I can do no better than quote from my friend Squinter this morning. He tweets: “I have come to the conclusion that the local media is not even aware of its total focus on unionist concerns when reporting Haass”.
Despite the fact that we’ve been told that people are only concerned with bread and butter issues, the DUP clearly thinks otherwise and has successfully nuked any possibility of the Irish Tricolour being flown from any public building here for any reason. If you ask, they’ll say that Northern Ireland is part of the UK and the Union flag is the flag of that ‘country’. Nobody I know is disputing that – all that is being asked is that the Tricolour might on special occasions be flown on a government building. But no. Did you dare to limit the number of days during which the Union flag flies? Give me a half-brick or a petrol-bomb, somebody. Did you dare suggest that the Tricolour fly at any time on any public building? Give me a half-brick or a petrol-bomb, somebody.
You may think that’s exaggerating. Unionists wouldn’t resort to violence if this timid recognition of the loyalties of about half the population here were given expression. Not so, according to the good Lord Kilclooney, who emerged from the forest again this morning and spoke on Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster. Were such a thing implemented, it would be disastrous – explosive, highly dangerous – I can’t remember his exact word but that was the message.
So why is unionism so opposed to Haass’s suggestion? Well there are a number of possible reasons. One, which I personally find pretty convincing, is that they are determined to hold on to their backwoodsmen and the flag-protestor constituency, and they figure that by showing some red-white-and-blue cojones, they’ll get that rabble to fall into line behind them. The second possibility is that the reaction has historical roots. Unionism has always felt under siege. If you lower the draw-bridge even a tiny bit, raise the portcullis by the smallest margin, it may give the enemy the chink of hope they need and it’ll be no time until they’re in the castle, raping and pillaging. So play hard-ball, guys, or next you know they’ll be wanting to name a street after one of their republican icons. And that would be entirely unacceptable.
The Haass talks will produce nothing, some people say. I disagree. Even if there is no progress made on flags, parading or the past, one thing will have been made totally clear: unionism is a view of the world that is exclusive, intolerant of difference and dominated by a we-are-the-people world-view. But hey – think positive. Not everybody will be depressed by the ramming home of this lesson. Dissident republicans must be doing cartwheels of delight: all they’ve ever argued is being proved to the hilt.