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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty