Stormont needs to raise itself above the level of events

If nothing else the flags trouble has exposed the dearth of genuine engagement over  grievances that are the expressions of low morale. They’re not all about making  excuses for rioting and grabbing fifteen minutes of fame with egregious and calculated exercises of disinformation and distortion. I’ve listed below two sets of grievances carried in separate Newsletter reports arising out of the disturbances.  Whatever you may think of them and their spokespersons, it has to be admitted that they have remained in the file marked “pending” for far too long. And of course there are nationalist and republican lists, rural lists and west of the Bann lists and yes, even your own personal list which perhaps we might reserve for your own post.

Lots of effort and expenditure has been put into East Belfast and other parts of the city and it’s facile to lay all the blame on the political class. But politicians generally should surely realise that too little has been achieved in all these areas for far too long. Ironically one of the main obstacles standing the way is the  sort of protest and limited analysis which has once more brought them to the surface.  Stormont needs to transform itself into a genuine forum where these chronic issues are thrashed out. “Empowerment”  is jargon  but there is a good idea within it.

Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland’s list is more on the present and the present’s verdict on the past

Ex-servicemen say that Stormont proves that the bad guys won;

:: There is a feeling that unionists should have been delivered more than this;

:: It is almost impossible for people to get new social housing in their own areas;

:: High levels of unemployment and educational underachievement.

“There has been substantial investment in east Belfast but the psychological feeling of people is akin to mass depression, as reflected in benefits claimant levels and suicide rates.

“East Belfast is not a happy place. Ex-security force personnel see those who were, for many years, intent on killing them, and in some cases their families, now at Stormont. They feel that they fought a war within the law and that those they fought against are now placed in authority over them. The republicans simply see it as a continuation of that war.”

 Jim Wilson has emerged as an habitual interviewee. He’s described as “an East Belfast community worker, former Red Hand Commando internee from 1973..  and a former member of the UVF-linked Progressive Unionist Party. His grievances mentioned here are more about dealing with the past.

the Parades Commission;

– the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team (HET);

– and those mechanisms which see the security forces quizzed for their conduct during the Troubles while republicans remain largely unaccountable.

only 48 per cent of unionists voted at a local polling station in a recent election.

inquiry after inquiry for republicans and apologies from British Prime Ministers but none of it ever being good enough”.

And now they are trying to charge members of the security forces [after the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday]. The HET last year had 92 people on their list and 89 of them were Protestants. How does that balance? The flags issue was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

inquiry after inquiry for republicans and apologies from British Prime Ministers but none of it ever being good enough”.

He continues: “And now they are trying to charge members of the security forces [after the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday]. The HET last year had 92 people on their list and 89 of them were Protestants. How does that balance? The flags issue was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Willie Frazer’s list is similar. On the Republic’s part in the Troubles which is one of Willie Frazer’s preoccupations, Henry McDonald of the Guardian offers his own viewpoint in the  Bel Tel that:

While the flag furore appears to be manufactured hysteria – especially given that the policy switch at the City Hall makes no difference to UK sovereignty over Northern Ireland – paradoxically Frazer and those who will travel south with him have, perhaps, a more justifiable grievance.

They can argue, with some historical evidence, that the southern state has still not properly addressed its role in the Troubles. Unionist victims’ groups will charge that the southern Irish political class is more concerned about controversial killings, such as the Pat Finucane murder, which the Irish government is still not satisfied has been thoroughly and independently examined, than the dozens of killings carried out in the name of the republic by the IRA and INLA.

Unionist suspicions – tapped into of late by hardline loyalists – that their community’s victims are lower down the scale of Dublin’s priorities have some foundation in reality.

Henry says the present administration have a defence,  but it is” still shrouded in secrecy” and should now be unveiled. It’s inevitable that as the protests lengthen, so does the list of grievances. The Troubles grievances may be rooted in older generations but memory can be inherited by the younger. They are all reminders of how limited has been the genuine sharing of experience about the past and the present and of the need to do better.

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