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Noting the marking of 100 years of English PEN, established in 1921 to celebrate freedom of expression around the world, I covet such freedom. This article is read by virtue of the editorial acceptance of the right to freedom of expression. That is important.

A serious conversation persists within unionism. It is not organized. The chat among friends is along the lines of feeling cheated. Hundreds thinking aloud wondering what has gone wrong. Their thoughts belie the worry that none are asking what to do to put things right. It wasn’t meant to be that the NI Executive is not fit for purpose, yet unionists who have most to lose persist in the pretence of power sharing with extreme republicans. We no longer know what fit for purpose is. Clearly there is no common allegiance to Northern Ireland resulting in bitter in-fighting, incompetence and bad government.

Gone are the days of expectancy and goodwill that the Belfast GF Agreement would bring Catholic and Protestant together. The Catholic versus Protestant battles are gone but the people have been turned by Sinn Fein toward contesting Irish versus British battles.

Is it any wonder that unionists like me are characterized as hardline when we cannot fathom out how the Catholics who celebrated with us getting the BGFA over the line have thrown their lot in with extreme republicanism. We deserve an explanation.

Maybe the answer is in rebranding unionism by forming a social democratic party, an all embracing pro union party, a movement structured on genuine cross community support for the Northern Irish by the Northern Irish, or is this it – a future riven with division as another ugly legacy to be handed down to future generations where political bitterness ,identity challenges, and potential violence are tolerated because no one had the vision to end the mess? Is this it, perpetual Irish versus Brits!

So when all rightly celebrate the human right of freedom of expression, answer this, when do we Northern Irish give our full consent to ‘freedom of expression’ to stand four square behind the Belfast Good Friday Agreement?

Be honest, a unionist and extreme republican coalition is never going to work!

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