[Chris Donnelly is a nationalist commentator and a regular contributor on the sluggerotoole.com site]
The Haass Talks have ended in deadlock, with the positive sounding spin emanating from many quarters since an indication that we have seamlessly transitioned from negotiation phase to blame game phase.
Unionist politicians have been singled out for particular criticism (most notably in the British press) with both the UUP and DUP shouldering the majority of blame for the failure to allow the celebrated US duo of diplomat and academic to return home with peace in their time.
In reality, the Haass Talks were not destined to succeed, and the progress actually made in terms of devising a roadmap to a future means of dealing with two of the three areas for contention is more impressive than I believed to be possible.
But there is a large element of window dressing in all of this.
The new parade structures are little more than deck chair rearranging. Ultimately, a determination will end up being made to either ban loyalists from marching along contentious routes or to allow them to proceed. The motivation for seeking to proceed with such parades has not been addressed, and therefore the elephant remains untouched, bedecked in red, white and blue as he camps out at the most volatile of Belfast’s sectarian interfaces.
Similarly, the new mechanisms for dealing with the past have very little to do with the past. It’s about the present. Here, the strong objections of unionist politicians to the ‘language’ employed by Dr Haass are instructive.
The issue for those objecting leaders of political unionism is one of a desire to ensure a reassuringly simplistic narrative remains pre-eminent at a time when the GFA structures, political culture and demographic realities point clearly to a trajectory moving us to parity between the traditions, with all that entails for recognizing greyness in a world once black and white for some.
The Flags protests, as well as associated parade violence, are about some unionists desperately clinging to fading certainties regarding the superior place of the British, protestant and unionist people in their world (perceptual or otherwise.)
Nationalists openly laugh when the allegation of ‘rewriting’ history is labeled at them by unionist politicians. To rewrite history means to alter what has long been believed.
The truth is that unionists and nationalists have very different interpretations of history- and have always done so. Those marching past Ardoyne with loyalist paramilitary aligned flute bands on the 12th July every year will proclaim they are celebrating the triumph of ‘civil and religious liberties’ through the Williamite Wars without pausing for even a moment to reflect on how that all worked out for the overwhelmingly catholic Irish people, whose subsequent experience of the Penal Laws were about the exact opposite of liberty.
Our current political disputes are a consequence of the fact that, in our new political dispensation, the broad nationalist narratives of the past- as well as views of the present and future- have been afforded some of the mainstream space long reserved for unionism alone.
That’s not going to change.
In this, the teething phase of an emerging new society, we are experiencing the death throes of supremacist unionism.
My advice? Buckle up.
– Chris Donnelly