Andrée Murphy: Playing the Orange card shows laziness

NI Assembly Election 2016 count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre. NI Assembly Election 2016 count at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.
By Andrée Murphy

FOR an election called amid such drama, hasn’t the campaign been a little, well, lacklustre? I mean, if it wasn’t for Arlene’s very sad crocodiles that turned into a publicity coup for the Irish language community, the portrayal of the campaign thus far has felt like business as usual.

Or is it? Actually no. Look at the issues at stake. In many regards, with Brexit looming like economic Armageddon, not since 1918 has there been an election of such constitutional consequence. The matters of equal citizenship for all, no matter their nationality, gender, sexuality or religion, are also at the heart of the decisions voters will make.

In people’s homes and in conversations I have from buying my bap to getting my hair done, they most definitely are the things people are talking about. But somehow they are not being interrogated well or competently by a mainstream media stuck in a traditional voting pattern timewarp.

A press statement from the PUP this week made interesting and welcome reading. It recommended voters to vote against wrongdoing and mismanagement and for social equality. It made the confident assertion (that I don’t agree with) that the union is safe, so encouraged voters to get busy voting for good governance, presumably outside the parameters of previous silo mentalities. But that made little impact the next day when the issue appeared to be constructed as “‘Has Mike Nesbitt gone too far with his transfers to nationalists?’

This construct means that the Orange card is not only being played but facilitated and promoted. I wonder is that a conscious thing, or just a bit lazy and the way things have always been done? Whatever it is, when news reports are dominated by who will unionism transfer to I switch off and start reading something mental about the new President of America. And I am a total political anorak. So, then I get a bit conspiratorial.

Wouldn’t it just suit many vested interests if things didn’t get shaken up this time. Wouldn’t that just suit lovely if those who are resistant to real progress and real delivery to all communities were returned, those who suggested change were diminished and the British government could continue its cack handling of everything without effective challenge? I think the parties need to up their game too. But I also know that’s hard when the playing field has been constructed and everyone in the media is playing the game that has always been played. But as we have seen this year, no election is won or lost on Twitter. It is the big message that matters.

The challenge now is for parties to take on the deliberately constructed narrative that politicians are all the same and demonstrate that there really is not going back to the status quo.
The big thing that will change the status quo is turn-out. Getting up and voting for those who say that they support equality, human rights and social justice.

There are numerous parties who are making clear, consistent messages on this. And transfers are an issue. So transfer to those who say yes to Irish language rights, rights for all victims of conflict, the right to marry, the right to equal citizenship. PR will matter, use the whole ballot. Change, it could be a comin’.

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