Nesbitt,spin doctor general of Official Unionism addressed
the annual Parnell summer school in Co.Wicklow recently.
In his lecture he launched a broadside at the Sinn
Fein leadership squarely laying the collapse of the
Stormont institutions at the feet of the Provisional
IRA. In a blatant attempt to deflect the heat from
the raging crisis within the Ulster Unionist party
unfortunate side-show that some in my party are
determined to continue cannot mask some simple facts.
that the difficulty the
agreement is in is almost entirely due to the behaviour
of paramilitaries in general and republicans in
spin point one was completed he proceeded to berate
Gerry Adams and Martin Mc Guinness for their abysmal
failure to end the existence of the Provisionals.
After this he told us that people voted for the Belfast
agreement in order to do advance exclusively democratic
methods and end paramilitarism forever.
far and for the rest of his lecture he told us nothing
we had not already known. Mr. Nesbitts comments
were, as ever, rational and his adherence
to the doctrine of David Trimble was plain for all
to hear. That these comments were inherently flawed
did not seem to trouble him at all.
fact is that the Belfast agreement was sold to the
people of Ireland as an opportunity to end violence
in the North forever. It came on the back of a five
year cycle of atrocities beginning with the Shankhill
bomb and Greysteel, ten years ago in 1993. As a public
relations exercise linked to a live political treaty,the
agreement is unsurpassed in Irish political history.
In terms of actual content it holds little more than
a rehash of the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1985, which
in turn was copied from the Sunningdale accord of
1974. Over 70% of the island voted in favour of the
Good Friday Agreement on a crest of emotion
bolstered by luminaries like Van Morrison
and Bono, and woe betide the horned devils of any
persuasion who disagreed.
I do not have to remind anyone who scuppered the 1974
and 1985 treaties.
by April 1998 a genuine need to end the tit-for- tat
violence in the six counties is not in doubt. The
most appealing aspect of the agreement was that at
last there was a real desire from mainstream politics
to bring the IRA and violent Loyalism in from the
cold, of course this was matched equally by the Provisionals
engagement in talks that eventually lead to their
first ceasefire in August 1994, it would take Loyalism
several more months to follow suit.
to this that Loyalist forces in collusion with the
British and Northern Irish security forces were making
severe inroads into the IRA and randomly killing catholics,
in turn undermining the on the ground auxillary support
for the Provos in traditionally republican areas,
undoubtedly had an effect in persuading mainstream
republicans to engage in dialogue.
point I am making here is that whilst Trimbles
party smoulders around him he sends supposedly moderate
and affable figures like Nesbitt into areas that only
a few years ago would have been considered anathema,
to demonize nationalists and republicans alike. County
Wicklow was home to Irelands most demonized
nationalist of all time. Himself a Protestant, Charles
Stewart Parnell was sacrificed at the alter of expediency
by Pro-Unionist politicians when the idea of home
rule neared actualisation.
Belfast agreement was supposedly also all about a
little phrase entitled parity of esteem.
It was about recognition and acceptance of cultural
and political identity. It was supposed to legitimise
and decriminalise the nationalist and republican aspiration
for a thirty county Ireland; whilst Sinn Fein committed
idelogical suicide by recognising the principle of
consent and did the unthinkable by administering British
rule in the state that they had spent thirty years
trying to violently dismantle.
point here is that it is one thing to speak of democracy
in action it is another to genuinely want to see it
work. At every turn Official Unionism has whined and
shifted the goal posts when it looked as if the Good
Friday Agreement was going to be implemented
to any decent extent. This is due in no small part
to the internal power wrangling which has been incessant
within the UUP since Trimble paraded hand in hand
with Paisley along Garvaghey Road in 1995, and used
this to steal the party leaders job from their
heir apparent John Taylor, aka Lord Kilclooney. Perhaps
this is an apt time to remind Mr. Nesbitt that the
UUP is a political party that has retained a block
vote on its executive council for the Orange
Order, an overtly sectarian organisation whose mirky
influence resists all appeal for reform and still
reaches into the highest eccelons of the political
and security establishment in the six counties.
all its flaws Nationalism, in its various modes
of expression is a dynamic and progressive ideology.
It follows a purpose, a definitive end. In this case
it is a united Ireland. The raison detre of
Unionism is an archaic insistence on the retention
of the Union with a nation whom I suspect does not
want them anyway. Its neo-colonial attitude
is at the very least one century out touch with the
reality of modern Europe. The constant yearning to
be returned to the days of monolithic rule from 1921
to 1972 echoes through every antiquated piece of rhetoric,
just like the quotes of former minister Nesbitt.
was in that fifty year period that the Unionists periodically
cried wolf about IRA plots when nationalists dared
to chip at the granite walls of the Government of
Ireland Act, 1920, that contained within its remit
the Special Powers Act. I need not remind you why
Stormont was again suspended again this time. Despite
the ethics of IRA campaigns, Unionism nutured that
particular viper in its own bosom.
Provisionals military war is over, they have invested
too much in the agreement to ever return to violence
again. The British know this, as do the Irish government.
More importantly the Unionists know it too.What happens
if full decommissioning happens tomorrow?
the PIRA disbands tomorrow, will dissident
republicans then carry the can for Unionist paranoia?
can the goalposts be shifted to then, Mr.Nesbitt?
would venture to suggest that a request to seek order
in the house of Unionism before criticising anyone
elses,far from perfect as they are, would fall on
deaf UUP ears.
ridiculous spectacle of Trimble scurrying around the
six counties seeking support from majorly disaffected
constituency troops will do little to save his hide
this time from a truly severe lashing within his party.
survival this time is extremely doubtful. If however
he extends his run to a tenth life,the party will
be so split as to have Carson spinning in his grave.
highly annoying facet of this agreement is the fact
that although it appears wholly unworkable, that all
participants are dependent on the cohesion of their
political parties. In reality no elections will be
forthcoming to resurrect this corpse unless there
is a cohesive UUP, this is true whether there is a
change in leadership or not. This in itself is evidence
that at the end of the day a British government is
still a British government. It also shows that Sinn
Feins acceptance of the agreement has clamped them
firmly by the theoretical short and curlies. In their
eagerness to play big boys politics they have found
that they still are the political whipping boys, the
scapegoats for Unionist intransigence and political
young cousin of mine recently completed his undergraduate
degree in politics. In the course of his dissertation
he tackled the still prickly issue of the IRA spilt
in 1970. I use the word prickly because when he approached
several senior Derry Provisionals for comment on the
issue, he was given very short shrift.
reason for this is because the Provisionals now find
themselves in a comparable position to that of the
Officials, except that they have after
thirty years of war signed an agreement, that as John
Taylor said had copper-fastened the union.
However he did contact a former political activist
within the Official movement and was given
a gem of a treatise on this and other issues. The
interviewee was Derry socialist, Eamonn Melaugh.
asked for his analysis of Unionism both now and then
he said that he had always believed Unionism to be
a one legged giant
..very easy to topple.
is an definitely an end game in sight in all of this.
However it will either be the end of Trimble, the
UUP as a serious Unionist standard bearer, or the
end of the agreement if Donaldson et al get their
irony is that at Sinn Fein meetings all over Ireland
they must be holding their breath in the hope that
Trimble does survive. Better the devil you know and
all that. At the coalface Sinn Fein will say that
they are willing to deal with anyone, to talk with
anyone in order to resolve this crisis that they have
carried the can for. This verbal altruism is admirable
Machiavellian double speak, for we dont care
as long as Unionism topples, at least that is what
they will tell their rank and file!
I have already said they have placed too much in the
pot to go back down the warpath again. Proof of this
was last weeks decision by Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel
Mc Laughlin to decree he would not stand in the forthcoming
European Election in favour of a crack at the Foyle
seat in the next Westminster Election. Times have
upon subterfuge has led us all to this unbearable
point of stagnancy, a void which should not be filled
however by placing any adherence to the pursuance
of a frankly stupid reliance on further republican
violence. However that does not mean that former fellow
travellers have the right to speak in detrimental
terms against those they refer to as dissidents.
In 1970,who were the dissidents? Where did the dissidents
of 1970 lead us, except back up the hill to Stormont
have noted recently with some amusement that Sinn
Fein have jumped on the bandwagon with regard to the
issue of segregation for republican prisoners. Aware
perhaps that this issue is spiralling out of control
and to ignore it any longer would be political folly.
They are concerned that if this issue does continue
to get worse, that firstly they will loose face within
their hinterlands by being seen not to act on it.
It could also prove to be a bone of contention within
the party rank and file and lastly also could be a
vote winner, as it provides an oppurtunity to demonstrate
that they are still a radical republican party. This
is irrespective of the fact of their constant on the
ground harassment of other republican groupings.
the jostling for position on the peaks of moral mountain
wind wearily onwards, as usual it is left to the voting
public to suffer the consequences of verbal earache
from the childer in the playground who
have the answers at their fingertips if they really
want this agreement to work. The greatest irony is
that Sinn Fein need it to work or face complete political
annihilation, because as I have already said they
cannot go back to war, after compromising the Provos
to such an extent. The UUP see that it just might
work and risk the same political consequences in this
perverse reversal of circumstances.
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