“Fewer of us see ourselves as Orange or Green – instead we worry about dissidents stirring up fear by naming a park after a hunger striker, or stand-offs about parades...”
That’s a balanced comment from a Belfast Telegraph commentator, making it clear that we’re learning to move away from tired traditional allegiances and rejecting the ‘extremists’ on both sides. What a pity there aren’t more taking that attitude, eh?
But hold on a minute. What about this comment?
“Within loyalism and the UVF there are clearly people who are not just aggravated by the issue around flags or parades. They’re aggravated by me and Sinn Féin being in government. They’re opposed to the political institutions - there’s an inability of a minority within loyalism to accept the concept of equality”
That was Martin McGuinness in an interview with David McKitterick of The Independent (no, not the Irish Independent - are you kidding? The London Independent). It paints a slightly different picture from the Belfast Telegraph piece, wouldn’t you say?
So let’s look a little closer at that Bel Tel piece. The claim that more of us are seeing ourselves as something other than Orange or Green certainly isn’t reflected in voting figures, otherwise the Alliance Party’s leader David Ford would be looking a lot more cheerful than he does. And that naming of a play-park after a hunger-striker - how is that “stirring up fear”? The columnist doesn’t say but the usual line is that Raymond McCreesh was found in possession of a weapon used in the Kingsmill massacre. Get the implication? That McCreesh was involved in the Kingsmill massacre. Which conveniently overlooks the fact that during the Troubles, weapons moved around. The gun used in one attack often turned up later in an unrelated incident. In short, the ’fear’ the Bel Tel piece talks of has at best shaky foundations.
Now let’s look at the McGuinness interview. Are there people in loyalism and the UVF who are aggravated by Mr McGuinness and Sinn Féin in government? You bet there are. And there’s more. The full truth is that virtually all DUP representatives, and probably a few UUP, are aggravated by Mr McGuinness and his party being in government. In fact quite a few unionist politicians still find it impossible to be civil in the presence of Sinn Féin politicians. This despite the fact that they spent decades lecturing republicans on the need to adopt the democratic path, seek a mandate from the public. So when republicanism enters politics and gets a whopping mandate, what’s the reaction? Sullen resentment and minimal co-operation from unionism.
Why does all this matter? Because there’s a lie, a big fat porky pie that gets repeated and repeated in the mainstream media, until even when we know it’s a lie we begin to think maybe it’s true. That lie is that there are equal faults on both sides, and the path to the future is to move away from both. Uh-uh. No political party is perfect, but the equal distribution of blame is a cop-out. One example: unionism has been convulsed with outrage over that republican march through Castlederg ( a majority-nationalist town, incidentally), to the point where Peter Robinson went back on his word about the peace centre in Long Kesh/The Maze. What else could he do, when these people were daring to commemorate men of violence, even honour them? Contrast that attitude with the attitude of the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin O Muilleoir, who has backed the idea of lighting up in red Belfast City Hall on Remembrance Day. So to commemorate republican dead is a deal-breaking outrage, a show of contempt for victims and unionists; commemorating British dead is accepted by republicans and even facilitated by the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor.
When the day comes that the mainstream media reject this dumb-ass notion of a balance of bigotry, the sooner we’ll be able to address reality and, who knows, resolve our differences. Meanwhile if the dumb-ass version of events forms the foundations of the Haas talks, then the House of Haas is doomed.