Hubris Over Humility

Anthony McIntyre thinks DUP leader Arleen Foster reaped the sectarian harvest she had sown.

I found it difficult to work up much interest in the North’s Assembly election.

Speaking to other former republican prisoners in the South revealed something similar on their part. Out of sight out of mind, peace process fatigue or whatever, it was just something that seemed to have little relevance in this part of the world. In a tweet the journalist Ger Cunningham dismissed it as a "competition to implement London-made Tory policy in Stormont", and ultimately it was hard to see it as much else. I only started to glance towards it around Tuesday, and then without a lot of enthusiasm. 

The election came about not because Sinn Fein was really upset about the RHI scandal, otherwise Conor Murphy would never have called for the scheme to be extended. The cosy club up at Stormont would have trundled on forever and a day had the Sinn Fein MLAs who snorted there had their way. Peter Robinson made it clear that there would have been no change had Martin McGuinness not been ill. However, the animus at grassroots level towards the DUP slapping nationalism down managed to puncture the up to then impenetrable wax in the leadership’s ears.  As Gerry Adams put it the DUP under Foster "radicalised a younger vote for Sinn Fein".

The one imponderable was whether Sinn Fein with new Northern leader Michelle O’Neill at the helm could up its game against a DUP whose vote was likely to hold up but not improve. The party in West Belfast had slipped into decline after Gerry Adams moved South. If O’Neill felt the departure of an ailing Martin McGuinness would leave her presiding over a similar decline, she need not have worried. Sinn Fein ripped the DUP a new one to the point where only one Assembly seat and around 1000 votes separate the two.

As much as we might dissent from Sinn Fein it would be an "alternative fact" to suggest that there was no large measure of satisfaction derived from seeing bigots battered and bruised, with people like Nelson McCausland and Maurice Morrow despatched to the dole lines where they will rub shoulders with people their austerity policies had previously sent there. 

As for Michelle O’Neill, without casting aspersion on her capabilities, the Sinn Fein administered trouncing was more accident than design. There was indeed a woman behind the surge in Sinn Fein but it was Arleen Foster. She “seems to have done something that ten years of Sinn Fein banging the green drum has not: motivated nationalist voters to go to the polls.” RTE was reporting this evening that some Sinn Fein leaders were amazed at the extent of the party's success.

When she took over from Peter Robinson, as much as I opposed her, I felt her appointment was part of a more secular, less sectarian forward moving wave within the DUP. That she ended up behaving as backward and as bigoted as Willie McCrea in his prime, was something of an eye opener. Arleen Foster had not taken over the DUP, it had taken over her. 

Lacking the strategic acumen of Peter Robinson and equipped with the sectarian antenna of one of the raving reverends the DUP long took guidance from, Foster delivered a Triple A performance – Arrogant, Abrasive, Awful.

She might have complained that Sinn Fein was arrogant to have suggested it wanted to put manners on the DUP. But a party that has room for the type of sectarian hatred expressed towards the innocent civilians massacred by British Paras in Derry is in need of more than mere manners.

With Foster willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with this type of bigot, nationalists can hardly be blamed for being unable to tell the difference.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

18 comments to ''Hubris Over Humility"

  1. Excellent article. This kicking is exactly what Arlene needed, maybe now the DUP will have a deep look into its black heart and see what the rest of us see. Though I'm not holding my breath.

  2. Well balanced piece that hits a number of truisms on all fronts. As accurate as Ger Cunningham's observation might be but whenever the next election is how many non-Sinn Fein voters would not like to see the unionist psychic as the dominant majority to be broken once and for all? The DUP 'no surrender' psychic is amazing, even when they know they are in a sinking boat, they voted to keep the 'hole' as their party leader?

  3. Peter

    A very fair point. I never expected it from yourself. I was going to ask you what you think of my regular reference to demographics now? That comment of yours is a tad disarming. Unionists do indeed require a look in the mirror. Mike Nesbitt is just the latest to have tried and died. I think the hatred is so intense and ingrained they will prefer to 'die' on their knees than live on their feet in 'mere' equality. How sad.

  4. Larry
    Why would you not expect that from me? I was in NI21 remember? I hate the DUP with a passion.

  5. There is something to learn in how not to behave after winning by examining the Unionists. Breaking the link with Britain seems to be focused on economic issues, but being utterly magnanimous to the point (outside of sovereignty) victor and loser would be indistinguishable might be a good aim.

  6. Astute as ever and especially from someone who had no interest in it! I thought Mike Nesbitt looked delighted at the prospect of stepping down and getting away to fuck from about the whole lot of them. At least he tried.
    The problem Unionism has is that it can't perceive the positives of change which is all connected to their siege mentality....unfortunately for them the croppy is now in ascendancy and there is no turning back. As much as it kills me to acknowledge this I feel somewhat delighted at the smugness of Unionism being wiped of their faces and even more humiliating with a shitty green that sectarian of me....mmmmmmm...if so, fuck it, it feels great!

  7. Peter

    That political participation on your part had totally escaped me. Not sure how that happened. I was obviously blinded/over focused upon your Chuck Norris alter ego. I was disappointed more unionists never voted for Nesbitt. I felt had they done so it would have relaxed the RCs to go back to the stoops. The electorate there seem to have the measure of each other down to a 'T'. It is difficult to envisage the siege mentality lessening to any degree within unionism now as things move forward. There has to be a certain element of sado masochism involved there at this stage. N121 had no chance looking at the OU Party. Maybe you will consider Alliance Peter or would they be too far out of the unionist family?

    Daithi D

    I have seen footage of the DUP celebrating after the previous election on stage where they all looked like they were doing the pogo. Where did it all go wrong? I guess Crocodile Rock by Gay Elton John turned out to be a bad choice of music....

  8. What is depressing is there is no credible alternative. We have been locked into sectarian politics by the GFA, the only way to a united Ireland being procreational value of one side or the other. One good thing though is the DUP do not have a veto.

  9. Larry
    It is essential for unionism that DUP/OO bigotry is defeated as it is seriously counter productive for the union. I am stoked that they have lost the Petition of Concern and had their smug bakes well and truly smacked but I fear the road ahead for progressive unionism is an uphill challenge. I wouldn't join the Alliance party, my days in political parties are over but I would vote for them. I voted Chambers (UUP) No1 cos I know and like him, with Agnew (Greens) at No2 and Farry (AP) in third.

    Republicans calling for a border poll just because of this election is a little absurd though. You love your demographics Larry so chew on this: the nationalist share of the vote at this election rose from 36 to 39%. Tell that 39% that they will lose their NHS, 1000s of public sector jobs and the English stipend and you will struggle to make 30%. Regardless of this result the union is safe.

  10. People vote out of fear of 'themmuns', not necessarily hatred Larry, although admittedly for many that would also be the case. I remember the pure fear we all felt when I was a wean, about the Provo's. Heart feart that any day the troops would be withdrawn and we would be marched off to concentration camps, shot, or forced to flee to Scotland to avoid an inevitable civil war.

    Seems ridiculous now but that's honestly what it was like in my community, I'm sure Peter can remember the fear when he was younger too.

    I am in despair that people could still vote for the DUP though, as there will be no progress with them carrying their sectarian torch burning brightly, not to mention their rorting hypocrisy.

    But like Anthony I had only passing interest in this election, as it seems much ado about nothing other than politicians being caught with their hand in the till while others fake indignation from their chauffeur driven cars!

  11. Peter

    I have everything here in Donegal I ever had in Lurgan and more. So that is truly a non issue. It is swings and roundabouts although wealthy farmers in the north seem set for a huge financial hit post Brexit. Regardless, your voting pattern is sound and your contributions here highly commendable. As for demographics, my own immediate family would vote against unification as surely as they put 'British' on job applications in the nationality slot. However, insulting rather than embracing such people does unionism no favours. The galvanising of the RC vote should be a warning that the attitude of old is obsolete and very dangerous to the union if continued or deployed in any future border poll. Peter Robinson and Paisley Jnr appear to 'get-it' but Arlene just seems rabid in her approach to the 'natives'. Whatever happens in future must be through peaceful means. One thing for definite, the natives wont be reaching out endlessly only to be buggered repeatedly by people who hate them. If SF try another decade of that a replacement will emerge as sure as day follows night.

  12. Steve R

    I arrived home from England at 9 years old to Lurgan, twinned at the time I think with Lebanon. Even at that age I was aware of RC houses being trashed by loyalist at night gangs while the RUC held the local men at gun point. My granda, a WW2 veteran who couldn't get a job emptying bins being an RC after the war, died of heart attack doing vigilante, that is what brought us home. I never had any concept of the loyalist community being under that type of threat. So your reminiscences and fear level at the time surprise me a bit. My own personal memories were of realising very quickly that being an RC in Lurgan in 1973 was not a good career option. Cheers mum. And she still lists herself as British...too long living in RAF bases I fear.

    But for absolute certain, Stormont is all about self interest and scamming the government purse. The DUP under Arlene were reluctant to let SF anywhere near the pie, unlike Peter and Ian I suspect. SF have been co-opted in more ways than one. They have a taste of what's on offer and the electorate and not the MAs got angry with the DUP. That was the only plus from this election. SF are claiming credit for something they helped cause. ANGER.

  13. In a telephone chat with my 85 year old mother last week she enquired as to my views whether or not Arlene would be re-elected?

    My reply "Ma, I've become like the rest of them down here ... we don't really care what you do up there. We don't really care and just hope ye aren't going to be a nuisance to us anymore".

    I'm hopeful that Michelle won't drive Arlene further into the bunker and that there are more politically astute forces than her within the DUP who can make sure that she or the party doesn't dig themselves deeper in.

    I'd be more hopeful of the first part of that though rather than the latter.

  14. Larry,

    The largest part of the problem is that people like you and me growing up had absolutely no idea what was going on for the otherside, what it was like for them and the fear & bigotry each other were on the end on. My first experience of 'Catholics' was being 9 years old and spat on and kicked outside leisureworld for being a 'hun'. I had never heard the term and never met a catholic before so this obviously made me scared, and like Yoda says...

    Then when you are a bit older being left permanently deaf in one ear due a Provo bomb going off in the 80's didn't exactly make me have a sunny disposition to 'yousens' lol, but as I grew older (and wider) I realised that the bigotry I may feel is just a reflection of what must be coming the other way, so I just let it go.

    (By the way, being a bit mutt&jeff has come in handy too I've noticed! lol)

  15. Steve R

    Young lives wasted. And still they argue about crap. Dunno bout wood pellets but there's plenty of 'gas' up at Stormont.

  16. Steve R,
    You forgot about how the Provos burned down your house to the ground killing the 5 people travelling in the school bus 4 days before the could you!

  17. Nial

    Steady on everyone knows the Provos performed more miracles on a weekly basis than J.C. could have dreamed of.

  18. Larry,

    For our shame, yes. Kids should not be segregated in the schooling system to combat this.


    Sorry, I don't follow? I am not playing 'one up manship' with the illustrious Mr Hughes as he well knows me by now, and I enjoy bantering with him! lol


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