Mr 10%

Of all the myths that the north of Ireland has spawned, the most seductive (and stupid) is the notion that both sides are equally to blame/one side is as bad as the other. This was the founding principle of the Alliance Party about forty years ago and its failure to progress should be reassuring. Sad to say, it isn’t, for the very good reason that it’s a view shared by most of the rest of the world. I know whereof I speak: from the late 1960s to the late 1970s, I lived abroad, and I discovered how easy it is to buy into the myth that what we have here are two tribes high on religion, hopelessly addicted to sectarianism and hatred. This of course airbrushes out Mother Britain, which is why she works so hard at maintaining that myth.

The latest example of it in action comes from the hysterically anti-republican commentator, Lindy McDowell. Faced with the fact that Martin McGuinness, deputy leader of Sinn Fein, has attracted the admiration of some 10% of Protestants here, she clambers down from her customary it’s-all-the-Shinners-fault soapbox and climbs onto an Alliance-type one. How’s that? Well, the way Lindy figures it, because Peter Robinson would be really worried if he attracted 10% of the Catholic population’s admiration, because his followers wouldn’t like that kind of thing, Martin McGuinness must be appalled that he’s attracted 10% of Protestants, because – yep – his followers can’t possibly like that kind of thing. Pssst, Lindy: republicanism means replacing the names of Catholic, Protestant or Dissenter with the common name of Irishman (and woman). Besides, if admiration were to turn into votes for Sinn Fein, it would trigger a referendum which would almost certainly take the north of Ireland out of the union with Britain and into a united Ireland.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Martin McGuinness’s saintly patience in the face of vilification were to reap the ultimate reward for republicanism? Maybe the guy who said ‘Destroy your enemies – make them your friends’ knew what he was talking about.

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