Let’s cut to the heart of the Bobby Storey brouhaha. Unionist indignation – Gregory Campbell flabbergasted, Arlene Foster calling on the Chief Constable of the PSNI to resign – is rooted in the fact that Storey was a leading republican and there were clear and public signs that the entire community from which he came honoured him and paid their last respects. Sin é.
It’s not concern for public health, the possible spreading of the Covid-19 virus, the pain caused to other families. None of those are the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is that Bobby Storey’s funeral was an orderly, dignified tribute to a man seen as an outstanding republican.
Not that the outcry isn’t understandable. Put yourself in Gregory or Arlene’s shoes – of course you’re going to be flabbergasted, of course you’re going to want the Chief Constable fired. Those involved in the funeral have not been prosecuted, and in Gregory and Arlene’s book, that’s just no good. Twelfth marches, commemorative stones for the establishment of partition, a huge statue of unionist champion Carson in front of the power-sharing Stormont building – those things are not a problem, because unionism ran the show and unionism sees itself as still running the show. Which is what makes Bobby Storey’s funeral stick in the craw. The various people who claim unequal treatment in the way they were treated at Roselawn – they’re genuine I’m sure, and so is their sense of loss. But essentially such people are sideshows. The beating heart of all this is that there was a huge public honouring of a leading republican figure.
Psst – Gregory, Arlene. Let it go. You’re only prolonging the pain that the powerful always feel when the opposition stands up and says “Hey. We live and die here too.” Hard to take, I know, but best accepted and learnt from – if that’s possible for you.