Monday 22 March 2010

Spotlight on Tom ... or is it Bobby?

If all publicity is good publicity, then today must be Tom Elliott's day. Not only is he the subject of Arlene Foster's "impassioned plea" on the DUP web site;


... but he gets a full three pictures on the UUP web site:


The UUP has been doing its best to raise Elliott's profile for a while now, perhaps to try to persuade people subliminally that he is the 'natural' candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The DUP, of course, have been doing the same for Arlene Foster – including appointing her as caretaker First Minister for a short period earlier this year.

It's all about Fermanagh and South Tyrone, of course. Lip-service is made to South Belfast, of course – the other 'steal-able' constituency – but the real hunger amongst unionists is for FST.

Why is FST so important to unionists?

Partly, of course, because it is their last hope of ever winning a seat in 'the west' (though, of course, most of East Derry is west of the Bann). But mainly because it was Bobby Sands' seat. Winning FST is a way of negating the achievement that Bobby Sands election represented to nationalists and especially republicans. If unionism can win FST, then it can present Sands victory as an aberration, before the 'natural order' was restored. It can present the nine years of Michelle Gildernew's possession of the seat (since 2001) as having been 'rolled back', and it can pretend that unionism is resurgent. The actual proportion of the vote that unionism gets in FST will, in these circumstances, be less important to them than the fact of having 'bagged' the big trophy.

Of course the words 'Bobby Sands' will not be mentioned by Foster or Elliott, but they are there in the back of their minds.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have thought SF would want Bobby's name bringing up either, considering they have effectively ditched everything he fought and died for. The deal SF have enthusiastically signed up to was available in 1974, but PIRA rejected it.

Six hunger strikers died for a deal the prisoners had already accepted as fair, but were over ruled by PIRA leaders outside the prison. I wonder how Bobby would feel about that had he lived?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have thought SF would want Bobby's name bringing up either, considering they have effectively ditched everything he fought and died for. The deal SF have enthusiastically signed up to was available in 1974, but PIRA rejected it.

Six hunger strikers died for a deal the prisoners had already accepted as fair, but were over ruled by PIRA leaders outside the prison. I wonder how Bobby would feel about that had he lived?

bangordub said...

Just back from a very pleasant weekend in Enniskillen.
Interestingly, the (Unionist) voters I spoke to there found the whole "Unionist Unity" thing very distasteful.
The general opinion was that the DUP will do anything to retain power and the talk of Ms Foster standing aside is a ruse to enable her to ditch her multiple jobs under a cloak of the greater good.
General opinion is that Michelle is a shoo-in.
ps: Is Mr/Ms anonymous Andy again in disguise? I do miss him!

Paddy Canuck said...

"The deal SF have enthusiastically signed up to was available in 1974, but PIRA rejected it."

Oh, yeah, the PIRA rejected it... that must be why Sinn Fein led the loyalist general strike that collapsed Sunningdale. Yeah, it's all Bobby Sand's fault. Those Orange Hall bigots really played into his hands.

Paddy Canuck said...

"Six hunger strikers died for a deal the prisoners had already accepted as fair"

What are you babbling about? Even I know Sunningdale was in 1974; the hunger strikers died in 1981. If anyone starved himself to death on behalf of the Sunningdale Agreement, that's news to me. It's probably news to Ireland, north and south.

paul said...

hes actually talking about a deal to end the hunger strikes, a political status deal.

PS hes talking complete and utter woofle waffle.

totally and utterly inaccurate in every way, and he knows it to.

Anonymous said...

FAO Paddy:

PIRA were opposed to Suningdale. This is one reason it might have failed.

The 'deal' spoken of was an offer made to The Hunger Strikers by The UK State, which PIRA prisoners were satisfied with. The external PIRA leadership at the time insisted the protest continued, as dead Hunger Strikers were proving to be great publicity for the emerging SF political strategy. This has been confirmed by PIRA members who were in The H Blocks at the time of the Hunger Strike - one shared a cell with The PIRA OC in The Maize. Read up on it Paddy, it all came out about 6 months ago.

Anonymous said...

FAO Paddy:

PIRA were opposed to Suningdale. This is one reason it might have failed.

The 'deal' spoken of was an offer made to The Hunger Strikers by The UK State, which PIRA prisoners were satisfied with. The external PIRA leadership at the time insisted the protest continued, as dead Hunger Strikers were proving to be great publicity for the emerging SF political strategy. This has been confirmed by PIRA members who were in The H Blocks at the time of the Hunger Strike - one shared a cell with The PIRA OC in The Maize. Read up on it Paddy, it all came out about 6 months ago.

Lone Primate said...

"PIRA were opposed to Suningdale. This is one reason it might have failed."

Why, did they have an effective legislative veto in Stormont? All the guys in the balaclavas voted no whenever the Speaker called for a vote?

"The 'deal' spoken of was an offer made to The Hunger Strikers by The UK State, which PIRA prisoners were satisfied with."

How could you possibly know this? The prisoners took a vote by secret ballot or something?

"Read up on it Paddy"

Where?

Anonymous said...

Lone Primate said:

"Why, did they have an effective legislative veto in Stormont? All the guys in the balaclavas voted no whenever the Speaker called for a vote?"

PIRA were totally opposed to Sunningdale and at that time were still operating at a ferocious level of violence. Can anyone really imagine that power sharing could have survived that level of insurgency? It would have only taken one Loughall type event for The SDLP to have walked out in protest (or the army killing a rioting child with a rubber bullet). No, power sharing depended on a cessation of paramilitary violence to have any chance of success - which, of course was eventually what happened.

Anonymous said...

http://saoirse32.blogsome.com/2009/04/08/p13112/

The first IRA hunger striker to speak about a possible deal which could have saved the lives of five or possibly six of his colleagues has called for the full facts of the initiative to be made public.

Gerard Hodgkins, who spent 20 days on hunger strike in 1981, has demanded that Sinn Fein and others make public all records relating to the era.

He was speaking after a number of documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, appeared to confirm details of a deal offered to the IRA in the days before Joe McDonnell died on July 8 1981.

Extracts from two letters from Downing Street to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) dated July 17 and 18 1981 have been made public as well as an undated telegram from the NIO to the British cabinet office.

In 2005, former prisoner Richard O’Rawe, who acted as publicity officer for the hunger strikers at the time, published an account of a deal sanctioned by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The deal indicated agreement over three and possibly four of the prisoners’ five demands on clothes, association, remission and possibly work.

Claims by Mr O’Rawe that the deal was rejected by the outside IRA leadership because they wished to capitalise on political gains at the time were rejected by Mr Morrison and those managing the Hunger Strike from the outside.

But an extract from the letter from Downing Street to the NIO on July 8 1981 indicates a deal was offered but initially rejected by the IRA because of its tone rather than its content.

The letter said that the secretary of state, Humphrey Atkins, told Mrs Thatcher the terms were offered to the Provisionals.

“Their response indicated that they did not regard it as satisfactory and that they wanted a good deal more. That appeared to mark the end of this development and we made this clear to the PIRA during the afternoon.

“This had produced a very rapid reaction which suggested that it was not the content of the message which they had objected to but only its tone,” the letter stated.

In a letter dated July 18 1981 (following the death of hunger striker Martin Hurson on July 13), it was revealed that Mrs Thatcher bowed to pressure from Humphrey Atkins not to send an official to meet the hunger strikers. Mr Atkins was concerned that if an official outlined the British position to the prisoners his meeting would become public.

The IRSP, the political wing of the INLA whose hunger strikers Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine died after the deal was offered, said the INLA’s army council in 1981 was not aware of the deal.

IRSP spokesman William Gallagher said: “Both the then INLA army council and the INLA prisoners’ OC have stated to the IRSP that if they had been made aware of the content of these developments at the time they would have ordered the INLA prisoners to end their hunger strike.”

Michael Devine jnr, whose father – also Michael – was the last hunger sriker to die, said the families deserved to be told the truth about what happened.

“Why were the families or the prisoners themselves never told about the nature and content of these contacts?

“I would appeal to Sinn Fein and the British government, given their public positions on truth and reconciliation, to tell us the truth and give us closure,” he said.

Mr Hodgkins, the first IRA hunger striker to speak out about the deal, said the documents supported the claims of a deal first made by Mr O’Rawe.

“When it first came out [in 2005] I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. But I followed the debate and do now,” he said.

Mr Hodgkins said he believed the group which was working with the hunger strikers – and which included Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams – may have allowed the protest to continue for political gain.

If this was the case, Mr Hodgkins said he understood why they did so but would not have agreed.

He said the Sinn Fein leadership should release all information about the Hunger Strike.

Paddy Canuck said...

"PIRA were totally opposed to Sunningdale and at that time were still operating at a ferocious level of violence. Can anyone really imagine that power sharing could have survived that level of insurgency?"

The IRA didn't bring down Sunningdale. Loyalist general strikes cowed London into pulling the plug on it because they didn't have the guts to send in the troops against people being "loyal" to Mother England by defying her.

"It would have only taken one Loughall type event for The SDLP to have walked out in protest (or the army killing a rioting child with a rubber bullet)."

It didn't take anything so grandiose. All it took was for several thousand bigots to put their feet up and do bugger all for a couple of weeks to get London to say "okay, we give, you don't have to share your toys with themuns after all..."

"No, power sharing depended on a cessation of paramilitary violence to have any chance of success - which, of course was eventually what happened."

Most of the paramilitaries didn't disarm until the mid to late 2000s, most of a decade after the GFA was signed. That it was going ahead is what convinced them, orange and green, to get on with it.

Paddy Canuck said...

"The deal indicated agreement over three and possibly four of the prisoners’ five demands on clothes, association, remission and possibly work."

Yeah, maybe, possibly, some... that's what I figured it amounted to. I'm hardly surprised it went down in flames; that's the sort of rubbishy non-offer that ended the first hunger strike. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Those men died, in part, because they were bullshitted out of the first hunger strike and what little trust and faith they had in Thatcherite half-promises was spent.