If the Lord Mayor of Belfast got a jostling yesterday, the DUP gave itself a thorough kicking.
Two parks, two reactions. At Dunville Park sunshine, the Lord Mayor sliding down the chute, Nelson McCausland and Gavin Robinson standing by as people listened, applauded, went about their normal business and youngsters enjoyed their play. At Woodvale Park, a vociferous knot of people, clutching their glossy placards telling ‘Miller’ he wasn’t wanted there; the PSNI officers trying to form a human chain to protect the Lord Mayor; a melée as the manipulated knot pressed in, shouted abuse, aimed kicks and punches, leaving the Lord Mayor and eight PSNI officers in need of hospital treatment.
There are two terrible temptations. One is to focus on the knot of abusers and kickers; the other is to forget about the unionist politicians. The abusers and kickers share...well, not a lot, really, in the literal sense. Their traditional self-concept as superior to their Catholic neighbours has slipped away, along with jobs and the possibility of a life where they have a representative voice in the world of officialdom. The temptation - and I’ve yielded to it myself - is to see them as violent thugs, full stop.
That’s a mistake. Why did McCausland and Robinson receive a civilized reception in Dunville Park? Because the republican leadership had persuaded the people there that peaceful means are the best to follow, that bridging the chasm between communities makes more sense than attacks on fellow-Irishmen and women. Why did Mairtin O Muilleoir receive a violent reception at Woodvale? Because the unionist leadership has seen fit to let its people remain mired in the past, has in fact encouraged them to see moves towards equality as an attack on their ‘culture’. The DUP’s reaction to the attack, where they blamed the victim, said it all.
So what are we left with? In the Shankill, a people whose leaders have left them stuck in the sludge of yesteryear, have encouraged them in attitudes that end with shouted platitudes and mindless attacks.
Since we’ve been on a football theme for some days now, let’s end on one. Yesterday the DUP scored a spectacular own goal and their club went into political administration.