement. He then goes on to make it clear that this failure is the fault of Sinn Féin, the SDLP – oh, and did I mention the Alliance Party? Them too. In short, everyone but unionist politicians.

Let me deal with the notion of two more or less equal parties with different views. This was not the case at the Haass talks. Peter Robinson is the First Minister, Martin McGuinness the Deputy First Minister. And while we’re given assurances that they are co-equals, at the same time unionist politicians use the nightmare of a republican First Minister to help frighten unionist voters into the voting booths. In terms of flags, parades and the past, there is no equivalence between unionist and republican/nationalist. The union flag flies, unionist marches are the 95% norm and the past for republicans/nationalists, since the inception of the state, has been one of subjugation.

Haass tried to construct a document that all parties could sign up to. He was sent back to do his homework not once or twice but six times by unionist politicians. The DUP and the UUP looked at the seventh version and said “Not good enough”.  Everyone but unionist politicians looked at the document , swallowed hard and agreed to sign up to its terms.That’s rather different from Jeffrey’s sketch of two disagreeing parties.

As to flags: unionist politicians wished to fly the Union flag 365 days a year  (366 on Leap Years) over Belfast City Hall. Republican and nationalist politicians argued that divided loyalties would be best served by flying both the tricolour and the union flag, or no flag. But they compromised  – let the flag on Belfast City Hall follow general custom and fly on special occasions such as the Queen’s birthday. In short, they moved from both flags/no flag to a middle position where there was a limited flying of the Union flag. This compromise was met with outrage by unionist politicians and with violence by loyalist groups.

Jeffrey is also indignant that so much attention is given to state killings during the Troubles:”This is no way to deal with our troubled past and is certainly no way to encourage true reconciliation”.  He conveniently omits the expectation of most citizens that the security forces should operate by higher standards than those he would label as ‘terrorists’. He also ignores that republicans are willing to accept their share of responsibility for the suffering experienced during the Troubles and believe that all parties to the conflict should contribute to a Truth and Reconciliation process.

As for parades, Jeffrey sees any general rules governing parades (95% of which are unionist) as being ‘draconian’. Again, if we were talking about compromise, wouldn’t something approaching parity be the case if unionist marches didn’t so wildly out-balance republican/nationalist marches? Better still, if the absurd custom of celebrating the victory of Protestant William over Catholic James were abandoned completely, along with the 150 nationalist/republican parades, wouldn’t we then have reached a compromise that would point us towards a shared future, not one of annual antagonism?

For decades, Northern Ireland was ruled by unionism, with discrimination and gerrymander the order of the day. Because politicians like Jeffrey interpret any movement towards compromise and parity of esteem as taking away from the natural order of things – that is,  an Orange state – he  presents change as the unreasonableness of republicans and nationalists in action.

The unhappy fact is that unionism, having traditionally had so much, feels the pain of  any compromise more keenly. Not just that: it paints compromise as unreasonable demands by republicans/nationalists.”Not an inch!” is still the dominant thinking.  Until Jeffrey and unionist politicians of like mind accept the need for change and compromise that removes the triumphalism inherent in the present use of flags and parades,  the unhappy past will continue to haunt us and the patient work of Haass and O’Sullivan will indeed have been a waste of time.




33 Responses to How Not To Compromise by Jeffrey Donaldson

  1. wishful thinking January 29, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Any discussion about the past (indeed any discussion even remotely concerning politics in Ireland) should begin with the words ‘About 800 years ago…’ – this puts compromise into perspective a bit more.

  2. neill January 29, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Better still, if the absurd custom of celebrating the victory of Protestant William over Catholic James were abandoned completely

    Fair enough as long as you ban the GAA as well now wouldnt that be a fair compromise afterall unionists view that organisation in exactly the same way nationalists view the Orange Order?

    See thats real compromise would you back that?

    • Pointis January 29, 2014 at 10:14 am #

      Neil, Do you have some evidence that the GAA has an official stance in discriminating against members of the Protestant community here or anywhere in the world. If you have I am sure there are many people who would like to see it.

      Are you aware of someone who was a member of the GAA being disciplined for attending a Protestant church service as is the case with Orange Order members attending Mass?

      Are you aware of GAA rules which prohibit the membership of people because they are Protestant? The Orange Order specifically bans Catholics from being members!

      Are you aware of instances where action has been taken against GAA members for marrying a Protestant?

      Are you aware of the GAA officially organising anti-Protestant events targeted in areas largely resided in by Protestants complete with Anti-Protestant speeches from GAA officials?

      Until you bring such credible information to the table I am afraid your comparison of the two organisations would hold little merit in the eyes of the reasonable!

    • ASR January 29, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      He said ‘abandoned’ not banned, there is a difference. To take your point, ‘ban the GAA’, a 32 county sporting organisation respected worldwide open to everyone, and providing an unequalled contribution to communities throughout Ireland.

      The Orange Order, an openly sectarian,anti-Catholic organisation that believes it can walk where and when it wants, and has made a minimal, if any at all, positive contribution to cross-community relations. Yeah, they’re the same…..not.

  3. neill January 29, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Are you aware of the GAA officially organising anti-Protestant events targeted in areas largely resided in by Protestants complete with Anti-Protestant speeches from GAA officials?

    Er naming clubs after terrorists is an obvious way of attracting Unionist memebers isnt it

    Are you aware of GAA rules which prohibit the membership of people because they are Protestant? The Orange Order specifically bans Catholics from being members!

    Not to long ago the police service was banned from playing GAA forget that?

    In fairness I was being flippant you simply cant rid of someones culture simply because you dont like.

    • Pointis January 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      Neil, it is obvious from the fact that you didn’t address any of the points in my original post and chose to make your own unrelated points, that your post is merely mischievous and designed to elicit a response.

      That is fine but there are those out there perhaps not as clever as you who believe such misguided perceptions that the GAA is equivalent to the Orange Order which is a organisation which continues to damage this society by propagating sectarian bigotry.

  4. Paddy January 29, 2014 at 10:48 am #


    What a strange world you live in. Ive read quite a few of your posts. All negative. From now on, do you mind if I refer to you as Negative Neill?

    Back to your comment, Negative Neill, What is it about the present GAA that you claim unionists dont like? Do you speak for unionism on this? Its hard for my rational mind to process that there are vast swathes of people who equate a sporting body to a religious institution who likes to parade in regalia? I mean, even leaving partisan politics out of it, comparing the two is a bit of a stretch.

    I work in an office with 2/3 majority Protestant colleagues. We are a close knit group. I asked them over coffee this morning and not one of them would equate these two bodies but a few had misgivings about their alleged role in the Troubles. Yet they still wouldnt equate the two bodies. Thats the Unionism I meet every day, rational, balanced, not under threat and just wants to get on with thier lives. And not one of them is called Lundy.

    • neill January 29, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      The old argument of i dont agree with what he says so he is wrong or negative ah well there you

      I will let you into a little secret what people say in mixed company isnt always the same thing they say at home…

      Just remember all those opinion polls that underplayed SFs and the DUP voting strength…

      The point you fail to recognise is by trying to remove culture you dont like you become just like the people who try to ban plays.

  5. paddykool January 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    To put the following into context, it’s part of a longer piece I scribbled recently :

    So to our local traditions in Northern Ireland.:
    In the grand scheme of things they are not particularly old. A mere few hundred years give or take. Nothing really . That said, there have been some spectacular social changes in those few hundred years, especially accelerated in this past century by technology which tends to make us think about time in new ways.
    Marching and bonfires have become important tribal expressions of identity for some of the Protestant Unionist population in Northern Ireland. They fail to consider the different physical world of the 21st century they wish to graft these practices onto at present. In a world of carbon footprints, debate about the use of fossil fuels, global warming, melting icecaps, destruction of the ozone, razing of the world’s forests and the restrictions imposed on everyone else to maintain smoke-free zones in both domestic and industrial circumstances; it is hard to make a case for setting a match to a huge pile of wooden pallets ,and in some cases rubber tyres, creating an inferno of heat and flame which can melt a nearby plastic oil tank or the plastic doors and windows of nearby houses. Not to mention burning any nearby trees, vegetation and connected wildlife.. There really are very few places in the modern urban environment to safely support these “ancient” traditional practices. Even most civic laws are strained to accommodate them. Hands are wrung annually but little is done.
    Then there is the question of the behaviour of some of these bonfire artists. A lot of illegal alfresco drinking apparently takes place without redress, while throughout the year otherwise law-abiding teenagers can be chivvied and arrested and fined for indulging in an odd Friday night outdoor cider-fest with their mates and the rest of us pick up parking fines and speeding tickets for minor slips of concentration. There is also the illegal burning of political, and religious imagery and flags from various nations.[Any tri-colour ,from anywhere, will do!] Arrant racism , really. This is seen as “traditional”, without irony and is never properly policed although most of it constitutes hate crimes..
    Marching is another bone of contention. It is seen as traditional too but is increasingly more anachronistic as the years peel by. For a large section of the population it has always been an annual nuisance at best. It has nothing to do with them and they are obliged to tolerate it even though the streets are blocked and traffic is held up and diverted. In some cases it is viewed as an unwanted imposition on daily life, in some communities. Business grinds to a standstill .Although I have no interest in any of this I have personal memories of a two hour wait to get out of a car park while marching bands marched by endlessly. There are many of these parades annually and some are seen as offensive to small cloistered communities who view them as a threat at best.
    These things may have had their day in this modern age. As children we played football in the streets because passing cars were a rarity. We would stop the game to allow the traffic by. Car ownership stopped this practice ;the roads got busier and playgrounds were introduced. Times change.
    Rather than ban something that is close to the hearts of many but also offends many others, radical thinking is required.
    To put a stop to the cycle of annual nonsense which costs so much to police and insure and sets off violence and ill- will , it may be an idea to build a “Marching Stadium” to better accommodate this need to parade, march or walk. Virtually everywhere in Northern Ireland is within not more than an hour’s drive, so distance should not be a problem. The initial cost would be nothing compared to the money wasted on the annual policing and destruction of the present set-up.
    Those of us who have lived through the Troubles have also experienced the dawning of the age of the Rock Festival and the Stadium Concert which developed almost simultaneously with our own “entertainments”. The festivals began as fairly ramshackle affairs as a continuation of the jazz and rock festivals of the 1960s, with a whiff of marijuana and the circus about them. Amenities were primitive but in the wake of the Rolling Stones Altamont debacle, where the band placed themselves too close to their audience for comfort and where murder took place, the band was in the forefront in the development of new and more novel ways of music presentation. Within forty years outdoor music presentation has become a well-oiled, skilled affair.
    There is no room for error. Security is tight , alcohol and drugs are policed , and food , toilets and medical help are well advanced. I have never witnessed any violence. At huge festivals such as Glastonbury, or smaller events like Slane, there is usually a” parking zone” well away from the concert arena. Then there is a ticket- only entrance where alcohol ,cans and glass bottles are checked and disposed of in various skips. Alcohol can be bought within the grounds but is served in containers which can cause no damage.
    If this system was applied to marching , the problem would be removed from the streets entirely and would only be available to those interested enough to buy their nominal ticket. Security would be supplied by the organisers and be totally within their remit. As there are very many enthusiasts for these affairs and many annual marches , they should accrue as much attendance as any football or music event “.Culture” would be preserved, if that was the requirement, and anyone wishing to opt out would not buy a ticket. No one would feel forced to partake .
    Not too many Daniel O’Donnell fans would buy a ticket to see Neil Young or Leonard Cohen after all. A good day could be had by all who wanted to participate and marching and speeches could be carried on to their heart’s content. No one could be annoyed by any of this and no permission would be required by a Parades commission or other body other than to book the venue in advance to make sure of a placement and put up a security to offset any breakages or damages. Bands could be vetted and bussed in avoiding any political in -correctness and could then play “party” tunes or otherwise without offence.
    My one question is : Why has no –one suggested something along those lines .Do they want this crooked lunacy to continue forever or do they want to live a peaceful life?

    • Jude Collins January 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

      paddyk – thank you indeed for that long and detailed contribution. I must say it’s an original (to me anyway) and practical notion. It would put an end to marching, which as you say either gums up the streets for traffic or locks in/insults nationalist communities. Maith thú! As I said on FB and Twitter today re Jon Snow – I really love an original thinker.

      • paddykool January 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

        Thank you for the compliment Jude..It’s only taken me a lifetime to cobble it together! Like I said, it’s part of a longer piece I penned against the background of the past year’s nonsense and ballyhoo about among other things, flags, maze shrines and currently our little theatrical debacle. You really couldn’t be inspired to make it up without the ongoing background of clowns and clownish behaviour that has been our bread and butter here for this last sixty plus years..As i said, part of a condensed history of life on earth[ a paragraph or so] I should imagine we are in need of some fresh thinking so that’s my tuppence worth to tweak.

        • giordanobruno January 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

          It’s a nice idea but I cant agree with Jude that it is practical. A lot of the trouble is caused by the hangers on and onlookers at parades, the blue bag brigade if you like. I don’t think they care greatly about going to the field or to any marching stadium either. They will happily spend the day in the pub or drinking at home until the return leg.
          Are you saying no parades on the streets at all? How would that work?
          Which parades? Protest marches? Small band parades in rural villages?St Paddy’s day? Gay rights march?

          • Jude Collins January 29, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

            Gio – that’s right – NO MARCHING. Why the restless legs? Why not simply get to the place you wish to celebrate/protest/whatever by public transport/private vehicle, and then do your thing on the spot. Which makes a stadium for such a tailor-made idea. I think Paddyk should copyright it as soon as possible, before someone like you steals it…

  6. michael c January 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Some time ago I saw an old tv clip in which the actor Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright) was being interviwed about his opposition to Ronald Regan.Dan was a liberal who didn’t want to see Regan become Governor of California.He said Regan tended to confuse the movies where everything was black and white with regards to good and evil and real life where issues were not as clear cut.As Jeffrey is reputed to be quite a movie buff ,could it be that Jeffrey has fallen into the same trap?

    • Jude Collins January 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      I think it’s his church/theology that guides Jeffrey rather than the movies, Michael C. In fact, it may well be his church/theology bans movie-viewing and not just on Sundays…But that’s speculation.

    • paddykool January 29, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Hi Giordano. That’s only my rough sketch of an idea which we can spend the next fifty years or so [as is our wont] tweaking and buffing the rough edges off.I would say that eventually it will be near impossible to allow disruptive practices by any group on our streets without forking out some serious insurances beforehand.The hanger-ons need to be isolated from genuine marchers in some way.That’s a given.They are basically drunken street hooligans hiding behind a convenient front at present. You’ll get them even in tightly regulated football stadiums. Bands and supporters could easily use coaches and cars the same way anyone going to a rock concert does.We don’t all march down en masse blocking the streets when we’re going to Slane or Glasto. If we were doing that several thousand times a year or attempting to run rock concerts in the middle of our towns and cities every week or so there would eventually be a backlash. Limitations would and will eventually be enforced if only for commercial reasons. There is also a social aspect given how bitter and divided our communities have become and how we appear to have reached a no-agreement on anything stalemate. As things are I can only see an escalation of violence if this continues. I’m over sixty now and I’ve seen one generation poisoned, traumatised and slaughtered and by this nonsense from all sides and none and i’ve advised my adult daughters to make lives for themselveselsewhere. They’ve taken me at my word.

      • giordanobruno January 30, 2014 at 10:38 am #

        I’m sympathetic to what you are saying but I can’t believe you seriously think unionists/orangemen will give up what they see as their right to parade through the streets and city centres. Whether it is a genuine cultural expression or just a desire to annoy the other lot I don’t know but they aren’t going to give it up.
        Furthermore even a nationalist majority here, or a United Ireland government would not try to restrict them in the way you are suggesting. Surely you know that.
        I’m all for thinking outside the box but you are so far outside the box, the box is a dot to you.

        • Larry Murphy January 30, 2014 at 11:47 am #

          Your right of course PaddyK. Marching is everything to the Orangeman. A traditional annual expression of triumphalism superiority and above all ownership. Which is why having to seek permission from the Parades Commission and worse still local Catholic communities enrages them so much.

          With apologies to Woody Guthrie.

          The Orange Message

          This land is not your land This land is My land
          From the Walls of Londonderry to the Ardoyne Shops;
          From the Lakes of Fermanagh to the Mourne Mountains
          This land was made for Me not you.

          Nobody living can ever stop me,
          As I go walking that freedom highway;
          Nobody living can ever make me turn back
          These streets were made for Me not you.

          • Larry Murphy January 30, 2014 at 11:59 am #

            I should have addressed that message to you Gio.

          • paddykool January 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

            This is not about restriction. It’s about the way the modern world will work. I can still remember a time when herds of cattle were driven through country streets to market in town. Where the streets swam in shit. Within my lifetime that practice stopped. Things do change however slowly. It’s just that some are slow on the uptake.We can argue who is responsible for their education in modern ways but we shouldn’t have to pay for their mistakes, their bone-headedness nor their arrogance.Men no longer walk with red flags before the motorcars warning everyone they will die if the human body exceeds the speed limit.This is the 21st century. Look what the 20th century brought.

          • paddykool January 30, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

            The box may well be a dot to me gio but I’ve hopes that someday the rest will be able to see the problem from a distant perspective like mine and raise their gaze from navel -level. ..the old “them and us” has a limited shelf life and will have to be addressed……..”.take a sad song and make it better”…. as the Beatles might say.

    • giordanobruno January 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      I wouldn’t do a thing like that Jude.
      But like your moratorium on marching it just doesn’t seem like an idea that has any legs, restless or otherwse.
      I’m sorry if I am being negative like negative Neill there but this seems like wishful thinking to me.
      And by saying no marches are we not throwing the baby out with the bathwater? City centres where no parades of any kind take place…ever?
      More practical and more likely is a long slow process of tightening up on illegal and /or anti-social behaviour. Lets hope our new chief constable will get the support from politicians to do so.

      • Jude Collins January 30, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

        Gio – past my bed-time but a quick word. The older I get the more impatient I get with “let’s do this gradually”. We stopped smoking in public places overnight. We changed the plastic bag in shops thing overnight. No. Marches. Not ‘no demonstrations/commemorations/celebrations – just No. Marches. They’ve brought more grief to this country than is imaginable. They’re unnecessary and out-dated and a source of division, and if I were a Martian and was told there were 4,000+ all saying essentially the same thing, I’d send a Martian missile to blow us all off the map and out of our lunacy.

        • giordanobruno January 31, 2014 at 9:46 am #

          Fair enough you’ve convinced me…no marches. I’m sick of them too.
          Lets ban them all. Overnight.
          Just one more thing, as Columbo would say, how do we do it?

  7. michael c January 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    No ,Jude , apparently if Jeff was on “mastermind” the movies would be his specialist subject!

    • paddykool January 29, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

      Gio…one man’s wishful thinking is another ‘s thinking outside the box. You’ll have noticed we’ve created one almighty unsavoury box to wallow in with no new ideas . Let’s get a few alternatives out there. Jude calls it original thought. I like that .I’d even go for “eccentric” if it would fix this particular broken wheel.

  8. Jude Collins January 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    Mein gott! You surprise me, Michael…I guess as a former UDR man his special area of interest would be the films of Quentin Tarantino…

  9. ANOTHER JUDE January 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Jeffrey will never change unfortunately, he still has that UDR mind set. The taigs are using stealth instead of weaponry but they are still `them`. Let`s face it, he was Enoch Powell`s boy a long time ago and we know what an enlightened chap HE was. As for the culture problem , we have more than enough hospitals, bridges, streets and God knows what else named after various imperialist pirates and brigands. I suggest we make a start in redressing the imbalance by having all new buildings etc named after Nationalist folk heroes. After about fifty years or so we can start naming things after Unionist heroes as well. Raymond McCreesh Park is a start but it is only a start.

  10. michael c January 29, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Quentin Tarintino,yes but not exclusively from what I hear!

    • Caroline January 29, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

      Mr Pink?

  11. Larry Murphy January 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    11th July 1995

    Mr Jeffery Donaldson, assistant grand master of the Orange Order in Ireland, said the whole Order stood behind those in Portadown. It was, he said, ”a stand for freedom”. He added: ”We demand the right to process the Queen’s highway free from republican interference.”

    Earlier, Mr Paisley told the rally of several thousand that they had gathered to establish the rights of the Protestant people to walk down the Garvaghy Road.

    ”It is a very serious issue because it lies at the very heart and foundation of our heritage, at the foundation of the future of our family and this Province that we love,” he said.

    ”There can be no turning back on this issue . . . we will die if necessary rather than surrender.

    ”If we don’t win this battle, all is lost. It is a matter of life or death, it is a matter of Ulster or Irish Republic, it is a matter of freedom or slavery.”

    • Jude Collins January 29, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      Begod Larry – you always were a man for using the irony stiletto – skewered, I think…

  12. jim January 29, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    Couldn’t disagree with all of that Jude.

    It’s one thing unionism sticking two fingers up at the British or even Republicans for that matter, but I don’t think the yanks will take too kindly to them sticking fingers up at Hass and O’Sullivan seven different times.