I see where Derry unionist politicians are being true to the spirit of their forebears. At the council meeting on Monday night, Sinn Féin’s Kevin Campbell was appointed mayor, with the UUP’s Mary Hamilton as deputy mayor. To say Ms Hamilton took up her new post with grace and dignity would be to stretch the truth. She saw fit instead to reject any move by Councillor Campbell to put the chain of office on her and got the Council’s chief executive to do it instead. Not to be outdone, the outgoing DUP mayor, Maurice Devenney, didn’t put the chain of office on the new mayor. Devenney said “I wouldn’t get too worried about this as this is normal”.
I suppose it all depends on what you think of as normal. Back in the 1950s, it was normal for the Derry council to be manipulated and gerrymandered so that the unionist one-third of the population somehow managed to have two-thirds of the council seats. That was back in the days when to say you’d been to a Catholic school at an interview meant you could forget about getting that job, and where discrimination in terms of housing eventually sparked the Civil Rights movement.
In fact, here’s an interesting question for Councillor Devenney or Councillor Hamilton: if the Civil Rights movement hadn’t been started, what would this little corner of ours look like today? Judging by Monday night’s shenanigans, exactly as it was in the 1950s and ‘60s. Would Derry City Council be a model of fairness and friendliness? Would jobs and housing be awarded on the basis of ability and need? Not if you look at the operation today of those councils throughout the north where a unionist majority operate.
Where there is a nationalist/republican majority, as in Derry, the major posts are revolved, in line with representation. In short, power is shared. In those where unionists are a majority…forget it. In council after council throughout the north where unionists dominate, power-sharing doesn’t come into it. In fact there are unionist councillors throughout the north who respond to openness and power-sharing by continuing to drag their feet and block the exercise of power by nationalists/republicans wherever possible. Last Monday in Derry was a good example of how they react to power-sharing. All this more than fourteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
You’d think there’d be a media uproar, wouldn’t you? Here we have this stark contrast between the actions – not words, actions – of nationalist/republican-majority councils and those dominated by unionists. Yet the media, ever alert to snubs to QE2 and past actions by republicans, fail to cross-examine or even question unionist politicians and councillors who hold this not-an-inch attitude. Or maybe the media have decided to dodge this one. Walk on tiptoe past the issue, let the gorilla go on sitting on the sofa scratching itself. Life’s easier that way.