On the one path our community can do what we’ve always done; that is, dig in, see conspiracy against us from every quarter, refuse to co-operate out of fear of the enemy and give no quarter safe in the knowledge that when push comes to shove we tend to become clannish and stick together no matter what.
The other requires us to acknowledge that times change, in politics as well as life, and our community will be better served with mature stewardship.
The demographics of the past 10 years have shown a slow but undeniable walk toward greater integration on the island at the behest of the most fundamental of all rights in a democratic society, the right to vote. And this is where the crux lies. Simply digging more trenches and burying our heads achieves nothing but an arse to kick. How can we possibly be defenders of Northern Ireland as a country and yet deny the outcome of democratic voting? Why are we allowing the DUP of all people to represent us going into the future?
I’ve enough white hair to remember who founded the DUP and how he led some of my friends to commit acts of violence then capriciously turn his back on them when politically expedient to do so.
The rest of his ilk still run his party along similar lines. Most galling of all is the childish behavior of refusing to restart the Assembly because they won’t be top dog any more. As any parent will tell you if a child won’t play nice the toy gets taken away, and this doesn’t mean that direct rule becomes the default forever. Eventually the bean counters always win and a SoS will call a referendum. For those who don’t think that will happen I ask you to look at Brexit and the Scot Indy ref debacle.
Cooler, wiser heads must prevail.
Loyalism is always seen as being on the right of political Unionism due to it’s history. We see ourselves, we know ourselves to be “More British than the British”. I’m saying that does not need to change. But we can do ourselves a big favour and look outward instead of inward.
If we can recognize that a United Ireland may happen isn’t it incumbent upon us to get the best deal going for us?
In this light I’m interested in the original Eire Nua model of a federal Ireland, an Ireland which has a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
If there were to exist an Ulster Parliament say in Armagh, it would be far more in the interests of our people to be involved in it. Greater integration especially among our primary industries benefits us all.
The overarching Bill of Rights and Responsibilities would be a living instrument and not some tablet carved from a mountain sent from upon High.
A few suggestions would be a complete separation of Church and State for obvious reasons, the Responsibility to Vote (Mandatory voting), the Right to Life, the Right to be Free from subjugation from another from any quarter and the Right to Health.
The Responsibilities would include the need to be a good citizen, both domestically and globally. The Responsibility to be a Good Neighbour and the Responsibility to treat others in an ethical way.
None of what I have put forward needs to negatively affect the PUL culture and indeed was pushed by the Presbyterians on me as a child of Blackmouth parents. The conditions that gave rise to the conflict no longer exist. Dublin and the South have clearly demonstrated their horror at what was done in the name of Catholicism and as such that Church no longer has any special relationship with the State as proffered by De Valera. There is no existential threat to the PUL community except of it’s own making.
Our culture does not need to go to places it’s not welcomed, and we should welcome all curious observers. We have a rich and complex history but one that shouldn’t be backward looking, and definitely not one that can’t see anything but the past.
I welcome comments on these thoughts from every quarter.
⏩Steven Are is a Belfast quiller now living in Australia.