Call for Republican leadership

Paul Dunne has a compendium of responses to Adams. But the most interesting thing I’ve read to date was written in anticipation of, rather than in reponse to Saturday’s speech. John Lloyd has consistently made the case for the Trimble’s position, however he chooses to concludes this longish and largley predictable article (subscription needed) by suggesting Republicans could play a key role in bringing the process to a successful conclusion:

“There is a role that no republican or nationalist has played, but which stands ready for the playing. It is that of the reconciler: the figure who, from the nationalist camp, could sketch out a future for Northern Ireland free of sectarianism. The SDLP’s John Hume, in many ways the forgotten crafter of the Belfast Agreement, could not in the end leave the constraints of his own fervent nationalism. David Trimble, the Northern Ireland First Minister, has tried courageously, from the unionist side, but has been rebuffed by nationalists and republicans alike, and undercut by the growing number of unionists who think he is selling them out.

“But a nationalist or a republican could take command of the process: indeed, given that Sinn Fein is now larger than the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, it could best be a republican. That figure could take ownership of the right of unionists to remain British as long as the majority voted for it. He could say that a democratic vote, and that alone, would decide whether or not Ireland would unite. He could sketch out a future in which, even with eventual unity, the unionists would keep cultural autonomy, regional self-government and full civil rights.

“It would be risky: some bigot somewhere might put aside a bullet for him. But politics in Northern Ireland cannot move without such risks. The Belfast Agreement gives those who had refused to be part of the state for eight decades a level playing-field, on which they can now groom a champion – not, at last, a sectarian champion but an anti-sectarian one. It is what the time needs. Where comes the man?”

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