“There is an unwritten law..”

A strong opening from Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph

Belfast is certainly an Irish town. But it is a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland town, too. This was explicitly confirmed in the 1998 Multi-Party Agreement and is, surely, morally binding on all who endorsed the Agreement.

True, the Agreement was also explicit that partition would remain only for as long as a majority within the North wanted it so. But this has been the unionist position all along. Ian Paisley spelt it out more than 30 years ago: if a majority in the North voted for a merger with the South, he wouldn’t welcome the development, of course, but, as a democrat, he’d have to accept it.

If the war waged by the Provisional IRA was about partition and the constitutional status of the North, it lost, and the Agreement was acknowledgement that it had lost.

This does not subtract from the right of relatives of people killed directly by the British Army or through collusion with loyalist paramilitaries to protest against a parade such as last Sunday’s, or of opponents of imperialist war to call in the name of decency for its cancellation. It does mean that the ground for objection to the parade put forward by Mr Adams — Irish town, British Army — coming from a pro-Agreement quarter, had no political legitimacy.

This is not a point which has figured prominently in editorial commentary on Sunday’s parade and protests. There is an unwritten law, still at least semi-operative, that no communal leader should be pushed too hard to face up to the implications of the Agreement for his or her ideology. Deft misrepresentation of the Agreement (or ‘creative ambiguity’ with regard to its provisions) continues unabated.

But the ending betrays his own cutting through the more recently imposed ambiguity. Nevermind the imaginary time-limit on the even more recent agreement.

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