Cries of “Sectarianism!” and Grade A bunkum


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We Irish  have a huge capacity for self-deception. Tell us that our pubs are invariably friendly, music-laden places and we’ll agree vigorously. Tell us that we’re welcoming to outsiders, that we have hearts as big as all-outdoors, and  we’ll nod like one of those soft toys in the back window of a car. But in the last day or two, an example of self-deception has arisen that takes the proverbial biscuit.

It’s to do with the Sinn Féin campaign in North Belfast. Now I haven’t seen the leaflet which is at the heart of this brouhaha, so if you want to dismiss my views as therefore worthless, fine: stop reading now and go and play with the cat. But I gather the leaflet is being condemned by some as sectarian, because it points to the narrowing gap between Catholics and Protestants in the constituency, and to the fact that Catholics of voting age outnumber Protestants. Counting heads by religious background? “Sectarian!” the cry goes up.

To which there  are a lot of impolite responses but maybe not as many polite ones. I’ll pick “Balderdash”, since this is Sunday.

.Let’s look at the facts – the way things are, not the way we might like things to be. The way things are, the great majority of Protestants vote for unionist candidates, the great majority of Catholics vote for nationalist/republican candidates. (I’m not talking about non-voters here, since that’s a separate issue). But when a Catholic casts a vote for Gerry Kelly, he’s not doing so to announce his or her commitment to the doctrine of transubstantiation. And when a Protestant casts his/her vote for Nigel Dodds, s/he is not doing so  with a notion that this will reflect their devotion to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Catholic may have many reasons for voting as s/he does but they’re almost certainly political; the Protestant ditto.

If you’re a candidate, you ‘ll want to have some idea of how things might pan out, and here you find out (yes, Virginia, it’s far from fool-proof but it’s a good rough-and-ready guide) by counting the number of Catholics or Protestants in your constituency. That gives you a  shrewd idea of how many voters are likely to mark the ballot for Gerry Kelly and how many for Nigel Dodds. That’s not sectarian. That’s being realistic. And since that gap has been narrowing relentlessly this past few elections, it’s also smart.

Tied in with this yelp of “Sectarian!” is the notion that to vote nationalist/republican or unionist is to vote mindlessly. It’s the way you’ve been brought up, you don’t think for yourself, you’re programmed, incapable of judgement in wider terms. I’ve no doubt there are some such people;but it’s condescending in the extreme to declare that because someone has political views different from yours, they must be a political moron, sleep-walking to the election booth and doing what their family and neighbours have programmed them to do.  The position of nationalist/republican or unionist is a completely valid one, every bit as valid and maybe more than those who vote for the Greens or UKIP or any other party.

So could we for God’s sake stop barking that calculation of voting intentions through counting of Catholic/Protestant numbers in a constituency is sectarian. It’s not: it’s wha we mathematicians call counting. And could we also, for God and Ulster/Ireland’s sake, stop decrying the practice of people voting along “traditional” patterns. Maybe people feel that Irish re-unification or maintaining the link with Britain is so fundamentally important, it trumps other genuine political and social concerns.  And maybe they’re right.

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58 Responses to Cries of “Sectarianism!” and Grade A bunkum

  1. Stephen May 3, 2015 at 9:09 am #

    Spot on again Jude, the SF leaflet in my view only pointed out facts. Rank hypocrisy from their opponents,isn’t a unionist pact a form of sectarian headcount? But when it comes to leaflets the DUP/UUP annexe are well voiced are they not.

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      Grma, Stephen. How anyone can claim that calculating possible votes from number of Catholics/Protestants is sectarian – it’s beyond me. Either wilfully, um, lying or else beyond-redemption stupid.

      • giordanobruno May 3, 2015 at 10:51 am #

        This leaflet clearly says:
        “If you are Catholic you should be voting for Sinn Fein”.
        Is that forward looking? Is that the way to unite communities?
        How would a SF rep sell this on the doorstep to a protestant voter.? Maybe they just wouldn’t bother. “You are not one of us!”
        So let’s stick to the old sectarian headcount we love so well.
        “As things have been they remain”

        • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 11:11 am #

          Dear God, gio – repeating something doesn’t make it magically come true. ‘Sectarian headcount’: do you mean counting the number of people in a given area who are Catholic or Protestant? Work legislation demands that. REcruitment to the PSNI required it. It’s mathematics, in this case with the aim of establishing how many people are likely to vote a particular way. Them’s the facts. As to ‘If you are a Catholic, you should be voting SF’ – that’s in the literature? I’d like to see that. If you’re right, I’d prefer it wasn’t there, but at the same time I can see why it might be said. If you’re a Catholic , a Protestant, an atheist, you shouldn’t be staying at home, you should be voting. And if you’re a Catholic, do you think they would be better to vote for Nigel Dodds? A member of the Orange Order, an anti-Catholic organisation? Gimme a break here, gio…

          • giordanobruno May 3, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

            Only it’s not a call to protestant and atheist voters is it? Just Catholics.
            Why is that?

          • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

            Realism? A realisation that very few Protestants would vote for them in a month of Sundays? Which is my point – like it or detest it, religion + political loyalties march hand in hand. That’s why GK did the Catholics calculation. He’s not appealing to them as Catholics – he’s appealing to them to be supporters of a republican….I’m sure if he thought he could get some Protestant votes he’d be happy to have them. No ‘I hate prods’ there….

        • Argenta May 3, 2015 at 11:56 am #

          You should know by now that Jude will defend the Sinn Fein position ,no matter how indefensible!Are all Catholics to be herded into the S F pen?!Whatever happened to freedom of choice?!

          • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

            Argenta, Argenta. I thought you were a sensible man. ‘Herded into the SF pen’. Dear me. So would supporters of, say, the SDLP be herded into pens? Or the DUP? Or is it solely the province of the DUP? And what the hell does ‘herded into a pen’ look like?

        • neill May 3, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

          Gio why do you appeal to Judes rational side its obvious he doesn’t have one!

          Jude will never criticise SF because all their nasty political opponents and nasty papers always condemn poor little deprived SF and Jude as a defender of the under dog feels duty bound to defend them of course he doesn’t support them not at all not even a little bit….; )

          • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

            Ach neill – too many non sequiturs. I do have a rational side, actually. If I didn’t I wouldn’t debate stuff or express an opinion as often as I do. I don’t think SF are without fault – one example: it’s well past time they commissioned an independent investigation of the case for a UI. That they are attacked on every side is true and I suspect you know it (didn’t we have this conversation before?) As for ‘support them’ – certainly I think they are sincere in their desire for a UI and I like the idea of that too so yes, you can say I support them. Will you be able to digest your evening meal any better now?

          • giordanobruno May 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

            Neill and Argenta
            I won’t give up on him dammit. We can still save him.
            There is more rejoicing in heaven over the one lost sinner that repents than there is for the 99 righteous men.

          • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

            Oh thank you, guys, thank you! I repent, I tell you, I repent! Tell me how I should vote…

          • Ryan May 3, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

            Of course you wouldn’t support the Unionist parties that are basically run by a notorious Anti-Catholic organisation, the Orange Order, would you Neill? 😉

  2. Perkin Warbeck May 3, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    The more one peruses your daily blogs, Esteemed Blogmeister, the more one is convinced of the F.A. of a United Ireland.

    Now, F.A. may quite well be an acronym for a number of different phenomena but in this specific instance, going forward, it stands for, erm, Fait Accompli.

    Down here in the non-sectarian Nirvana of the Free Southern Stateen there are some who might accuse the non non-sectarian Norneverland as being nothing like us, at all, at all.

    But these some are the,erm, zero some types who amount to F.A. (not standing for Fait Accompli) when it comes to shaping the fashionable way to think, or at least what passes for thought for the Matchstick Men and Matchstick Wo-men of the,erm, Status Quo in the FSS..

    In a word, those zero sum types who do not operate in the purchased media of Dublin.

    Or, if you prefer, DOBlin, as the media is indubitably in the deep pockets of its richest non-residential dude: Denis O’Brien.

    It is not that the same media does not maintain that the scourge of sectarianism (that ultimate double negative !) is totally extinct. Just that is is on the way out / sli amach, and quickly. Being corralled in those isolation wards doormarked RC and SF.

    Take RTE, the repository of all those print journos who hum from the same hymn sheets. Meaning the towel snappers of the Sunday Dependent and the tailgaters of The Unionist Times (mar is iad ata ann / for it is they !). Once these hymn-humming hacks and hackettes have finished with their paper work then are then taxied over to RTE to badmouth off the common enemy.

    So, what the eyes of Ireland have not seen, the ears of Eireland will get to hear.

    To wit, the towel snapping at and the tailgating after the common twin-enemies. . These are the Dr. Browne-noses of the zeitgeist, who have replaced TB with RC and SF.Total elimination is their goal / try.

    Take RTE itself in the round and its logo in the run aground. For in this logo may be traced the evolution of the jumped up pogo-stickies and political go-getters who have made the FSS a no-go area for nationalism. And a warm house for, erm, Tationalims.

    Their first target for towel-snapping and tailgating (tats) was the original logo of RTE: a full-frontal 16 straw cross of St. Brdget.

    Cross is right. Almost rigid with rage, they spluttered: ‘This nun-sectarian logo must go-go !’

    It did, it did. Using the mantra of ‘Rushes is for Rubes !’ the logo was then incrementally morphed into the ‘ ‘Cubes for the Cathode Ray Tubes”.

    Ergo, the current cubist logo now honours St. Brigid, patron saint of Anorexia. When it patently ought to be, erm, St. A.N. Udder.

    To conclude on the note ironic: Groom’s Hotel on Parnell Square used to function as the HQ (unofficial) of Fianna Fail. It is now defunct, not unlike FF itself.

    The reason is simple. Once Groom’s became twinned with a particular church in London, it’s DNAs (dyslexic for days and nights) were numbered.

    That would be St. Bride’s (for it is it ! the very same), the church of choice of the Hackitariat on Thameside. And boasts Christopher Wren’s second hightest spire. What RTE aspires to.

    The reason for this twinning was equally simple: think Kildare Street and the patron saint of Kildare.

    Post hack, ergo propter hack.

  3. Antonio May 3, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    It is a blatantly sectarian leaflet which is saying Catholics come and vote we are now the majority and we must get the Protestant out. This is not republicanism it is catholic nationalism which sees Protestants as ‘the other’ which we should not try to garner votes from. I imagine that if there were any Protestants in North Belfast considering voting Sinn fein or even thinking about NOT voting Dodds this leaflet will encourage them to vote D.U.P because it says the S.F are just a mirror image of the the D.U.P. It says we are the Catholic representatives not republicans

    Very Disappointing

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 11:50 am #

      I respectfully disagree, Antonio. Tune into Periscope at 2.00 pm and I’ll tell you why…:)

      • Antonio May 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

        hi Jude

        I’m not familiar with periscope

  4. Iolar May 3, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Dinosaurs, Conservatives and consequences

    The two tribes are at it again. It is fortunate that we have some Tory would-be politicians here to vote for in the election or is it?

    It is not necessary to drill into the foundations of Stormont in order to establish the existence of the sectarian plates that pose a threat to many of the glass ceilings in the Assembly. While political unionism aspires to make an impact in the shires and to wield some influence in the corridors of power, it would appear that some have been gazing down from the red sky over Ulster and do not like the visible sight of bones of contention on the body politic.

    Perhaps the recent appearance of a sandtrooper in Belfast was for real? The trooper made sure his mask did not slip.

    Nick Cohen gets back to the future in today’s Guardian,

    “On 16 February 1886, Lord Randolph Churchill confided a plan to destroy his Liberal opponents…the Orange card would be the one to play…Churchill’s tactic, inciting the Protestants of Ulster to reject a Catholic-dominated all-Ireland parliament, was a dazzling success…respectable English opinion did not feel the inferior Irish could govern themselves… no one can deny that the Tories inflamed tensions that tore the old kingdom of Britain and Ireland apart…The DUP, you will remember, is the political wing of “Dr” Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. When Paisley was alive, it incited hatred against Catholics and came within a whisker of inciting violence. It remains a party of biblical literalists. A large proportion of its members have trouble with the existence of dinosaurs.”

    Perhaps the sight an R2-D2 is more welcome than a P45?

  5. Mary Nelis May 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Well said Jude.Reminds me of the old British Army Major being interviewed many years ago on the difficulties of soldiering in the North of Ireland. His response was that it was very difficult as the wogs there have white skin.

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      Ha ha – very good, Mary. Many a true word is spoken in jest

  6. Mícheál Mac Donncha May 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Jude, I have seen the leaflet, I have not seen the criticism by SF’s opponents, but I have seen and heard the criticism of the leaflet by people who are, like me, members of Sinn Féin. Much that you say in your column is valid but the very fact that we are debating whether the leaflet is sectarian or not shows that it was a mistake in the first place. The point about the closeness of the election and the potential for SF to win could have been made just as easily with election statistics. By the way I enjoy your columns and keep up the good work.

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      Thank you very much Mícheál. Flattery is the fuel that fires my mojo…I think the mistake, if there was a mistake (might even have been smart, alerting people to the possibility of Kelly winning) was to use ‘Catholics’ rather than ‘nationalist’. Esp as they’re more likely to be nationalists than Catholics in any real meaning of the word.

      • giordanobruno May 3, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

        You can’t sneak down to the bottom of the page and admit it was a mistake and think the rest of us won’t notice!
        ‘Nationalist’ would have been fine except the last figures showed a Unionist majority so that would not have worked.
        It is honestly disappointing Jude, since in many ways SF are a progressive party, or at least present themselves as such, but this simply brings us down to the lowest common denominator.
        I am a N Belfast voter by the way so I do have more than an academic interest in this one.

        • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

          I’m not sure what you mean about the bottom of the page. A child would know what the leaflet was saying: Hey you guys, we can win this one. Should he have appealed to Protestants? Would it have been OK if he’d said ‘nationalists’? Gimme a break. I know some people want to pin ‘sectarian’ on the Shinners but you’ll find it’s a bit difficult, because, um, they’re not. In fact, the brouhaha may well work in GK’s favour – nearly all Catholics/nationalists/republicans in N Belfast will now know they have the numbers to elect GK if they get out and vote for him. I promise you, he has no plans to set up a church or have them swear an anti-Protestant oath. Unlike his opponent, he’s not a prominent member of an anti-Catholic organisation.

  7. Paulk May 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Good piece Jude, I always have a laugh at the media and others telling us that this or that is sectarian. It would appear sometimes that getting out of bed in the morning or whatever else these guys don’t agree with could be construed as sectarian, like going to a GAA or soccer match or daring to claim to be Nationalist or Unionist maybe.

    The people who are crying ‘sectarian’ seem to forget that this state was founded and is maintained on a sectarian headcount so the issue will be there as long as the state exists. If they hate sectarianism so much, let’s do away with the NI state and have an all-Ireland where religious headcounts will no longer matter.

  8. Mick May 3, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    🙁 Wish I had Periscope, anyway, a great great read as always Jude. This is the way elections will always be played out in the North, its the way it has been and will be. Whoa re we mere mortals to change such a great way of electioneering.

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

      I don’t think they’ll always be like this, Mick. I think there’ll be massive changes inside the next 10-15 years. Who’d have thunk there’d be the changes there are now? As to Periscope: have you thought about bank-robbery as a profession? Or kidnapping? Very lucrative.

  9. Pointis May 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    Hi Jude, an enjoyable read that sparked a bit of debate – always good!

    We live in a state that was created to maintain a sectarian majority – a sectarian state at its heart.

    I saw both versions of the poster and it didn’t say all Catholics should vote SF.

    I think it is fair to deduce that the poster was directed at Nationalists who don’t vote because of the near impossible odds of getting a nationalist elected in a constituency which previously had a unionist majority and pointing out to those people that the situation has changed and that there now is a realistic chance of achieving change.

    I have to chuckle when I read some of those who are shouting sectarian. I followed back on one Twitter account of someone who was vociferous in his claim of sectarian in relation to these posters and he had posters of the Pope conspiring with IS Islamists to create a one world religion.
    I would take such complains with a large pinch of salt and ask those making them to show how fair they have been in their spread of condemnation of real sectarian incidents or is it just Sinn Féin they bounce on ?

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

      You nailed it, Pointis. This is the SDLP hoping they can re-elect Nigel…

  10. Brian Mac Domhnaill May 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    Like Mícheál Mac Donnacha, I think that this leaflet has no place in a campaign for a republican candidate. The irony is that we are talking about a constituency that is overlooked by Cavehill, birthplace of the ‘union of love and affection between people of all religious persuasions [and none]’ that is the cornerstone of republican philosophy. Personally, I was disappointed when I first saw the leaflet and I am amazed that any republican would try to defend its publication. Yes, the partition settlement built sectarian headcounts into the DNA of the Northern State, but republicans should never go down that road … whether for the sake of electoral advantage or for any other reason. While the leaflet may simply recognise the current political reality, it can only contribute to reinforcing that reality. As such, it has to be rejected by all Irish republicans.

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

      Totally disagree, Brian. We know there’s a direct Catholic-nationalist and Protestant-unionist link. We may not like it but there it is. GK knows Protestant-unionists won’t vote for him. So he’s telling Catholic-nationalists that the demographics show they could now elect a republican MP. You think that’s going to reinforce sectarianism? Please, oh please.

      • Ryan May 3, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

        Jude, I’m a republican myself but I sometimes despair at some of the things other republicans say. The recent history of republicanism/nationalism shows that some republicans put more obstacles in front of themselves than maybe even the British/Unionists have done. From not taking their seats in the Dail, not taking their seats in Stormont, etc I don’t agree with SF taking their seats in Westminster today but I would certainly have been open to it in, say, the 1960’s. Having influence at Westminster is better than not having it. There’s this talk of “principles”. The only principle for an Irish Republican, in my opinion, is to achieve our ultimate aim of a United Ireland, by the easiest and quickest route. This is not 1798, this is not 1916, this is not 1969. This is 2015, its a different era and different, flexible approaches is needed.

        When I was looking up election results of the past 4 decades, I couldn’t believe how many years Unionists were able to keep areas like Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh/South Tyrone due to SF/SDLP repeatedly splitting the vote. They did this, im certain, due to fear of being labelled “sectarian”. Its ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Fr Alex Reid, who sadly died a while back put it best: “Reason why we don’t have Irish Unity is because Nationalism is so divided and fighting amongst themselves”. This is completely true.

        Those republicans attacking Gerry Kelly should pull their heads out of the sand, wake up, grow up and think realistically. I’m not saying we shouldn’t reach out to protestants, of course we should but we also should just be honest with ourselves who our core vote is. Deluding yourself isn’t going to change that.

        • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

          Totally agree, Ryan. You said it.

      • Brian Mac Domhnaill May 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

        Yes, to your question, if it makes what you refer to as ‘protestant-unionists’ doubt the sincerity of Sinn Féin as an anti-sectarian party. How on Earth are we ever to convince unionists to reclaim the radical legacy of the United Irishmen and to join us in building a new Ireland if our appeals for electoral support are directed towards just one denomination (as happened in this instance)?

        • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

          Like, the denomination from which your votes in almost all cases will come? And do you think protestant-unionists are open to accepting the sincerity of SF as things are? They won’t even peak to them in Stormont when they meet in the corridor. Somehow, I don’t think saying ‘Catholic’ and not ‘nationalist/republican’ is going to change their attitude a lot.

  11. Sherdy May 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    ‘A Protestant state for a Protestant people’ – Was it Carson or Craigavon who said that?
    ‘I wouldn’t have a Catholic about the place’ – I know Brookelborough said that.
    When Ireland was being divided the NI Unionists were offered Ulster (nine counties) but knew they couldn’t keep a majority, so they settled for the present six, knowing they had a Protestant/unionist majority.
    This time around the Protestants/unionists knew they would lose seats by competing against each other in certain constituencies, so they formed a pact in four, not for their individual parties, but just to keep nationalists/republicans out.
    The so-called righteous TUV under Jim Allister, who makes out that he can’t stand the two larger unionist parties, is not standing candidates in areas where it might damage Protestant/unionist representation.
    Tory boy Dave Cameron, who claims not to be sectarian, is standing candidates in 16 constituencies, but not in FST or North Belfast lest it would improve the chances of Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew and Gerry Kelly.
    So when in the past 90 years has this place not been run on a sectarian headcount?
    Somewhat off-message but maybe an interesting point:
    The DUP have on their make believe shopping list the construction of a tunnel/bridge between NI and Scotland.
    But if the ScotNats wipe the floor with their opposition and come out with the full 59 seats, will the DUP scrub that item from their list?
    I couldn’t see them being so keen on their Ulster Scots culture then, and the possibility of frequent visits from the new Queen of Scots (only 20 minutes away by car) would fill them with dread.
    The ancient Greeks were right: ‘Be careful what you wish for . . .’

  12. Seán Mór May 3, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    I will be voting Sinn Féin. I don’t believe than Sinn Féin are a sectarian party. there is nothing sectarian about voting unionist or republican/nationalist. However, I was greatly disappointed in the layout of the facts in this leaflet. Republicans have always gone to great lengths to avoid any association of republicanism and religious background. This leaflet seemed to be enthusiastically promoting it. I think on reflection some republicans will regard it as a mistake. Another recent mistake was the Trojan horse quote. We shouldn’t feel the need to defend everything.

  13. philip kelly May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    as a catholic /nationalist /republican born and reared in north Belfast i can remember the time when we never came of an assess roar of getting political representation either in Belfast corporation / stormount or Westminster or even getting any kind of equality of treatment by unionist of what ever type, as they always engineered the majority and we were always reminded of our place in the queue which was generally last so i celebrate the fact that we now have a majority in the constituency and we should shout it from the roof tops to let the nationalist / republican people know that for the first time in over 100 yrs we can elect one of our own who will work for us, unlike the dup uup tuv or for that matter the catholic unionists of the sdlp

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

      Agree completely, philip – and maybe that’s one very positive outcome of this linguistic slaggingfest…

  14. neill May 3, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    Oh thank you, guys, thank you! I repent, I tell you, I repent! Tell me how I should vote…

    Isnt that a decision for you and the ballot box ; )

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

      But your guidance would be soooo helpful, neill. Alone I am but a cork bobbing in an ocean of uncertainty….

  15. Ryan May 3, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    Name one area that has a Catholic majority that has elected Unionist representation? Name a Protestant majority area with elected Nationalist representation? Exactly, none exist. Sad but that’s the reality. Some people, usually Republicans, stupidly bury their heads in the sand when it comes to this truth. Unionists, on the other hand, have accepted it many decades ago since they themselves built it like that with the creation of the statelet of Northern Ireland.

    Should Republicans reach out the hand in friendship to Protestants? Of course we should. Should we bury our heads in the sand and ignore fact maybe 99% of our vote comes from Catholics? Of course not.

    I agreed with Sinn Fein’s overall message when it came to the leaflet in North Belfast but I wouldn’t have included the graph and I would’ve worded it differently. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling nationalists they are a majority and now they have the power to choose an MP that they want.

    If Gerry Kelly/Sinn Fein are being sectarian, then surely the DUP choosing an Orange Man as a candidate is much, much more sectarian? But of course, we don’t have Unionists out screaming about that or the minority of republicans either. We didn’t have Unionists out screaming “sectarian!” when DUP’s David Simpsons election agent in Upper Bann called the local Catholics “taigs” and called the SF candidate a “tramp”. Unionists must have missed all that happening…..and of course the numerous other anti-Catholic, anti-gay, etc remarks DUP candidates have made over the years. Funny that…..

    • Jude Collins May 3, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      Pithily put, Ryan. Maith thú – well done!

      • giordanobruno May 3, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

        And there you have it.
        “Sinn Fein. No more sectarian than the other lot!”
        That should go on the next leaflet.

        • Jude Collins May 4, 2015 at 7:16 am #

          It’s realpolitik, gio. Based on facts as they are, not how we might like to have them.

          • giordanobruno May 4, 2015 at 8:02 am #

            Good morning Jude
            Are you running today.? If so good luck.
            Your realpolitik is very depressing. An admission that it is basically still prod v taig.
            Many people do not accept that which is why this leaflet is meeting so much criticism.
            What happened to Unionist outreach? Was that just words?
            Saying we are no worse than themmuns should not be good enough.
            Not all protestants are unionist and not all Catholics are nationalist.The difference may be small but it is significant and by ignoring it you are fostering the same old mentality of the past.

          • Jude Collins May 4, 2015 at 10:28 am #

            And the top of the m to you too, gio. Thanks for the good wishes but no – I like a run but I don’t have a death-wish…Re the prod vs taig thing: I honestly see that as just a label. The clash is not over religion, it’s over partition and the claim of Britain to jurisdiction in Ireland. And of course the claim that the union must stand.Both are perfectly reasonable positions to take, and calling them Catholic and Protestant is merely an acknowledgement of a fact. We may not like the fact but I doubt – in fact I know – that Gerry Kelly’s leaflet isn’t going to change anybody’s opinion of the other side. You’re right, not all Protestants are unionist and not all Catholics nationalist. But the overwhelming majority are one or the other. I don’t ignore it, but in electoral terms it is significant. GK simply addressed the people whom he hopes will vote for him and reminded them that they had the political clout to effect change. All the rest is fake horror. Sorry, gio, that’s how I see it. I’m sure you’re genuine but I smell a lot of let’s-damage-GK in this.

    • Pointis May 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm #


      You said it. The Unionist parties in the North Belfast Constituency are running a pact to keep a candidate in the seat who supports the Orange Order, the most sectarian Anti-Catholic institution in the land.

      And to think the SDLP take lectures of these people that holding a pact to improve the chances of a Nationalist getting elected is being sectarian. It is absolutely cringeworthy to see them skulking into a corner when the issue is raised by the very people who unabashedly promote their own double standards.

      If anyone is interested in studying the background of sectarian unfairness look are the history of the rotation of Mayoral posts in the pre-rationalised 26 district councils. Compare the Nationalist / Unionist rotations on Nationalist majority councils compared to Unionist controlled council areas. It is only a fairly recent change when Mayor of Belfast City Council was a no-go area for Nationalists of any hue. And it wasn’t relinquished in the spirit of sharing, let’s be perfectly honest it wasn’t given at all – it was taken when Unionist parties became the minority.

      The North is abundant with areas where it would be unsafe for Catholics to live but maybe anyone daring to raise that spectre runs the gauntlet of being labelled sectarian!

      Maybe we should all just bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is grand?

  16. Am Ghobsmacht May 4, 2015 at 12:20 am #

    Hmmmm, one minute SF are all about a shared future, shared space and other media friendly ideas and then they go down the religiously exclusive path at campaign time.

    I think this really undermines republican principles (I’m one of the few unionists who has a healthy respect for ‘proper’ republicanism) as demonstrated by the vocal opposition from various republican posters on here and over on Slugger.

    To defend this carry-on with whataboutery regarding Protestant-unionist enthusiasm for sectarian politics is to take on the role of the pigs at the end of Animal Farm, where the reader could no longer tell the difference between the pigs and the humans.

    If republicanism ever had a moral high ground then things like this will serve to lower it.

  17. neill May 4, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    Of course you wouldn’t support the Unionist parties that are basically run by a notorious Anti-Catholic organisation, the Orange Order, would you Neill?

    I have voted for them in the past I don’t and wont vote for them now they are just the same as SF bitter and twisted so that would also rule the TUV and UKIP so that narrows down the field for me considerably.

    • Antonio May 4, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      looks like it’s a choice between Alliance, SDLP and the leaf eaters for you Neil

  18. Francis May 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter stood together in Arms against the Crown here as Republicans. To bring Catholicism into this equation I think was a mistake. Real Politick might have guided this strategy, but it makes it all the more difficult to reach over to our Protestant fellow countrymen and women and ask them to join us. Many would, and have, but to marginalise already tentatively moving Protestants away from Unionist regression, we cannot be, be seen to be, or be allowed to be accused of the same.
    There are Protestants who are Republican. There are Protestants who will vote SF on Social issues as opposed to the Conservative Unionist alliance. To intimidate this quietly growing constituency is cardinal folly.
    Does this error mean SF, or GK are Sectarian? No, and no. A mistake can leapt upon for Political capital, but Politics can be a pragmatic arena. The leaflets should be renounced so the mistake is not compounded. Religion has little to play in a real spirit of Republican commonality.

  19. Antonio May 4, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

    Even if we give Sinn Fein the benefit of the doubt on this and say it’s not sectarian and they are simply pointing out the reality that religious affiliation usually coincides with opinion on the sovereignty issue it was still a bad idea to produce this leaflet – quite stupid actually.

    Firstly, Sinn fein highlighting that there are slightly more Catholics in North Belfast than Protestants is more likely to galvanise the Unionist people to get out and vote for Dodds than it is for nationalists to get out and vote for Kelly. So it is counter-productive from that perspective.

    Secondly, many Catholics are uncomfortable with this as has become clear and this could put them off voting Kelly if they live in North Belfast.

    Thirdly, whether we like it or not, Sinn Fein are perceived as a sectarian party by many people across the North. Does this help rectify that perspective or simply confirm that perspective?. Obviously it is the latter.

    Fourthly, in the unlikely event that Kelly wins North Belfast the focus of the media and other parties will be now be on this particular leaflet. Anything else Sinn Fein have said or done in this election campaign, and in particular the good stuff such as standing up for the LGBT community more than any other party, will fall by the wayside.

    Fifthly, as they will perceive this as sectarian any Protestants who were considering voting Sinn Fein for whatever reason be it their stance criticising Jim Wells the homophobe or opposition to welfare cuts, will very likely change their minds if they see stories about this leaflet in the papers.

    This is quite possibly the stupidest move by Sinn Fein in a long time.

    • Jude Collins May 4, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

      Antonio – thanks for your detailed and considered analysis. It’s one, though, that I disagree with almost totally. In my experience, people use the words Catholic and Protestant/nationalist and unionist interchangeably, sometimes in the same sentence. So the idea that giving what are after all census figures to the people who might be persuaded to vote for him is sectarian is a nonsense. I’ll bet when GK canvassed, over 95% – maybe over 99% of the houses he called at were Catholic, at least in background. Was that sectarian? You go where you believe you’ll persuade people to vote for you. The N Belfast nationalist/republican electorate are used to having their candidate defeated, election after election. It makes perfect sense to alert them to the fact that this time they can do it – elect a republican MP. There may be people who think of SF as a sectarian party: I’d like to see them produce stronger evidence than the use of the word ‘Catholic’ when quoting census figures.

  20. Argenta May 4, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    The leaflet apparently places reliance on Census figures.I suppose it’s progress from the time when the I R A murdered a Census worker in Derry years ago!

    • Jude Collins May 5, 2015 at 7:41 am #

      Indeed, Argie. Or earlier when Tom Barry shot Protestant informers in Cork…

  21. Argenta May 5, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    I note that even some within Sinn Fein (Sean Fearon and a number of posters on Slugger) have criticised the leaflet.You do seem obsessed with defending quite vociferously its content both here and on Periscope .Most political commentators rarely get so involved but you seem to have a special attachment to the North Belfast constituency.Hope Gerry Kelly appreciates all you are doing for him!

    • Jude Collins May 6, 2015 at 8:19 am #

      Well no, not really an obsession. I just like to believeI can think for myself, rather than check what others are thinking and then weigh in behind. Special attachment to N Belfast? Nah. No more than you’ve a special attachment to this blogsite, Argie…