I was on a radio discussion with nice Alex Kane last Sunday, and although I didn’t think it at the time, I was told by several people we clashed fairly resoundingly.
The essential point was whether Sinn Féin were doing the right thing by unionists. It seemed to me that they were but Alex begged to differ. If they were doing the right thing, he said, they would apologise to unionists for the actions of republicans over the period of the Troubles. If they were doing the right thing, they would state publicly that only when/if ever a majority of unionists in the north agreed to constitutional change would it come about.
My response was Holy God, Alex. If republicans and republicans alone apologise, this boxes them into a corner where they appear to be saying 'We were in the wrong all along. We were just a group of thousands of criminals who went on a killing spree for several decades'. If apologies were to be handed in, they should be handed in simultaneously by ALL parties to the conflict. No hierarchies please, Alex.
The other point, about the need to announce that only when a majority of unionists had agreed to constitutional change should it happen: that’s not what was signed up to in the Good Friday Agreement. It explicitly talks about a majority in Northern Ireland, not a majority of unionists. So why sign up to something and then start demanding stricter terms? Besides which, I know there are republicans who would be willing to wait until a majority of unionists were agreeable to constitutional change, but that’s another matter.
And please, people, we’re talking here about the road towards constitutional change, not how far there may or may not be to travel.
I really do like Alex, but he occasionally adopts some very odd positions for a rational, intelligent man.