Here are twelve things I learnt about politics in Northern Ireland this year
1. UUP play follow the leader unfortunately as neither Lord Maginnis, David McNarry, John McCallister or Basil McCrea et al realised and showed at various times it wasn't their own leader but the leader of the DUP.
2. Petitions of Concern don't need to be about the groups involved the petition of concern was designed for the bilateral differences in Northern Irish society nationalist v unionist. But in October the DUP used one to effectively veto equal marriage. Surely a petition of concern should be for the group affected and the other side; in this case the LGBT MLAs, who number zero, against the rest.
3. It's not all about the economy at least not when the flag is only going to be flown on designated days. Many businesses have been crying out for weeks that the protests are affecting business. Yet there are mixed messages from unionist MLAs a suspension of protests, a revisit of the issue at Stormont, a right to peaceful protest, elected representatives joining the protests.
4. Catholic MLAs are more gay friendly while the LGBT community is a mix of unionist, nationalist and other you'd think that all the LGBT people voted nationalist or other. When it comes to matters of LGBT rights in Northern with only a few noticeable exceptions all questions raised and motions bought are from either Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance or the Greens. On the first vote on a home grown motion on LGBT issues only 3 Unionist MLAs voted in favour. Is homophobia the real new sectarianism?
5. The DUP is only Democratic when it goes their way with the vote on flags in Belfast City Council the Democratic Unionist Party said it was an afront and that the democratic vote had to be turned around as soon as possible.
6. When Edwin Poots says he has come to a decision he really hasn't this year, for a second time, the DUP's health minister said he had come to a decision on the blood ban here in Northern Ireland. But when I lodged a repeat freedom of information request I am told that yet again he had not made a final decision, but some of my points were answered. He's also taking legal action to prevent same-sex couples adopting.
7. Sometimes the nationalists are more pro-Union than the unionists yeah on certain issues like the blood ban, equal marriage and maybe even a women's right to choose the nationalists are more likely to argue for the same policy as the rest of the UK, while the unionists argue for an all-Ireland approach!
8. I'm not sure what the D in DUP stands for it appears to not stand for Democratic as I said above. But it also seems to not stand for dialogue or debate. You can ask members of other parties things and criticise them and they will answer and not block or unfriend you. The DUP seem to not even be prepared to answer or acknowledge that people have written to them about this from the other side of the argument. One who I'm sort of related to by marriage even blanked me in the restaurant at Stormont over an issue.
9. Apparently standing up for equality is dancing to a republican tune yes seriously issues such as equal marriage are for self-interest and promotion of Sinn Féin and not about genuine equality issues, so said UUP leader Mike Nesbitt.
10. We're anti-abortion but also anti-extending adoption yeah there is a dichotomy from those who say that abortion, even in the case of a rape victim, is wrong and should go full term while also failing to extent adoption to same-sex couples to help ease the back log. Even though the high court has declared the ban illegal some are not for turning.
11. Playing Beach Boys classics is OK outside Catholic Churches no matter how those playing it have adapted the lyrics for sectarian purposes. Of course this opinion is only that of the Loyal Orders, Unionist politicians and not that of the Parades Commission, worshipers at said church and local residents.
12. By attending each others' sports we live in a shared society yeah it appears to be the limit of ambitions. Turning up to a GAA match seems to the be the limit of a shared society. Integrating housing, education, dealing with the contentious issues of flags and symbols, recognising the LGBT community are all parts of a shared society that are constantly being swept under the carpet. So we continue to create divides from birth in our young people inspired by out politicians. Wonder if the publication of the Cohesion, Sharing and Intergration strategy will do anything to address the tough issues or just try to manage and referee division as the draft did.