Thursday, 24 October 2013


"Parity of esteem" is a phrase used in political philosophy to explain a theory to overcome inter-communal conflict. Promoters of the theory argue that "parity of esteem" "offers a language for negotiation of a post-conflict equilibrium." This negotiation begins with the communities recognising the stalemate of their position. Rather than continue trying to out-do each other, the communities should attempt to negotiate a peaceful coexistence in a shared physical space despite their cultural differences.
"Parity of esteem" can be described as a post-Enlightenment theory as it differs drastically from classical liberal or Marxist rationalismand is contrary to 20th century ideas of "self-determination" or the 19th century idea of the nation-state. Many of these anticipated a "withering away of nationalism" once minorities were brought within the nation-state. These concepts are today the most dominant within contemporary political theory. As Ernest Gellner writes, "the idea that political boundaries must be congruent with ethnic ones, that rulers must not be ethnically distinguishable from the ruled now has a salience and authority which it has never possessed in the previous history of mankind." Where Enlightenment theories addressed issues of inter-communinal conflict, it did so either by promoting "non-sectarianism" against "tribalism" (liberalism) or emphasising "class politics" against "bourgeois nationalism" (Marxism). Neither of these approaches recognised the traditions of belligerents in inter-communal conflicts. "Parity of esteem" on the other hand can accepts various nationalist traditions within one state.
Interest in "parity of esteem" approaches emerged during the mid-1980s and accelerated following the fall of the Berlin Wall and theYugoslav wars of the early-90s. It was recognised that while there were 184 independent states, there were more than 600 livinglanguage groups and more than 5,000 ethnic groups. Simply put, without enough geo-political space, slogans such as the Serb nationalist claim for "All Serbs in One State" were simply unworkable. Since the end of the 1990s, "Parity of esteem" is a core concept to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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    TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2013

    We're not gonna take it

    LAD is an equal opportunities satirist. LAD doesn't discriminate on the grounds of religion or politics. LAD's only mission is to shine a light on sectarianism, bigotry and hatred - whether it be from a loyalist, republican or a scientologist. It's just unfortunate that loyalists have so very much missed the point of being British - of being open, plural, tolerant, transformative, non-sectarian - and of creating a nice country to live in, that LAD can't help appear one-sided. 

    LAD doesn't oppose sectarianism for the fun of it, though it may seem so on the surface. Look deeper, LAD opposes sectarianism - from the executive to the street - because sectarianism is what is retarding and stultifying Northern Ireland. LAD sees non-violent parody as a powerful means of giving civic Opposition. And it just so happens that loyalism is at present easier to parody. But let it be clear: LAD always has and will continue to parody sectarianism, whether the source is loyalist, republican or politician.

    LAD is a cross-community group that wants to speak for the silent majority which has moved beyond the disease of sectarianism and hard-line nationalism (or either hue). LAD opposes sectarianism and wants a Northern Ireland that is shared. LAD wants a Northern Ireland where the executive functions and where ministers care about jobs, education, the economy and healthcare; a Northern Ireland where the economic policy is not about weaselling ever more money out of Whitehall; a Northern Ireland where young people have opportunities and a future. Above all, LAD wants a Northern Ireland that has a first-person plural - a "we", not a "themmuns”. Because a non-sectarian identity is a precondition to a shared cause and unity of purpose - sectarian politics doesn't create smart economies or a stable society.

    LAD wants a non-sectarian Northern Ireland, where politicians provide post-conflict leadership and where people get beyond the mental categories of the Troubles. However, nothing is being done. Politicians are happy to maintain a sectarian stalemate, entertain the most extreme and ignore those who have moved on. 

    The Arab Spring was the result of Muslim leaders trying to impose a way of life opposite to the 21st Century and opposite the wishes of their people. Some Stormont politicians, a small minority of very loud loyalists and sinister republicans are working to impose a way of life that is both offensive and incongruent to a huge number of people in Northern Ireland. 

    LAD is not amused. Nor is much of Northern Ireland. LAD wants positive and transformative leadership, not managed sectarianism or the pandering, indulgence and entertainment of the most sectarian fringe elements of loyalism and republicanism. You cannot be indifferent about fanaticism. It must be opposed and vanquished. 

    We do not claim to be agents of change. LAD will continue to give a cathartic voice of opposition for those who have had enough of being menaced and terrified by street-fighting radicals and of being governed by the most ineffectual, know-nothing politicians. 

    No surrender to sectarianism 

    WE are the people


    Stormont is Shit.

    Unbelievably, the staffers at LAD stopped drinking for long enough to suffer an alarming moment of collective clarity.  The most disturbing result of this was an unwelcome sense of awareness which suggested sobriety was not to be embraced and after much heated debate, the Skol was flowing once again.
    Quality peeve as endorsed by LAD
    During this time of abstinence however, some things were written down which could almost be deemed to have origins in coherent thought.  The general theme of this material had a tone of discontent.  Mostly along the lines ofwhat is wrong with Narnarn politics?

    We constantly hear Arnold Foster harping on about what a great place Narnarn is to invest in and how golf courses and the Titanic legacy will drive our economy from strength to strength.  Okay, perhaps that's a bit flippant but beyond being photographed holding things, you could be forgiven for thinking that is at times, Arnold's economic strategy.  Similarly, the First Minister (FM) and deputy First Minister (dFM) fly around the world telling everyone how great things are in this little place of ours and that Narnarn is the place to be; we have the skills, the infrastructure, the technology.  Yes, we have it all,  except a working government and politicians who are genuinely interested in moving forward.

    Golf will save us all!
    Our politicians are charged with dragging us into the future but we are all suffering at the hands of an Executive that is inept and barely, if at all, fit for purpose.  Even the FM and dFM can't agree if the Executive is working or not, but the proof is surely there for all to see, with a near total lack of Executive business being debated (a generous term) within the Assembly.  The majority of the electorate seem more keen to move on than those we have elected.
    Whatabouterye big mawn?
    For any political novices out there, our devolved government is the Executive, the work of which is scrutinised by the legislature, in our case the Assembly (you may be forgiven for being unaware of such, given that the media generally treat the two as a single entity called Stormont).  That is what should happen but at present the Executive is suffering a case of legislative constipation which leaves the Assembly struggling to create business and on watching recent debate, you could be forgiven for thinking you have mistakenly tuned into a town council meeting.

    There is much comment regarding voter apathy and perhaps some of this could be explained by looking at the demographic of our MLAs.  Over 80% of members are male, with an average age of 53.  The female contingent of just 21 MLAs has an average age of 44, which brings the overall average down to a respectable 51.  The oldest MLA is 73, the youngest just 22, which is perhaps too young in terms of life experience but nonetheless, is a positive step in attempting to gain interest of younger voters.  That's a simplistic view but as moderate voters see the majority parties pander to a small minority to the detriment of the majority, is it actually worth voting?
    The Young Parlimentarians Club
    Notably, the two parties with the highest average age, SDLP and UUP are the parties which have endured the biggest losses since devolution.  Perhaps that suggests the more moderate parties are suffering due to a lack of younger representatives or simply arrogance and relying on past victories?  The grey vote has been mentioned in relation to both and this is something the parties need to address if they aren't to fade into obscurity in the very near future.  They hold sway with the middle and upper classes who it seems, are giving up their democratic right.  Given the state of Narnarn politics, is it any wonder?

    We're left with extremes, the hard line DUP on one hand and the socialist (far more socialist than the SDLP) Sinn Féin on the other.  Both these parties appeal to polar opposites of the electorate and probably mop up the more moderate voters who feel an 'X' for the UUP or SDLP is wasted vote, yet can still be bothered to vote.  Together, they're meant to be working in a power-sharing partnership and working towards a brighter future for all but that isn't happening.
    Despite small glimmers of progress, both parties are generally backward looking, choosing to argue again and again about the past, who is to blame, who is the biggest victim, who was right, who was wrong.  It's the biggest stumbling block to progress but it is also something that cannot be ignored.  A question could be asked about how much emphasis is being placed on the past at the cost of the future, shared or otherwise?
    Would the captain go down with this ship?

    At the moment, the past is like a chain around our collective neck, it pervades and impedes.  As things stand, we are in no danger of progressing far until agreement is reached on the past.  While MLAs accuse the Victims' Commissioner of failing to define a victim, they seem to forget that they have been unable to agree a definition of victim for years!  Is there a different way to address the needs and legacy of victims without having what must often appear to those looking in, as a victims industry?  It sometimes seems strange that other countries look to us for help on conflict resolution when it could be said we are yet to deal with it properly ourselves.  Is the victims issue holding progress back as a whole and if it is, how could victims be better served?  Another impass at the Executive doesn't help.
    Perhaps things will really start to move for Narnarn when the current crop of aging career politicians move on, hopefully to be replaced with younger ones, more closely matching the local demographic, who grew up free of the direct influence of the Troubles and, touch wood, free of the influence of those who seek to retain the status quo; young politicians who want a brighter future for their peers and for future generations and can rise above the whataboutery politics that is hobbling the current political establishment.  Would it be better if the moderate parties rose to prominence once again or is it time for something entirely new?  What is certain is something at the Executive table needs to change soon before the Stormont institutions fail us again.


    SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2013

    They're All "Nutters"

    When political Unionism was in-fighting and contesting the Maze peace centre, parades and flags the rest of Northern Ireland stood back in a state of non-comprehension. Yes the past is gruesome but the young people are looking forward. The in-fighters called themselves "nutters" when the reality all along is that it's political Unionism and loyalism who 'reall "nutters". Here's why.

    The young people of Northern Ireland are among the ablest, brightest and best in the world. Their kind is what has made Northern Ireland what it really is, an ambitious, tolerant, cosmopolitan country.

    Look at the 2013 A-level results, Northern Ireland students performed the best of the home nations. The same can be said of the GCSE students.

    In Northern Ireland this summer – while jackboots and fanatics were spilling their sectarian bile on the streets and “chipping away” at our good name for the world to see – just short of 33,000 young people sat A-Level exams. That represents 59% of young adults of A-Level age in the north of Ireland, all of whom have made a conscientious, considered and calculated decision to further and better themselves.

    Of these 33,000 young people over 10,000 achieved an A or A* grade. The total pass rate was 98.2%. 176,000 pupilssat GCSE exams. Of that age-group, 28% attained an A grade, 77% an A to C grade.

    Class of 2013 secured a performance that is historically-typical of Northern Ireland’s young people. If we look back over the last decade, we can see that we have a huge demographic in the hundreds of thousands who are incredibly ambitious and well-educated. This is saying the obvious. But this needs to be said, and said very, very clearly.

    For this is the silent, majority demographic who have elevated themselves above the maddening, tear-your-eyes-from-your-sockets tribal politics. An internationalist demographic that is indicative of the normal Northern Ireland.

    With that said, we now need to ask: What are the Class of 2013 working towards?

    These Young adults have invested time and effort into their future with a very clear purpose in mind. They want to cash-out on their investment. They want an end result. They want a secure and successful future.

    But here’s the problem: To build a secure and stable future you need to have strong foundations. A stable, functioning government, a forward looking legislature, effective checks and balances, a strong, outward looking economy, a civil and open society, participatory democracy and a sound social contract.

    Northern Ireland doesn’t have any of this. The Class of 2013 faces this inheritance of dysfunction and sectarianism, both political and economic. What we have is a lumbering Stormont legislature, a sectarian satanic mill full of “nutters”, and indulged fringe communities, outwardly racist, rogue and nationally chauvinist.

    The link between the two is explicit. Political parties have exported practice and policy to power-play thugs, fanatics and dysfunctionals. Sacrificing good government and by effect, sacrificing the functional and most capable in society.

    And because of this misery much of the recent A-Level optimism is misplaced. The hard reality of Stormont and community dysfunction means that, long-term, the Class of 2013 has little opportunity to cash out on their investment and make a future in Northern Ireland.

    And this is the tragedy and tyranny of Northern Ireland’s barbaric, sectarian politics. Many of our 33,000 A-Levels students will now be leaving the country for mainland Britain, Europe, Australia or America, never to return – just as thousands before them have done so. Others will opt to study locally but will be forced to leave as economic migrants. Others tired from the tedium if sectarian politics will leave.

    Just consider this comment left on a Guardian editorial on the Maze, made by a student of Queen’s University Belfast. This is the story despair and desperation we hear and see time, after time, after time – our best brightest leaving en masse.
    “I’m a student at Queen’s [University Belfast]. When I’m finished with my degree I’m probably going to get the hell out of Northern Ireland. I’m sick of the same old sectarian bullshit arguments peddled over and over again.”

    Slugger blogger David McCann spelt it out here:
    "Northern Ireland greatest challenge is the loss of the best of our next generation…"
    And as Stephen Nolan asked:
    "Are the life opportunities of a young Catholic or Protestant not more important than whether a parade gets up a road?"
    Yes it's all about economic opportunities. To save our young people it's not the flegs or the parades or the Maze - it's the economy, stupid!

    As Theresa Villiers said:
    "It's hard to see how Northern Ireland can reach it's full economic potential while sectarian division continues to spill out on to the streets with disgraceful scenes of rioting and violence." 
    To end this haemorrhaging and cleansing of talent, young people need to face down Northern Ireland’s satanic legislative mill of managed sectarianism and the shower of conspiratorial fanatics that smash up our good name.

    Who serves or speaks for the internationalist Hannah Nelson generation? We need something different. We need real economic opportunity. A system that will give an economic end-result to Northern Ireland’s best and brightest. For that to happen we must demand change to the status quo of “Newtonian” politics. As Liam Clarke said, we need a statesman or woman who can bring about a massive shift.

    We need new thinking, away from the “idée fixe” of sectional politics and separatist identities. As Brian Rowan said, “we need thinkers to set us free and to save the next generation from our bitterness.” A “going to moon” idea asEamonn Mallie put it.

    But I pose it that we do have the ideas: The young people have shown how to do it. They are truly internationalist, non-contentious, non-aligned people confident in their layered, shared and overlapping identities. They’re the inheritors of the Rosa Luxemburg philosophy that looks beyond strict, set and septic nationalistic notions of identity. And this internationalism is the province-wide consensus, shared by the ambitious and outward-looking Catholic and Protestant young people.

    Madness is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Our politicians are “nutters” if they think that their same old ideas can give a solution to our problem. The time has come to say that those who created this problem cannot fix it.

    Alex Kane and Justine McCarthy have said it too. Only the young people can deliver a functional society because “their (Adams, Robinson et al.) personal baggage is becoming the biggest obstacle on the path to peace.”

    Young people need to fight for real economic opportunity, for a shared society and for functioning government. But what happened on the streets this summer is more than just about jobs and economic opportunity, this has become a civilisation question – ‘Northern Ireland is in big trouble.’

    And when civilisation meets barbarism either could win; but as Brian Rowan said, “To that question, there [can only be] one answer.”

    [Written by Brian John Spencer and originally published on]
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