POLITICAL CONVERSION, ANYONE? by Kieran Maxwell

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The Painting above is by Italian artist Caravaggio – painted in the baroque style -depicting the “conversion of St Paul” – I don’t know how much you know about Paul, originally Saul of Tarsus, but he was a Roman citizen born in Tarsus (modern-day south-east Turkey) around 5 AD. He was a Jew who zealously persecuted the early followers of Jesus and violently tried to destroy the newly-forming Christian Church.

Caravaggio’s painting depicts his conversion on the road to Damascus – in the painting Paul is struck to the ground, temporarily blinded by his experience of meeting the risen Jesus who asks him why he persecutes Him? You notice Paul’s sword by his side, his Roman-style garments flapping. Paul in the painting doesn’t know what’s happening – but oddly the horse does, it has its hoof raised in reflex to the change that is happening to Paul. I think it’s a fantastic painting – beautifully powerful.

I would class myself as a religious man, but I wasn’t always so. I’m a relatively young man at 32 and growing up through my 20s I went through what you could call a spiritual conversion. I went through a period of deep questioning; so much so that I almost bought into the atheistic world-view. Strangely though, in my case it was an atheist, in the form of my brother, who set me on a path which has changed my life.

My brother and I had an encounter one evening at a house party; we both had a few drinks and got into talking about God, (drink and God = recipe for disaster – I know, save the ridicule for later please). However, that exchange left me humbled and afraid,  for it exposed in me that I knew precious little as to what I was talking about. That one exchange set me on a path of exploration and fact-finding. It culminated in a process that led me back to God.

Now the reason I’m writing this is because I’m sure a lot of people have had similar experience, whether that be a conversion to religious faith or a conversion to the atheistic faith or something even graver in my opinion, conversion from one football team to another!! (Surely not). There are bound to be many instances and examples where people can relate to this. However, what I’d like to tease out and explore is political conversion. Is it even possible?

In this corner of our beautiful planet we don’t really have/do “normal” politics. We are divided down religious grounds, more or less, and within this dichotomy there is further separation within the two main camps. We are hardly limited by choice, but keeping my examples of conversion in mind, has anyone had that St Paul moment where they realized they were on the “wrong side”? Do any of you readers have any doubts about your political party? Has anyone ever had their political path altered by the words or deeds of a “brother”? And finally; is the political evangelization of the non-voter possible, and if so how is it to be done?

31 Responses to POLITICAL CONVERSION, ANYONE? by Kieran Maxwell

  1. paul August 8, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I think many people would question at least some actions of their chosen party, I have and still have some questions why some things are/were done and others not. I think my experiences and friendships have helped form whom I follow although I do not follow any party “blindly and without question”

    • giordanobruno August 8, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      paul
      One problem with that is that the parties can and do take our vote as a mandate for their whole manifesto.
      How often do we hear politicians say the people voted for us to carry out such and such a policy.
      In reality most of us as you say would question at least some of what our party of choice may do.
      We are forced to vote for the party that comes closest to hitting our priorities and accepting the other stuff that comes with the package.

      • Jude Collins August 8, 2014 at 11:25 am #

        Honestly and accurately put, gio.

      • paul August 8, 2014 at 11:43 am #

        Gio, Agreed, but we have the right and power(free speech) to express our disagreements if we choose.

  2. Francis D August 8, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    There is a saying about the inflexibility of those who refuse to embrace change or countanence it themselves as individuals thereby remaining stagnant. Your piece was an interesting read Kieran, and it perhaps underlies what goes to the Heart of the matter in an individuals development,-or lack of” as the case may often be.
    Principles per say are problematic things that can often leave one stagnant and intransigent when the outside Political situation requires some flexibility for the movement and the greater good. That said, there are some absolutes maybe that connot be compromised on.

    To contextualise it I will give a brief dichotomy of my own journey. When in my teens I was fervently political despite the apathy of most of my friends. People had grown weary of the War here and the constant bad news of human tragedy from all quarters that visited many a mass card/sympathy card strewn sitting room with the tears of bereavement liberally dripping the place before the coffin was lifted and the remains of a human being carried away to a premature Grave. Maybe that is one of the reasons rhe carnage inflicted on the Palestinians resonates with so many of us as sensually we can smell the Tragedy on the wind. The commonality of the Human condition though makes all suffering kindred in its effects. Hamas to ever” or anyone Ever to target non combatants is inexcusable and a War Crime when done so with intent. This is a principal I strongly adhere to, and hope some day as a deterent the the Israeli Government and military have to give account of their Crimes in the Hague…

    There is an old and tired belief that the passionate zeal of the younger Socialist, should in due course give way to the more Sagacious and pragmatic older conservative whooly liberal. Many adhere to this wearisome old addage, perhaps through lack of energy to support such a n agenda coupled with disillusionment with the movements active attempting to ignite such fervent new hopes and possibilities…In Islam, despair is regarded as a sin. I am an atheist and also anti-theist as I object strongly to the divisive nature of religion and the complacency it propagates among the sheep by rhe Shepherds to defer, accept, endure and await justice before a spiritual court of a less earthly sitting where the woes of this world can be explained and corrected in Paradise or Hades. That perhaps leaves myself in political pergatory, the wilderness or wherever depending on the Religious who may adjudge such a stance as lost. Most Religipus People however mean well, and intuitively I have little doubt as to your own integrity.

    Fifty thousand souls evaporate into the ethosphere daily and needlessly because od poverty alone on this planet. Starvation is not something I sttongly contend, that should ever be accepted, and yet the Economic System we are trapped in makes it and those people expedient…I will conclude as I could write all day to explain my thinking on these ideas. Poverty and Social injustice and needless Wars are not something ai believe should ever remain uncontested….ergo I have become more entrenched in my opposition to such malaise. This makes me more Radical,-but am I and others like me more Radical, or are those who despair of ever achieving a more equitible footing for all the peoples of our planet becoming more cynical…? An open question, for which many avoid seeking an answer? I have no right to judge such like who do despair,-I occasionally do myself, but Neither also with such a world view do I allow myself to compromise on such fundamental rights,- indeed in my view, to do so would perhaps be the greatest sin for a Socialist to indulge.

    • BaldyBapTheBarber August 8, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

      Hi Francis,

      I’m glad you found the piece interesting. The topic is something that i think has a certain affinity with the way we look at our bank accounts. I haven’t changed mine since I opened it when I was 12, and even though I’m peppered with offers and literature telling me that I’d be better off elsewhere, I’ve no plans to change anytime soon. There hasn’t been that big offer that’s made me jump.

      Those that don’t switch banks and those that don’t vote; maybe they see it like this – Banks and political parties, bankers and politicians – at times they promise us the moon and the stars! When in reality they are a bit like that nappy I just changed…. Full of shi£.

      Your post was honest and compelling Francis, thank you for sharing it.

      • Francis D August 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

        Thanks Baldybap. Your post was refreshingly original and posed some discerning questions. As was PKs reply, stimulating and a pleasure to read. GRMA for your courteous feedback as well.

  3. paddykool August 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Well ,I’ll get this out of the way before I get started …Am I talking to Kieran or is this BaldyBap i see before me ? I do like an alter -ego, as some of you already know .It can be a lot of fun. If this isn’t BaldyBap, my apologies. BaldyBap and I have already covered a lot of very entertaining, esoteric ground already….
    Anyway..Caravaggio was a bit of a pistol in his day. When I first started studying art , way back as a sixteen year old, one of the books I read was ” From “Giotto to Cezanne” .A local painter who was giving me a little direction pointed it out to me . It can be very enlightening digging into the lives of some of these characters …Artists! Well you know what wild guys they can be..especially when they are young ! It a temperament thing I suppose…it goes with a creative nature in many people . Caravaggio apparently fell foul of the Pope who issued a death warrant on him. He was gaoled several times too and apparently committed murder, just to put the cherry on the cake , and went On The Run for some time. He was some painter though , wasn’t he? He was very popular in his day and had many patrons. He was almost forgotten altogether until relatively recently though . Resurrected for the twentieth century if you like He fell out of favour .Like Picasso …a genius artistically … but a bit of a misogynist.There’s always a fatal flaw. I ‘ve talked before about our heroes and their feet of clay , haven’t I?
    Where was I ?
    Oh yes ..Can we jump ship politically and swap horses mid-stream.? People do, for all sorts of reasons, I’d imagine . We do not always remain the same “person” throughout our lives after all. There is the possibility that as a young man aquires more property, goods, a family…children ..he has greater responsibilities to think about . He has a lot more to lose. He has fears for his family’s well-being that never existed for him as a young man. That could change his perspective , couldn’t it ? He could become more conservative.The Bob Dylan line “If you ain’t got nothin’ you’ve got nothing to lose” ….always springs into my mind. Then again there are plenty of rich and well -off people who are natural socialists and cling to that socialist upbringing. We are all different. We have different fears driving our lives.
    In Northern Ireland , for example , you can be born into a household that will steer you like a river into a particular set of traditions and political directions.Of course Northern Ireland is a bit of an anomaly anyway.
    Do real “Left and Right” politics really exist here ? Are real politics really working here anyway?
    We have a society , for example, that has two huge “working -class “{whatever that means these days!} tranches of voters but these “working classes” are actually very parochially conservative in their root values.I wouldn’t think that most DUP and Sinn Fein voters are really very left-wing for example.I’m not sure that they even think of left and right..It is arguable that there are fascist undertones in both those camps. Is a Sinn Fein voter a revolutionary or is he /she still a natural conservative Roman Catholic or not ? Religious people do cleave to some very conservative concepts that have been overturned by scientific discoveries after all…or you could argue that they in are , in fact ,the ones who are the most “far out” and outre thinkers of us all ,in that their ideas are demonstrably the weirdest that anyone could come up with without the assistance of narcotics.
    What kind of political outlook can someone who adheres to a Creationist belief actually have.It’s hardly forward looking and embracing modernity with its rubbishing of the Enlightenment . How would you describe it anyway? How would you describe the politics attached to those beliefs?
    I suppose we all have innate political personas anyway ,which are shaped by our personalities , the books we might read and the actions that can happen to us outside on the streets, or at work. If you are in a poorly paid job you might become a member of a trade union that will naturally lead you in a politically left-wing direction. If you are a conservative creature by nature that will be reflected in every bit of your life and thinking .It will adhere to the music you like to listen to , the paintings and films you like to watch, the books you will search out to read…the way you might dress even.
    All those things will steer you in a particular political direction. Inside your head you might still feel like a fiery twenty year old , anarchistic firebrand with a world to conquer , but you know that life as… say a sixty year old… will have rubbed some edges off that perspective .You will have to be more conservative just to maintain what you have fought hard throughout your life to keep.
    Of course that doesn’t mean you can identify with a particular set of current politicians .What most of do is try to pick the best from what is put in front of us, or as you know, fifty percent don’t actually bother at all.I still think we do not yet live in anything like a normal situation and that most people are choosing their political alliances in a tribalistic way and not a political way at all.
    I have never felt totally happy with the choices on offer, personally, but I usually put that down to being one of the “awkward squad” of inconsolable buggers, anyway. I wish we had better but to waste a hard won right to vote , even in these sterile circumstances seems like such a waste that everyone should vote for a different party each time …just to keep the buggers hopping!!

    • BaldyBapTheBarber August 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

      Guilt as charged PK! My cover is blown haha

      You know you make some seriously good points PK. The more I read this blog the more I educate myself. I’ve said it before that it’s not only Jude who provokes inregue and wonder in the grey matter that passes for my brain, but more and more its the contributers who really stir things up for me. The likes of your good self and Francis D above. Two wonderful contributions.

      I thank you for your reply PK seriously good. Now if you’ll excuse me for a while I’ve a nappy to change – ahh the smell of love.

      • paddykool August 8, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

        Many thanks for the Bon mots BaldyBap but what I want to know is …where is the bold outlaw with the Nom deo Guerrero , Perkin? He surely has something to add……

    • giordanobruno August 9, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

      paddy
      Thanks for reminding me I have that ‘Giotto to Cezanne’ book by Michael Levey.
      It’s a good guide for those like me with the soul (metaphorical of course) of an arts student but lacking either talent or application was forced into the chains of a science education.
      Missing out on one and hating the other I fell between two schools.

  4. michael c August 8, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Yes the political evangelisation of the non voter is possible. I first came across it in 1997 when McGuinness defeated McCrea in Mid Ulster.McCrea had held the seat for 14 years due to a split Nationalist vote.However the results of the 1996 forum election showed that with a bit of a push SF could take the seat even with the SDLP in the field.There followed a year long registration campaign which succeeded in putting previously apathetic voters on the register and then a massive canvas which identified those in need of postal and proxy votes.Word started to get out that the seat could be won and McGuinness personally visited people who had never voted in their lives and won them round.Houses were canvassed and leafletted multiple times and previously SDLP voters began to jump on the bandwagon, so impressed were they by the scale of the operation.An official from the electoral office conceded in the press that he had never witnessed as impressive a campaign.The result was a turnout approaching 90% and a McGuinness win by nearly 2000 votes.

    • Jude Collins August 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

      Any thoughts on why similar effort by canvassers and turn-out by voters can’t be achieved in every case, Michael C? Your description of what happened in Mid-Ulster is an inspiring one. I still remember Willie McCrea, on TV, after the count had been declared, telling the voters of Mid-Ulster that they had lain down with dogs and would get up with fleas…

      • paul August 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

        I take it there was no post election conciliatory handshake? Amazing arrogance and ego, shown by McCrea, basically he is telling voters you are not intelligent to make an educated choice. On second look, pretty much sums up DUP attitudes to the voting populi.

      • paddykool August 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

        Ahhh the sanctimonious Willy who shared a platform with his hero Billy Wright in Portadown… .Now that’s morality for you , eh?

      • neill August 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

        Inspiring would not be the word I would use however if that is the what the people want so be it.

        Was it so inspiring when Unionists voted for the SDLP on the Shankill to get rid of Gerry Adams in 1992 as per usual Gerry Adams took it on the chin and obviously did not say his seat had been stolen by unionist votes….

  5. michael c August 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Jude,since things have settled a bit since those heady days I think we will never see turnouts approaching 90% again.However in more recent times Michelle Gildernew pulled off the near impossible by winning over thousands of SDLP voters to defeat a united unionist by 4 votes.I would not have the same knowledge of Fermanagh South Tyrone but the media were reporting at the time that “SF were throwing the kitchen sink at FST ” and obviously they were ,such was the outstanding result.In both cases people with even the slightest connection to republicanism were energised and a mass campaign ensued which paid dividends.

  6. Francis D August 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    It some coutries voting is mandatory, in Ireland the Civil Rights campaign in the North fought hard for one mab one vote. Voter apathy is linked to greater political cynicism that change can be effected through the electoral process. We pick our politicos ans their agendas, so we are ultimately responsible collectively for our own greater political predicaments. Real democracy arguably comes from the ground up. When people feel empowered on a community level, it does inspire people to change the direction of the polititions who have represented them, that, or change them. When power is delegated from the top down by ‘Leaderships who “Know best”, and call for others to likewise “Show Leadership”, then arguably this infuses more voter apathy from community level, patronised and led like sheep into one Pen or the Other from a seemingly aloof steering committee. Saying that” the Vote itself was hard won after a long struggle so should not be discounted as part of the quest to attain ever more realisible representative government. Politicos are accountible to us, and we must engage them to raise their expectations lest stagnation creep in.

  7. TheHist August 8, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Very intriguing article Kieran, well done a chara. I think many of us have different conversions throughout life, be they life changing or minuscule – I think conversion is an integral part of life and part of a changing society. Political conversion can take a long time, yet it can be so ruthless. Who could have imagined after New Labour came to power in 1997, a political conversion could have taken place bringing the Conservatives back into power? Who could have imagined 20 years ago Sinn Fein in a power sharing government with Unionists? Who would have thought come 2014 Sinn Fein would be the biggest party in the North after local elections? In 2014, 21.2% of the vote on the island making it the largest party (ok, I will stop there, I know this will open me up to criticise). But the reality is political conversion happens, it is inevitable on a societal scale that begins with the individual.

    In regards a political conversion in the North … I think as the political circumstances have changed post ceasefire we have evidently witnessed a major swing of political conversion. Quite possibly, a political conversion that would have previously seemed unimaginable. Most notably in 2003 whereby we witnessed the “extreme” political groups surpass the moderates and this remaining the case. Although within Unionism I believe this conversion continues albeit the TUV making relative inroads recently, but that’s a story for a different day. In Nationalist circles, this political conversion has damaged the credibility and position of the SDLP (yes Jude, who?) more than any other party as Sinn Fein have managed to eat into their electorate. A conversion that once looked impossible. Perhaps analogising two periods of History, the SDLP remind me of the Irish Parliamentary Party post 1914 – heading towards their death bed and can’t seem to do anything about it. Political parties want to preach to covert and win the converted over. In 2013 Gerry Adams made this very clear when he stated “The big challenge is to convert the professed willingness of a section of the electorate to vote for us, to convert that into actual votes in the course of an election.” Have Sinn Fein succeeded in their conversion? Well look at the 2014 election results North and South (ok I did it again).

    In the North, we have political choice, we do try our best to fit ourselves into one of those categories. I think in any democracy there will never be any party that ticks all boxes. I totally agree with you Gio when you state “We are forced to vote for the party that comes closest to hitting our priorities and accepting the other stuff that comes with the package.” In politics we have learned to accept the rough with the smooth. We also find ourselves occasionally trying to justify reasons why the political party of choice do something we might not totally agree with.

    In the North however, many people simply align themselves to a political party based on the Constitutional Question. How many people out there who vote for a political party, read manifesto’s, hold parties to account on electoral promises or know party policy? In the last Local and European election, I challenged a unnamed electoral representative on a point of policy as they canvassed at my door … I’m still awaiting the response. The 100 metre sprint world record was put in jeopardy – a vanishing act occurred. Do politicians and political parties prefer the electorate to remain political illiterate to ensure they keep their electorate and they don’t convert? On the other hand what about voter apathy? Why does this unconverted group remain so large? Are they impossible to covert?

    I also agree that we do vote along religious grounds, this is now a siege mentality within our society, sectarian politics – can it change? Probably not! I for one look at opposing parties and agree with some of their positions on a variety of issues – but in our society we aren’t allowed to say this – we really aren’t meant to cross that divide. I lived in England a few years back. Previous to an election I recalled a group of friends discussing the parties / candidates – political conversion in working progress was witnessed – why was there a miracle of political conversion? They simply wanted to vote for who was the best party / candidate regardless of religion, constitutional issues, personalities et al (maybe I need new friends). Is that how we work? Simple answer, No!

    In the South, political circumstances have resulted in an ongoing political conversion, as people now look to Sinn Fein. A few years back Sinn Fein were a marginal party that lacked much appeal with the electorate. Latest opinion polls have Sinn Fein hovering around 24%, an illustration of a possible political transformation.

    Political conversions have and always will happen. Maybe there are more “political” St Paul’s out there, than we may have imagined, maybe there aren’t enough …

  8. Norma wilson August 8, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Good Evening Gentlemen

    I have just read all the blogs and once again PK held my attention the most.
    I am presently watching a program i recorded on RTE The Forgotten War, Ireland WW1.
    I never knew the half of it, of course I had heard about this man Carson, supposedly signing some document in blood allegedly ?
    I never ever heard of Redmond, I was never taught any Irish history at school. It is totally fascinating.
    It is a pity that the people, and the country separated.
    I like SF and their bread and butter issues, I did not like the UI part, however, things can change. It’s like if you ask me nicely to do something, i will/could oblige you, but if you spoke ignorantly, or with a certain tone of voice, you would get the exact opposite!
    Gerry Adams, and Martin McG have both at times made speeches which I could have bought into? I can’t quite remember it word for word, but it went a bit like, “come and be 100%of something than 10% of nothing”, it stopped me in my tracks, and I liked what I heard, but the next week he had lost his art of seduction, and was giving it what for.
    It is a terrible pity, the turn of events which was to shape Ireland, am I to be held accountable for the situation I was born into?
    I am unionist/Protestant/city while my husband is catholic/country, yet you would not believe how compatible we are, my Grandmother on my Fathers side, not my Granny from Newry, was impregnated by a catholic called Peter McBride, but he did not marry her, and my Father was born illegitimate when the stigma was unbearable in the 1930’s, thank God neither of them ended up in one of those mother and baby places… any way my husbands GrandFather met a nice wee catholic girl, they married hence the name Wilson, they had 10 children, and he like me, never gave his religion up, so you see, we really are all bastardised. Seeds planted everywhere so to speak.
    I am not happy with Francie D, we could never be friends, I am totally behind the Israelis, you see politics, religion, and different opinions.
    Mazel tov Norma.

  9. TheHist August 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Very intriguing article Kieran, well done a chara. I think many of us have different conversions throughout life, be they life changing or minuscule – I think conversion is an integral part of life and part of a changing society. Political conversion can take a long time, yet it can be so ruthless. Who could have imagined after New Labour came to power in 1997, a political conversion could have taken place bringing the Conservatives back into power? Who could have imagined 20 years ago Sinn Fein in a power sharing government with Unionists? Who would have thought come 2014 Sinn Fein would be the biggest party in the North after local elections? In 2014, 21.2% of the vote on the island making it the largest party (ok, I will stop there, I know this will open me up to criticise). But the reality is political conversion happens, it is inevitable on a societal scale that begins with the individual.

    In regards a political conversion in the North … I think as the political circumstances have changed post ceasefire we have evidently witnessed a major swing of political conversion. Quite possibly, a political conversion that would have previously seemed unimaginable. Most notably in 2003 whereby we witnessed the “extreme” political groups surpass the moderates and this remaining the case. Although within Unionism I believe this conversion continues albeit the TUV making relative inroads recently, but that’s a story for a different day. In Nationalist circles, this political conversion has damaged the credibility and position of the SDLP (yes Jude, who?) more than any other party as Sinn Fein have managed to eat into their electorate. A conversion that once looked impossible. Perhaps analogising two periods of History, the SDLP remind me of the Irish Parliamentary Party post 1914 – heading towards their death bed and can’t seem to do anything about it. Political parties want to preach to covert and win the converted over. In 2013 Gerry Adams made this very clear when he stated “The big challenge is to convert the professed willingness of a section of the electorate to vote for us, to convert that into actual votes in the course of an election.” Have Sinn Fein succeeded in their conversion? Well look at the 2014 election results North and South (ok I did it again).

    In the North, we have political choice, we do try our best to fit ourselves into one of those categories. I think in any democracy there will never be any party that ticks all boxes. I totally agree with you Gio when you state “We are forced to vote for the party that comes closest to hitting our priorities and accepting the other stuff that comes with the package.” In politics we have learned to accept the rough with the smooth. We also find ourselves occasionally trying to justify reasons why the political party of choice do something we might not totally agree with.

    In the North however, many people simply align themselves to a political party based on the Constitutional Question. How many people out there who vote for a political party, read manifesto’s, hold parties to account on electoral promises or know party policy? In the last Local and European election, I challenged a unnamed electoral representative on a point of policy as they canvassed at my door … I’m still awaiting the response. The 100 metre sprint world record was put in jeopardy – a vanishing act occurred. Do politicians and political parties prefer the electorate to remain political illiterate to ensure they keep their electorate and they don’t convert? On the other hand what about voter apathy? Why does this unconverted group remain so large? Are they impossible to covert?

    I also agree that we do vote along religious grounds, this is now a siege mentality within our society, sectarian politics – can it change? Probably not! I for one look at opposing parties and agree with some of their positions on a variety of issues – but in our society we aren’t allowed to say this – we really aren’t meant to cross that divide. I lived in England a few years back. Previous to an election I recalled a group of friends discussing the parties / candidates – political conversion in working progress was witnessed – why was there a miracle of political conversion? They simply wanted to vote for who was the best party / candidate regardless of religion, constitutional issues, personalities et al (maybe I need new friends). Is that how we work? Simple answer, No!

    In the South, political circumstances have resulted in an ongoing political conversion, as people now look to Sinn Fein. A few years back Sinn Fein were a marginal party that lacked much appeal with the electorate. Latest opinion polls have Sinn Fein hovering around 24%, an illustration of a possible political transformation.

    Political conversions have and always will happen. Maybe there are more “political” St Paul’s out there than we may have imagined, maybe there aren’t enough …

    • Am Ghobsmacht August 9, 2014 at 3:56 am #

      Good point TheHist

      The one in particular about ‘policy’ rings in my head as something peculiar in that I don’t remember anyone giving a ha’penny bit about individual policies until NI21 came on the scene then it was “what about their policies?! They’ve no policies! They’re making stuff up!” and since their spectacular disintegration (and therefore not a threat to anyone) no one cares if they have or haven’t got any policies.

      • TheHist August 9, 2014 at 9:25 am #

        AG, it’s funny whilst writing my comment NI21 resonated in my head. I think at the time this whole prospect of a liberal Unionist (to become a liberal “other”) alternative made a few “hearts beat” within the “Unionism family.” It was a shame the whole N121 “ship became a wreck.” Of all the parties they were big at preaching to politically convert (being a new party suppose they had to) – they stood out from Conservative Unionism on many points of morality that showed they did offer a modern approach – Post “dinosaur politics.” I will refer to it. Something Kieran and others have touched upon is voter apathy – I know in every country there is a section of the electorate who don’t vote, find nothing in common with any party and some who probably just don’t care or bother. Tribal tit for tat politics will continue to alienate this group – is it possible for us to ever emerge from Tribal politics? Can the current political parties try to persuade those who don’t vote to change their minds? Over the years I’ve noticed parties try to target voter apathy by using “negative politics” or “the politics of fear” – an example was cited about about West Belfast Unionists voting for the SDLP to keep Gerry Adams out. As we see the “Unionist family” come together (God knows for how long) will they use this opportunity to frighten the Unionist electorate into thinking Sinn Fein could be the biggest party in the next Assembly elections? so get voting to prevent this! I think in the North we probably don’t use politics to bring positive change to our society, we use politics to keep “themins” out giving us a feel that “my” party is actually doing something for me … Do they really? …

    • BaldyBapTheBarber August 9, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      Ah TheHist a chara,

      That was a humdinger of a post, touché old boy!! Articulate, factual and very funny, (maybe I need new friends) I’m still chuckling at that one.

      A very potent contribution, thank you for taking the time to put it together. I think I’m gonna read it again!!!!

      God bless

  10. Am Ghobsmacht August 9, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    “Has anyone ever had their political path altered by the words or deeds of a “brother”?”

    Not by a brother, but by a change of environment.

    When I left NI in the late 90’s I was to all intents and purposes what people would now call a ‘flegger’, Less than 2 months before I sat my first lecture in Glasgow I was in a Drumcree protest roadblock .

    All the ‘weird’ things in Scotland caused me to change my views like;
    witnessing Protestants speak Gaelic and having Gaelic language free of politics ( no, I won’t let that drop, no one party in Scotland utilises Gaelic for its own ends, its for the country, not any one party), Protestants partake in folk music, Protestants be disgusted at the Glasgow 12th (rightly so, it’s awful), meeting people who want whats best for Scotland politically not because their head is filled full of partisan history (though there is a lot of that too, watching a drunk in a Rangers top singing about Bonnie Prince Charlie is just one of those things in life you can’t describe) and working at Old Firm games (I now loathe the Old Firm).

    The sectarianism in Glasgow was very ‘in yer face’ but at the same time it didn’t seem to demarcate people into ‘their tribe’ like it does in NI.

    So, I started to embrace the Scottish way of thinking, hence I’m to all intents (pragmatically speaking) a unionist but one that wants a Gaelic revival of sorts and wants to use the common culture between Ulster (nine county before y’all flip) and Scotland to rebuild bridges between the various tribes and their contrived cultures (which they are, cherry picked to suit the appropriate political narrative). http://amgobsmacked.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/ulster-scots-and-irish-nots.html but I’m very amenable to the idea of a pragmatically handled united Ireland.

    I’m not the only one, a lot of my Irish-Glasgow friends learnt to let their guard down, I know some Protestants that are now unificationist and some former republicans who are now pro ‘status quo’.

    Bit ironic I suppose as one could easily get sucked into the sectarian underbelly quite easily,

    I don’t really fear a united Ireland, in fact, after reading of the latest antics of the DUP, Henry Reilly, Jamie ‘different planet’ Bryson and Willie Frazer I sometimes wholeheartedly embrace the idea in the hope that they’ll bugger off to Airdrie or Troon or somewhere.

    But then I read ‘Tim Pat Coogan Lite’ offerings from equally brainwashed and angry nationalists then I think “better the devil you know?”.

    The funny thing in NI is that those who profess to uphold the union are the worst placed to do so and same with those who wish to promote a united Ireland (hint: If you wish to punt the idea of a UI then talk like ‘a new start for a new Ireland’ NOT the broken record of ‘900 years of oppression’ or ‘4 million killed in the famine by England!’, here’s Saatchi & Saatchi’s contact details for anyone who seriously wants to promote their political goal, I’m pretty sure they’ll say “no Surrender” or “Perfidious Albion” are detrimental to either cause http://saatchi.co.uk/en-gb/network/contact-us/ )

    • paddykool August 9, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      Good to hear from you Am Ghob…..As usual some good points from an unusual perspective. Also interesting to think that you may have been part of the reason I had to make a late night twenty mile detour from work to avoid Drumcree and get home to my warm bed ….sometime back in those “wonderful” 1990’s!!!..

      • Am Ghobsmacht August 10, 2014 at 2:41 am #

        Erm, sorry about that PK, is it a bit weak to say “it seemed like a good idea at the time?”

        • paddykool August 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

          Ha..ha …

    • Norma wilson August 9, 2014 at 9:51 am #

      AG
      The part about new beginnings, and letting go of the past, is so true.
      That could work, and bring us together.
      Norma

  11. giordanobruno August 9, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    Living in the holyland in the ’80s I had many road to Damascus (street) experiences. Frequently as I cycled home (wabble wabble) from Charlie Lavery’s ,strange visions would unseat me from my steed leaving me like St Paul prostrate on the ground arms raised in dumb supplication. Praise the Lord.

  12. michael c August 9, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Gio, there definitely would be a common culture between Ireland and Scotland in terms of music.I recently watched an “ulster scots” themed programme on BBC from Glenarm castle.Those taking part would probably think they were showing how different they are to the rest of us but I was struck by the similarities to the ceilidhes which used to take place in my local GAA hall.