Let me be up front from the outset. I can be very, very easily offended and I’m very, very selective in what I’m offended by.
For example, the use of the L word as a prefix to Derry, whilst I consider it entirely legitimate, is nevertheless, very, very offensive to me – and yet I’m a big fan of the Wolf Tones and have no problem with their songs about the IRA.
So you might reasonably conclude that once my tribal loyalty to Nationalism/Republicanism is known, then the likelihood and circumstances of my offence taking is highly predictable. And you would be right.
Just as predictable perhaps as the summer marching-bonfire- Féile-whataboutery season throwing up months of bunfighting over;
- who has offended who
- who has condemned the offences
- who has condemned some offences but not others
- who has condemned offences but simultaneously offended others.
- who is deliberately conjuring up offence for nefarious reasons
It can be extremely difficult to keep tabs on who is winning this bunfight, but I think it fair to say (and please allow for some bias here) we got off to a flier with the shenanigans by Themmuns surrounding the 12th.
But as the summer dragged on, Themmuns were surely confident, that Féile an Phobail and the anti-internment bonfires offered real opportunities to strike back. And so it proved – with the equivalent of a late Rangers equaliser at Parkhead as the Wolf Tones assisted by Kneecap supplied the necessaries – thus enabling some top quality condemnations by Themmuns.
And now as the summer draws to a close with the offence-condemnation bunfighting face-off seemingly ending in deadlock, it’s surely well past the time to plan for a less divisive way to spend the summer months?
Themmuns and Ussuns have both failed to impose restrictions on themselves/ourselves, because in part at least neither (us or them) actually understand or care to admit what is offensive to each other or to take the necessary action to stamp it out.
So what to do?
Clearly an independent regulator would make a better fist of deciding which public events should have restrictions imposed on them, what constitutes offence and what the punishments should be for non compliance.
And there is an organisation with a proven track record in dealing fairly with divisive issues. An organisation which can regulate contentious marches and deal fairly with symbols and interpretations of culture – except the that organisation only deals with Parades.
So why not extend the remit of the Parades Commission to cover all (appropriate) public gatherings? If you don’t ensure that the conduct surrounding your bonfire or your concert is not divisive and you don’t sign up to a set of inclusive principles, then you don’t get to organise one next year but you do get to pay a suitable fine.
And if that sounds a bit draconian – well that’s because it is – because we simply don’t have the understanding or the will or the balls to impose self-regulation on our respective tribes and stop the generations that come after us from repeating the same nonsense.
Sammy Mc Nally is a Prod fictional character bestowed on us by James Young who accidentally kills his pal, who not suprisingly, given that it is Belfast, is also a Prod. The friend is sent to the after life place (Heaven/Hell) and finds it is an exact replica of Belfast – with one important difference – it is run entirely by Fenians and with the pope himself in residence in Stormo and it seems no sign of the Belgian quarefellah D’Hondt anywhere. To be continued…