Richard Irvine writing in the Irish Times today makes a point worth considering…
In fact the magnitude of the unionist victory is not only unchallenged by these Sinn Féin tactics, rather it is underscored. Unionists should be delighted that republicans have so little ambition that they can achieve only small and compromised symbolic victories like the flag-lowering.
The real danger then to unionism’s triumph comes not from republicanism, not even dissident republicanism, but from themselves. In this crisis, with loyalist protesters and rioters holding much of the province to ransom, unionists are again metaphorically and literally rallying around the flag. This is not just mistaken, it is silly and dangerous too.
Yet perhaps, just perhaps, the newly established Unionist Forum will find the courage to admit that unionism has won.
Perhaps then it can articulate a new confident vision of unionism, one which dispenses with the ideology of not an inch and makes room for the hybrid Irish and British and unionist citizen. If it can do this then the victory really will be complete.
But victory to do what exactly? For all the natural shock and outrage things have been worse than this in the past. Alliance councillors have even had their homes as well as offices attacked by loyalist mobs before. Back in the turbulence of the 2001 election, or the tumult that came in the wake of the Anglo Irish Agreement, it wasn’t news.
The current unease probably has something to do with the late arrival of that not wildly impressive CSI document from Stormont. The gestures of 2009 from Martin McGuinness when he came out and excoriated the killers at Masserene and more lately when Peter Robinson attended the funeral Mass of Ronan Kerr seem strangely dated now.
In this era when with a big fat parliament and no opposition neither party seems to have an appetite or even the politics for the business of power sharing beyond pushing around a few budgets. Even without a change at Stormont, there seems little appetite for large scale violence.
So in light of Mr Irvine’s advice, Unionists might reconsider whether the tactical detour to ‘rescue’ East Belfast from its Alliance ‘folly’ was worth the effort. In the meanwhile as one seasoned observer told Slugger this evening, Sinn Fein have more than a few bubbling pots all primed to come to the boil at different stages. Let’s hope no one gets scalded in the process.
As long as dissident Republicans are the only ones actively pursuing a lethal campaign, it remains unlikely that the patient’s condition will turn acute (that is, present or experienced to a severe or intense degree). But it does have some of the aspects of a long and chronic (persisting for a long time or constantly recurring) dis-ease.
Physician heal thyself, how are ya?
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