Republicans and reconciliation: time for a rethink?

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I was talking to a man the other night, after the Colin Parry/Martin McGuinness discussion in St Mary’s University College. The point came up that it’s sixteen years since the Good Friday Agreement,  republicans have been following a policy of reconciliation with former adversaries and has this policy borne fruit? Well, that bit was easy: the answer was No.  As Martin McGuinness asked his audience the other evening, when did you last hear a unionist politician speak favourably about advancing the peace process? It extended to the point, he said,  where he would walk down a Stormont corridor and the great majority of unionist politicians wouldn’t acknowledge his existence or so much as establish eye-contact. The implication was that republicans/nationalists were part of the peace process and its development because they wanted to be, while unionist politicians were in the peace process because they had to be.  I concluded from all this that the policy of reconciliation, having proven itself so barren over sixteen years, should be re-examined to see if it made sense. 

My companion disagreed and said two striking things. One, that sixteen years may be a long time for us but in historical terms it’s but the blink of an eyelid.  Two, that it’s important to distinguish between unionist politicians and the unionist population. He argued that within unionism there is a great silent majority who want to maintain their unionism but feel no sense of identity with the politicians who represent them and in fact feel embarrassed or even ashamed of some of the poses these politicians strike. He argued that there was an openness and a reasonableness about such people and that it was the job of republicanism to indicate the common ground on which they and republicans stood. If republicans maintained an open and reconciling attitude, it was reasonable to suggest that these people would come to compare the inward-looking attitude of their own representatives and would demand a more positive approach in reconciling with their republican/nationalist neighbours.

It’s a tricky one to call. I concede the two main points of the person I was speaking to : that sixteen years is a short time historically.  As Zhou Enlai is said to have remarked about the significance of the French revolution: “It’s too early to say”. Maybe sixteen years of back-turning and nay-saying is too short a period on which to judge things. And there is a truth in the notion that many unionists are reasonable people who want to be on good terms with their neighbours and find common ground with them.  At the same time, it’s difficult to maintain belief in a tree which has been tended so carefully, pruned and trimmed and fertilised and fed so faithfully, yet shows hardly a hint of blossom or fruit. 

35 Responses to Republicans and reconciliation: time for a rethink?

  1. Patrick J Dorrian August 2, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    I am reminded of the comment by ‘Dolly’ Molyneaux, back 20 years ago, when he remarked that Republicans would have to go through a period of decontamination; that they would need to be house trained. Presumably, the first part was meant to suggest that only when the leadership of SF had been replaced by those who were solely political, had only joined the party after the ceasefire and had spent a long while in purdah, would they be ready for house training. House training, making them look like other political parties here. Much in the same way, the republican party in the 26 counties were normalised. As corrupt as the rest of them.

    • Jude Collins August 2, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      Good points, PJD, and good to see you again t’other night.

  2. neill August 2, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    I think Martin McGuinness is trying his best however as much as he does i am of a generation who remembers that he was a terrorist Godfather and that colours my opinion of him although he does have a certain earthiness that his party leader certainly doesnt have

    How can any Unionist trust the word of any Republican when its current leader is less than honest about his role in the conflict let alone his behaviour over his brothers sexual abuse?

    Reconciliation can only come from honesty we have to lay everything on the table discuss it and learn from it.

    It will be a learn term process 16 years is only really a blink of a eye certainly in this part of the world.

    It is to late for our generation as we have experienced what happened however with our children and then their children and the troubles being less raw then we will have movement.

    • Jude Collins August 2, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      Good post, Neill ( you don’t often hear those words from me…) I’d disagree with you on the GA /M McG thing. It’s become something of a thought-cliché to say McG OK, A the pits. So GA says he was never in the IRA. Supposing he said he was – would that change unionist thinking about him? I’d urge people like yourself to listen to what he does say – particularly with regard to unionists – and judge him on that, rather than this nutty ‘How can we trust him he says he wasn’t in the IRA’ mantra.

      • neill August 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

        If Gerry Adams was honest about his role like M McG then that would be a good start M McG has gained a lot of respect in the Unionist community by being open he certainly is the type of person who if you did a deal with he would stick to it.

        Perhaps I am being a little naive but I would at least expect a leader to be reasonably honest if people dont think he is being honest why should they believe a word he says?

        • Ryan August 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

          When will Unionism be open and honest about THEIR past Neill? Shadowy organisations like Ulster Vanguard, Ulster Resistence, etc and many DUP/UUP members were members of those organisations.

          There was even a time when Peter Robinson was openly refusing to say UDA/UVF murderers were terrorists. There was a time when Gregory Campbell sat at a table loading a gun threatening terrorism if the UK pulled out of NI. All this caught on camera and available to view on youtube if you want to check Neil.

          Its time Unionism was put under the microscope and it was truthful about its past because we all know Loyalist paramilitaries weren’t working (and murdering) alone.

      • Sean August 4, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

        The moment Gerry Adams ever utters those words, politicians on both sides of the border will be pushing for a prosecution.

    • Ruaidri Ua Conchobai August 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Neill,
      Excuses, excuses, excuses!!! That’s all we ever hear from regressive and intransigent Unionist elements; it’s themuns fault that Usuns are unwilling to reciprocate their tireless reconciliation efforts.

      PIRA Gerry Adams
      As inferred by Jude, whether GA was/wasn’t a formally sworn member of PIRA is of no real relevance 20 years after the PIRA ceasefire and eventual decommissioning. The fact GA may never have been formally sworn into PIRA entitles him to assert he wasn’t a member – let’s stop pretending Unionists only want GA to become a self-confessed member of a proscribed organisation so they can demand he be imprisoned for any such an admission?.

      Fear of Reconciliation
      It’s been 16 years since the GFA and political Unionists still seek ways to counter the Republican movements demonstrable commitment to building peace and reconciliation among all of the peoples on this island – true ‘reconciliation’ being what political unionism dreads.

      Moderate Unionists
      The progressives among the Unionist community have had 43 years to place their vote with the moderate Alliance party (or the equally moderate SDLP). But, alas, not many availed of that opportunity to promote the fair and equal society advocated by that pro-Union party. Sadly, our society will only progress toward reconciliation when the majority of Unionists elect moderate representatives – the Unionist electorate can’t keep contending the parties they elect don’t represent their values and aspirations.

      • neill August 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

        Dearie Dearie me what can i say about that rant ah well here goes.

        Excuses, excuses, excuses!!! That’s all we ever hear from regressive and intransigent Unionist elements; it’s themuns fault that Usuns are unwilling to reciprocate their tireless reconciliation efforts

        Oh sorry we have to open our arms and say we forgive you it it wasnt your fault really it was ours we caused you to bomb the heart out of Northern Ireland and obviously we caused you kill over a thousand people does that make you feel better?

        PIRA Gerry Adams
        As inferred by Jude, whether GA was/wasn’t a formally sworn member of PIRA is of no real relevance 20 years after the PIRA ceasefire and eventual decommissioning. The fact GA may never have been formally sworn into PIRA entitles him to assert he wasn’t a member – let’s stop pretending Unionists only want GA to become a self-confessed member of a proscribed organisation so they can demand he be imprisoned for any such an admission?.

        Dont be a fool if you cant tell the truth why should people believe you.If he said he was an IRA commander he wouldnt be arrested afterall M McG wasnt arrested when he admitted it.

        Fear of Reconciliation
        It’s been 16 years since the GFA and political Unionists still seek ways to counter the Republican movements demonstrable commitment to building peace and reconciliation among all of the peoples on this island – true ‘reconciliation’ being what political unionism dreads.

        Your quite the gag if SF would acknowledge that planting bombs and killing people went a long way to causing the need for reconciliation we would have a start but they wont.

        Moderate Unionists
        The progressives among the Unionist community have had 43 years to place their vote with the moderate Alliance party (or the equally moderate SDLP). But, alas, not many availed of that opportunity to promote the fair and equal society advocated by that pro-Union party. Sadly, our society will only progress toward reconciliation when the majority of Unionists elect moderate representatives – the Unionist electorate can’t keep contending the parties they elect don’t represent their values and aspirations.

        Of course the same thing could be said of the Catholic community couldnt it….?

        • Ruaidri Ua Conchobai August 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

          Neill,
          Pointless blame-games
          Do you or don’t you concede that in 1969 Unionists started the killings and set-off the initial bombs (several years after the old IRA formally stood-down in 1964 and at a time when PIRA didn’t exist)? And before trying to evasively respond to that question, I respectfully suggest you read and check reference materials linked in my blog post http://belfast-child.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/Ulster-Stands-At-The-Crossroads.html

          Like I initially said, the intransigent, regressive Unionist mind-set remains; it’s themuns fault Usuns are unwilling to reciprocate their tireless reconciliation efforts.

          PIRA Gerry Adams
          Wrong, very wrong. Firstly, in 1973 Martin McGuinness was arrested and convicted for PIRA membership and other related offences by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Secondly – leaving aside Gerry Adams was recently arrested and questioned in relation to alleged PIRA membership, I imagine you know other Republicans were not so long ago charged with PIRA membership; see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27329339

          Now, stop your silly pretense Unionist rants concerning Gerry Adams and PIRA membership are anything other than a smokescreen to disguise their desire to see him imprisoned if he ever made any such admission; his stance on this issue in no-way hinders Unionists reciprocating Republican peace and reconciliation efforts.

          Fear of Reconciliation
          As previously indicated, learn to accept and move beyond finger-pointing and work toward building genuine peace and reconciliation. The facts prove that Unionists started the killing and bombing in 1969, but now its 2014. Furthermore, wise NI British imperialists would avoid referring to earlier periods of their history on the island of Ireland wherein they plundered and slaughtered on a vast scale over many centuries and decimated half of Ireland’s once 8 million population.

          The Irish nation has progressed beyond holding British Unionists responsible for the deaths of millions of Irish lives so how about Unionists join us in our 21st century world of building genuine peace and reconciliation between our peoples – are you content to bequeath a legacy of division and bitterness to your children and grandchildren?

          Moderate Unionists
          Wrong, again!!! You can not believe the same applies to the Irish Nationalist community, not unless you perversely believe their once largest party the SDLP were not moderates?

          I’ll leave you to ponder these 2 questions for yourself: why did a supposed mass of moderate Unionists never give the pro-Union Alliance party a mandate to help build a civilised society of equal citizenship? Why instead elect – and indeed keep electing over many decades and to-date – rancid old bigoted parties who’ve nurtured hatred and division?

          Síochán leat

          • neill August 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

            Sorry it was you who blamed Unionist.

            I will explain this again Unionists dont vote for the Alliance party because it is not an unionist party what part of that dont you understand?

            Now, stop your silly pretense Unionist rants concerning Gerry Adams and PIRA membership are anything other than a smokescreen to disguise their desire to see him imprisoned if he ever made any such admission; his stance on this issue in no-way hinders Unionists reciprocating Republican peace and reconciliation efforts.

            Once again if he cant tell the truth about the past why should anybody believe him in the future his niece doesnt trust him for obvious reasons…

            As previously indicated, learn to accept and move beyond finger-pointing and work toward building genuine peace and reconciliation. The facts prove that Unionists started the killing and bombing in 1969, but now its 2014. Furthermore, wise NI British imperialists would avoid referring to earlier periods of their history on the island of Ireland wherein they plundered and slaughtered on a vast scale over many centuries and decimated half of Ireland’s once 8 million population.

            The Irish nation has progressed beyond holding British Unionists responsible for the deaths of millions of Irish lives so how about Unionists join us in our 21st century world of building genuine peace and reconciliation between our peoples – are you content to bequeath a legacy of division and bitterness to your children and grandchildren?

            The Irish famine was not caused by the British Unionists it was caused by the people being so heavily reliant on one staple food many famines occured during the 19th Century it was part and parcel of life in Europe at that time sadly.

            I’ll leave you to ponder these 2 questions for yourself: why did a supposed mass of moderate Unionists never give the pro-Union Alliance party a mandate to help build a civilised society of equal citizenship? Why instead elect – and indeed keep electing over many decades and to-date – rancid old bigoted parties who’ve nurtured hatred and division?

            Oh the wonderful Irony of a SF supporter having a pop about being bigoted dont need to look to hard to find murderers and bigots currently elected in SF.

            An interesting topic Jude, but the reality is unionism is not not going to ingratiate itself with republicanism in the near future. It is nigh on impossible for two total opposite strands of the spectrum to entwine.
            The main role of Irish republicanism is the destruction of the NI state! a position that is the opposite of what unionism stands for. Since partition republicans have both through direct violence, boycott, refusal to participate in the workings of the general state, attempted to make the country ungovernable. Add to this the intrangible nature of early unionism, and one was left with a deeply divided state.

            As per usual William nails it start listening and understanding

  3. Marcas Ó Caoinnigh August 2, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Good points, Jude, but what is the alternative – a return to violence? You only have to look at what is happening in Palestine right now to realise that what we have now, though imperfect, is infinitely preferable.

    As Yeats said “peace comes dropping slow”.

    I for one, am prepared to wait.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá.

  4. TheHist August 2, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Spot on article as always Jude. I personally feel that Unionism has no direction and don’t know where they are going – the lack of political leadership and their failure to find common ground with much of their electorate is concerning and simply impeding progress. We clearly see the lack of direction recently in their idea of a “graduated response” to the failure of the Pride of Ardoyne being “legally” refused their return parade home. I, like many others see this “graduated response” as them bluffing to their electorate to illustrate they are doing something in the common name of unionism, particularly as they were vocal in voicing this unproven “cultural war” thesis.

    I listened intently to Martin McGuinness justify his reasons for meeting the Queen, an event I must say I was against. After hearing his justification I understood this bold and forward thinking move, particularly on the process towards reconciliation – the first question I asked myself was, are unionists capable of such gestures? – I believe the answer is no! Unionists politicians are insecure in their identity and any progress that is made in terms of the peace process is perceived as a threat to them. I feel under their current leadership dealing with the past and moves towards reconciliation are impossible! SF have put their heads above the parapet in their drive to progress our society whereby Unionists are simply a reactionary force to events that take place. Unionism seems to be walking backwards someone telling them what’s going on in front of them, only to fall On deaf ears!
    Unionism seem to see progress as negative – I see them analogised to a tortoise in a shell – any prospect of attack culminating in fear results in them hiding away to begin their defensive retreat! Too often do we hear about the attack or their fear of the security of the Union. Personally for the next number of years I believe they have nothing to fear! But why would they want their electorate knowing that as they continue to whip up the ante! Slan!

  5. Patrick Fahy August 2, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Jude, if we abandon the reconciliation process with unionism we are feeding into political unionism’s negative agenda, and thus at the least delaying the day when genuine reconciliation will become a reality. We would also be silencing the voices of those people from the unionist tradition who have stepped outside the usual stereotype by at least engaging in debate with republicans and nationalists. We must continue to extend the hand of friendship, but not in a craven or subservient way. As long as we maintain and continue to strive for our ambition of an Irish Republic, we have nothing to fear. The abandonment of those ideals by previous republicans who gained electoral support is part of the reason for disaffection among some republicans. We must continue to assure them also – and some of them are as hostile as political unionism – that we will not do the same as others. It’s a tightrope but we must walk it.

  6. Laurence McKeown August 2, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Jude I agree entirely with your colleague. I frequently come across people in the unionist community who are totally open to the type of politics that republicans not only espouse but also practice and if SF continue to do what they are doing on the ground (and maybe spend more time on the ground with such people rather than with the unionist elected reps) the awareness of the lack of leadership/ability/politics of the unionist elected class will become more apparent to those who are open to change, if still wanting to be unionist. But it is frustrating! Even when Betty Windsor carries out repeated visits to show her children how you do it, i.e. shake hands with Martin McGuinness while looking him directly in the eye and smiling to him, as he does to her, the brats still don’t appear to get it.

    • neill August 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

      Sorry what type of politics promising the sun and moon south of the border and accepting cuts in Northern Ireland yeah that the type of politics we should strive for good old convictional politics!

    • William Fay August 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      Lawrence, a sentence of that length is difficult to comprehend with so many conjunctions. Maybe a little bit of respect towards HRH would allow me to read your blogs as a reasonable person rather than think of you as a bitter! twisted republican. HRH is in her mid 80s has a worldly view that you except she would have as a great granny, the ‘brats’ as you would call them should have their own opinion on the purveyors of terrorism.

  7. Perkin Warbeck August 2, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Jude, your correspondent, Patrick J. Dorrian’s timely mention of a near forgotten comment once (or maybe more often) made by Dolly Molyneaux reminds one of the sad time when the Ulster Unionists said no to Molyneaux, their straight talking, clean thinking leader from Killead in the County Antrim..

    His ‘Decontamination’ comment is the one in question and this 3-D comment should NEVER be allowed to be forgotten, even at the going d.of the sun and at the r. of the moon.

    Indeed, it was this very 3-D comment (the embodiment of Detergent, Dishwashing, Dettol) which finally, it is widely accepted, won him a dearly sought after appointment to the Privy Council. ‘It was the making of a true blue Mrs Mop’, as was shrewdly observed at the time.
    Though Fairy Liquid is a favoured brand among the Privy Councillors and every year there is an informal straw poll among the private members to see who is ‘Aunty Septic of the Year’, Dolly always remained aloof from such trivialiaties, taking the view that the Privy C. is no place for such frivolity.

    And of course warranted him the title of Baron Molyneaux of Killead. May his tribe increase.

    It also brought to mind the time – somewhere in the middle Seventies – when one found oneself in the company of a near namesake and political ally (one almost wrote ‘alloy’),of Dolly’s, one Enoch Powell, MP for South Down. Also known as ‘The Wolverhampton Wanderer’ whose HQ is at Molineux. (Note the absence of an ‘a’ there: the bottom line is that it has its own importance). He was in flight from Edwina Heath at the time.

    At the time one was trying to hack it as a hack (one had delusions of grandeur of following in the military two-step of Myers the Magnificent. But of course, he was streets ahead of every other hack, Kevin Streets,in fact.) but for a while one’s burgeoning career as a penny-a-line scribbler went through a promising spell. Explained by the reality that there are, erm, perks to being a Perkin Warbeck. It opens, shall one say, certain doors.

    In this case, Number 14, Main Street, Loughbrickland which is where Enoch (like Elvis he hath no need of a second name, though with a surname like Powell maybe that is just as well) was resident at the time.

    Contact had been made by first, letter and then by phone (this was still the stone age in communications terms) and so, when this Trogman knocked on the door he was greeted with a brisk, no nonsense ‘One hour is what we agreed and one hour it will be’ in a clipped, heel-clicking accent.

    Before we knew it the both of us, Enoch and PW, were on our hands and knees on the rustic kitchen floor with the vast though detailed ordnance survey map of the South Down Constituency spread out before and below us. (Our haunches were to the ceiling but one prefers to leave that part out for fear some members of the Privy Council are reading this. And it is still early in the day. Well, earlyish, anyway).

    The tables, you see, had been turned including the kitchen table. Instead of PW interviewing Enoch it turned out that it was actually Enoch who was picking the brains (twitter ye not!) of PW. Specifically as to the Leprechaun origins of the topography in his constituency. Enoch, of course, was a noted linguist who could tell a dude to eff off in his own language. He was fluent in a dozen languages, none of them dirty, and unlike Spike Milligan’s man who could speak 12 languages but who had nothing to say in any of them, Enoch was of a different stripe.

    (That Enoch chose to assume -wrongly as it turned out – that PW was of the side of the Warbeckian clan which was deemed to be ‘obese with brains’ was no doubt due to his taking it as read I was a descendant of one of his heroes from the Annals of the Intellect, one Marmaduke ‘Mensa’ Warbeck,inventor of the safety razor specially designed to shave a gooseberry, , is neither hear nor there. Though PW is happy to row along with the assumption betimes).

    Enoch was particularly keen to discover the provenance of local placenames. Like Loughbrickland itself: ‘The Lake of …of….the Speckled Trout’ one hazarded. And this, he, Enoch, pointed in that Sandhurstian way of his: ‘Greenan’. That would be ‘The Sunny Place’, I blagged.

    ‘Must have been named a long time ago’, Enoch was heard to snort, ‘It hasn’t stopped floggin rain since I came here’. But Perkin had perked up by this time, even though still on all fours, and was on a roll. After Enoch had alluded to the nearby birthplace of the Rev Patrick Bronte (nee Prunty) and also to the standing stones known as the Three Sisters of Greenan, PW with the lofty tone of one chancing his arm opinied it was part of the local folklore that it was ordained, like the patriarch himself, to think of Ireland while in Yorkshire and specifically of these standing stones when it came the once-yearly time for him to see to his marital duties. Mind you Enoch did flash old Perky one of those flint-lock looks of his.

    And, so it went. and before we knew it the Host was both simultaneously rolling up his o.s. map and barking ‘Time up!’.

    Next thing he was driving his ‘interviewer’ back to the bus-station of Portydown. And so, one had not the chance to question him about his reason for not joining the OO, unlike J. Molyneaux. Was it, one had prepared to ask, because there was only one Billy Wright for him and that was BW of Molineux . What is it about that pocket of the Wee Six which has such a thing about Billy Wrights?

    I also failed to ask Enoch about the reason why he was elected on the Unionist ticket despite his famous/infamous (PW is nothing in not inclusive) ‘Rivers of Blood speech’ being inspired by (gulp) ‘the river Tiber’ which flows through (mega-gulp) Rome’. Could it have been that those who voted for him were ‘pig-ignorant’ of that fact. Surely not. Pig-ignorance being exclusive to the ‘Other Side of the Fence’.

    Nor did one suggest that the Leprechaun for the family name Prunty was ‘O’Proinntigh’ was actually derived from ‘canteen’ though in retrospect one regrets this, as one had to forego those delicious muffins and cucumber sangers which Mrs. E had so assiduously prepared.

    In truth, during the trip back to the bus-station in Portydown one’s heart was acquaplaning with fear, despite road conditions being dry and firm underwheel. After all, Enoch was not exactly the apple of every body’s eye, in the vicintiy of the orchard of Eire’s green isle.

    To conclude: one doubts if Baron Molyneaux’s interest in the Erse would be of the same enightened state as that of Enoch. A pity. Or maybe not.

    For then, he might discover that the Leprechaun for ‘Killead’ is, (gulp) The Church of Jealousy’.

    Pyschoanalysts, please note.

    • RJC August 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      You seem to have touch of Bricriu about your good self, Perkin. The placenames in South Down are awash with Leprechaun, much to the annoyance of certain folk.

  8. Am Ghobsmacht August 2, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Does the cold house treatment apply to the SDLP as well as SF or both parties?

  9. Am Ghobsmacht August 2, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Sorry, bad English; “Does the cold house treatment apply to both nationalist parties or just SF?”

  10. JimBob August 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    I see parallels between the Israeli and Unionust strategies. They have calculated that a negotiated settlement means that concessions will be needed. They prefer the status quo. To keep the status quo simply make sure progress is thwarted and blame the others for that lack of process.

    Having said that, let’s do the right thing, reconciliation is the only approach.

    There’s a fragrant scent coming off the blossoming tree, electoral gains in recent elections is proof of that.

  11. paddykool August 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    I think this is a thoughtful post Jude. It is actually the kind of thing that should be debated in government .Put it down plainly for the folks and the auditors
    .”How are we doing with this peace and reconciliation project?
    How is this Brave New World developing after this past sixteen or twenty years ? How many marks out of ten will we give to each of our parties or politicians in developing a better future? How are our politicians doing?Are they actually achieving anything?
    Sinn Fein has a project . Alliance has a project. The UUP and the DUP have projects….Or maybe not ? We know what a republican project is like . We’ve seen it down south .We see it in America .We see it gradually working out in Australia. How is it going for republicans who want one here to encompass the whole island? Have the DUP or the UUP got a project…a mission statement for the future?
    Do they even think ahead?
    All those questions.Of course there is political antipathy between politicians who are debating for completely different results , but unionist politicians are deluded if they think the entire nationalist population sees them as blameless in the horror that we lived through from the late 1960’s or even before .Molyneux’s talk of de-contamination is a blinkered idea because nationalists saw unionism as every bit as radioactive , if not more so , in the way unionists saw nationalists and republicans. There were two absolutely opposing positions…opposing viewpoints …even opposing views in households and in newspapers to be read by each tribe.
    If unionists harbour the illusion that they are seen as the genteel maiden aunts who wouldn’t dirty the carpet or knew how to use the right cutlery ,they may disavow themselves of that notion now. In every nationalist home they were seen as blinkered ,ultra -conservative, glum, gloomy, unbending and unable to compromise or cut a deal for the common good. They were seen as capable of threatening violence at the drop of a hat and were easily brought onto the streets to antagonise their neighbours or shut off power stations whenever their viewpoint was threatened. .
    They had too much power which they misused …mostly out of fear and paranoia and they jumped at every threatening shadow.Political movement with them was, and still is, like swimming in treacle .It is an unpleasant , sticky struggle to make politics with a group who refuse to actually play at politics in any meaningful way.Not to put a fine tooth on it , they always walk away when they lose a debate.No matter who they are judged by , ..any outsider with a clear eye…and there have been a few like Mr Haass…..they constantly cannot deal with the hard questions they are made to answer.We are now dealing with their latest bluffing match as they try to make something up on the hoof as they go along .They may stick a Big Shiny label on it but it’s the same old game.They reall haven’t a clue.
    I have no doubt that they never wanted an Agreement. They were much happier with the status quo of the ongoing slaughter as long as they had that same control and input with the police and army.The state police and army were their bread and butter until the agreement was basically forced on them.That took the power away.
    Let’s call a spade a spade . The Ageement was seen as a defeat for unionism by unionism. There is much talk about was taken away from the unionist people. Nobody could put their finger on it . “Themmuns get everything was the cry”. What was taken away was their sense of omnipotence in Northern Ireland .Before the agreement , their cry was that “They Were The People”.. It was painted on walls.It was , of course ,an illusion held together by Britain until they got fed up with it. It had to go .That omnipotence led the likes of Molyneux to believe in a superiority over half the population that wasn’t real.It was always an illusion but it is still fostered and trumpeted annually for the whole of every dreary summer.It’s still an illusion.
    So why do unionist ministers think they can dispense with the common courtesies in the corridors of government when Sinn Fein have every right to treat them in the same abysmal ill-mannered way that they obviously prefer? They obviously do not want any agreement to work .They’ll always have that bad -tempered sense of ownership that they ‘ve been indoctrinate d to believe is their birthright. I don’t believe that there will ever be a true meeting of minds and they will tear apart eventually bringing the whole thing down. They would rather destroy than build something with a party who have a vision of a future where there is an equality of citizenship on the menu..”Citizens” rather than “Subjects”.That sense equality will never sit right with a group who see themselves as somehow on ahigher deluded plane.
    This talk about sixteen years being a short time … a drop in the ocean ,is errant too. It’s quite a proportion of any of our lives. Some of us have had quite a large portion of our lives blighted by political nonsense. We need some fresh thinking , not this tired old horse.

  12. Micheal August 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    As Marcas quite rightly pointed out “Good points, Jude, but what is the alternative – a return to violence?” Well this seems to be the point Unionists are holding people to ransom on. Even on the ‘flegs’ and parading issues. Its always going to be a job of work to get Unionists to co-operate or agree to anything Sinn Fein as a party has to offer. No deal is every going to be properly implemented when Martin can’t even walk down a corridor without facing a wall of silence. Big Ian was a mighty man and although at the start I thought him an absolute eejit and a person who would do nothing but hurl abuse and sectarian slurs at people I actually found myself growing quite fond of the man. After meeting him once and actually shaking his hand I felt a certain warmth toward him as a human being where before hand it was almost a hatred but not quite.

    Yes Ian Paisley was a man I grew to respect not only as a politician but as a person. He and Marty were the only two so far (in my eyes) who actually made Stormont look like an active, working government and those two got on like a house on fire. Big Ian’s colleagues in the DUP however felt other wise. It was obvious from the start that the DUP thought big Ian was being far too friendly with Martin McGuinness but surely this was the way it should have been. Maybe if the DUP had taken a step back and looked about them rather than having their heads stuck up their own backsides they would have seen Ian Paisley was still giving Sinn Fein a hard time while being genial and some what polite about it which is the way a politician should behave…..right?

    The North of Ireland and its political failures is no ones fault but our own. The Unionists are still holding talks in a stall over the ‘parades and flags’ issue. These issues should have been sorted out before Ardoyne. All parties were at the table, they were talking until the word came in that the Ardoyne parade. The problem is, instead of sitting them and sorting all this out all the Unionists stood up and walked out. This is not politics, this is not what people expect from our politicians and its no wonder Protestants are starting to vote for SF in greater numbers than before if this is the way their Unionist politicians are acting.

    The North needs to grow up and soon. There’s no point screaming and crying to Dublin or London about our problems. We need to sort this out, we need to be a big enough people here in the North to say, right, we want this sorted out and we want it sorted now.

  13. michael c August 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Many people from a unionist background engage with SF on everyday issues .SF offices would deal with constituents on a Nationalist / unionist breakdown which would be close to the actual breakdown figures of the local community.More than one unionist has said to me : If you want anything done SF are the only ones,our side are for f— all”

  14. Iolar August 2, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Consider a Picea Pungens. Left alone it grows 8 – 9 cms each year and eventually stands at 23 metres.
    Brian Merritt’s Blog (July 10, 2014) identifies impediments to progress in the context of Kincora. The “silent majority” may need to reassess who needs to be decontaminated and house trained.

  15. ANOTHER JUDE August 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I am of the opinion that only when the British government does away with it`s bigoted and hateful laws forbidding Catholics from being Head of State will the majority of Unionists wise up. As long as there is any impediment to any section of the population there will be discrimination and mistrust. Unionists have to realise the Nationalists have had to learn to forget the many crimes carried out by Unionists of various hues. They were not the good guys in the war.

  16. William Fay August 2, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    An interesting topic Jude, but the reality is unionism is not not going to ingratiate itself with republicanism in the near future. It is nigh on impossible for two total opposite strands of the spectrum to entwine.
    The main role of Irish republicanism is the destruction of the NI state! a position that is the opposite of what unionism stands for. Since partition republicans have both through direct violence, boycott, refusal to participate in the workings of the general state, attempted to make the country ungovernable. Add to this the intrangible nature of early unionism, and one was left with a deeply divided state.
    Adams, McGuinness, Kelly and the rest were deeply involved in terrorism, and refuse to indicate the level of their activity. There is now a plethora of open source primary and secondary material that gives one a general idea of how deep they were immersed in terrorist activity. Now does McGuinness really expect to walk along the corridors of Stormont and receive plaudits from unionism because he isn’t killing them any more. Maybe Gerry, when he was in charge of the IRA in Belfast, fell into a two year slumber, and the numerous atrocities that happened during his watch were the fault of others.
    It is no use continually pointing a finger at myself and others and accusing us of being resentful, bitter, etc. the reality is a quick fix of 16 years will not cure all, a lot more time will be needed in order to heal the open wounds. I have spent time in the Benelux countries, investigating the post war years and even in the late 90s, there was still a widespread suspicious of and hostility towards Germans. We really will need the passing of three generations before you can really look at how the passage of time may have allowed the positions of the communities to have changed.
    Is there reason to suppose that violent republicanism will once again appear if their goal is not reached, unfortunately there is history to suggest that, and the paradoxical rise of violent loyalism.
    What is happening in Stormont at the present time is the governments attempt to heal a festering wound with a sticking plaster. Consociationalism is a well tried and failed concept that only results in the strong becoming stronger, and makes it more difficult to attain middle ground. It is quite interesting to read one of your bloggers criticising unionists for not moving towards the Alliance party, perhaps that may be something that unionists might suggest in relation to republicanism.
    Please do not continually put the responsibility for all the ills at the door of unionism, they certainly are not faultless but the blame game works both ways.

    Regards
    William

    • Micheal August 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      I haven’t witnessed Martin McGuinness shunning any of the Loyalists, sorry I mean Unionists even though they were leading members of the Vanguard and as for Unionists seeing the IRA as terrorists, well, yes I suppose in their eyes they were but Nationalists would and do continue to see the RUC, the Vanguard, the UDR, the UVF, the UDA, the UFF, the UPRG, the YCV, the Red Hand Commando, and the various other not so well known Loyalist paramilitary groupings as terrorists. Just as some Loyalists, very few these days, for some reason see these groupings as their ‘protesters’. Nationalists viewed the IRA as such. To use the word ‘terrorism’ in the North of Ireland these days should only be used in the context of dissident Republicans. The days of calling Sinn Fein ‘IRA/Sinn Fein’ are long past and if the few who continue to label them as such refuse to cease labeling them as such then they will be left behind. The refusal of Unionism to move forward with the rest of the North just shows their own inability to accept change and their ability to halt processes if it isn’t to their own unjustified liking.

      • William Fay August 5, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

        What a poor response Michael!

  17. Maurice August 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    At the end of the day it appears that it all boils down to unionists having difficulty with accepting equality with their nationalist neighbours. I empathise when they feel they are constantly giving yet feel they get nothing in return. But they have to wake up to the reality that it is noting more than a rebalancing of our society in the North. If my experience was one if growing up within a superiority ruling class aka; sure and certain Jobs for my children, uncontested political political power, oppressive legislation to ensure against change and the entitlement of a one culture state my experience today would be one of fear, threat and undermining of my status quo. Why wouldn’t I resist this type of change. Until Unionism and its population understands and accepts that recognition of nationalist existence as an equally important part of our shared future then we shall never truly move forward. Demographics have changed and Unionists will never get a better opportunity than now to ensure their culture and traditions are secured under the future Ireland whether that be remaining as part of the UK or as an entity within a new Ireland

  18. ANOTHER JUDE August 3, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    William,
    You make some good points about the nature of Republicanism and how it exists to destroy the six county state. You are quite correct, but using a word like terrorism in a northern context is pointless, to Nationalists the RUC/UDR/British army were terrorists, they might have been receiving a pay packet from the state but they were still terrorists.The Nationalists regard them the same way you would look at the IRA.

  19. paddykool August 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    I think both William and Another Jude have made some really fine comments.They are realistic , anyway..The problem is , we can’t give our politicians any more dithering time . If we ever want stability of any kind we will have to use a stick on them rather than a carrot . They can’t hide now .People are more cynical and demand results from well-paid representatives . To keep running us through the Groundhog Years is not going to be good enough.
    We know they are on opposing sides ..So what? Tories are on a different game than Labour but they have to work together. There are many things that i didn’t want Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair to get involved in and sometimes they both needed a sound kick up the arse to remind them that we are their employers. They both involved themselves in forays that brought death to many people but we had to get on with it anyway, The same holds true for republicans and unionists.

    We’re in a post agreement game now and as far as I’m concerned this is their last chance to sort things out without the threat of future violence .At the moment it is unionism that is lagging behind in the simple courtesies of politics. they have so much to learn it is almost unbelievable. If they think that their actions are spotless in the past , they must be either insane or completely unknowing. Madness doesn’t begin to describe it really. We need politicians from the unionist side who are brave enough to do politics and then let the cards fall where they may . Should that be like the Scottish referendum or not it will be purely politics outworkings and nothing else.

  20. Sean August 4, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

    The problem is that the GFA was sold to different people as different things. Unionists believed that the GFA was the I.R.A. being defeated and Republicans were being dragged to the peace table to accept their place in the U.K.. Remember that initially SDLP were the first choice and S.F. quite a ways behind them. Nationalists were sold the GFA as a quick route to a united Ireland…none of which turned out to be true for either side

  21. Alan August 11, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    Unionism is an ideology in Ireland that will eventually be defeated at the ballot box. There’s no point trying to make peace with “Unionism” when Republicanism is its direct enemy. On the ground basic human interaction between Catholics and Protestants will draw the poison from relationships in northern society. The two political ideologies will never be friends. Unionism for the sake of Ireland must be defeated and then the whole country can put the past behind us and move on. That won’t happen while the northern state exists because Unionism will be clinging on to the past until the last day and Republicanism will be its direct enemy.