I’m using my privileges to start a new thread on the subject of RIR parades rather than come in at comment 47. page 2.
Earlier in wrote in comment:
“It is extremely difficult for the nationalist tradition to separate out what I might call peacetime Britishness from unionist triumphalism, just as many unionists find it difficult to separate Irish patriotism from at least implied support for the IRA. I know this sounds piously balanced but I believe it to be the case”.
Like any balanced view, this doesn’t satisfy anyone completely and may satisfy nobody. I suspect – though I don’t know – that there is a little more tolerance all round than Slugger threads normally expose. But certainly, rawness abounds and this thread expounds it brilliantly.
Let’s try to grasp a basic principle we might agree on, at least in the abstract to start with:
Democracy means both the will of the majority and guarantees for individual and group rights, not winner-take-all.
The democratic process the elected representatives signed up to in 1998 and 2007, enacted into law for three jurisdictions, UK, NI and the Republic, and endorsed in referendums in NI and ROI should prevail. These agreements are shot through with requirements of mutual acceptance and toleration. In contested cases, the official toleration of the law can be imposed, but in day-to-day life, imposed toleration is an oxymoron. Real acceptance will take time and intelligence to achieve
Of course no individual or group need sign up slavishly to any particular proposal; that’s democracy too.
It is accepted in law that British de jure sovereignty is a fact. But sovereignty in law and in fact is no longer the whole story, in NI and throughout the world, as the Agreements and their accompanying Acts show. Rights, identities and structures other than Parliament are now entrenched, a technical term which means what it says.
Max Weber’s definition of the State applies: it is the monopoly provider of legitimate force. In fact, we are getting there (probably) but have not yet arrived, in terms of consent and in fact on the ground. This will be a remarkable achievement ( and it will be accomplished, I believe). It will serve as a rare example of the political class leading opinion. But in the meantime, nothing should stop public opinion adopting generous positions for itself.
Demonstrations of de jure sovereignty enjoy no absolute rights. For instance, displays of the Union Jack a symbol of sovereignty, can constitute an offence in circumstances we all recognise.
But where displays of a flag and an army parade constitute no threat to individual freedoms and a civic reception is backed by a democratic council majority, I cannot see how they can be denied. Obviously, they must be sensitively staged. We cannot have a Garvaghy Road in uniform.
Democracy means tolerating things you don’t like, provided they don’t threaten you.
Of course it must equally be OK to let fly with delicious polemic provided it isn’t hollered all over the streets. Self-preservation if nothing else, probably guarantees that.
Finally in this secular sermon, what NI needs is not what this thread is really about: a sense of common purpose, a developing sense of a shared future. In falling turn-outs at elections and in Life and Times surveys there are some signs that some of the public are wearying of the old disputes.
While taking care to protect new-found and long overdue rights and freedoms, we should surely do all we can to encourage this trend.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London