Relationships are a funny thing. Sometimes you can have one partner who wants to dominate and the other partner who wants to be agreeable. Which is the more commendable? On the face of it you’d say the one who wants to be agreeable. But hold. This can mean that Partner No. 2 concedes and concedes, believing it’s the only way to harmony. Not good thinking. Because when that happens, not only does the dominant partner get encouraged to go on dominating, s/he grows in contempt for what soon comes to be considered as spineless Partner No 2.
Which is why I am pleased to see two decisions being taken in recent days.
The first is the response of the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents’ Association (CARA) to the recent Orange Order offer. Listen guys, just you let a few of us march past those shops and know what? We’ll sit down and start talking to you about future marches. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except that it’s actually saying “Join us in showing your contempt for the Parades Commission and its rulings”. It’s saying “Give us what we want and you don’t want, and we’ll talk to you about what we want in the future”. Joe Marley of CARA responded in the best way possible: “I think it would be insane for the Parades Commission to overrule their original determination. What I would say to the Parades Commission is do not capitulate to unionist/loyalist violence, the threat of violence, intimidation and law-breaking, because that’s what’s occurring here on a nightly basis since the 12th of July”.
And if you don’t believe Marley about the threats of unionist/loyalist violence, ask yourself this: why did the Orange Order not turn up to its arranged meeting with the media recently? Instead they were replaced by some unionist politicians and several members of the UDA and the UVF. Which was about as subtle as a raised club.
The second decision that is good for everyone is that taken by Sinn Féin on the Long Kesh/Maze site's future development. Martin McGuinness in so many words said “No peace centre, no economic development”. That’s a sensible stand for at least two reasons. One, because the architect of the peace centre has publicly declared that, particularly given his own background, he would have nothing to do with the construction of a ‘shrine to terrorism’. So that oft-cited claim can be binned. And two, because Peter Robinson and his colleagues sorely need reminding that when you commit yourself to something, give your word, you’re supposed to keep it. Were Sinn Féin to roll over on this one on the grounds that they want to develop good relations with unionism, they’d simply be encouraging Robinson and Co to pull similar stuff whenever and wherever they felt like it. But that hasn't happened.
Who knows? Out of these sensible refusals may well grow a smidgin of realism, next time unionism (in whatever form) comes to the table.