Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Paramilitary influence won't shift until party mouthpieces show some maturity

The Upper Shankill gradually transforms into the Woodvale area in a halfway house between west Belfast and north Belfast, an area that is geographically where a few dozen streets converge in a maze of so-called Protestant and so-called Roman Catholic houses. 

Within this maze lies a beating heart of working class Belfast, with high rates of unemployment and discontented youth.

Amidst the recent violence, one stark thing that unionist and nationalist politicians seemingly don't want to face up to is that paramilitary organisations hold sway over many of these young people.

As such it is electoral suicide for the forces of mainstream unionism and nationalism to 'go against the party line'.

Whether it is a Sinn Féin member trying to defuse a volatile situation at a protest or a DUP member in the front line at the Twelfth stand-off, the party line 'against' the 'other side' never wavers, coming clothed in half-hearted condemnations of violence.

Not once will you hear a member of the SDLP, Sinn Féin, DUP or UUP utter the words "you know you might have a point there"; or the words "we might be wrong".

Which is why, when the Lord Mayor of Belfast finds himself punched and kicked opening a park in the heart of Woodvale, it comes as no surprise that politicians dig a little deeper into their trenches.

It would be a remarkable step for one member of ‘the other side' to say to 'the other side' that they may have a point and maybe we can all try to get along.

No-one will shift the influence of paramilitaries and their intimidation until politicians grow up; and the economic success of Northern Ireland depends on what is laughingly called 'maturity' in politics.

Everyone knows that the male gender matures at the age of about 45-50, so you would think that some of the mouthpieces of the parties could start to show that maturity.

Mind your language

Once again Executive squabbling has seen another deadline missed.

This time over a report due in Europe on minority languages. With Sinn Féin pushing so hard on Gaeilge and some DUP pushing Ulster-Scots, this is, on one level surprising, but on another just another symptom of malaise around co-operation.

The issue of language is emotive for a variety of reasons, not least some of the colourful phrases used in English in the Assembly chamber and committees.

However, we have gained a sneak insight into the real reasons for the fall-out - it is around whether the words used in Derry~Londonderry are a unique and completely different set of words.

What does an inhabitant of the Maiden City mean when they say "wan"?

Another debate has raged over what exactly that language used in Ballymena and  North Antrim is - even the most cunning linguists struggle to make their way through those barriers.

But the real failing is for MLAs of all shades to misunderstand that most elusive of languages in Norn Iron, Belfast-ese.

Words such as "weeker" (for a good thing) and "amptinat" (as in I have told you this) and "sound" (as in a reliable and dependable acclamation or action) baffle to be understood.

In fact we suspect that if the PSNI, the Parades Commission and politicians of all shades had a handy dictionary of Belfast-ese words and phrases, there may not be so much misunderstanding.

Think about it..."It's weird having a Síinner opening our park, but amptinat after tellin' ye that it'll be sound".

Or, "’Em lot of eejits be marching again, but our protest is going to be weeker if we don't go buckin' bottles at the peelers".

Once the Assembly gets its head around Belfast-ese all will be well in the world.

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