As hashtags go…its pretty effective.
Aliance Anna Lo MLA for South Belfast and the Party candidate in the European Election has grabbed the political headlines by saying that a United Ireland would be a pretty good idea.
Thats a surprise.
Was it some kinda mistake? Well as Alex Kane notes, Anna Lo is not the kinda person that says things “accidently”.
Lets look at a few things. This was the lead story in todays “Irish News”, the chosen newspaper of Norn Irons nationalist community…and not likely to vote Alliance in a fit.
So how did the interview come about?
I think it is extremely unlikely that the Irish News contacted Alliance Party HQ and said “we really want an interview”.
Surely much more likely that Alliance Party Press Officer or Anna Lo’s designated Campaign Press Officer contacted the Irish News.
Maybe it was even suggested that the reaction to the interview would set the political agenda for a few days.
How exactly does this kinda thing work?
The story keeps evolving…No accident surely that the interview was splashed all over The Irish News on a Thursday morning…being newsworthy on the day that the BBC Norn Iron broadcast the thirty minute political programme “The View” is what every Press Officer at Stormont wants.
And of course Alliance are newsworthy for another reason…the Annual Party Conference takes place tomorrow.
So the BIG story last night …the big set piece studio discussion was about Anna Lo. David Ford, the Alliance Party Leader looked distinctly uncomfortable.
As for Anna Lo herself…well she seems to have gone “On The Run” in a safe house in South Belfast or taken a vow of silence and joined a convent.
Either way she lit the fuse and disappeared…or was disappeared by Ford.
The Alliance Party is publicly “agnostic” on the issue of the Border. It can therefore claim to be all things to all people. Staying under the radar enables it to the preferred Party of the Norn Iron Office (regardless of whether there is a Conservative or Labour Government at Westminster) and theres all those lovely high salaries to be earned from being appointed to a Quango…as “politically neutral”.
Real or Pretend Neutrality has served Alliance well.
Its the nature of a Party that is itself a COALITION not to dwell on the fault lines.
Alliance claims it is centrist but has members that are left-leaning and others right-leaning. Indeed with Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton all Tory candidates in 2010 defecting to Alliance, the Party’s left and centre credentials look thin. Admittedly Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton are not serious political figures…except possibly in their own minds.
A coalition of Catholics and Protestants…yes but never really (as claimed) a coalition of Nationalists and Unionists.
Hence the shock in Alliance Party that Lo has gone “rogue”.
A coalition of liberal unionists and letsgetalongerists.
Clearly I use “letsgetalongerism” as a form of abuse but there are genuinely decent people in Alliance (and indeed across the political spectrum) who want to get along with people.
There is a heavy Church presence in Alliance…McCarthy is certainly Catholic (maybe Farry is also). Lo is Taoist. Ford, Lunn, Dickson, Lyttle and Cochrane and probably Long are churchy.
I dont say that as a bad thing.
Norn Iron is a religious and post-religous society.
Values learned in the family, at school or at a weekly church service inform thinking. The fact that a politician is known to be “secular” (Farry is probably with Lo the leading secular figure in Alliance) does not necessarily imply that they are anti-religion.
It would be wrong to regard the religious politicians as necessarily “conservative” or “traditionalists”.
The “liberal” Christian will not necessarily have a problem with Abortion, Gay Rights, Equal Marriage or Stem Cell Research.
Indeed Equal Marriage is an Alliance Party policy. It befits a “liberal” party and I dont have a problem with anyone voting their “conscience” …but the problem with Alliance is that too many of their churchy types, Lunn, Dickson, McCarthy, Lyttle and Cochrane could not support their own policy.
Nor can Lo…the only real advocate for abortion rights to be the same as in England can make any headway with her own party.
The Alliance Party agnostic approach to the Border is a fraud.
Believing in the status quo and working within it…is unionism.
There were no eyebrows raised when Parsley, Bradshaw and Hamilton…avowedly unionist signed up.
Why turn the heat on Lo?
Of course we are entitled to ask how sincere Anna Lo is.
Is it just a pitch for nationalist SDLP votes?
On the plus side, the political landscape has changed. Catholicism is not the force it was. But certainly Sinn Fein and more so SDLP cannot afford to alienate a large section of their own voters.
While the Catholic Church is still shell-shocked by two decades of scandal there has never ben a better opportunity for Republicans (ie all parties in the Republic and SF and SDLP in north to assert the primacy of the Republic over the Catholic Church.
Can Republicanism …a product of the Enlightenment live side by side with Catholicism? Of course it can. The relationship is being re-calibrated in the daily lives of Irish Catholics.
A look across the Stormont Chamber to the DUP ranks of people who seriously believe the Giants Causeway was only “created” six thousand years ago, should convince any serious liberal that the Republic of Ireland is already a more tolerant society than any society created by the DUP Jihadists.
So for Anna Lo, the Republic is perhaps a more realistic option.
Anna Lo merely speaks the truth when she talks of Ireland as a consequence of colonialisation. She feels a certain empathy, being from Hong Kong. If unionists disagree with this …well they are denying their own history.
Thats how it is with “colonists”. Unionists are the kinda people who usually celebrate colonising, land grabs, imperialism, slavery, conquest, colonial rule and recreational genocide as part of their glorious history…so getting a bit snippy about Ulster or Ireland is a bit of a nonsense.
But on another level, Anna Lo is an unlikely defender of the victims of colonisation.
Not withstanding being born in the colony of Hong Kong, she is in fact “ANNA LO MBE”….she is actually a “Member of the British Empire”.
Like I said, the Alliance Party love having their colonial cake and eating it.
Victimhood…like Entitlement…is deep within the Alliance DNA.
They were certainly attacked and abused because of their inept handling of the Flegs issue in the months after December 2012. But foolish of them to think that community disgust at the attacks on their offices and threats against their members would translate into support at the ballot box. A derisory 1.5% in the Mid Ulster by-election in March 2013 proves the point.
Anna Lo herself has been the victim of vile racist abuse from loyalists.
Indeed a campaign to “stand with Anna” has been launched which deserves the support of all decent people, regardless of political affiliation.
But I think there is a certain suspicion that Alliance want to use the racism as a vote gathering target.
Its hard to see how her interview expressing her belief in a United Ireland is going to help her relations with loyalist thugs.
But lets be clear about one thing.
The Alliance Party has screwed the Norn Iron Electorate ….devaluing the votes for UUP and SDLP.
They have been f##ked by DUP and Sinn Fein.
They are pimped out by invisible political fixers, including the Norn Iron Office.
A promiscuous Party without principle.
Thats their History. That will be their legacy.