>> 29 Oct 2004

Feeney Watch - 29.10.04

I thought Bigoted Bri had gone off the boil so to speak on the last couple of occasions. Still, he's back with a vengeance this week. Just when I suspected his penchant for obnoxiousness and vacuous argument had taken a tumble, he has managed to re-kindle my faith in his mordant journalism.

His most recent submission to the separatists' little green book is a re-hash of the 'victory through demography' argument resurrected with ridiculous frequency throughout the 1990's. I remember BB being at the vanguard of the 'Catholic fecundity' school of thought. Of course, when the census figures demonstrably refuted the prospect of significant populations changes, I expected BB's cavernous gob to fall silent on the issue. But no, he re-visits what must surely now be a rather tiresome discourse - this time as a consequence of proposed changes to local government in Ulster. As his submission thoroughly warrants a blow-by-blow rebuttal, it's exactly what I'm going to provide.

'UTV managed to get its hands on the most plausible proposals, not only for the number of councils but also for new boundaries: Belfast and Derry with five others.

A helluva drop from 26, but long overdue.

The only reason for 26 was because originally the Unionists had established 73 – honestly – to ensure they had an iron grip on every parish pump in the north. The other reason for the ridiculous number was to create the impression that the north was a state requiring a vast system of local infrastructure, whereas of course it's smaller than Greater Manchester with fewer people than Manchester itself. '

First off, the proposed changes to Belfast City Council would not involve leaving the ridiculously gerrymandered boundaries which exist at present. Most of the Protestant hinterlands of the city's suburbs are trapped inside Newtownabbey and Castlereagh district councils; a situation almost certain to change if the number of local authorities are reduced. This bullshit about Belfast being a nationalist city has done the rounds that bit too often over the years. The current city boundaries are laughable, a throwback to the early 20th Century when they came into existence. If BB wants to discuss 'gerrymandering' maybe he should start with a tangible example, instead of resorting to legend.

Secondly, Greater Manchester ceased to exist as a metropolitan county under the local government changes of 1986. It formally lost its county status under a similar Act which brought in unitary authorities ten years later. Manchester (the city) suffers from the same restrictive boundaries as its British cousin across the North Channel. The administrative city boundaries contain a population of approximately 480,000. The suburbs (Irlam, Prestwich, Sale, Urmston, etc.) add around 200,000 more. I know maths was never my strong point, but 680,000 is considerably less than the 1,700,000 now residing in Northern Ireland.

'The fact that only one Unionist MP is based west of the Bann reveals the stark reality that there is a clear Unionist majority in only two counties of the six.'

Antrim and Down do indeed have strong Unionist majorities. They also contain 2/3 of Northern Ireland's population. Londonderry county (excluding the city) has a Unionist majority, and Co. Armagh is approximately 50/50. If only two counties have a CLEAR Unionist majority, it's also safe to presume that only two counties have a CLEAR Catholic (not necessarily 'nationalist') majority.

'Boundaries are one thing, but there has to be legislation which will force Unionists to behave themselves in the small number of councils they can still disgrace, a law to require all councils to use the d'Hondt system to elect leaders and committee chairs.'

Bigoted Bri's 'Big Bad Unionist' line is an absolute hoot!! As if nationalist-dominated councils are not up the their eyeballs in chicanery!! Unionist areas in Londonderry have been starved of investment whilst their inhabitants have had their noses rubbed in the trough of nationalist hubris by the shameful attempts to change the city's official name. Unionists have not occupied the Chair or Vice Chair on Strabane District Council for eight years; and in Down, no DUP councillors have ever held the position of Chair or Vice Chair. By contrast, SDLP members have held mayoralties in both Coleraine and Lisburn.

What is especially amusing is the sight of nationalists becoming ever-more frustrated at the lack of Unionist acquiescence to their never ending self-indulgence and sense of victimhood. If it doesn't manifest itself in historical inaccuracies and community stereotyping, it raises its ugly head in the calls for joint sovereignty. The biggest boon of all for Unionists is the sheer impracticality and unworkability of joint authority coupled with the death of the Belfast Agreement in its current configuration. No degree of petty codswallop from BB can alter those realities.


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