Forum receives guarded welcome from loyalists

 
Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson are attempting to provide an alternative to street protests Mike Nesbitt and Peter Robinson are attempting to provide an alternative to street protests

So Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt hope their new forum will provide an alternative to the loyalist street protests.

Although the two unionist leaders have already been engaged in a series of meetings with loyalists and representatives of the loyal orders, they haven't drawn up a definitive list of forum members.

Indeed they say who the participants should be will be up for discussion in its first meeting.

The forum will seek to build a consensus on addressing the flags issue, parading and "strengthening British cultural identity in Northern Ireland".

This isn't the first time unionists have talked of setting up institutions to tackle these areas - four years ago the DUP talked about leading a "fight back" against the erosion of Britishness.

I'm not aware if the DUP's proposed "Unionist Academy" and "British Cultural and Equality Unit" ever saw the light of day.

But if they did then they didn't head off the latest union flag crisis.

'Appalling'

The unionist forum will also discuss other social, economic and political matters, including deprivation and educational underachievement in the unionist community and the low level of unionist voter registration and turnout.

The most immediate and salient question isn't whether any of this is new (it's not), but whether it can make a difference.

The large number of children involved in the recent trouble (something Peter Robinson described as appalling) highlights the extent to which the protests have taken on a logic of their own.

The Progressive Unionist leader Billy Hutchinson says the forum isn't his idea, but he hopes it might create a connection between the politicians and the people on the streets.

The United Protestant Voice's Jonny Harvey gave the forum a guarded welcome, adding that "there is a big lack of trust in politicians" and the protestors still wanted to see some action before they stop.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Alliance leader David Ford indicated he was unimpressed by "one section of politicians talking amongst themselves".

Mr Ford put more store by a meeting of all the main Stormont leaders to chart a way forward - something he believes won't happen before Thursday.

 
Mark Devenport, Political editor, Northern Ireland Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    I think the alliance party will go the same way as the sdlp over the flags issue.

    The dup will merge with the uu and that will leave the unionists v's the sinners.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    Does British Culture mean being loyal to the Crown or half crown?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    So is this the crisis that Peter Robinson said that nationalism was in ? And the forum? Pete and Mike proposing what they should have been doing all along, like under achievement in education among young loyalists and at the same time supporting academic selection ? and flying the flag? sounds more like King Canute s forum

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    Two factors at work here. DUP attempt to launch a campaign to regain the East Belfast seat from Alliance. Result - it blew up in their face - literally. Next,the PUP out in the cold decided to use the issue to raise their profile. Result - it blew up in everyone's faces. Difference - they are n't in government and don't give a damm! Outcome - some DUP reps now don't know which side they are on.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    "Strengthening British cultural identity in Northern Ireland" and "leading a fight back against the erosion of Britishness. "

    Is this the same Peter Robinson, who told us at his Party Conference that most nationalists supported the union.

 

Comments 5 of 18

 

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