Councillors’ home attacked and death threats – all because of a flag

ITV reports:

Two Alliance councillors in Bangor, Northern Ireland have spoken of their shock after their front window was smashed following a controversial vote on future of the Union flag at Belfast City Council.

Michael and Christine Bower say they are worried for the safety of the 17-month-old daughter after vandals smashed their front window with a paint bomb.

Belfast East MP Naomi Long has had to leave her home following a death threat.

The Alliance party of Northern Ireland is an official “sister party” of the Liberal Democrats. We’d like to express our solidarity with and sympathy for Michael and Christine, and the rest of the Alliance party.

Alliance activist Stephen Donnan wrote an article for the Belfast Evening Telegraph which conveys the shock, raw emotion and dignity with which the Party is coping with the mindless thuggery to which they are being subjected.

I understand and I encourage protest, that is how democracy works, as long as it is peaceful. Intimidating our Councillors into leaving their homes, burning down the offices of our MLAs and Ministers and sending sectarian abuse over Twitter to our supporters is not ‘engaging in the debate’, it’s mob mentality.

This is not a protest, this is criminality and barbarism. You just lost the argument.

Many Liberal Democrats have already either joined or donated to the Alliance Party in a show of solidarity. If you would like to join them, you can do so here.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/32021 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

47 Comments

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '12 - 12:02pm

    It does not seem helpful to describe this as “mindless thuggery”. The flag has a meaning that is both emotional and rational; its meaning is something like a sense of security and expectation of support from mainland UK. The thuggery is a description of the upset and fear that the removal has caused to some sections of the community, and of their expectations for the future. So it’s very much a mindful protest, even if it is made in an unacceptable way. The issues won’t go away by ignoring them, they do need to be addressed in a way that is sensible, transparent, and acceptable to different parts of the community.

  • Blessed are the peacemakers. I’m so impressed by the courage of our Alliance partners.

    Such a sickening reaction from the childish extremists on both sides of the argument.

    I confess I might have been tempted to abstain – a bit like Pontius Pilate – on the basis that a squabble over the flying of a flag is a matter for the raving unionists/republicans not grown-up politicians.

    The challenge of being the centre party in a polarised political system with even more polarised unaccountable media is that we will always end up playing piggy-in-the-middle between the extremists and their simplistic answers.

    We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, and damned by both sides if – as in this case – we decide to step into the kindergarten and try to break up the fight by enforcing a sensible compromise.

  • Sadie Smith 8th Dec '12 - 12:28pm

    Anyone who has had to deal with this on the mainland will have found comparable rules.

  • Declan Wilson 8th Dec '12 - 12:52pm

    Richard Dean

    You say the protest is a mindful one. I disagree.

    You also say that “The issues won’t go away by ignoring them, they do need to be addressed in a way that is sensible” I agree with that and that was what the Alliance compromise was supposed to do. Flying the flag on designated days is what happens at Stormont and even the DUP controlled Lisburn council adopted this policy some years ago. I don’t remember local councillors receiving death threats when that decision was made.

    This all started when the DUP distributed 40,000 leaflets claiming that the Alliance party wanted to “rip the flag down” and urged a campaign of intimidation against the party. They have let the genie out of the bottle and have now lost control of the situation.

  • I wouldn’t have thought that there would be any way in which a person could engage in apologetics for this kind of act of terrorism, or (in a mealy-mouthed manner) attack the victims. Is it because the attack was “only” a paint bomb? Today’s paint bomb is tomorrow’s firebomb, if this kind of thing is accepted as a form of “political expression”, or if it is approached with “understanding and sympathy” — for the attackers, not apparently for the victims.

  • Richard Church 8th Dec '12 - 1:45pm

    I wonder if the first two posters here have any constructive response to this thuggery. Would they have voted to keep the Union flag flying 365 days a year to the distress of the Republican community?

    The Alliance Party have fought in appalling and intimidating circumstances to find a way through the tribal hatred of Northern Ireland politics, and a couple of people from the safety of their armchairs can criticse them for it. What have they to offer instead?

  • The Alliance Party has long been the sole voice of reason and anti-sectarianism in Northern Ireland and now face the prospect of being crushed by the voices of extremism, as was Gerry Fitt’s SDLP in the 1970’s.

    Stephen Donnan and the other Alliance activists are deserving of our wholehearted support for the stand they have taken on behalf of those wanting to see the triumph of common human decency and mutual respect in Northern Irish politics.

    The Balfast Telegraph gets to the heart of the issue very wellBelfast flag violence: Today we all vote for the Alliance Party

    “Why supporters of democracy must stand together with a party under intolerable siege

    Do you want to see what real fear looks like? Watch the BBC footage of an interview yesterday with Alliance councillors Michael and Christine Bowers as they cradle their 17-month-old daughter and tell of an attack on their Bangor home by loyalist Union flag protesters the night before.

    As they talk to the reporter a shard of glass from their smashed front door hits the floor with a crash.

    The look of abject fear on their faces as, for a split second, they anticipate a fresh attack, is desperate. It is a look that should be frozen into the minds of not just the imbeciles who carried out the assault but of every politician in Northern Ireland. The flames of hatred have been fanned on an issue that should never have come this far.

    The decision by Belfast City Council to cease flying the Union flag permanently over City Hall was always going to be controversial. Symbols, not real policies and practical measures, are what sadly stirs the blood in this country.

    The city council is democratically elected, which has been conveniently forgotten by some, and a vote was taken to fly the flag on designated days. This was a result of the Alliance Party trying to broker a compromise between the intractable positions of unionists and nationalists/republicans. The rest is now another dark chapter in what is supposed to be, at least as far as the outside world cares anymore, our peace time society.

    People could have died in the violence that followed and a party of quite manifestly mainstream political aims has become a coward’s target.

    In many ways what has been even more desperate is the succession of senior unionist politicians who condemn the violence on one hand but still try to apportion blame with the other.

    To hear Sammy Wilson insisting the Alliance Party had opened the Pandora’s Box on the issue was to hear the sound of history repeating itself.

    Sammy had nothing to say on the Pandora’s Box front about the thousands of inflammatory DUP/UUP leaflets circulated ahead of the vote printed in Alliance yellow and claiming the party wanted the flag “ripped down”.

    Telephone numbers for the party were printed urging people to protest.

    Similarly, just when a day for cool heads was needed, perhaps for the issue of symbols to be set aside, Edwin Poots popped up to talk about flying the Union flag on more days up at Stormont.

    Sadly we are not making this up.

    This newspaper has an entirely consistent position that too often politicians take the easy options, playing to their own galleries and the dwindling rump of traditional voters who get them elected. Too many have but a vague acquaintance with the concept of shared future. We have been the only media outlet this week to condemn the continued naming of a playground in Newry after an IRA hunger striker. Our condemnation is cross-community wherever it is deserved.

    We have also heard this week excuses made that the disenchantment and lack of hope within loyalist communities fuels this violence as does the perception that other communities are prospering while they are not.

    There may well be some truth in parts of this yet unionists who argue this cannot have it both ways. If they rightly refuse to accept a republican narrative that discrimination forced many to pick up the gun and the bomb for the IRA’s murderous campaign in the ’70s, they cannot use the same argument for the loyalist side now.

    Just as the vast majority of Catholic/nationalists wanted nothing to do with terrorism back then so the vast majority of Protestants/unionists abhor the stoning and petrol bombing of innocent people now.

    In the middle of all this are people like the Bowers, dazed, bewildered and frightened for their young daughter.

    Don’t forget young Laura McNamee, the Alliance councillor forced out of her East Belfast home by Facebook idiots because of her party’s democratically taken decision on the flag. For all our sakes we hope that Laura stays in politics. She is the future.

    This newspaper takes no political sides, choosing to seek out the good in all parties. But the targeting of Alliance, a party which has much to contribute to a forward-looking political debate, represents a desperate recent low in community relations.

    For everyone who cares about democracy; who wants an end to sectarian posing and mind games; an end to mindless thuggery; an end to immature reactions to complicated issues; an end to whataboutery; wants no more from politicians who condemn violence with empty words. For those people, the vast majority of the population of Northern Ireland, from whatever political or religious background, we are all Alliance supporters today.”

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '12 - 6:20pm

    Let’s not be naive here. If the Alliance party believe that symbols are irrelevant, why did they need to stop flying the flag? They could have left it flying.

    Politicians in a democracy have to work with communities, not against them, and this applies even if the politicians think the communities are being unreasonable. If symbols are important to communities, it’s probably wise not to take arbitrary actions that affect them.

    Certainly the Alliance have a very difficult task. In this kind of tense context, mistakes are inevitable and do not detract from a party’s credibility. One aspect of the task is to accurately assess the possible reactions to proposed changes. It seems they failed to do so in this case.

  • Liberal Neil 8th Dec '12 - 6:43pm

    @Richard Dean – because another part of the community feel equally strongly the other way and The Alliance were trying to broker a sensible compromise.

    Any democrat should be standing firmly with our Alliance colleagues on this one.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '12 - 8:28pm

    Well well, the plot thickens! So it was originally a Sinn Fein proposal? One of the characteristics of these tense situations is sometimes that everything changes each time new information is revealed.

    I certainly don’t speak for anyone on either side, but I imagine that some of the more vulnerable and impressionable people on the DUP side find that the removal of the flag makes them feel just like the victims of the violence – that, in Stephen Glenn’s words, “a total lack of respect has been shown to them, their safety, work, property and families”.

    You may think that’s totally unreasonable, but politicians need to understand and work with whatever people’s feelings and views and instincts are. I agree with Hilary Clinton, and I hope the situation gets resolved peacefully.

  • Mark Inskip 9th Dec '12 - 12:12am

    @Richard Dean
    “Well well, the plot thickens! So it was originally a Sinn Fein proposal? One of the characteristics of these tense situations is sometimes that everything changes each time new information is revealed.”

    One of the characteristics of some comments to LDV stories is that the posters involved claim to have a detailed understanding of the matter under discussion even though they have not acquainted themselves with some of its basic facts.

  • Paul in Twickenham 9th Dec '12 - 9:22am

    Flags and symbols are very important in Northern Ireland. Travel around Northern Ireland and look at the paving stones: Red, white and blue in one street; Green ,white and orange in another street.

    The importance of flags as signifiers of cultural, political and historical identity makes this whole issue a tinder box. There’s no excuse for thuggery, of course, but it can hardly be a surprise to anyone with knowledge of Northern Ireland’s politics and history that there has been such a violent reaction to the removal of the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall.

    There’s a very insightful study about flag flying in my home town of Derry available here : http://www.stcolumbsparkhouse.org/Flags_research_final_draft.doc.pdf which really shows the importance of these symbols to people in the different communities.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 9:51am

    The Belfast City Council say that “The religious breakdown in the city is roughly equally split between those people of a ‘Protestant and other Christian’ community background (48.6%) and those people of a ‘Catholic’ community background (47.2%)”
    http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/factsandfigures/demographics.asp

  • What mark inskip said.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 1:37pm

    One of the jokes that used to be told a few decades ago was that, in Northern Ireland, you first get the “facts”. Then, after you’ve pondered them a bit, the other side provides the “true facts”, which are inevitably quite different! :-)

    Truly, people have a right to have opinions, even if they have few facts. They have a right to opine, even while they are learning new facts, and they have a right to change their views in the light of new facts, or for other reasons.

    And sometrimes the process of enquiry, by someone who starts out with few or no facts, reveals that the people who thought they knew a lot of facts were mistaken!

    Welcome to Northern Ireland! :-)

  • Richard, that’s not especially “Northern Ireland” — it’s just the internet — and, probably, in centuries past, any village square anywhere, where opinionated people gather to share rumors.

  • Richard,

    It would be a mistake to automaticlly assume that protestant equates to Loyalist and Catholic equates to Nationalist. The political make-up of Belfast City Council and the NI Assembly is more subtle than that. Alliance, as a non-sectarian centre party, holds a swing vote on the city council.

    Council Make-up:
    Sinn Féin 16
    DUP 15
    SDLP 8 8
    Alliance Party 6
    UUP 3
    PUP 2
    Independent 1

    I expect most protestants and catholics wouldn’t give two hoots what flag flies over the city Council building, if any at all. It is the more extreme elements in the nationalist and loyalist camps (not dissimiliar to tea party republicans in the US) that foist their intransigent positions on a beleagured public; that at the end of the day want what we all want from our city councillors – clean streets, intelligent planning decisions, social care services, parks and recreation, youth and community services, equal access to housing and sercices etc.

    The Alliance Party, in shunning sectarian bias, offers a real alternative to the polarised politics of one of the British Isles great cities. In so doing, in the face of great adversity, they are wholly deserving of our enthusiastic support and assistance..

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 4:10pm

    What this political makeup suggests to me is that the Alliance should be very careful NOT to exercise its swing vote power. It does not have anything like a mandate from a majority of the electorate to do that.

  • Richard,

    on that basis, libdems or any other party for that matter, would never exercise its democratic vote on the basis of the principles and values it campaigned on, where they hold the balance of power on local councils. The same argument could be applied to argue against forming a coalition government/governing council or entering into a supply and confidence agreement. Surely, not a proposition that any political party can take seriously!

  • Liberal Neil 9th Dec '12 - 4:51pm

    @Richard Dean – Each Alliance councillor has exactly the same amount of democratic mandate as each other councillor.

    I don’t think describing their votes as ‘swing votes’ is accurate or helpful.

    It’s not accurate because Alliance councillors each have a vote in exactly the same way as each other councillor. In each vote the decision will be carried by the majority of councillors voting. On some issues this may mean that Alliance councillors will vote on the same side of the argument as the Sinn Fein councillors, on others with DUP councillors,, and they may vote with any combination of the other parties. Alliance councillor votes are no more ‘swing votes’ than any other councillor’s vote.

    It’s unhelpful because it suggests that the Council is polarised between Unionists and Republicans with the Alliance ‘in the middle’. In fact many issues are not decided on those lines.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 4:51pm

    A political party should not do what it does not have a mandate to do. Basic principle of democracy. It gets abused, yes. But it’s probably especially important to avoid the temptation to abuse it in situations such as Northern Ireland, where in some circumstances the primary task is not to take a decision, but to get two opposing parties to agree one.

  • In 1997, Unionists lost overall control of Belfast City Council for the first time in its history, with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland gaining the balance of power between Nationalists and Unionists. This position was confirmed in the three subsequent council elections, with mayors from Nationalist Sinn Féin and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and the cross-community Alliance Party regularly elected since 1997. The most recent election in 2011 saw Nationalist councillors outnumber Unionist councillors for the first time, with Sinn Féin becoming the largest party.

    If the Alliance party had sat on the fence (abstained) then the Sinn Fein/SDLP voting bloc would have seen the Union Flag removed from Belfast City Hall. The compromise position to fly the flag on designated days.brokered by Alliance and accepted by the Nationalist bloc, gave both Unionist and Nationalist councillors part of what they sought. A clear win for both democracy and common sense and of great credit to Alliance.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 6:01pm

    It could not be a win, Joe, unless it was also accepted by the Unionist bloc. And without acceptance from both major parties, how can Alliance claim to be an unbiassed broker?

  • Richard,

    we are in coalition with the conservative party. Do you expect that Libdems in government should abstain from voting unless we can get acceptance from the Labour party for any government policy proposed?

    The Alliance Party of NI would have been pilloried for abstaining and no doubt you would be charging that this was a biased action on their part, in allowing the Nationalist bloc vote to go through uncontested. . As it is, they brokered a practical and sensible compromise that saved the Unionist parties fron complete defeat on the issue. Exactly the kind of level headed politics that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want for their communities , to breakdown the stubborn intransigence of violent and reactionary sectarianism.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 6:52pm

    Unfortunately the DUP don’t seem to have seen it that way, Joe, which means that the “brokering” failed. Perhaps some lessons could be learned? http://www.libdemvoice.org/ggg-32021.html#comment-231144

    Libdems never campaigned on the basis of being brokers between Labour and Conservative. Our present low poll results may suggest that the electorate feel that we do not have a mandate to do what we do.

  • Richard,

    What lessons should be learned? The DUP councillors were engaged in actively fomenting what became a violent protest and rather than unequivocally condeming the actions of the mob outright are making excuses for it. The Alliance Councillors seem to me to have explained the situation and expressed themselves very well:

    The Alliance party’s deputy leader Naomi Long says a death threat against her will not deter her from her work and calls for “mature political leadership”.

    Stephen Donnan Writes:

    “..this is {not} something that Alliance has done badly.No, the challenge we face is the outcome of standing by our principles in the face of incredible adversity and threats of violence. I have received abuse and condemnation in its lowest, most ugly form from people who claim to represent ‘Protestants of East Belfast.’ I have news for you, I am a Protestant from east Belfast, I come from a working class, loyalist-Unionist community and somehow I, like the majority of others in my community, manage to avoid behaving like a criminal and animal. We will not be brow beaten, bullied or intimidated for what we believe and for staying the course.

    I understand and I encourage protest, that is how democracy works, as long as it is peaceful. Intimidating our Councillors into leaving their homes, burning down the offices of our MLAs and Ministers and sending sectarian abuse over Twitter to our supporters is not ‘engaging in the debate’, it’s mob mentality.”

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '12 - 7:43pm

    One of the lessons is to see, even in emotional times. One of the things to see is that the statement that “The DUP councillors were engaged in actively fomenting what became a violent protest” is a judgment, and not necessarily a fact, or at least perhaps not a true one. Starting a piece with a statement like that means that the entire piece is likely to be regarded with some suspicion!

    Seeing through others’ eyes is one of the things that leaders need to learn in a divided community. It seems that the Alliance may not have not have achieved this this time. Let’s hope they recognize and learn from the mistakes, avoid the inflammatory language that Stephen Donnan seems to be starting to use, regain credibility, and continue by helping to cooperate and lead NI to a better future.

  • Richard,

    I would simply quote again the Belfast Telegraph (a historically Unionist leaning paper) as a far more reasoned position than any you have been able to put forward:

    “People could have died in the violence that followed and a party of quite manifestly mainstream political aims has become a coward’s target. In many ways what has been even more desperate is the succession of senior unionist politicians who condemn the violence on one hand but still try to apportion blame with the other.

    To hear Sammy Wilson insisting the Alliance Party had opened the Pandora’s Box on the issue was to hear the sound of history repeating itself. Sammy had nothing to say on the Pandora’s Box front about the thousands of inflammatory DUP/UUP leaflets circulated ahead of the vote printed in Alliance yellow and claiming the party wanted the flag “ripped down”. Telephone numbers for the party were printed urging people to protest.

    Similarly, just when a day for cool heads was needed, perhaps for the issue of symbols to be set aside, Edwin Poots popped up to talk about flying the Union flag on more days up at Stormont. Sadly we are not making this up.

    This newspaper has an entirely consistent position that too often politicians take the easy options, playing to their own galleries and the dwindling rump of traditional voters who get them elected. Too many have but a vague acquaintance with the concept of shared future. We have been the only media outlet this week to condemn the continued naming of a playground in Newry after an IRA hunger striker. Our condemnation is cross-community wherever it is deserved.

    We have also heard this week excuses made that the disenchantment and lack of hope within loyalist communities fuels this violence as does the perception that other communities are prospering while they are not. There may well be some truth in parts of this yet unionists who argue this cannot have it both ways. If they rightly refuse to accept a republican narrative that discrimination forced many to pick up the gun and the bomb for the IRA’s murderous campaign in the ’70s, they cannot use the same argument for the loyalist side now.

    Just as the vast majority of Catholic/nationalists wanted nothing to do with terrorism back then so the vast majority of Protestants/unionists abhor the stoning and petrol bombing of innocent people now.”

  • Paul in Twickenham 10th Dec '12 - 12:33am

    Joe Bourke is correct – most people in Northern Ireland don’t want flags to be displayed.

    The research document I link in my earlier post has some useful statistics from a survey done in Derry : 63.7% of people were against the display of flags as symbols of nationalism/unionism. That’s an overwhelming majority and indicates that most people are quietly supportive of what Alliance has done.

    But there is another side to this: When asked the question “what does flag flying mean to you?” almost 80% of respondents in The Fountain (a fiercely loyalist enclave in Derry) supported flag flying, saying that it shows “this is a community which is proud of its national identity”, and overall support for flags was 54.4% for Protestants compared with just 17.1% for Catholics.

    Loyalists have felt a strong sense of alienation as disproportionate rights and privileges (which they would describe as “freedoms”) have been equalized. As with any group that feels an existential threat, it’s predictable that perceived attacks on cultural signifiers will result in violence.

    I would suggest that it would have been better to do nothing. The perceived threat to Loyalist identity creates a danger of retaliation and violence, and I find the Telegraph’s intellectual discussion points about people trying to “have it both ways” to be willfully blind to the facts on the ground. Violence benefits no-one except those who want to see violence.

  • Richard Dean 10th Dec '12 - 9:23am

    If it was “predictable that perceived attacks on cultural signifiers will result in violence”, then the people who took actions that would be perceived that way can hardly claim to be blameless. It would be nice if they could learn from the consequences of their actions.

  • Richard Dean,

    What exactly would you have Alliance learn? Do you think they should have abstained, hence enabling the Nationalist side to ban flying the Union flag altogether? Or do you think they should have voted with the Unionists?

  • Richard Dean 10th Dec '12 - 1:11pm

    Gee, I guess they need to learn to read! Particularly the report that Paul in Twickenham links to. And local representatives and political workers simply aren’t doing their job properly if they completely miss the signs that a proposed action is likely to result in an extreme reaction.

    If you come across a rusty old thing that looks like an unexploded bomb, it’s probably not a good idea to bash it with a sledgehammer. It’s an even worse idea to blame the bomb when it explodes! Better to explore carefully, try to defuse the bomb first. If it has to explode, better do it under safe and controlled conditions. And remember, the bomb gets damaged too!

    Of course, if people get to know this is your strategy, even empty little cardboard boxes might start to prentend to be bombs. For advantage, or just for fun. But that is probably better than having a real bomb explode.

    For years, Republicans opposed what they believed to be oppression. Perehaps everyone, including Alliance, now need to learn that the other side were oppressed too, and have wounds, and vulnerabilities, and residual coping structures. Healing does not get done by force, neither by forcing a symbol out, nor by forcing a family out, nor by refusing to see.

  • The Lesson the Alliance can take from this is that the ‘Mature political Leadership’,and the shared future of the peace process they have taken a stand, for is backed by the vast majority of the community in Northern Ireland. People going about their daily business in their communities do not want flags or any other symbols rammed down their throats by sectarian politicking or rampaging mobs of any persuasion. We have all seen enough of that for too many years.

    As Stephen Donnan elequently concludes in his press piece “This is not a protest, this is criminality and barbarism. You just lost the argument.”

  • David Allen 10th Dec '12 - 4:29pm

    Gee Richard, you can teach them a few things about how to evade a direct question, can’t you? One more time – do you think they should have abstained, or voted with the Unionists?

  • Richard Dean 10th Dec '12 - 5:24pm

    The lessons proposed by Joe seem entirely consistent with the lessons proposed by myself, except that as LibDems we must try to avoid the temptation to allow majorities to ride roughshod over minorities. I hope Michael and Christine and Naomi and Stephen and everyone see light through their suffering, not dark.

  • Keith McGrellis 11th Dec '12 - 7:57pm

    Richard,

    Belfast isn’t the only council which flies the Union Flag on designated days. Lisburn is one and it has a unionist majority. DUP and UUP councillors voted for designated days in October 2006. Edwin Poots MLA, the DUP Health minister, is one of the main politicians complaining about the Belfast City Council vote even though he voted for designated days at that meeting in Lisburn so why is it OK for Lisburn but not for Belfast?

    The minutes for the meeting are in Word document linked at the bottom of this page
    http://www.lisburncity.gov.uk/your-city-council/council-minutes-and-reports/index.php?id=545&sr=0&month=10&year=2006&search_keyword=&freshform=no

  • Richard Dean 11th Dec '12 - 10:55pm

    I have no information, but I can speculate. These difficult events are occurring in a local government context. People in one local area don’t necessarily feel the same way as the people in another, even if they vote for the same party in local and/or national elections. So if local councillors of a particular party are to represent their constituents properly, they may need to take different positions in different localities. Nothing puzzling about that.

    Representation is, after all, about saying what the people being represented feel or want. It’s not al all about saying what the representative may feel or want, or what the party may feel or want. Can LibDems understand that type of democracy?

    It does look just as simple as that – that Unionist policians have been properly representing the feelings of the people in their areas. Probably representatives in other parties have been doing the same for their different constituents. It seems that, based on the Unionist’s assessment of what the people they represent could accept, they properly took a relevant, representative stance on the Belfast flags issue.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20686612

  • Keith McGrellis,

    I think the only difference between Lisburn and Belfast is that in Lisburn the decision was made by the Unionist controlled council – in Belfast it was made by the Nationalist Councillors and Alliance. Lisburn forms part of the Belfast metropolitan area and is the second largest council district, after Belfast with a similiar make-up of population. There is no substantive difference between the general cross-section of views in the two areas. The opposition of BelfastUnionist councillors to Nationalist proposals is bog standard local politics.

    What is not bog standard is the reported orchestration of a protest involving the distribution of thousands of inflammatory DUP/UUP leaflets circulated ahead of the vote printed in Alliance yellow and claiming the party wanted the flag “ripped down”. Telephone numbers for the party were printed urging people to protest.

    The BBC reports quotes Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton, who explains how things have got out of hand. Asked about loyalist paramilitary involvement in the violence, he said: “Loyalism is very fragmented.What you have is people at a local level in some ways disconnected from the senior leadership of those organisations actively involved in violence.”

  • Richard Dean 12th Dec '12 - 7:39am

    People aren’t allowed to protest, Joe? No LibDems here, I guess! Main parties on the UK mainland use “ripped down” type of langage all the time.

  • Richard,

    I think we have already covered that point with Stephen Donnan’s conclusion in his press piece “This is not a protest, this is criminality and barbarism. You just lost the argument.”

    If mistakes were made here, it was not by the Alliance party in brokering a sensible compromise, but by the DUP/UUP councillors lack of due caution in fuelling a protest that is now out of thier control and in the hands of what Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton describes as “people at a local level, in some ways disconnected from the senior leadership of those organisations, actively involved in violence.”

  • Richard Dean 12th Dec '12 - 6:59pm

    No, we didn’t cover that point at all. Your complaint about the leaflets suggest that you condemn even mild protest. But then, with “rammed down their throats” you’re not exacly non-partisan are you?

    Alliance certainly made mistakes, and I hope they will recognize that in time. Just about everyone seems to have mis-recognized what the feelings were on the ground. Alliance don’t have a mandate from the entire population – far more people voted for other parties. And if people hoped they could broker deals then they should have brokered one – what they did instead was force one side to accept a watered down version that seems to have still been unacceptable to that side. Alliance needs to change to work to restore the credibility bthey have lost as a result.

    Violence like what happened happens because people are truly upset, knocked-over upset, upside-down-and-inside-out upset. The problems donlt get resolved standing on eroded dignity

  • Richard,

    having flags and symbols ‘rammed down their throats’ is not confined to one side or other of the sectarian divide. It is just as much as problem in republican dominated areas as it is Loyalist enclaves.

    A commentator on the Belfast Telegraph site made some astute observations, that you might take account of:

    “Unionism is yet again being lead down a dead end by it’s divisive tribal leadership, They fail there own people & the union they so cherish, When is unionism going to wake up to the fact that if the union is to survive long into the future it must appeal to a much broader electorate, The majority of our citizens want to move forward together in a shared Northern Ireland for all, with flags images & emblems that reflect both our Irish & British traditions, shared public buildings & spaces that all our citizens are comfortable in – places that bring us together, not cause division through territorial flag flying,
    Unionist’s with many of it’s leaders in the Orange order & right wing Christian fundamentalist core – are turning off any Catholics , nationalists & younger more liberal Protestant unionist’s who do not like there divisive tribal agenda,
    This narrow tribal appeal , is damaging the union, When the democratic will of the people of Belfast appeared to be going against there wishes – flyers & social media were used to call people out on to the street in protest . A violent, extremist, right wing , thug mob has hijacked these protesters, leading to city hall being layed siege by these extremist thugs as the democratic mandate of the people of Belfast was being exercised,
    Since then there have been arson attacks,attacks on individuals private property, attacks on Catholic churches & death threats have been issued, The same condemnation that all politicians & parties rightly direct at murderous dissident republican factions – must now be directed at these dangerous violent extremist Thugs,

    THE SILENCE FROM SOME OF OUR POLITICIANS SPREAKS VOLUMES, as the democratic process is attacked , some of our politicians remain silent. The majority of the people of Belfast want to move forward together towards a shared future for all our citizens laying the foundations of lasting peace,
    NOW IS THE TIME FOR OUR POLITICIANS TO START WORKING TOWARDS A NORTHERN IRELAND FOR ALL OUR PEOPLE.”

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 30th Oct - 3:51pm
    Oops ... and of course Paul in Wokingham. Apologies!
  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 30th Oct - 3:49pm
    @JohnTilley30th Oct '14 - 12:56pm ** The problem is as Simon Banks points out –“..the social and belief profile of Green supporters is close to...
  • User AvatarRoland 30th Oct - 3:29pm
    Re: will the new HS line use British or European loading gauge? You largely answered this question in the preceding sentence "As the plan is...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 30th Oct - 3:15pm
    Toby Matthews In such a way, a struggling seaside town or Scottish city may face London on equal terms. They will not have the assets...
  • User AvatarStephen Campbell 30th Oct - 3:13pm
    @JohnTilley: I think the time has come for you to leave the Lib Dems and join the Greens! I do find myself agreeing with almost...
  • User AvatarStephen Campbell 30th Oct - 3:08pm
    @Roland: "Hence if the LibDems (or other parties) wish to pick up Green votes, I suggest they need to provide sufficient Green policies to be...