Thursday, 4 February 2010
Two little boys and the police
Is that light I see? Or the sun streaming through a hole in Peter Robinson’s head, put there by his ever-faithful MLAs? The temptation is to see the wearisome sight of the DUP dragging its wounded-animal carcass towards the finishing line as good news. (Note to self: we’ll have to get some fresh metaphors soon – the present ones stink of overuse.) But actually that’d be too optimistic. The only two worthwhile questions to ask are (i) Will the DUP ever become a truly power-sharing partner in office with Sinn Fein; and (ii) Will the brooding Jim Allister’s party eventually eclipse the DUP, as the DUP eclipsed the Ulster Unionists?
The answer to (i), I’m becoming more and more convinced, is No. Evidence, if evidence were needed, was supplied by Ian Óg Paisley this morning. He was debating with Lil Alex Attwood about the PSNI, as it is at present and as it should become. Lil Alex was saying how improved the figure for Catholics in the ranks was - 28% from less than 10% ten years ago - but that in the clerical staff ranks it was still only 11% Catholic, up from 8% ten years ago. Ian Óg was not impressed. The problem as he saw it was that over 2,000 Protestants had been deprived of the jobs that were rightly theirs in the PSNI because those jobs had been taken by Catholics.
I didn’t hear Ian Óg talking about the Parades Commission and the rights of Orangemen to troop their sectarian colours where they will, but after this morning I can see there’s no need for him to do so. There’s a perfect match-up between the problem with Orange parades – It’s the fenians’ fault, refusing to allow decent Protestants to walk the Queen’s Highway – and the problem of PSNI recruitment – It’s the fenians’ fault, refusing to allow decent Protestants to take their rightful place in ‘our police service’.
Mercifully, you have a choice in reacting to all this. You can feel depressed that we live in a state where the largest party (at present) hopes to thrive by slapping down the Orange card. Alternatively you can feel happy that the sectarian nature of that card and its use becomes clearer by the day.
As for whether Jim Allister’s TUV will ever eclipse the DUP: I don’t think so. Paisley’s smile was bad (remember those great stagtites of spittle that Ian Knox used to draw in his Irish News cartoons?) but Allister’s ghastly rictus is a grimace too far, surely, for the decent unionist people of this state.