So can we stop falling over ourselves in a headlong rush to jump into every elephant trap set for us by Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams’ continuous loop guff about the inevitability of unification? If you set so much store by symbols then don’t be surprised if Sinn Fein keeps gnawing away at the symbols. I don’t need a Union Flag at the City Hall to let me know I’m still in the United Kingdom (and I didn’t even know it used to fly there all the year round). Conversely, no amount of restricting the flying of the flag is shifting Sinn Fein one inch closer to Irish unity.
Let’s be clear about this. British symbols matter: and they matter most to Sinn Fein. They matter to Sinn Fein because they are a daily reminder that Sinn Fein and the IRA have failed to do what they say on their particular tin. Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is going to continue to remain in the United Kingdom.
So the Unionist Forum (and I really did prefer Peter’s original title of a Council for the Union) needs to focus on that: focus on a campaign of promoting the Union, encouraging voters, encouraging new vehicles, opening channels of communication to every potential pro-Union community, deconstructing Sinn Fein propaganda and, most important of all, building the confidence of those unionists who feel they are on the losing side.
If, instead, the Forum becomes a vehicle for allowing the DUP and UUP to promote their own electoral interests – while trying to buy off some of the more unruly elements of loyalism – then it will do a great disservice to the very cause they claim to champion.
And, in the meantime, there’s a journey to be undertaken…