John McCallister MLA

A year is a long time in Politics. Grand National Day 2012 and John McCallister was a guest speaker at the SDLP Youth Conference in Beechmount in West Belfast. He had some nice things to say about SDLP, even asking fora good preference to help him save hseat eat at the next Assembly Election in South Down. My recollection is that he was not complimentary about the Alliance Party…even volunteering the preference vote he gave the Alliance Party in May 2011. It was a number between ONE and EIGHT. No more clues.

So Grand National Day 2013 and Slugger O’Toole has a thread, noting that Mr McCallister has said some unpleasant things about SDLP. And the Alliance Party’s apologists among Slugger commentators are falling over themselves to compliment McCallister on noting that the SDLP had retreated behind sectarian barriers. Hmmm

Now sometimes I think that John McCallister and Basil McCrea are Sluggers favourite politicians. And sometimes I think that the Alliance Party are Sluggers favourite political party. But to the surprise of many, the McUnionists have left the UUP but not thrown their lot in with the Alliance Party.

Yet surely a relationship between Liberal Unionists and LetsGetAlongerism is a marriage made in Slugger Heaven.

It is now several weeks since McCallister and McCrea announced they were leaving UUP to form a new party. And yet there is still no new party…which makes me wonder if there is some negotiating going on between the Defectors and the Alliance Party ….perhaps brokered by some ex-UUP people and a ….lobbying company.

The thing is that the Alliance Party will worry about middle party in the so called middle ground. The Women’s Coalition cost the Alliance Party a lot of votes. And McCallister and McCrea have the potential to do the same.

Simple fact is that the Alliance Party NEED the McUnionists.

Slugwait maintains a vigil.

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49 Responses to John McCallister MLA

  1. DC says:

    one plus of both men joining alliance would be to add some ethnic ballast into a party that has gone a bit too civic in an ethnically divided city such as belfast.

    perhaps had john and basil been involved with alliance around the time of the flag decision they might have perceived that fall out and violence was likely to happen, and asked alliance to pause the decision for next term in the absence of a DUP/UUP leaflet and passing of time to let things die down and cool off.

    i could be wrong but maybe alliance needs a bit more ethnicity in it to help it cope handling ethno national politics, on that note it would be good if someone from a nationalist background could join alliance as well to try and walk the tight rope of centrist politics.

    basil isn’t a leader, maybe a good a deputy, john mccallister needs to lay off the jokes and stick to politics otherwise people will think he’s better off on the stage, funny guy all the same.

    • Essentially a nationalist can’t be centrist.
      Centre ground politics is basically for unionists. …constitutionally they support the status quo. Nationalists are seeking to overthrow the status quo,whether by stealth,persuasion or merely resisting anything which would seek to persuade people to accept any form of unionism.

  2. DC says:

    Your post does beg a question in terms of why neither men have joined Alliance so far and that is – what are the differences between LetsGetAlongerism and Liberal Unionism?

    • The Alliance Party has it’s roots it the New Ulster Movement … Catholic unionists such as G B Newe…and others who were supportive of O’Neill in the late 1960s. Defections such as Phelim O Neill believed that if toxic sectarianism was taken out of unionism there would be support for the union from Catholics who were grateful for NHS and Welfare services.
      Give aCatholic a job and a house and he will be a unionist.
      To some extent Alliance has always been a compromise between this liberal unionism and a churchy ecumenism, preached by Basil Glass and Addie Morrow.
      Indeed MLAs like Trevor Lunn, Stewart Dickson and David Ford are prominent laymen. And likely that their ecumenism influences their politics.
      So Alliance is essentially a compromise between the liberal unionists and the churchy letsgetalongerists and they promote the party as agnostic on the constitution. It is a compromise and an opt out of reality. A smokescreen and a fig leaf.
      I get along with lots of people but letsgetalongerism is not a substitute for a political policy and it strikes me that alliance is influenced by little more than their old careers.
      They have a guarantee of two executive seats from eight MLAs and no incentive to be competitive in any more than the seven constituencies in which they are currently competitive. They can be the third party on that basis.
      Their weakness…as shown with the Flegs dispute is that they have a naive belief in their own godliness …that this should be enough for the whole world to trust them. And they came a cropper because they didn’t understand real politics. And they deserved it.
      But there is a dilemna for them. In itself should they come off the agnostic fence…well they can’t because that guarantees them two executive seats…which they can’t get as unionists.
      But with the exception of say south Belfast, they have no prospect of a ninth executive seat…and they are vulnerable in Strangford and the second seat in east Belfast.
      So they are as likely to come back with seven seats than eight and that would be a disaster…Rowntree and their advisors have not pumped £97,000 into Alliance since 2007 to lose seats. You probabably won’t ever read about it on Slugger O ‘Toole…(youd think that Slugger would be interested in political funding but £97,000 from Rowntree to Alliance seems to be off limits).
      Harry Hamilton, Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley are unionists. clearly in becoming more acceptable to unionists, they have ditched nationalist support.
      The question is…are Hamilton, Bradshaw, Parsley closer to McCrea than Ford.
      Competing against McUnionists will cost Alliance….and completely undermine their strategy.
      So they are worried.
      They NEED McCrea and McCallister.

      • Mick says:

        This comment is the sanest thing you’ve written in months.

      • You underestimate me Mick…its sanest thing I’ve written in years.
        Can I suggest a thread for Slugger on how Alliance is financed. You could put it on the “to do” list along with the James Kelly obituary.
        I am as you know Mick….well respected in the wider freemasonry of letsgetalongerism.

      • factual says:

        I had an online exchange with an Alliance person lately who stated that the Alliance party seat in Strangford was not at risk. He stated that there is a locally very well regarded MLA there who will stand again next time even though he may be encouraged to stand aside for cooption thereafter. He further stated that there is room for an extra MLA in South Belfast and North Down, while East Antrim was also earmarked as a constituency for growth. Other constituencies he earmarked for growth included the broad Coleraine area. He stated that the membership is up and the opinion polls suggest that Alliance could expect to forge forward to a 2+3 model where SF and DUP are the big two and where SDLP, Alliance, and UUP are the remaining three similarly sized parties.

      • Was the online exchange with Ian James Parsley (politician businessman and linguist per Wikipedia) or was it someone I would take seriously?
        Lets look at this:
        East Derry….just look at some wonderful threads on Slugger telling us about a breakthrough in East Derry AND North Belfast. Did it happen? No of course not.
        In West Tyrone,Fermanagh South Tyrone, Foyle, Mid Ulster (1.3% but it was “north of 1%”) Newry-Amagh, South Down, West Belfast, North Antrim…Alliance dont exist.
        In North Belfast, Upper Bann and East Derry…they barely exist. Will they gain a seat in any of those places? No.
        Now the thing is that they never actually intended to do anything in these places. Their entire strategy was built around getting just eight assembly seats and that meant pushing their message in the seven other constituencies.
        Take East Belfast….two MLAS Judith Cochrane and Chris Lyttle are hardly stellar performers and went missing in action recently. The balance of probability is that the Flegs dispute added to Robinsons revenge motivation will cost Long her seat. Either way Ringland or Huston standing as a Tory AND a McUnionist (surely they have to stand to be credible)will cost rather than gain votes.

        South Belfast…could they gain a seat? They certainly COULD but Thats unlikely. Especially if there is a McUnioist in the field…in an area which should be good for them. And by the way Anna Lo is in her sixties.
        Lagan Valley…a gain there? Hardly. Would McCrea take votes off them? And Lunn is in his sixties.
        South Antrim…Ford is in his sixties also. Again this has potential for liberal unionism….would a McUnionist take Alliance votes?
        East Antrim…arguably potential for growth but Dickson is also in his 60s.But a liberal unionist would limit that…so Bradshaw and Parsley unlikely to get elected next time round. I can live with that.
        North Down…yes the Alliance went all out for two seats last time. It’s a maverick place. Can they take the Green seat? Will Farry leading Alliance help? What will Sylvia Hermon do? On balance I’d say it’s an unlikely Alliance gain.
        Stragford…McCarthy, In his 60s. Certainly they would want him to stand because his Catholicism and position on the Peninsula are votes in the bank but getting him elected and then going for co-option (as your Alliance mole suggests) is even too cynical for unprincipled bastards like the Alliance Party.
        My point is that Alliances strategy was very very limited. Just get eight Assembly seats and be entitled to two ASsmbly seats on just 52,000 votes.
        They must be nervous …the Women’s Coalitions two seats were in South Belfast and North Down after all. And that precedent means it’s vital for them to get McCallister and McCrea on board.
        A Liberal Unionist Party will seriously damage Alliance as much as it will damage UUP.

      • factual says:

        Thanks FJH.

        The person that I interacted with on line stated that , regarding Strangford, the Alliance increased their margin last time.

      • …against a background of SDLP falling back AND Alliance being the only liberal unionists on the block.

  3. mick says:

    Of course. And Ill say to you what I say tobthe rest of the “Green Ink” brigade. Bring me a story and, as long as there’s no conflict of interest, and we’ll get it out there.

  4. hoboroad says:

    The straight forward people of Strangford won’t like it if they find out they are being asked to vote for one candidate only for him to be replaced shortly afterwards by whoever the Alliance party sees fit. I think if this is true we may have to look into changing the co-option process to make it a bit more honest. Another example of cynical manipulation of the system by the Alliance Party for their own selfish ends. If the political parties want some sort of list system here for elections why don’t they be honest about it?

    • factual says:

      The SDLP wouldn’t do that now would they *cough* .

      • Er….Factual…all parties have done it.
        I think you will find SDLP have only done it once since 2011….Sean Rogers replacing Margaret Ritchie in South Down.
        Can you share with us how often Sinn Fein have done this since May 2011….although Im sure that when they did it…it was a highly principled stance.
        The point is that Co-Option exists. If in say 2020 …a nationalist MLA in East Antrim or a unionist MLA in Foyle was knocked down by a bus…we would all readily accept that co-option is a good thing…better than a bye election which would return the polar opposite of the knocked down MLA.
        but the fact is that the co-option process has been shamelessly abused.
        But…if you report accurately…an Alliance member told you that they would run an elderly MLA McCarthy in Strangford so that he would get elected and be replaced by a co-option, then that is a disgusting new low….even for Alliance.
        I hope you report this to the Sinn Fein people in Strangford who I am sure will be delighted at this obvious faux pas by their political rivals…so that they can use it in the campaign to get a nationalist elected in Strangford…which Im sure you support.

  5. Neither would Sinn Fein “splutter”

  6. hoboroad says:


    Any names mentioned by your APNI source as to who party plan to parachute into Strangford? Lets hope it’s not some party hack getting a pat on the back for services to the party.

    • John McCallister after he loses South Down?
      Duncan Morrow???
      Glynn Roberts?
      Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley might move there.
      Judith Cochrane or Chris Lyttle after one loses East Belfast.
      Or Naomi Long perhaps.
      Spill the beans Factual.Name some names.

  7. hoboroad says:

    It’s poor Kieran I feel sorry for all those years dedicated to the party. Putting in a hard slog and this is how they reward him. I just hope he’s not being pushed out because of his views on Abortion and Same Sex Marriage.

    • If a MLA was to stand down at the next election would the pension be different to a MLA who contested the election and stood down after a year?
      Anybody know an investigative journalist who could find out?

    • factual says:

      FJH: its public domain.

      Hobo: the local MLA would not stand down for most of the term.

  8. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    Hello FJH,

    Thank-you for posting this.

    Should we understand from your post that the change in Mr McCallister’s position has been entirely cynical?

    Is there no constituency within the SDLP that might, perhaps in part, agree with him?

    Has SDLP behaviour in the last twelve months been entirely consistent with SDLP principles, parity of esteem, membership of the socialist international, “a reconciled people” and so on?

    I see from the party web-site that the SDLP are committed to:

    “Promoting shared spaces. Public authorities need to cooperate to ensure that shared spaces can flourish, for example, police are needed to maintain security, Councils should promote these shared spaces, and public transport must be adequate to provide access.

    Working to develop mixed estates, while ensuring an equal right to housing. In particular, the victims of sectarian harassment and other anti-social crimes should not be forced out of their homes and communities”

    Should mixed estate have playgrounds named for people arrested in possession of weapons used in sectarian shootings?

    Is shared space still on the SDLP agenda?

    • People will of course draw their own conclusions from my post. I merely point out that John McCallister was a guest at SDLP Youth Conference last year and is a very affable guy. He recognised his own vulnerability in South Down and appealed for SDLP preferences and indicated the preference vote he gave to Alliance in 2011 (a number between 1 and 8).
      In the context that I don’t read the News Letter and was alerted to McCallisters article on a weblog (Slugger O’Toole) which seems to favour liberal unionists and LetsGetAlongerists….then I think I am legitimately raising the speech from last year. The Alliance commenters on that weblog have certainly seized on McCallister as a kindred spirit which invites the speculation that there is some wooing going on.
      As does the fact that the much hyped NEW Party has not yet emerged.
      As does the entirely reasonable analysis that the Alliance Party do not want a rival in the middle ground and that the McUnionists need a party structure.
      But the McUnionist pitch is to make the Union more attractive.
      And the Alliance Party pitch is to be agnostic.
      Can The Macs move to agnosticism? Can the avowed agnostics become unionist?
      The Alliance Party owes it’s privileged position to being cross community.

      I note you are vexated over Raymond McCreesh Park. Perhaps we need more neutral shared space names..abandoning Thomas Clarkes GAA, Casement Park…not of course the same thing as that’s not council.
      So ….Queen Elizabeth Bridge would have to go. Royal Victoria Hospital. Windsor Park. Cromwells Highway.
      And er….the City of Craigavon.

  9. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    Thanks FJH

    Well I agree with you about “The City of Craigavon” if only on aesthetic grounds. It should go the same way as Avon County Council.

    Your mention of Windsor Park takes me back to the SDLP’s refusal to allow another County Down playground to be named for the footballer David Healy MBE. Mr Healy is Northern Ireland’s more prolific goal scorer and patron of the George Best Foundation. The proposal was that a football pitch in Killyleagh should be named for him as an encouragement to young footballers in the area.

    As consistency and principle are important in Mr McCallister’s case could you explain how consistent application of the principles which support the naming of a park after a Republican Volunteer also support the refusal to permit the naming of a sportsground after a sportsman? Does the person being named for have to be deceased or are footballers particularly poor role models?

    Btw. Sinn Fein seem to have had a different view to the SDLP.

    • I couldn’t care less about the Norn Iron football team. But I did see George Bestplay for both Manchester United and Norn Iron.
      Im not thrilled that an airport is named for a selfish drunk who wasted the opportunity of a new liver, atax fraudster, and a wife beater and serial baser of women.

  10. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    Well that’s certainly consistent. No footballers then.

    • Oh lets hope we have one for a current international footballer who is one of my sons best friends.
      Or maybe…eventually…my 10 year old grandson. Or the 5 year old.

      • Sir Ike Broflovski says:

        Provided that they don’t upset Ms Ritchie by playing for NI or embracing the reformed faith? Or will we all have mellowed a bit by then?

      • I think it’s reasonably certain that no kin of mine will ever do anything for Norn Iron. But quietly and peacefully dedicate their lives to its complete destruction and confinement to the cesspit of History where it belongs.
        They may of course embrace any faith of their choosing…as many of my kin have so done.

  11. hoboroad says:

    No chance of a statue to the late Margaret Hilda Thatcher either.

    • I quite like the day of her grave being named the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Dance Floor….so that miners, steelworkers, Irish folks and Argentinians could show her all due respect.
      I am also tempted by the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Urinal….for obvious reasons.
      No matter what I say or do…I can’t go to Hell. The “house full” sign is already at the gate.

  12. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    I doubt that even the NI Tories would propose one.

  13. boondock says:

    Just a quick point although I dont agree with the naming of the Raymond McCreesh park can we just get a little bit of perspective on the subject how many SDLP councilors backed the motion 1 maybe 2, hasnt Patsy mcGlone on record said he didnt agree with the naming of the park and yet all stoops have now become shinners, really? As for David Healy good footballer but obviously not the sharpest tool in the box you seemed to have forgotten about his flute playing antics in front of celtic supporters whilst playing for Fulham (not rangers) although good to sse such bigotry doesnt stop you getting an MBE these days, maybe racist John Terry will be knighted

    • Thanks for this. I’d forgotten about the Flute playing at Fulham.
      Essentially David Healy is a footballer who never realised his potential.
      A couple of games for Manchester United and THAT goal against England and he was flavour of the month with local media for a while….the Rory McIlroy of a year ago. But how many clubs has he had since and basically a downward spiral….via Doncaster Rovers to Bury.
      And the flute playing and the Rangers spell probably damaged his LetsGetAlongerist credentials.
      LetsGetAlongerists love our wee country and it’s sporting heroes…don’t start them on “our golden girl, Mary Peters”.
      Raymond McCreesh Park?
      I’ve tried not to think about it.
      Had the issue come up at Newry Council, I would probably have voted for it…but frankly I’d rather it had not come up.
      I know that Claire Hanna has spoken against it. Possibly Conall McDevitt.
      I know Patsy McGlone has spoken about the Gerry McGeogh thing. To be honest, the real problem there was that only one of three SDLP councillors was at the Dungannon meeting. There IS a civil rights issue with McGeough and that is how SDLP see that one.
      The best speech I heard at SDLP Conference last November was that the SDLP had made big progress in Strabane…and the Strabane delegate, Daniel Wray McCrossan made the point that people had told them that SDLP had left the people …the people had not left SDLP.
      Music to my ears of course.
      Much of the stuff I’ve written has been about the SDLP paying far too much attention to pleasing John McCallister, Duncan Morrow, Davey Adams, Newton Emerson, Mick Fealty, Robin Wilson, Dimbleby Walker, Quintin Oliver. Those people are not “involved” …they are mere observers.
      Politics is about real people in real places.
      It’s not about Quintin Oliver and Stratagem (although you wouldn’t know it ) or Robin Wilson and that Norn Iron Coalition crap or PLatform for Change or Andy Pollak and that Cross Border shite.
      Networking is no substitute for Politics.
      And the same can be said for Mick, Sheldon and Dimbleby on Slugger O’Toole or indeed …FitzjamesHorse on the Czar of Russia.
      Essentially Bloggers are in the entertainment industry.

      • boondock says:

        He scored some crackers for Northern Ireland and his hat trick against Spain was special but he has never repeated that form for any club hence why he has been off loaded so many times and recently played for minnows like Doncaster and Rangers. He his only 33 so it is a bit of a mystery why his form fell off a cliff in his late twenties supposedly at the peak of his career and although he has scored thirty something goals for Northen Ireland he has only gotten 1 in the last 5 years!!!

      • I’d also forgotten about the hat trick against Spain. I studiously ignore Norn Iron although I obviously hope Healynhas a decent career.
        Football here is oft hyped as a means of uniting people. 1982, 1986 World Cup but essentially that’s a completely different era which was over-stated even then. Pre-Troubles I went as a schoolboy teen to see the likes of Best, Jennings and Dougan. But A whole generation of nationalists has grown up with more interest in the Republic.
        LetsGetAlongerists know that the 1982 1986 Norn Iron model is broken forever but are still trying to glue the pieces together.
        The side effect is that David Healy and James McClean…or Kyle Lafferty and Darron Gibson have taken on a greater significance than they themselves probably intend. And it has become too easy to praise one set of players and vilify the other set.
        But a homogenous and essentially unionist/LetsGetAlongerist Norn Iron cannot be allowed to work in sporting terms…or political terms.

  14. boondock says:

    In political terms the letsgetalongerist fudge will continue for a while yet until nationalist and republicans get better organised and offer a real alternative until then most young middle class catholics will be happy to continue with the staus quo. Dont worry about the sporting side of things the IFA’s lack of foresight and general incompetence means the Norn iron team will never be fully supported by all. I dont mind them but at the same time I dont really care if they win lose or draw. The recent debate about a new anthem was kicked into touch by Gerry Armstrong of all people, windsor is being redeveloped so no chance of playing at a ‘neutral venue’ for generations and the fact that the team themselves are desperate will mean support from the nationalist community will be limited. Better to go and watch Ulster rugby, how the times have chaged where Ravenhill really has become a shared space both within the stadium and demographically around the stadium as well but dont panic about letsgetalongerist,rugby is still organised on an all Ireland basis in fact you will probably see more ulster provincial flags and south african flags these days than ulster banners in the ground

  15. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    To be fair to Mr Healy I’ve heard Celtic fans say his little flute playing mime was a just good humoured response to a question from the terraces as to where he’d been on the 12th July. I don’t think he was really saying he was marching along the Garvaghy Road. If we don’t want to be forced into po-faced “letsgetalongerist” encounter groups maybe we shouldn’t twitch at every bit of inter-community banter. From what I can tell (from Celtic fans) this was just a shared joke about being Irish.

    Regarding Mr Healy’s accomplishments the proposal was to name a council playing field for him, not Parliament Buildings. I’m not sure what the acceptable level of performance is for that.

    Naming airports after the recently deceased is a stupid idea. No-one calls City Airport anything other than “City”. Although Mr Best was an outspoken supporter of an all-Ireland football team apparently. Am I right that that’s a good thing?

    • Im a Manchester United fan but no fan of George Best.
      He had a tendency to live to a narrative that he invented or was invented for him.
      When all is said and done, he walked out on Manchester United. He was a superb footballer but frankly lesser talents contributed more.
      Likewise he is a Norn Iron legend but he had no hesitation in going along with the “injured in training” excuse that Matt Busby regularly used.
      So to a large extent he was undeservedly hero-worshipped by both Manchester United fans and Norn Iron fans….which made the curious case of his Stormont funeral even more curious
      Or not so curious as there was a LetsGetAlongerist narrative in that orchestrated event.
      He did …I think…play for a Shamrock Rovers XI against Brazil…and certainly voiced support for an all-Ireland team but George Best played the chat show circuit and the after-dinner speaking circuit astutely and I think he repudiated his earlier support.
      I don’t think he was ever “outspoken”.
      Give him a cheque or better still some cash and he would have said just about anything….from his Cookstown sausages days.
      It’s a bit like the last lines in John Fords Fort Apache AND The Man Who Shot LibertY Valance.
      The truth has been ignored and the legend is printed.
      Best was a boastful ungrateful boor of the very worst kind.

  16. Sir Ike Broflovski says:

    I very much hope that you never have to worry about flying to the Lady Thatcher airport anytime FJH. It might disrupt your travel plans.

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