The centenary celebrations for the Ulster Covenant will be remembered for a needless sectarian row picked by loyalists in north Belfast which dragged on for months due to political unionism’s unwillingness to confront the belligerent antics of the supremacists who continue to hold sway within the Loyal Orders, loyalist paramilitarism and the ranks of the unionist political parties- and special mention must be made of DUP Minister Nelson McCausland, who has excelled at making a mockery of any notion some might have had that the DUP had any interest at all of reaching outside of its base community.
The theme continued with the decision by the DUP in Lisburn to initiate moves to give the Orange Order the freedom of that city and has now nicely dovetailed into a hard line Covenant speech by Peter Robinson demanding nationalists refer to the north as Northern Ireland.
The latter point has one for long that has irked many unionists, and I must say I’m delighted that Peter Robinson has raised it at this time as it provides a welcome opportunity to hold up a mirror for many of those who share his perspective.
In his speech last night, Robinson suggested that “it was an act of denial and disrespect to assiduously avoid using the proper title” of Northern Ireland by nationalists.
Now, Peter is well aware of the contentious nature of political vocabulary in this part of the world, and the nod to official titles is one easily made by a unionist leader whose political stance has benefitted from the ‘legitimacy’ Britain’s military dominance could confer on all things British in Ireland.
But in the new age of political consensus and evolving demographic parity, taking a hard line stance on this issue, as opposed to acknowledging and seeking to legitimise the diverse political terms employed by unionists and nationalists (as Martin McGuinness did at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis) smacks of unionism once again failing to recognise the need for an alternative strategy for consolidating their political and constitutional position.
Raising this issue now presents nationalists with a wonderful opportunity to point to the hypocrisy of unionists claiming grievance at the term ‘6 Counties’ or ‘The North’ when unionists have for generations ‘disrespected and assiduously avoided using the proper title’ when erroneously referring to Northern Ireland as ‘Ulster’ or ‘The Province.’
Will Peter and Mike initiate moves to ensure that their parties either contest elections in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan or cease from referring to Ulster in an inappropriate and disrespectful manner from henceforward?