do Robert McCartney and Anthony McIntyre have in common?
(Apart from no hope of being the next MP for North
Down). Answer: they both reject the Good Friday Agreement
on religious grounds.
adds the Agreements various vectors together,
and notes that the result points South. This isnt
The One True Unionism.
analyses Sinn Feins rhetorical somersaulting,
and notes that somebody has his beard caught in the
border. This isnt The One True Republicanism.
do you know what? It doesnt matter. Because
Bob and Anto are both logic-chopping their way up
an ivory tower. Theology is not politics.
and Unionism, in their purest forms, have
highly religious characteristics. Both employ prophets,
saviours and martyrs. Both celebrate a history of
suffering. Both can be reduced to a list of unbreakable
commandments. And ultimately, both require a leap
of faith into the circular arguments that support
debate between true believers often resembles some
medieval monastic disputation over how many angels
can dance on the head of a pin. Within the terms of
such debates, the internal logic even promises each
participant a right answer. So instead
of having politics as the art of the possible, Northern
Ireland has politics as the defence of Absolute Truth
- which keeps our individual green and orange souls
pure, but collectively damns us.
Good Friday Agreement turns this contradiction around,
by offering salvation through heresy. Republicans
sit in Stormont. Unionists work with Sinn Fein. Dublin
gets an input by dropping its claim. As the mortal
sins stack up, the religious convictions fall down.
Real politics begins to occur, real hope is possible,
and the screams of the True Believers get drowned
out by the choir. This was what we voted for, right?
Agreement has worked so far, despite its own contradictions,
because it treats both our traditions
for what they are: not true faiths, just rival denominations.
It puts our respective heavens on indefinite hold,
underlines the bits of our respective Bibles that
contradict each other, and generally pees in the font.
Bob and Anto call it blasphemy - I call it reality.
is dawning for Unionists with the realisation that
the British government hasnt a single article
of faith in its pretty little head. Were being
gently shunted South, and Tony Blair will say whatever
it takes to smooth things over - in fact hell
even write it down. But any Unionist pious enough
to treat such statements as scripture will soon learn
the difference between religion and politics. To stay
British, Northern Ireland must become more Irish.
is dawning for Republicans with the realisation that
Northern Ireland exists, will probably outlast them
all in some form or another, and has to be made to
work. Therell be no united Ireland without a
united Northern Ireland.
not like the Agreement invented paradox and self-deception
here, it just makes use of them. Britain has never
believed in the Union: now it doesnt have to.
The Republic always planned to wait the Northern
question out: now it can pass that cowardice
off as tolerance. Unionists have always at heart been
simply Northern Ireland nationalists: now Northern
Ireland seems much more like a nation.
And of course Sinn Fein operated an absurd double
standard for the past 30 years: another few years
wont kill them - and hopefully wont kill
anyone else either.
who cares if Edward Carson and Michael Collins are
spinning in their graves? Therell be plenty
of time to reflect on our impiety when were
all as dead - of old age - as they are.
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives