Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process

Thu 31 January 2013, 12:27am

Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney is back in the February issue of An Phoblacht with a bit of a lecture for unionism as well as an extended call for inclusive talks to advance reconciliation as the next phase of the peace process. It’s an issue that also contains Gerry Adams response to Kilsally’s blog post on Slugger about the border poll, Adams’ concerns that Arlene Foster (along with everyone else on the island) “is not well served by partition”, as well as Gerry Kelly’s call for “calm and measured dialogue” that includes not only unionism but also “their nationalist and republican counterparts and neighbours”.

An Phoblacht title banner Feb 2013This morning there will be a lot of talk about what the Sinn Féin chairperson wrote and what he meant by what he wrote. To set that the sound bites, media reports and blog posts in some context, here are some extended extracts from his An Phoblacht article. If the article goes online on the paper’s website, I’ll update this post with a link.

Kearney’s article begins with an analysis of the protests in Belfast and beyond. He rejects the “simplistic assessment” that it is a “Groundhog Day scenario”.

At its core this impasse represents an anti-democratic backlash against the continuing change and transformation which the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) began and which the outworking of the political process and demographic changes are now reinforcing.

The ‘flag issue’ underlines the continuing opposition of many within the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party to progressive political and social change.

There are many lessons for us all in recent events. The main one for unionist leaders is that change is happening around you and in spite of you. Better for everyone that it was with you or even because of you. But that requires vision and a willingness and ability to compromise.

The GFA is replete with the language of equality, mutual respect, parity of esteem and rights protection. Yet, almost 15 years after that Agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed, North and South, neither leader of the two main unionist parties can bring themselves to discuss, let alone support, any of these principles.

Consequently, a small and unrepresentative minority from within the unionist community has been allowed to set the agenda on the streets for two months.

Kearney goes on to talk about compromise and in particular the Belfast City Hall flag-flying compromise.

Compromise doesn’t discriminate against one section of society: it benefits us all. Agreement to fly the Union flag over Belfast City Council on designated days is a compromise. It is not about winners and losers. Common ground found through democratic compromise sets a clear direction of travel. Forward, not back.

From the specifics of flags, Kearney moves to the more general subject of reconciliation and leadership to deal with the legacy of conflict.

Yet political unionism refuses to enter a proper dialogue on the development of a reconciliation process. It insists that the legacy of our past conflict poses questions only for republicans. It chooses to ignore the origins of the conflict or the roles and actions of the British state, their agencies and of unionism itself in our conflict.

The events of recent weeks starkly demonstrate our Peace Process cannot be taken for granted. It remains under threat from violent wreckers and militarists within unionism and nationalism. It needs to be defended with unequivocal and strong, united political leadership.

On victims and the need for dialogue:

There are many victims on all side … We may perceive, describe or prioritise this reality differently, but it is our reality. Demanding that Sinn Féin repudiates the IRA is as much a cul de sac as any expectation that political unionism will repudiate the B Specials, RUC and British Army. That becomes a blame game which resolves nothing …

Our future will remain contested for as long as we continue to contest the past and how far back it extends. So perhaps we should reflect on the value of trying to build a reconciliation process in the here and now, by setting aside recrimination, and by committing to replace the divisions caused by hurt inflicted during our political conflict with new human and political relationships …

Rather it is to advocate that the framework of political co-existence we have agreed is reenergised now with a process of dialogue about future relationships in this part of Ireland without prejudice to preferred constitutional positions or outcomes.

Dialogue could include discussion about symbols and emblems.

This engagement should deal with the reality of fear – real and imagined – and how we agree not to hold or use it against each other. It must also include proper discussion about identity and the public use of symbols and emblems.

Accusing republicans of cultural war is a propaganda ploy which merely seeks to avoid real discussion and promote old-style dominance.

Sinn Féin will guarantee parity of esteem for British and Irish identities.

Cross-party political leaderships’ agreement on a popular drive to eradicate sectarianism and segregation is essential. The alternative is an outcome which perpetuates a ‘them and us’ society, polarising all issues and attitudes. One-sided discussions on any or all of this are doomed to repeat the past.

So what needs to be agreed?

We need to collectively agree political processes which facilitate acknowledgement of the pain and resentment within all communities, the hurt done to us all and caused to others; processes which seek to acknowledge, and try to heal past hurt and injustices by what we do and say in the future, as political leaders and parties.

A new approach to how we manage our past will need to be underpinned by cross-community and cross-party support. Progress will depend upon the sensitivity, patience and wisdom of newly-emerging political relationships.

This idea may be met with suspicion or ridicule from some, including individuals with sincerely-held views but also by others who have sought to use the past as a weapon of recrimination or to damage or retard the political process.

There’s a reiteration of the Sinn Féin vision of an “international truth recovery process”.

Sinn Féin has argued that the only credible option to deal with the past is through an all-embracing, independent, international truth recovery process. We are the only party to put forward this position. To date, however, we have been non-prescriptive on the detail.

The reality is that victims and survivors on all sides want many different and often conflicting things … The implications for future inquiries, prosecutions, the role of the Historical Enquiries Team and other legal processes obviously need to be discussed out.

Inevitably, the implementation of any processes to deal with the legacy of the past will require discussions on issues such as prosecutions, amnesties, non-judicial processes, judicial processes with no prosecution, and the expunging of all criminal records arising from conflict-related offences.

The views of everyone need to be equally and fully included and heard.

Finally …

Can republicans, and unionists and the British state agree to face up to the implications of what that will mean in the here and now? And are we prepared to have inclusive party and cross-community discussions to agree the commonground principles which will advance reconciliation and the Peace Process, building upon what is already achieved? …

The longer this dialogue is postponed the more urgent if becomes. Notwithstanding how uncomfortable the conversation, decisions on these issues will be central to the future of the Irish Peace Process. Consensus is both essential and achievable. But courage from everyone is paramount.

There’s a lot more in the full article – available in newsagents and online.

The public reaction of unionism will be interesting. Aspects of the article restate familiar and settled elements enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement – though the current DUP leadership sometimes prefers to point to St Andrews than the earlier agreement the DUP voted against.

There seems to be little political appetite outside of Sinn Féin for any form of truth recovery process, never mind an independent and international one. And when the speed of progress on a Shared Future is already so glacial, can Sinn Féin really hope to start another front of negotiations around dealing with the past? And at the same time as pushing for a border poll to deal with the future?

Over to the pundits …

Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Delicious Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Digg Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Facebook Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Google+ Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on LinkedIn Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Pinterest Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on reddit Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on StumbleUpon Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Twitter Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Add to Bookmarks Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Email Share 'Declan Kearney on unionism, compromise, and building reconciliation as the next stage in the peace process' on Print Friendly

Comments (28)

  1. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Alan

    “The public reaction of unionism will be interesting.”

    The public reaction of most people will be a yawn.

    Another excursion by the little known placeman onto the territory of the past…

    And, no call for a border poll?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  2. Cric (profile) says:

    The most disappointing aspect of this entire article is that much of the seemingly published good sense is quoted directly from An Phoblacht – and despite some very decent logic being presented I just can’t accept information from a paper which has such a history of being horrendously propagandistic.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  3. David Crookes (profile) says:

    “The GFA is replete with the language of equality, mutual respect, parity of esteem and rights protection.”

    Here’s a word of advice for spokespersons of ANY party who want their manifesto for the future to elicit more than a yawn.

    Talk about real things, don’t condemn your readers to death by abstract noun, write in short sentences, and as far as possible use words of one or two syllables. (Don’t say REPLETE when you mean FULL.)

    Whatever the New Ireland turns out to be, it will not be a PC land of meaningless words.

    A real man who loves his fellow-countrymen will want to bring order to lawless schools

    (Only a useless loser will talk about orientation strategies and anti-sectarianism classes.)

    Equality means equality for lovers of alcohol and people who want their streets to be quiet at night.

    If you can’t make real pies, get out of the kitchen.

    A real man allows his real horse to drink real water. A witless booby gabbles solemnly about hippology and potability.

    By all means let us have coalition government. But don’t let us have a coalition made up of senior prefects and wee fellows that were bullied at school.

    We need real men and women who can see through rubbish.

    We don’t need half-witted wimps who will create more rubbish.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 2
  4. It is simply still too early to call for a reasoned debate about the future. It will not happen until the people with blood on their hands have gone away. They haven’t gone away, you know.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  5. Cris Cross (profile) says:

    “Our future will remain contested for as long as we continue to contest the past and how far back it extends. So perhaps we should reflect on the value of trying to build a reconciliation process in the here and now,”

    Here we go again with the old ‘forget about the past’ mantra. All very well and good Declan but did you forget to tell your comrades and colleagues who continue to vigorously campaign about Pat Finucane, Ballymurphy, McGurk’s bar etc…need I go on?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 2
  6. USA (profile) says:

    Another excellent contribution by Declan Kearney. Where are the DUP, UUP and SDLP proposals for reconciliation or a shared future? Credit to SF for consistently raising the matter. I note the criticisms above, perhaps you all enjoy living in your dysfunctional little sectarian society?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  7. 925p (profile) says:

    “Our future will remain contested for as long as we continue to contest the past and how far back it extends. So perhaps we should reflect on the value of trying to build a reconciliation process in the here and now,”

    I have to say this stinks of hypocrisy.

    “Compromise doesn’t discriminate against one section of society: it benefits us all.”

    When you step back and look at the flags issue, did compromise happen? I don’t know if it did. Am I being too simplistic by saying DUP/UUP lost and SF/SDLP won – because nationalists/republicans had nothing to lose in the first place?

    I’d also like to question the stance of the Alliance Party at what they said was a compromise of designated days. I understand where the designated days have come from and it has been recognised in other councils and ‘on the hill’ but if we are talking about equality would it not have been a compromise on 185.5 days per year? Again probably a simplistic view I know but I have to say it.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  8. oneill (profile) says:

    “Sinn Féin will guarantee parity of esteem for British and Irish identities.”

    Define “parity of esteem”?

    How do you “guarantee it”?

    Will the republican hoods who plaster the name of your “military wing” all over prod churches listen to you?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  9. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Arlene has just released this statement on Declan’s appearance on the Beeb this morning:

    A few months ago Declan Kearney was talking about “grown up politics” and of people being stuck “in a time warp”. This from a man who now attempts to differentiate between IRA murders of police officers because they took place on different sides of the border.

    Far from Declan Kearney being a symbol of new republican thinking he is actually representative of a republicanism trapped by its own warped mantra. Having embarrassed themselves with a vacuous call for a border poll, Sinn Fein now adopts an entirely partitionist position on the murder of police officers.

    Before Sinn Fein attempt to pursue reconciliation with unionism they should spend some time reconciling themselves with the truth. Gerry Adams has offered an apology in the Republic of Ireland on behalf of an organisation he denies ever having been a member of.

    The apology was offered for a murder which Adams at first attempted to deny republicans were involved in and then used the sickening excuse that the murder was somehow more noble because the proceeds of the robbery during which Garda McCabe was murdered, did not go to the murderers themselves.

    Declan Kearney appears to be as removed from reality as Gerry Adams with these attempts to differentiate between murders on different sides of a border which Sinn Fein claims not to recognise.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  10. Mick – After her border poll comments, interesting that Arlene was chosen (arranged or self-selected?) to be the voice behind the DUP’s response.

    As always with NI politics, relationships are complicated and there’s a tension between cooperation, compromise and conflict.

    The DUP are questioning SF’s Westminster funding. FM+dFM are in Brussels together to help secure Peace IV funding. DUP are skirting around the border poll holding up a bluff card in one hand and a sign saying ‘never’ in the other.

    Adams’ apology was never going to sit well in the same week as Kearney’s pre-planned piece.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  11. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    It looks like low level war going on Alan… Interestingly hers was not the only presser on the subject in my inbox this morning. This is an interesting Republican tack on the same subject from Niall Collins, justice spokesman for FF:

    “Unfortunately, the news this morning coming out of Belfast would appear to justify those suspicions. In response to requests for a similar apology for the murder of some 273 police officers in the North at the hands of the Provisional IRA, Sinn Féin moved quickly to dismiss the idea, claiming that the murder of a policeman in one part of the country was ‘vastly different’ to the murder of a policeman in another part of the country.

    “The entire country is united this week in its grief and anger at the murder of one of our police. That grief and anger is unconditional and it is a source of regret that Sinn Féin could still not find it within itself to simply condemn and apologise for a long list of such crimes over an extended period.”

    The conditions for SF in Dublin on this matter are, ironically a lot hotter than they are in Northern Ireland. Adams statement on Tuesday was not well thought out in that regard.

    I am told there’s a lot more interest in the Irish News’s reporting on this and other related matters amongst Dublin journalists than there has been in a long, long time.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  12. USA (profile) says:

    So Arlene Foster chose to avoid the substance of Kearny’s excellent piece, she then goes off on one about police officers. While she was on that tangent did she also mention the collusion of some police officers with the death squads or did I miss that bit? When she was on that rant did she mention the disgusting discrimination of the Orange State that gave rise to the conflict, or did I miss that bit?

    Then Niall Collins from FF attacks SF? Again southern politicians are putting their own petty party political advantage in front of what is best for Irish society both north and south. FF messed up the country big time and now feel the political heat from SF. FF reaction is to attack SF when-ever possible. Both pathetic and sad.

    Southern journalists showing interest in the Irish News reporting? Well southern journalists have a lot to learn about the peace process. I truely think they have yet to understand how it will eventually impact the south. They certainly have not grasped the changes in SF and their willingness to build a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society throughout Ireland. And that includes recognizing the Northern state.

    The more these hacks snipe and point the finger, the more sympathy I have for SF.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  13. USA (profile) says:

    At least someone else it trying too and full credit to them:
    Alliance Shared Future Strategy

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  14. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    USA, it looks like southern journalists acting in their perceived best interests. But their perception is clouded by anachronistic ideas. The times are changing, and not slowly.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  15. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    I actually find Declan Kearney less trustworthy than Gerry Adams. That’s saying something.

    Remember this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb7EZ4j4yzE

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  16. sonofstrongbow (profile) says:

    Perhaps it would be of benefit to all if Sinn Fein gave up the rhetoric about unionists forcing the always ‘regretful’ nationalist murder gangs to kill them.

    The Shinners would be better served bringing their once fast friends, the so-called ‘dissidents’, to heel. After yet another murder bid on the PSNI last night (punishment perhaps for not cracking enough Prod heads during the ‘flag’ protests?) something more than hurtful words for the Provo Nua would be a start.

    Something like telling the cops where the Semtex and guns ‘missed’ during ‘decommissioning’ are and who had/has control of them would be a start.

    And please before we get the usual nonsense about the Shinners and their ‘former’ colleagues being at daggers drawn, remember all those well publicised ‘death threats’ the shinners are allegedly labouring under, consider that although living cheek by jowl with shinners the ‘dissidents’ concentrate their firepower on the security forces

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  17. iluvni (profile) says:

    The sooner SinnFein come to realise that few outside their own sheep give a flying fiddlers about the ramblings from the likes of Adams and Kearney, the better for everyone.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  18. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    sonofstrongbow:And please before we get the usual nonsense about the Shinners and their ‘former’ colleagues being at daggers drawn, remember all those well publicised ‘death threats’ the shinners are allegedly labouring under, consider that although living cheek by jowl with shinners the ‘dissidents’ concentrate their firepower on the security forces

    And of course most Shinners will do all in their power to get dissident IRA terrorists out of jail at every opportunity…

    http://ulsterherald.com/2012/12/15/mla-to-accompany-republican-prisoner-for-christening/

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  19. UPC – MLAs as public representatives are often used to accompany prisoners in lieu of prison officers who may not be terribly welcome. Over the weekend, Marian Price McGlinchey was accompanied by two MLAs (one SF, one SDLP) to the wake house.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  20. tacapall (profile) says:

    Thanks for that reminder UPC, Declan Kearney although obstinate with some of Nesbitts questions he nonetheless controlled the topic he was there to speak about. Asking one side in the past conflict to apologise to the other before we move forward is illogical. I understand your resentment at being expected to view former enemies as equals or your opposition to any other way other than your own but you cant control everyone with an if, then, else, attitude.

    From the point of view of someone, who although opposes your political opinion of who we should be governed by, also believes it is morally wrong to take the life or physically injure any human being opposing that difference.

    I witnessed with my own eyes and experienced in my own life, grief, brought on by the actions of unionism through the various weapons they had at their disposal, like the B specials, RUC, UDR, Loyalist paramilitaries like the UDA and the UVF not to mention the British army. Likewise I have witnessed and experienced the consequences of living in an environment that was viewed by others as a battleground and an arena where innocent lives were callously used as pawns by all sides. Everyone has suffered because of the actions of each side and no one side has the moral right to be a superior victim.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  21. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    Alan in Belfast: UPC – MLAs as public representatives are often used to accompany prisoners in lieu of prison officers who may not be terribly welcome. Over the weekend, Marian Price McGlinchey was accompanied by two MLAs (one SF, one SDLP) to the wake house.

    Kind of makes a mockery of the ‘death threats’ on SF and PIRA members by dissidents over the past few years though…

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  22. tacapall (profile) says:

    You could say the same about those death threats to DUP politicians during the flag protests UPC

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  23. David Crookes (profile) says:

    I wonder where those death threats really came from, tacapall.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  24. 6crealist (profile) says:

    What’s the latest from Cavan, UPC? And are the mad Donegal heurs happy with the new ‘white line’ approach? What about the loyal yoof of north Monaghan?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  25. Angry Planner (profile) says:

    “Sinn Féin will guarantee parity of esteem for British and Irish identities.”

    Alex Kane touched on this in his News Letter column recently, what SF says it will do in any Border Poll campaign is actually irrelevant as they’re unlikely to be in any position to implement it. It’s what Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore or their successors say that will determine what happens.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  26. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Good-oh, Angry Planner. If FF and FG and enough unionists manage to do some kind of deal, SF won’t be within a baigle’s gowl of the levers of power. I hope they can keep up the whole non-violence thing in that circumstance.

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  27. Dixie Elliott (profile) says:

    Well folks it seems that besides owning big houses, businesses, holiday homes etc; the Shinners have now laid claim to the Peace Process. That’s right the Peace Process now belongs solely to them.

    Earlier in the week Declan Kearney referred to, ‘Our Peace Process’ in an interview. Then today I heard Marty say ‘Our Peace Process’.

    Also, I hear there’s a lot of talk about: ‘Our New House out the Road’ but that’s another story…

    Or is that 2 storeys with 5 bedrooms?

    What do you think?
    (Log in or register to judge or mark as offensive)
    Commend 0
  28. [...] things – but one of the motives is that the British want something strong to bargain with while Sinn Féin and others continue to shout about the past in this one-eyed game of truth and recrimination that they sometimes call truth and [...]

    What do you think?
    Judge it
    (Log in or register to mark as offensive)
    Commend 0

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Copyright © 2003 - 2014 Slugger O'Toole Ltd. All rights reserved.
Powered by WordPress; produced by Puffbox.
152 queries. 1.252 seconds.