Eamonn McCann’s analysis of the “war of words “ between Gerry Adams’ “Unionist bastards” and Gregory “toilet paper” Campbell reminds me an insight about political behaviour from the former Irish Times journalist and ex Unionist politician Frank Millar, whose regular acute observations are sorely missed. Gained by close observation in the hot house of the GFA negotiations, Frank noted that people pay far more attention to the bad behaviour of their opponents than they do to anything their own side does, good or bad. And it’s that which governs their response, not any clear view of self or community interest.
This behaviour surely lies at the heart of sectarianism. Even seasoned (or over seasoned) figures like these two are finally more driven by the zero sum game than they are by their own agenda, when all is stripped away. Even the better bits take on a sinister hue from Adams, to “break them” with the equality agenda, thus exposing the real motivation, to make the northern state redundant;
“The determined pursuit of the “equality agenda” adumbrated in the agreement would eventually weaken the structures of the machinery of State until it buckled and became unviable. The fact that Adams and those around him have, in effect, switched sides in this debate doesn’t mean that the contradictions have gone away, just that they are now contained within the movement.”
So beware the smile of the face of the tiger, as if we didn’t know. In other words Adams expresses contrasting views that the pursuit of equality will wreck the state ( how? By winding up unionists to implode?) and by that pursuing equality ( for unionists too, by definition) Sinn Fein will gradually kill unionism by kindness and lull enough unionists into accepting a united Ireland.
McCann goes on:
“Campbell was telling much the same story when he instructed DUP delegates that to give in to Sinn Féin’s agenda by even an inch would be to push Northern Ireland closer to the brink”.
I see no cunning plan or ambiguity from Campbell here, just a calculated display not an inch bigotry, as much an implied challenge to Robinson as to the Shinners. You have to turn to Peter to put the militant unionist contradiction in its place, fair play to him.
Those within unionism, who oppose the path upon which we have embarked, have nothing to offer. They complain that more delivery is required from Stormont and at the very same time argue that we shouldn’t co-operate with Sinn Fein. They seem incapable of recognising that the mathematics – never mind the structures at Stormont – means that there is no delivery unless such co-operation takes place. Of course we will oppose Sinn Fein when unionist interests require it. We have shown we are tough and we are determined, but we will work with them and others when it’s in the interests of the community that we do so.
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