After leaving the British Army, Stephen Cooper served as an advisor to Robert McCartney Q.C., leader of the UK Unionist Party. He contributes regularly to the News Letter and is working on his latest book, which is an analysis of the ongoing appeasement of terrorism which he remains vehemently opposed to.
Thank you for your recent communication.
There are however numerous and significant flaws in the draft proposals you have presented to the five parties and much to my dismay, the people of NI.
The Unionist community are still deeply resentful at the out-workings of the previous failed Belfast Agreement, which was in essence a trade off to republicans for discontinuing their bombing campaign in GB.
Unfortunately, your proposals do not address this reality and in fact exacerbate the feeling of isolation and anger throughout my community caused by further attempts at diminishing our British sovereignty and respect for our culture, - not to mention the insulting refusal to morally uphold the principle of victims being created by terrorists, (not actors), and the vast gulf in difference between those who carried out acts of terrorism and the poor souls who were murdered in cold blood as a direct consequence of their cowardly and sickening actions.
It is to my eternal outrage that today we have the ira in government, an affront to any law abiding citizen and a further twisting of the knife to those who have lost friends and family to their savage and barbaric campaign of violence.
The flying of our National flag from Stormont and our capital’s City Hall is a prerequisite before I would even begin to discuss parading; also in the same vein, the fact that resident groups are set up with the sole aim of disruption and civil disobedience on a dangerous level, (complete with automatic machine guns being used to fire upon Police lines as at Ardoyne last year), needs to be recognised and dealt with by introducing deterrents and punishments to those involved in attempted murder and rioting, due to their bitter intolerance.
The precedent of rewarding violence is as ever, immoral and an extremely dangerous policy to pursue.
Until such times as peaceful participants from previous cultural expressions, (incidentally protected legally by the ECHR), can return home from Drumcree and past Ardoyne, (not through it as has falsely been claimed), on the main arterial road, then the parading issue will never be resolved as republicans have not compromised one iota, much in line with their stance on each of the three issues you were optimistically trying to resolve.
You must take on board, that in the United States, any suggestion to take down your Stars and Stripes from Capitol Hill would be met with widespread rejection and anger, and rightly so; all my community are asking for is the same gravitas be given to our position, even though ours is a much more intense scenario as the people who removed the flag from City Hall are the same organisation that blew up Belfast for decades and killed thousands of our citizens throughout our country.
If either of you have any heart, or understanding of right and wrong, I urge you both to reflect on the carnage and heartache caused by nationalists and republicans who refused and still refuse to comply with the democratic wishes of the majority of people in NI, and re-establish the rule of law with zero tolerance to those who threaten or resort to violence and allow the people of Northern Ireland to enjoy the same rights as our fellow citizens in the rest of the UK, and live our lives in peace without the terrorists of the past being rewarded and elevated into positions of power and feted as statesmen and women.
They are not, and never will be.
Your proposals as they stand will only further polarise the two communities further and fuel the simmering frustration within Unionism in general, and Loyalism in particular.
There can be no viable acceptance of your paper from my community, and if it is forced upon us, I fear for the inevitable backlash and political vacuum which it will create and the resultant loyalist violence which will be met no doubt, by the veteran provisional ira members, whom many gullible onlookers ignorantly label as ‘dissidents.’
The one-way traffic of concessions to a rabid minority of violent thugs has left the tinderbox ready for the spark to ignite the flames of vengeance, as Militant Loyalism is in a state of internal turmoil and nothing would unite them more than a common cause that you may deliver to them on a plate and set us back decades once again.
I urge you to draw back and not to consider carrying on applying pressure to accept your proposals, because they are unacceptable to my community in more or less every aspect of the issues you are addressing; the phraseology used, definitions falsely attributed, and downright immoral language used to justify the unjustifiable from the past tragic losses incurred as a result of the deputy first minister’s terrorist organisation that he is so proud of.
There is no chance of any shared future until such times as those involved in terrorism are side-lined and shunned by society, only then can we move on and create a better and prosperous NI within a vibrant and pluralist United Kingdom.
In closing, your well intentioned attempt at alleviating the disturbances from a volatile year is only succeeding in humiliating my community further and appeasing republicans, and because of that central core reason, it will fail; and far from helping my people, you will only end up rousing the slumbers of Loyalism and give them the excuse they seek to harness their disenchanted membership back into the fold as well as the next generation, and ignite the flames I alluded to earlier.
Terrorism must be punished, not rewarded, and the rule of law upheld, otherwise we descend once more into the dark abyss of terrorist anarchy.
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