Waiting for the word from Westminster


As I write the big hand is struggling towards (high) noon, when we’re to be told what our masters in Westminster have decided to pass our way. The Stormont parties – for once united – have asked for a loan of £2 billion over ten years. That’s right, a loan. And we’re all holding our breath to see if David and George will stump up the requested sum,  presumably with a low interest rate.  The word is that they’ll not offer 2 but they will offer £1.5 billion, which is probably what the parties here would settle for.

Ironically for a people who see themselves as hard-headed businessmen and women, unionist politicians get really excited not by money but non-money matters. For example? Flags, parades and the past. The concern over flags – Union flags of course – are exclusively unionist. I’ve neither heard nor read any call from republicans for more frequent or prominent flying of the tricolour. Will unionist politicians accept the compromise that Belfast City Council voted for, where the Union flag flies on some eighteen occasions each year?  I doubt it. I doubt it very much. So if that’s a condition of passing over the cash, forget it.

And parades? Again, an exclusively unionist preoccupation. Will the people at Twaddell Avenue agree to fold their caravan and go home and have their Christmas dinner?  I doubt it. I doubt it very much. But if they get the Parades Commission abolished and replaced by something pretty similar,  they might sign up.

The past? That involves all parties and none. The period of the conflict brought suffering and injustice to everyone. What to do? Well, everyone could open up about what they did. But they won’t. Starting with the British government, there is no way all former combatants will come clean on such matters as their part in the killing of Pat Finucane or other foul deeds. Neither, to be even-handed, will all republican and loyalist former paramilitaries. Whatever way we deal with the past, we can’t make it depend on everyone speaking the full truth about what they did. There’ll always be some who’ll refuse to be open and honest – starting, as I say, with the British government.

The British know that dealing with the past is a problem which will not be resolved in the short-term or even mid-term. Given that, it’s unlikely they’ll tie agreement on the past to the £1.5 billion (over ten years) that’s being spoken about.

My prediction? With the health warning that I’m just as bad at predicting as everyone else,  I’d say the past will be kicked down the road, parades will be given the illusion of resolution by appointing another body to replace the Parades Commission, and unionists will be given some compensating concession for the emotional hardship they must suffer by having their Union flag fly on a mere 18 days a year at City Hall.

I’m fairly confident in my prediction that there will be an agreement. All parties, particularly Sinn Féin and the DUP, have too much invested in Stormont to throw it all away just because Cameron is doing the Scrooge thing. Besides, highlighting what a damned Scrooge the British prime minister is may help unionists admit to themselves that, for all their loyalty,  the British government doesn’t give a damn about them. If the present crisis brought that awareness permanently home to unionism, it’d all have been worth it. They are our fellow countrymen and women,  so a more realistic perception of Mother Britain would or should be welcomed by one and all.

A fat loan at low interest rates from a government that said there was no more, plus unionist politicians who’ve learnt the lesson of how little Mother loves them: that’s not bad as a pre-Christmas present. Not bad at all. Maith sibh, gach duine!

27 Responses to Waiting for the word from Westminster

  1. Patrick J Dorian December 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    Villiers statement that there would be a generous response had a large Caveat, Britain’s financial crisis. The Twaddle situation is based on a lie that there are no nationalists living on the front of the road. In actual fct most of the houses all the way up to past the old St Gabriel’s site have a majority of non unionist residents. One can see this by the dearth of flags on houses on the font of th road and in the streets that trend west from the Crumlin Road.
    So it is not just a 5 minute walk. There is a link from the Crumlin Rd into Glencairn estate along a path called Harmony way. It would be cheaper for the government to widen this to allow the loyalists to march from Ballysillan into Glencairn where the locals would appreciate the culture, no one would be upset and the march could pass from the estate, onto the Ballygomartin road and down the Shankill, enteraining the good unionist folk and causing no annoyance to their Catholic neighbours but, what then would be the point of marching?

  2. paddykool December 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    It would be timely to remember just why we had talks at all.It was to sort out the mess on the streets that the DUP set alight and encouraged.They hadn’t copped to the reality that politics are compromise and the flags solution was compromise aligning us with the UK.They wanted to be something that the UK wasn’t…..They want it again with their equality lite bill.That is where all the problems arise.I can see everything that we really needed sorting out is about to be fudged …just to get them all off the hook in time for the turkey and so that the current status quo can continue.Anything else is just too difficult and anyway we’d end up back with this same nonsense anyway.Here comes the New Year…..just like the old year….

  3. neill December 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Some interesting points about the British equally the same could be said about Southern Ireland they deserted Northern Nationalists with unseemly haste fair enough they make the pretence but that is all it is.

    If they ever did care about unification when was the last time a Southern govt. prepared a green paper on Irish unification?

    I know it hurts Jude but the simple fact is that most Southern Irish people can just about tolerate Northern Nationalists who by nature and outlook are far different from them.

    Can I take this opportunity to wish everybody who reads this blog a very happy merry Christmas and a very prosperous new year.

    Can I also thank Jude for writing his blog even though I disagree with 99.99 per cent of what he writes I still respect his guts defending what he believes.

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      Well thank you – go raibh cead maith agat. A generous and civilized comment in keeping with the time of year. I agree with you 99.99% about southern governments down the decades. Large sections of the south’s population would fall into that bugger-the-North category but I think there are large sections (witness SF electoral progress) who either have the b-t-N attitude because their media has fed them little else or because like most people they fear change. I’d generally agree that it’s not just northern unionists who need to be convinced of the worth of a UI, it’s the southern population as well. However, while many resist change, others welcome it. And when I’m at it, before I go off to get pissed, can I thank all those who’ve commented over the past year – particularly yourself, neill, and gio -and yes, Norma – it’s not easy swimming against the current and requires guts, which you clearly have. To one and all a happy and peaceful Christmas. Who knows, our Westminster masters may be kind to us in the end.

    • John December 23, 2014 at 12:03 am #

      Some interesting and true points there neill. As someone with dual-parentage, born in the UK – and having moved to ‘The South’ some 15 years ago – i can see and understand your view there. Not always on your views, but on this (and sometimes others).

      A Very Happy Festive Season Indeed to You and Yours,
      – and Hopeful tidings for All in N.I. during the forthcoming New Year.

    • Virginia December 23, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

      Happy Christmas and ditto to the sentiments written by Neil.

  4. Iolar December 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Definite possibilities

    Haass there been an agreement between Mr Cameron and the folk on the hill? Haass there been an ‘11th hour deal’ after 11 weeks of talks? Will proposed pension “cuts” for Water Staff result in water shortages during the festive season? Fair play to the Health Minister for an honest approach in ‘Transforming Your Care’, as 500 older people struggle to manage without their home helps. The online system for processing complaints is appreciated by older people who have access to and use computer facilities.

    The ‘two tribes’ theory continues to gain traction in Westminster as the ghost of Pontius Pilate stalks the corridors avec les mains sales. Mr Cameron may not wish to wash dirty linen in public, however, the abuse of public immunity certificates will soon come out in the wash. The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998, what are the ‘national security’ implications of dealing with the past in 2015?

    As the general public wait in eager anticipation for the next gripping episode from the folk on the hill, there are unconfirmed reports about two men named Vladimir and Estragon loitering without intent near Stormont.

    Bíodh Nollaig agus bliain úr faoi shéan agus faoi mhaise daoibh.

  5. William Fay December 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    I have no idea why everyone believes NI should have a better deal than the rest of the UK. We have done incredibly well over the last 40 years and I don’t see how that could continue.
    As for dealing with the past, the republican (Jude Collins) agenda is that it must be dealt with on their terms only

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      I have to push a little button marked ‘Approve’ so your comments can go up, William. I promise you, I don’t at the same time. Approve. But Happy Christmas to you and your loved ones…

      • John December 23, 2014 at 12:19 am #

        And may i take this opportunity (via the reply link), to Thank You very, very much indeed Jude – for a blog that i always look forward to receiving in my e-mail’s. Always thought-provoking, a dash of amusement sprinkled hither and thither – and often some eyebrow-raising comments! Enjoy your drinks of choice from here-on over the Season that is upon us. I’ll raise a glass of orange-juice and 7-up to yourself (my 6th Christmas T-T).
        Once again, Many Thanks for the Blog – and the myriad of typed words you’ve produced during the year.

        Best Wishes to You and Yours – Beannachtai na Nollag!


        • Jude Collins December 23, 2014 at 9:10 am #

          John – go raibh cead maith agat agus Nollaig shona duit. It’s been contributors like yourself that’ve made this site as lively and entertaining (and occasionally thoughtful) as it’s been. Much thanks for everything and here’s to 2015. Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís…

  6. Perkin Warbeck December 22, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    Am with you, Esteemed Blogmeister, in your sanguine view of how things will pan out in Peter Panland aka Norneverland.

    After all, tis the season to be jolly well optimistic.

    One bases one’s half full view of the situation on a crucial element which has seemed to escape the notice of the few and the couldn’t give a fiddler’s of the fewer. One refers to the critical presence of Charlie ‘Charles’ Flanagan, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Free Southern Stateen in Stormont at the Eleventh Hour.

    Consider the following: the Mountmellick Globetrotter cut short a visit to the heavenly reflex of Hangzhou, the Killarney of China, and left the distilling of poteen poetry from that fertile area of airy mountains and rushy glens to the best of all the good w. folk, An tUachtaran Michael Wee..

    Prose is what Charlie is about, with that counting house approach of his to the business of politics and his doorknocker of a nose.

    Of course, as Hangzhou and the season of Holly and Ivy are not unconnected the nods and winks were there for those with a mind to pick up on them.

    Ali Baba is the Connection; not only is Hangzhou the home of Ali Baba, the Internet Giant of China but Ali Baba gets honourable mench in that most indispensable part of Yuletide, A Christmas Carol. Scarcely a conicidence that this fable was penned by another Charlie.

    All of which prompts Perkie’s inner wassailer to come up with this festive fineliner, in Tribute to Charlie who is doomed like his namesake, Marley, to wander the five terrene continents and the four green fields in chains.that clank and in manacles unequivocal.

    Another Christmas Carol

    Spurred on by words unspoken that hardly
    Deigned him a mench an unbroken Charlie
    Has found a bargepole huge
    To cajole the geezer Scrooge
    To resume with Ali Bah and Humbug to parley.

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      As eloquent as ever, Perkie. I’ll never see Charlie F again without thinking of door knockers. God save us every one…The happiest of Christmases to you at Perkin Towers, Perkie, and don’t forget to let the servants off on Stephen’s D – I mean Boxing Day.

  7. Anthony Leisegang December 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Thank you Jude and all contributors from 6000 miles away in Cape Town for the first time this year for the wonderful insights given into the facts and sentiments of both north and south of Ireland.
    What has made the experience especially pleasureable has been the candid free exchange of often conflicting approaches and nuances expressed in the most marvellous English.
    Lest anyone think I’m an anglophile, I assure you I have no English blood (half Irish, half Scandinavian makes me pure Scot, I guess), but it is a treat for another happy reason.
    The best English seems to have been written in novels, plays, poetry, comedy and operette by Irishmen for the past 150 years or more.
    That and the wit of this column and comments here give me much joy and hope for the future of the island.
    Thank you all, and may you all enjoy a grand Irish festive season.
    I look forward to seeing your wisdom and wit again in the new year!

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

      Well I think the eloquence doesn’t stop in Ireland – go raibh cead maith agat, Anthony, for your kind words. There is indeed a sense of a community (brawling and bawling and all) with all the comments we get here. And there’s something magical about being able to wish the compliments of the season to so many that we’ll never meet. So Nollaig Shona duit agus bhliain nua sásta – a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year to you..

      • paddykool December 22, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

        I’ll my festive greetings to all the gang…and also include my alter ego.It has been a very pleasant year talking and debating and shooting the breeze in the some one hundred plus blogs…Happy Christmas one and all….hopefullybwe’ll continue the craic in the New Year….

        • paddykool December 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

          That should be ….I’ll add…..bloody technology!!!!!

        • John December 23, 2014 at 12:30 am #

          …And not forgetting yourself paddy – and your alter-ego! Greatly enjoyed the chats and reminders of times gone by – be they those from Lancashire and Yorkshire, or otherwise. Looking forward to hearing from ‘you both’ (!) in the New Year.

          Until then, have a Most Festive Time Indeed, All T’Best and Beannachtai na Nollag.


  8. angela December 23, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    Can I also add my seasons greetings to ALL the contributors. I have learned a lot from you.

    A heartfelt thanks to you all xxx

    • Jude Collins December 23, 2014 at 9:07 am #

      And you Angela. With lots of kisses. From everyone, I’m sure.

  9. Mary Nelis December 23, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Hey Jude My Christmas wish for you. May the best of you past be the worst of your future. Blog on.
    Nollaig Shona agus Blian ur mhaith duit.

  10. Jim Lynch December 23, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Merry Christmas to Jude and all on this blog.

    Thank you Jude for the opportunity to express my ideas and thoughts.

    The more I post on here the more I’m reminded of Voltaire’s words in the Essay on Tolerance — “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

  11. giordanobruno December 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    What’s all this peace and goodwill malarky?
    We’ll be kicking football in no mans land next.
    Come on who wants an argument?..eh?..eh?…one hand behind my back…

    • Jude Collins December 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

      (Stage directions: receives sharp kick in testicles and groans loudly in satisfaction…)

    • Virginia December 23, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      True, it’s not even Christmas Eve…. Perhaps you are all in a last ditch attempt to get on Santa’s nice list?

      • neill December 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

        Oh its much to late for that!

  12. Perkin Warbeck December 23, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    And the finest of Festive Seasons to you and yours, Esteemed Blogmeister, and to all your addicted follow travellers.

    May One Five
    Be a year
    In which to thrive.

    Sean-bheannachtai na Nua-Nollag !