Politics of choice – bring it down or build it up – by Brian Rowan
It will be another of those Twelfth pictures painted by numbers – showing the size of the march and the scale of the security operation.
Then, as always, there is the political backdrop.
Just days ago, we watched the drama of the unionist walkout from all-party talks when the Parades Commission announced its ruling to once more prevent part of the return leg of a march in north Belfast.
And, since then, two words have become part of the political vocabulary – two words not yet fully defined in any of our dictionaries.
But whatever is meant by “graduated response”, however it is eventually detailed, one thing is certain.
It will change nothing in terms of that Commission decision for the second year running to prevent the Ligoniel Lodges from walking that stretch of the Crumlin Road that passes the Ardoyne Shops.
If anyone thinks differently, then they are kidding themselves.
Over the next 24 hours some more detail will be painted into the picture.
Unionist leaders have been meeting.
The Orange Order met the Secretary of State before this evening’s briefing for County, District and Deputy District Masters at Tamnamore.
Then, on Thursday, there will be a unionist/Orange pre-Twelfth news conference and, within, Saturday’s parade there are plans for protest of some type.
The stated intention is that everything should be peaceful and lawful and we are seeing attempts to manage the stage.
But beyond this Twelfth, the question of contested marches will still be there.
Protest, and whatever else forms part of the “graduated response”, will change nothing on the marching grounds where parade and protest meet.
Yes, you can try to bowl over the Parades Commission, but for what purpose?
To replace it with another Commission by another name.
Tantrum politics doesn’t work.
The talks last week weren’t going to achieve anything – not at this time of the year.
Unionists walked out of negotiations that had no influence over the decision-making process in north Belfast.
Now, they have a choice.
To bring Stormont down or to get on with it.
Unionists are in government with Sinn Fein and with a man who had a leadership role in the IRA “war”.
If they can’t cope with that, then the process needs to start all over again, but it will end up in the same place and with the same parties.
This week the focus is on marching – next week it will be on something else.
We are just days away from the first of the reports on the OTRs (on-the-runs) controversy.
It is true that no one knew the fine detail of the scheme, but to suggest nothing was known is a nonsense.
Then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern detailed the British scheme in the Dail in March 2002, the BBC reported the high profile Eibhlin Glenhomes case in June 2002 and then Secretary of State John Reid gave further details in July of that year.
This was on Trimble’s watch.
Then years later in June 2007, the Attorney General released detailed figures – just weeks after Paisley and McGuinness became First and Deputy First Ministers.
So, those who didn’t know must have been sleeping at the back of the class.
Politics can be about tantrums and tremors or it can be about talks and trying…
Trying to get answers to the most difficult of questions – on flags, parades and the past.
That means everyone in the room.
Not just the five Executive parties, but the governments, those who speak for loyalism and the marching orders, the residents, the police – and this needs international help.
This is the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the ceasefires and its decision time.
The choice in politics is to bring it down or to build it up.
Playing games and playing to whatever crowd will change nothing.
We should stop pretending we have a partnership government.
What we have is something that is badly broken and that needs fixed – sooner rather than later.
Brian very much tantrum politics and ‘walk away’ mindsets that wouldn’t wash or even be tolerated anywhere else. Where do you see anyone willing, capable or prepared to make uncomfortable decisions.
Delay, danger, doubt and damage. That’s what we have been offered as a result of the combined Unionist and Loyalist ‘walk out’ from talks trying to deal with our past, parades and flags. In terms of the potential to disruption of life here it is real and very worrying – it shouldn’t be here we go again but it seems to be.
Basically fifteen years plus on from the Good Friday Agreement the DUP and others as PUL representatives here are unable to offer genuine alternatives and are effectively incapable of political leadership – they are openly unreceptive to equality, co-existence and the promotion of human rights.
I also believe that they are all now struggling with power sharing, partnership working and collective responsibility and all that this should entail – their contempt for Sinn Fein, for example, is no longer hidden. They have also within their ranks certain influential hard-core and extremist representatives who are either too cosy with paramilitarism, on-going street protests and the loyal orders. Unionism as has been pointed out by many commentators is dancing to the tune of the Orange Order and rather than showing genuine leadership are being led – the Order’s corrosive influence upon this society is frightening and the departure from talks demonstrates this.
The signatories of a ‘graduated response’ are no longer discreet rather they are a threatening, sinister and serious blockage to tangible progress despite some public displays of endorsement – albeit through clenched teeth. Whilst they all have engaged and acted as a behind the scenes catalyst for unionist/loyalist upheaval and wider communal instability stemming from the Good Friday Agreement through to St Andrews, Hillsborough and recent native violence – they are now prepared to upscale their actions to larger mass mobilisations to cause maximum disruption and all because they can’t get their way.
They appear very much willing and prepared to drag us back to instability and the past. An opportunity for possible long-term resolution has been wrecked by the DUP, UUP, TUV, PUP, and UPRG – it is frankly disgraceful. These individuals of all shades of Unionism and Loyalism were elected to give and show leadership to their community – with the walk out and the threat of mass protests they have failed and appear oblivious of the consequences. This is not the protection of democracy or the work of representing peoples interests rather an assault upon them. Any hope and positivity associated with the short lived ‘talks’ was very quickly dispelled by Unionist intransigence again leading their flock to uncertainty.
This collective grouping of resistance and protest should not be able to dictate potential progress – and the question that must be asked is ‘what now?’ It is clear that these spoilers who have since left the ‘talks’ table are speaking for the Orange Order, and loyalist paramilitarism – they have no interest in building relationships and making peace but revel in the fact that they have a veto on progress and have ultimately murdered peace in the North of Ireland.