Northern Ireland

Political jargon - favourite phrases

WOMAN Image copyright SaulHerrera

"Intransigence," "Tory austerity," "second class citizens," "hard border" and "bread and butter issues".

If you read these and you drop to the floor, cover your ears and rock back and forth, congratulations! You are a member of the Northern Ireland electorate.

To the untrained ear they might mean nothing, but to the NI public, if they had a bingo card with them on it, they'd have full house.

They are of course, just a few of the many phrases which have been wheeled out at the weekend's Stormont talks, and indeed in talks over the past 20 odd years.

Like hamburgers and rock 'n' roll, jargon's increasing popularity often gets blamed on America.

However, our political class has really embraced the habit, using the same buzz words with alarming regularity.

Image caption Party leaders talk about talks

Here are our top 10 favourite phrases. As with all good jargon, they say a lot without really saying anything, and leave the listener none the wiser.

  1. 'Job of work to be done' - beloved by Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neill, but any veteran member of the electorate will remember it from, well, every other talks process
  2. 'Radical Republican Agenda' - you'd be forgiven for thinking this was the headline act at Glastonbury. But, it's actually a phrase used by Arlene Foster describe what she sees as Sinn Féin's long-term plan
  3. 'No return to the status quo' - an oldie but a goodie
  4. 'Let me be very clear' - a phrase long used by all good politicians worth their salt (we also enjoy a cliché). It's definitely not a phrase used to buy time. All politicians love this little gem, but an honourable mention goes to Nichola Mallon of the SDLP. Had anyone used this phrase as a drinking game during her last appearance on The Nolan TV Show, they wouldn't have stayed sober until the credits
  5. 'Tackle the real issues' - Has been used in elections and talks for many years and is not a sporting term
  6. 'Window of opportunity' - a cross-community phrase. Another one all parties love. It crosses boundaries
  7. 'We'll not be found wanting' - without wanting to be found wanting, we're not sure what this means. It's often used by Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill
  8. 'Stormont is dysfunctional' - TUV leader Jim Allister
  9. 'Not fit for purpose' - this phrase, used mostly in reference to Stormont, is another one that crosses party divides
  10. And finally - 'Overwhelming desire' - not the latest Jilly Cooper bodice ripper but a favourite of the current Secretary of State James Brokenshire when referring to the wish for a "strong and stable devolved government"

Any politician, who uses all of these in one sentence gets a prize.

Image copyright Word Cloud

We have no desire to be found wanting, and we know our politicians aren't the only ones guilty of this crime.

In that spirit, here are a few phrases the media can't get enough of.

  • Crunch-time
  • Deadline looms
  • Decision day
  • Stormont stalemate
  • In the pipeline

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