Northern Ireland

Lord Hylton

I have visited this place regularly since 1978.  Last week I was invited to come over again by a friend, older than me.  The background was one or protests and of violent riots.  Sixty-four or more police officers have been injured, many arrests have been made, while buses and cars burned and traffic was disrupted, both before and after Christmas.

 All this happens in spite of the huge progress made since the Belfast Agreement of 1998.  Northern Ireland is now probably better off that the Republic, with lower unemployment and better state services.  It remains, however, a deeply divided society, as my friend and I both know, from experiences within our two families.


 We met and listened to many different sources: ordinary but active women from Unionist/Loyalist communities, former councillors, community workers, ex-paramilitaries from both sides.  They were unanimous that the present situation is very dangerous.  It undermines the political progress that has led to full devolution.  It threatens economic prosperity and inward investment, by damaging the improved reputation of the whole province.  It harms the concensus that had been achieved about policing.

It is, however, worth noticing that the flashpoints have been confined to East Belfast (in particular two “interfaces” there) together with Newtonabbey and Carrickfergus. Two factors seem to lie behind the passions aroused by “flags and emblems”.

 Demography is the first: Protestants and Unionists no longer have a majority of the adults within Belfast City.  Within Northern Ireland as a whole, the political and religious balance is nearing equality.

 These changes call for difficult adjustments by the former majority, who had inherited a right to dominant authority.  They see the progress made by the former Nationalist/Republican minority and think, where is this going to end?  By contrast the former minority are self-confident, expecting to make further gains and rejoicing in the progress they have already made in the professions, the civil and police services etc. 


 The second factor is related to fragmentation on the Unionist and Protestant side, which hinders positive responses to changed circumstances. There are two political parties, four different groups of ex-paramilitaries, at least three separate Loyal Orders, plus a wide variety of religious denominations.  All this makes it difficult for effective and coherent leadership to emerge.

 This fragmentation probably helps to explain the disconnection that appears to have grown up in recent years between the Unionist/Protestant political elite and their local populations, especially in the less affluent and more deprived neighbourhoods.  The latter have a sense that they are not benefitting as they ought, while politicians do alright.  Uncertain identity, frustration, alienation and great anger are therefore boiling over into violent protest and the involvement of a new generation of rioters.


 What then can be done to improve things?  I suggest the following:

 All parties should try to understand the sense of injustice and anger being experienced by many Unionists/Protestants;

 We should try to promote a new culture of common citizenship and cooperation.  In particular, Protestants should start to value education as highly as Catholics have done for years.  Government should develop integrated schooling and housing, wherever there is a demand for them;

 Genuine independently managed community development should be focused on sectarian interfaces and on the most deprived wards on both sides.  Governments should accept that this is likely to increase demands for social justice and criticisms of its policies.

 The support of the whole voluntary sector together, with the churches, should be mobilized on the above areas of urgent need. 

 It should be recognised that the Belfast and later agreements did not identify the causes of conflict and left many issues to be resolved.

13 comments for “Northern Ireland

  1. Lord Blagger
    16/01/2013 at 1:14 pm

    You’ve missed the cause.

    It’s people like you.

    There was nothing in any manifesto about the flag policy.

    It was then imposed without any democratic decision, and there is no difference between that an a dictatorship.

    Just as we have no say whatsoever in what you force down our necks with your decisions, or over the money you take by force.

    For example, why are you and others lying through your back teeth about the state of government finances?

    e.g. 5,300 bn pounds owed for the state pensions. Hidden off the books by saying we are not going to use accounting standards, we’re going to make it up.

  2. Gareth Howell
    16/01/2013 at 1:45 pm

    There are far more public and simpler explanations. There has been no Islam-ist terror for some years. If there were the Islands of Ireland would once again relapse in to peace and quietude, on the strength of Christian Unity alone.

    Conflict resolution is easier than that noble lord Hylton; no need to read deep meaning in to it!

    • maude elwes
      21/01/2013 at 12:38 pm

      This Mali business is a very fishy smelling, vague (did you hear the Yorkshireman trying to give some kind of explanation on Radio 4 this morning)predicament the French have managed to keep themselves invovled in. Now why is it the British are moving in to back those dreadful EU member states now we plan to be out of the union altogether? Any answers are hotly awaited.

      The shadows of government go on to tell us that ‘now’ it will be a ‘long and protracted war’ of sorts, for decades to come, since they decided to get rid of Gaddafi by giving air assistance, who it comes to light was keeping a lid on this kind of uprising.

      To add insult to injury, this morning Cameron tells us through the press, this therefore is the reason we ‘must’pay billions in foreign Aid to stop the killing of people elswhere by the angry Islamists. What are Brits doing there in the first place? Anyone care to enlighten?

      What kind of lunacy are we being sold here? So, if our people who are now lining up for food in this country, because they are starving and their benefits are cut, and they can find no work as there is none, suddenly take up weapons to fight for their cause, does that mean government will give them billions in aid for doing so? And, if not, why not? Is it because they are second class citizens as a result of being British and living in the country they pay huge taxes to support or what?

      This government is taking us all for fools. And those in our Parliament, aall parts of it, should be calling for a general election on the grounds that this group we have in are totally unfit for purpose.

      This has to be why they are calling for a private American force to take over here because they cannot cope with the mess they created, both here and abroad. And the joke is, the privatised force they call on cannot cope either. The crime rate has risien in the US not dropped, which has to be in the interests of all those in the business of security and incarceration. How can they possibly believe otherwise? Would anyone in their right mind not expand their business aims when they see the billions they are making out of tax paying people?

      What a ridiculous farce this is. Schoolboys unable to rely on any kind of expertise or experience of their own, let alone common sense or even streetwise ability, as they create warfare they cannot control or understand.

      And another point of view

      • Lord Blagger
        21/01/2013 at 1:11 pm

        states now we plan to be out of the union altogether


        On which planet?

        The plan by the dictators in Westminster is not to come out, and certainly not to have a referenda.

        After all, its not the way we are ruled to quote Rifkind.

        I think he means the Royal ‘we’ and he doesn’t like being told what to do by the plebs.

        • maude elwes
          25/01/2013 at 1:48 pm

          @ LB:

          I am sure you must have seen David Camerons speech on Europe and also read his shopping list of requirments he feels he needs to stay in happily with those continentals. Which makes me laugh out loud. Written in full, so as not to confuse anyone in that green or red chamber feeling the abb. means sending lots of love.

          However, for those who read this blog, here is what we are being told our government requires before they can feel we won’t need to have a referendum on in or out.

          No more European regulation on banks. Ha!
          Ha! What a surprise.

          Opt out of the 40 hour working week to enable all those on poverty wages to be forced into a sixy hour week minimum….Another surprise the Tories love their servants on the job morning to night. Check out Gosford Park. How they long for the return of the ‘servant.’

          Repatriation of other areas of social and employment law… Of course the Boy Mulcasters wnat not smply servants but a return to slavery. It is the foundation of their means remaining untouched in the Caymen Islands. Hence the mass import of immigrants. Those willing to work for below the minimum wage. They have been doing this is in the USA for years. Examples: Multi millionaire Senators employing illegals on $2.00 an hour or less starting at 6am finishing after 10pm at night.


          Opt out from EU policing and criminal justice matter….. another laugh. They want to make sure they can hold secret courts and not find themsleves in the Hague for war crimes when they commit inhumane offences. Or, take us to war on lies.

          Read on and see how this bent brigade want to opt out of their resonsibilities to mankind. And do it on every level.

          • Lord Blagger
            25/01/2013 at 6:00 pm

            Meanwhile, they’ve spent your pension. Well maybe. You’ve never confirmed if you are in receipt of welfare. In which case you to spend other people’s retirement money.

            How are you going to pay 5,300 bn pensions debts?

            The rich haven’t got that sort of money.

            The middle class haven’t either.

            Companies haven’t.

          • maude elwes
            26/01/2013 at 6:15 am

            The above website, Scottish Mail and the FT changed their content after I put the link on here. Apologies.

            So, I try again. Shopping list to promote our govenments friendly attitude to Europe. This is the ‘Sun’s’ effort. If they, likewise, do not remove it after today.


            And what it means to us in real terms.


            What the Europeans think of it.


            And the business sector.


            His speech on paying corporate tax definitely won’t go down well will it? I loved that though. About time someone had the sweatbreads to bring it to the forefront of those greedy movers and shakers.

            Mind you, that was a political strategy to impress the voter on his abillity and intention to be ‘fair.’ Reality is another matter.

  3. maude elwes
    16/01/2013 at 5:47 pm

    Ireland is our Mali, yet we turn a blind eye to that whilst we look at the humanitarian aid we can pour into Africa, starting with Mali that allows us to step into Niger, or, is it Nigeria?

    And the loss of identity that is taking place there is what is taking place throughout the UK, not simply Northern Ireland. So, what they are feeling is the swamp of Globalisation.

  4. MilesJSD
    17/01/2013 at 11:06 am

    Let me “Devil’S Advocate”;

    1. Lord Hylton opens quite clearly.
    And when he advises “that the Belfast and later agreements did not identify the causes of conflict and left many issues unresolved”
    he is also closing clearly and in some sense (at a minor-contextual level*) in truth.

    Lord Hylton has been the only peer to respond to my referral to Method III as both a first-resort and an ongoing support for both
    (a) Needs & Affordable Hows identification for all affected-‘parties’ and
    (b) ‘Friendly’ cooperatively-participative problem-solving therein

    i.e. as a first resort BEFORE the thing has slid down the increasingly ‘slippery-slope’ into Conflict and worse and worse Crisis (**).

    I have also asked publicly (including of Lord Hylton) “Where in the world is this Method III actually being used ?”

    but there has been no answer, not even from the noble lord Hylton (who yet appears to be still the only peer to have ever even heard of ‘Friendly’ first-resort Method III problem-solving).

    So could Lord Hylton tell out what methodology(ies) are being used;

    because, he says now that for Belfast-Ulster [also maybe for Eire & possibly for all of Great-Britain]
    the plans-and=safeguards are not working.
    Lord Blagger has also opened his ‘corner’ clearly and (it appears, at least under the Charity Principle of honest-argumentation) truthfully.
    Yet his opening lacks sequitural scope, in using the ultimately Over-arching/Under-pinning strategic term “the cause” without being clear enough about its subsidiary component contexts (e.g. the Manifesto context;
    also the emotional but disconnected “It’s people like you”
    (one has to assume that Lord Hylton is being ‘pilloried’ (by fallacious association) as one of those who “imposed the (bad) manifesto” and who “force undemocratic decisions down our necks” and who “take our money by force” and ” avoid accounting standards so as to avoid responsibility-for and correction-of-unfitness-for-purpose
    after wasting our People’s pensions savings” –

    those are relevant premises in the Overall-Argument
    but are somewhat slipperily presented under two ‘loose cannons’, of “cause” and “responsibility”.
    Gareth Howell also comes forward clearly and truthfully;
    nevertheless (I think( Gareth had a chance to add a reference whereby we (the other Public) could quickly check what he sees as “easier conflict resolution” and “deep meaning”
    and being no newcomer to this kind of ‘would-be-democratic participation’ Gareth should have been up-front with something positively-constructive.
    For the cornerf I come from, let me again put forward that the Friendly First-Resort Method III is the much-needed ‘saviour’;
    which will always be necessary, even after the guns have been silenced, the raging-fires extinguished, ‘peace’ achieved, and the people adequately provided and engaged.
    Better to use Method III before discontent spreads, as the First Resort.

    * Isn’t it possible that greater-contextually the growingly-grotesque Global-Dis-economics and lack of Individual Human Development Needs & Affordable Hows, is the Big overarching or “undermining” causative-context to this N Ireland flare-up ?
    Or (and/or) sub-contextually that Stormont should have ‘filled-in-the-gaps’ of the new-constitution, if necessary including by urgently-snap-referendum

    ** This ‘slippery-slope’ begins safely ‘level’,
    but can develop increasingly steeply downwards into “hot, blood-spilling, regime-toppling, Crisis:
    the point being, “Deal with all Needs & Hows whilst still on the level”;
    and since by the time the whole Community has ‘crashed’ (thus ‘cost-effectively’ justifying “call out the expensive Crisis management”) it is too late to use the increasingly-difficult methodologies of
    (1) ‘Friendly’ Method III Cooperative Problem Solving;
    (2) ‘Stand-off’ Collaborative Conflict Resolution (for progressively serious conflcts, after the ‘Friendly’ Method III has failed or not even been used).
    Then far too late, the slide into and increasingly deeply extensive bloody “conflict” is dastardly-difficult to “resolve” through
    (3) “Hotly or Coldly Belligerent” Crisis ‘management’, ‘compromise-agreeing’, ‘containing’, ‘diffusing’, ‘defusing’, ‘force-of-arms peace-making’ (for increasingly serious, harmful, genocidal, and Wortld-War3 risking, situations).

  5. P.Selvaratnam
    22/01/2013 at 11:38 am

    It’s very sad to see the state Northern Ireland is still in. I am a Tamil from Sri Lanka and after the war was over in May 2009, the North has been highly militarised and the people are under the army boots. The East is also controlled by the Army. In effect the South is ruled by the elected President and the North and the East are ruled by the Defence Secretary who is one of the brothers of the President running the country.
    The army is changing the demography of the North and the East bringing in Sinhalese from the South.
    This island has been an example of Internal Colonialism of 20/21 C and soon there won’t be a critical mass of ethnic minorities who formed more than 90% at the time of independence in 1948.

    I am extremely sorry for the situation in Northern Ireland.

  6. P.Selvaratnam
    22/01/2013 at 11:44 am

    Tamils are pushed inland from the coastal areas of the North and the East and with the army control Sri Lanka has become a ”Hillsborough” for Tamils. This strange political massacre is happening in an island far away from the western world. Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva told UNHRC 4/5 yrs ago that Sri Lanka is too far from the West for R2P to be applied.

    I am writing about Sri Lanka because many British parliamentarians compare Sri Lanka with Nirthern Ireland

  7. Gareth Huw Howell
    22/01/2013 at 12:54 pm

    I had one very good Tamil friend some years ago
    as an undergraduate, and I am looking forward to meet huim again soon, after many years!
    Thanks to P Selvaratnam for his post, which is obviously, a question of perceived ethnic tensions in both countries. All of the Irish are very resilient and fine people, and all of the people of Sri Lanka too.

  8. Senex
    24/01/2013 at 4:17 pm

    Lord Hylton as you know the ‘Succession to the Crown Bill’ is enroute to the house. The second reading and committee stage took place with only 20 or so members being present; disappointing. It was however very reassuring to see such a wide ranging and competent debate from those that took part.

    Two MPs are researching Parliamentary history with a view to publishing books; neither MP is from Northern Ireland. Let’s say one of them was a catholic and the other a protestant. How would they honestly present the history of Northern Ireland?

    The central character is James II. His story is British and European. His European legacy is not spoken of in polite circles and the various Acts of Parliament still in place relating to Monarchy perceive this legacy as a catholic threat.

    This threat is now increased because Crown, Commonwealth and Parliament want to allow a Roman Catholic and an Anglican both taking Holy Communion in their respective churches to ascend to the throne of England with the regent remaining a Church of England protestant.

    By allowing this unison the European Legacy of James II must be acknowledged. Our laws and courts are now dominated by Europe yet the political stability that is our hall mark sits as legislation to deny this King an honest place in our history.

    In one of your recent blogs I offered you a link to a potted Irish nationalist essay of James II and the Irish Parliament. Now let me offer you other links to his European legacy and a downloadable analysis published in two volumes of his personal diaries.

    Consider should our next King be numbered III, IV or V?

    Ref: The Jacobite Kings and their Heirs
    The Life of James II King of England &c 1816 – Volume I
    The Life of James II King of England &c 1816 – Volume II

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