Building rickety bridges

Jim Gibney, writing in the Irish News (subs), focuses on the need for more dialogue not less, criticises the recent intervention of the Presbyterian Church’s General Board, and highlights what he sees as at the heart of dialogue with Protestant clergy ‘denial by unionists about their responsibility for creating the conditions for the conflict; fifty years of unionist mis-rule, decades of military occupation.’Extracts from the article

The Presbyterian’s statement was arrogant and self-righteous.

It reminded me of the early dialogue fourteen years ago.

At those meetings we each brought our own sense of what was moral. For the church people the state was legitimate.

To us it represented discrimination and humiliation for nationalists.

To them the IRA were terrorists. To us they were freedom fighters.

They believed the crown forces were upholding the rule of law; we believed they were oppressors.

It was acceptable to them that in their church pews on a Sunday were seated the political leaders of a one party sectarian state with the foot soldiers of that state: the judiciary, the RUC, the ‘B’Specials, the UDR, the wealthy and powerful.

For them the Orange Order should be allowed to march the Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads for us this was a step too far.

It was the dialogue of ‘whataboutery’. Yet it was dialogue.

The church’s statement last week reflects what I always felt lay at the centre of the dialogue: denial by unionists about their responsibility for creating the conditions for the conflict; fifty years of unionist mis-rule, decades of military occupation.