It is conveniently forgotten that at the time of the Belfast Agreement raging arguments roared inside unionism. David Trimble’s indomitable resolve to take politics to an all new inclusive level uprooted his own party. Supporters like myself wondered how these genuine reform approaches would be received overtime. Today the rampant republican anti -unionist behaviour has answered their concerns .
Bitterness and recrimination confronted me on the 12th of July that year. I arrived at the field with my collarette soaking from spittle. Such was the anger vented by albeit a small number against supporters of the Agreement. It still rankles that anyone thought a unionist like me, never a soft centre in the pack would be called a Lundy. A few years later the Lodge presented me with a brand new collarette in recognition of my appointment as an Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland . A very proud moment all round .
Having come through one hell of a period out every night at meetings debating, twisting arms and (temporarily ) falling out with friends. I feel with some authority I can speak for the silent majority in saying we feel betrayed by the nationalists for whom we went the extra mile in delivering compromise. It is not only a shock, it is a massive let down watching moderate nationalism throw their lot in with Sinn Fein. Today’s voting patterns inside nationalism simply cannot sustain the out workings of the Agreement. Today nationalists are intent on one thing only which the Agreement does not sanction which is destroying the Union. It hurts because not only is it a broken Agreement, but division over identities will not work to their benefit.
So how about some straight talking and a plan?
I hear talk but no one seems brave enough to propose the replacement of the Agreement or its ball and chain mandatory coalition imposition. There, it’s done – let there be a replacement. It is not normal to give politicians a single choice only to form a government by compelling them to accept or else there will be no government. It was at the time a way out of conflict but this style of enforced power sharing was not ever contemplated to last 10 years let alone over 20 years. We or rather the electorate have matured and hardened because of no choice other than to sit with people you dislike. Our natural Northern Irish instincts are to resist being instructed on what to do. This is the main reason that the Belfast Good Friday Agreement faces collapse. The idealism, wishful thinking all genuine at the crucial time is no longer with us. The Agreement has run its race and needs replaced by a new challenge. The capacity to govern is not there neither is the will. The experiment is exhausted. There is room for a new venture. There is unquestionably a majority who want to stay with the U.K. and be governed properly. They include liberal elitists of over stated importance, neither unionist or nationalist but a kind of hybrid neutral others. The committed majority however are ordinary down to earth Northern Irelanders who know when to twist or bust. With their children and grandchildren in mind they worked hard to deliver the peace. They feel secure about the peace. It is the method and means of government bringing about insecurity. They want it all fixed. So what is the plan? Simple -hold an election by October with all parties pledging to incorporate in their manifesto their willingness to participate in a coalition of choice or in a minority executive or enter into formal opposition positions. Allow a maximum six week period to reach agreement or otherwise it is full blown direct rule. Inclusive representative government has always been our destiny so why not do it? This plan does it by demanding the creation of an atmosphere conducive to an amnesty which puts into abeyance for at least two terms any disruptive constitutional sensitivities. Do the crystal ball gazing on which parties will work in coalition and those who cannot, which can form into a minority government and who cannot, find out which party leaders can inspire consensus for a new venture? Do the maths and if you calculate as I have the answers to the problem are very obvious .
The connection into government is by either a coalition of 45% of the Assembly seats, a minority government of no less than 40% of the seats or a majority single party or grouping commanding 51% of the seats . Agreeing to the two term amnesty on sensitivities is as key to progress as will be the success of forming a government .
Important as it is, winning the hard won peace cannot be allowed to be the end game upon which we settle. Without a lasting genuine voluntary political settlement the peace cannot be protected. It is devalued. This plan is to secure inclusiveness. It is a lot better than that upon which our parties are wasting their time in talks at the moment without a vision among them.