The SDLP have accepted the Haass proposals with Sinn Fein likely to formally follow suit this week. We have seen editorials and a lot of critical comments blaming the failure to get an agreement on the Unionist parties unwillingness to compromise.
I raise this question today as we mark the 40th anniversary of the Ulster Unionist Council’s rejection (427-374) of the Council of Ireland which ended Brian Faulkner’s leadership and effectively ended the Sunningdale Agreement. Faulkner’s miscalculation has haunted Unionist leaders ever since as they fear a similar fate.
The unease with which Unionism tends to approach these agreements has got me thinking what exactly would it take for a Unionist leader to feel comfortable enough to take a risk and compromise on the issues of dealing with the past, flags and parades.
I am a bit bored of hearing that objections are simply fuelled by instransigence. If we are ever to make sensible progress then surely the question has to asked why Unionism feels it cannot make these compromises? Do their leaders simply feel too insecure in their positions to sell an agreement? Or are they too detached from the voters they represent?
I appreciate in this post I am posing more questions than I am answering but I just think instead of pointing a finger and saying ‘bigots’ we should maybe conduct some analysis on why Unionist leaders feel so unable to take these risks,
I came across this clip from Quintin Oliver who made some points about what Peter Robinson would have to do to sell the Hillsborough Agreement in 2010 which is useful.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs