The bright side of Northern Ireland’s strange politics

European Politics, Politics

Chekov at Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness highlights the extent to which the most unusual of political alliances has entrenched itself in Northern Ireland. For a little over two years now, the government is made up of Sinn Fein – the long-time political arm of the IRA – and the DUP, the hardline Unionist party that was led for close to fourty years by the rabblerousing Rev. Paisley.

An odd couple indeed, but one that’s digging its heels in – and in turn has the opposition unifying across religious lines. When the Catholic SDLP and the Ulster Unionists joined up last week with the non-sectarian Alliance in an attempt to block government legislation, First Minister Robinson (DUP) called theirs an “unholy” alliance, which understandably has the Ulster Unionists in a tizzy:

Yesterday, in an ill-tempered display, First Minister Robinson hit out at the UUP, Alliance and SDLP for co-operating on the Financial Assistance Bill. He had the cheek to describe the three parties as an ‘unholy alliance’ – on the same day as he and his party trooped into the voting lobbies 6 times with their friends in Sinn Fein.

3 democratic political parties co-operating to hold the First Minister and deputy First Minister to account is positive, democratic politics – Messers Robinson and McGuinness clubbing together in a power-grab is truly ‘unholy’. [..]

[T]he closeness of the DUP-Sinn Fein alliance is now obvious for all to see. Two parties, conceived in sectarianism and bound together by a mutual loathing, but united by their arrogant contempt for those parties who dare to hold them up to scrutiny in the Assembly. Mr. Robinson was entirely right that an unholy alliance exists – the problem is that it is an alliance of his party and his colleagues in Sinn Fein.

Eloquent – I love the “Two parties, conceived in sectarianism and bound together by a mutual loathing” bit. And yet, there’s something reassuring about seeing a cross-sectarian opposition arguing against a cross-sectarian government and making the kind of accusations (bulldozering through legislation and the like) that could feature in any country.

An opposition primarily identifying itself, not along religious or nationalist lines, but as a “positive, democratic” alliance whose first priority is enforcing accountability and good governance – even if it’s all situational, that’s a long way from Northern Ireland’s not all too distant past.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Lacey  •  Apr 27, 2011 @2:43 pm

    HHIS I should have tughoht of that!