Unionists must speak truth unto unionists

Very perceptive view from Fionnuala O’Connor tonight of the recent line from some Unionist (and to be fair one or two Nationalists as well) commentators that if Nationalists want to foster peace, they should stop unnerving unionists by becoming unionists instead. She notes that it is both insulting about unionists, and “unrealistic beyond belief: a bit like dispirited rivals telling unbeaten Chelsea that they will have to give up soccer in favour of sudoku”.

However, her critique cuts two ways:

And it mirrors the generations of republicans and nationalists who behaved as if unionism was a problem to be wished away, as if unionists were irrelevant or not serious: a light people, ready to switch sides when the scales fell from their eyes. To some of this way of thinking, there were indeed good Protestants. They all happened to be born-again republicans, devotedly Irish, keen on the language, hostile to the beliefs they were born into – converts, in fact.

There’s none of them going away:

The increasing dominance of the DUP and Sinn Fein reflects the reality that unionists aren’t going to stop being unionist and nationalists aren’t going to stop being nationalist. It took northern Catholics long enough to find a way out of the Troubles. Decency and sense should urge the nationalist world not to sneer at the collapse of unionism.

But unionists need to speak truth unto unionists, not ask nationalists to turn themselves inside out. Republicans wrecked their own districts until they learned how futile that was. The wisest unionists say out loud that loyalist paramilitaries wrecked the Shankill, not the IRA.

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3 thoughts on “Unionists must speak truth unto unionists”

  1. V good stuff from Fionnuala- a line I have been taking on the Geary thread.

    This type of logic is merely the inevitable result of the ridiculous media bias in this society, where every development must be gauged against how it potentially will affect “unionist fears.”

    The Tele headline tonight just about sums it up: ‘Nazi slur threat to peace process’


    How on earth can one man’s words constitute a threat to the peace process? If they do, then the process would have been dead a hundred times over- in fact, every time a unionist called republicans “scum”, “nazis” or “animals”- which if you live in Lisburn and follow the Council’s politics, is quite often.

  2. irishman

    You are correct that this was an example of the ‘Protestant Telegraph’ going somewhat OTT.

    However, there is a threat to peace contained within Fr Reid’s statement (and indeed in the mock Unionist outrage that followed it).

    The truth is that a lot of people in NI this evening are thinking Fr Reid was right. Yet the fact is he wasn’t.

    And there are a lot of people who are thinking ‘No, actually, it’s themmuns who are the Nazis’. Yet the fact is they’re not.

    Two fundamental problems rear their ugly head here:
    1. For too long, people have gotten away with talking crap about the past. This is unacceptable. It may be comforting to think ‘themmuns’ are entirely at fault, but it’s not actually true. Until you confront the hatred within, and take a reasoned view of the past, you cannot build a foundation for the future.
    2. The tribal trade-off that constitutes our political process has merely allowed the ‘grievance culture’ to get well out-of-hand. Bad stuff happened, but this isn’t Auschwitz, or Rwanda, or Yugoslavia.

    We need community leaders prepared to take responsibility for the past, including representing it fairly. And we need an end to tribal trade-off and a start to consensual compromise – that’ll mean none of us gets the perfect solution, but like it or not, it’s the only way forward.

  3. IJP

    Do you not think it will be easier to find agreement on the future than on the past. We can accept that many people on both sides have wildly different and passionately held views of what brought us to where we are. I think it is impossible to reconcile those views and pointless to try to impose one over the other.

    There isn’t an objective truth about our history. There are just individual and collective experiences which we interpret for ourselves.

    For example I don’t need Ian Paisley to accept my view of his role in our problem in order to see him play a part in our solution.

    Nor should Martin McGuinness have to repudiate his past in order to serve the people going forward.

    I think historians in 100 years will have trouble enough finding a consensus on it.

    In the south the generation that built a democracy after the civil war went to their graves believing different things about the foundation of the state.

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