As 2012 nears an end we look to 2013, Gerry Adams has described the year ahead, in his New Year message, as quite possibly, maybe, being the year of reconciliation. He also describes the ‘peace process’ as ‘work in progress’.
These are all words of ‘peace’ and ‘reconciliation’ but are carefully guarded terms which have in fact a derogatory and divisive meaning in the current atmosphere. The ‘peace process’, a phrase coined during the talks leading up to the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, describes the negotiations and ‘meeting of minds’ in the run up to and signing of that accord.
Sinn Fein continue to use the phrase, especially when attacking their opponents. whether Unionists or ‘internal’ Republican naysayers. For Gerry Adams – now long departed this part of the United Kingdom – and his co-conspirators, the ‘peace process’ is not about achieving peace or political stability in the eyes of many Unionists (yet another contradictory and ambiguous term that emerged out of the ‘peace process’), but code for delivering on the objectives of Sinn Fein – a united Ireland.
Yes, a united Ireland. Sinn Fein once believed that they could defeat and overthrow ‘Britain’ through the use of terrorism – bombings, shootings and so-forth. Recently they have referred to the period known as the ‘Troubles’ (or sectarian murder campaign) as being, not about overthrowing ‘Britain’, but about securing civil rights.
My mind is turned at this stage to George Orwell’s book 1984, or indeed to Animal Farm, where the rules and meaning(s) of which were constantly changed and revised for numerous purposes. Revisionism is nothing new, the IRA and Sinn Fein have been playing this game for some considerable period of time. Something that is stated in public is fiction until it becomes fact, or vice-versa; like, the fact that the IRA murdered innocent civilians (La Mon, Bloody Friday, Jean McConville, one could go on …). Such use of language, the constant changing of the rules and revision of history is not unique to Northern Ireland, as it usually forms part and parcel of the political process.
It is however vital that people in Northern Ireland stick to the facts, know their history and know the truth, otherwise we will see future generations believe such nonsense, including such things of the IRA’s war being ‘legitimate’, they only targeted other ‘soldiers’ or to use Sinn Fein/IRA speak, ‘Crown forces’, and that the ‘Brits’ were the perpetrators of violence and everything that was wrong and immoral. I do not argue that people should become bitterly engulfed or dominated by such truths, but that these things in the wider political world are seen in the context of the truth. They are indeed fact, not fiction.
Anyway, back to the main focus of this piece. Adam’s suggestion therefore that the ‘peace process’ is ‘work in progress’ could well be interpreted as ‘Ireland is still on the road to a United Ireland’ and that 2013 is as important a year as any other in the run-up to 2016, the one-hundredth anniversary of the small insurrection in Dublin in the middle of the then Great War (1914-18) where many thousands of Irishmen died along side their fellow British Servicemen for freedom and democracy.
However, the 2011 Census results would not have made good bed time reading for Gerry or Martin; 59% of people in Northern Ireland hold British passports and 48% of the population are from a Protestant background. This defeats Sinn Fein’s goal of a United Ireland by 2016. Their disappointment to the 2011 Census was reflected in a press statement from Conor Murphy, stating that the only way to resolve the issue of the border was a border poll (something they have been recently calling for, and which remains in the gift of the Secretary of State, or the Prime Minister, who is a Unionist). It was not a statement of triumphalism.
Sinn Fein’s constant drive and words regarding a United Ireland demonstrates just how the critics of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement saw it, and saw it correctly from the position of Sinn Fein/IRA. The Agreement was a means to a united Ireland, not a means to ending terrorism (which it ultimately did secure on a larger scale). This is how Sinn Fein and John Hume sold it to ‘their’ people and it is therefore not surprising how Sinn Fein continue to turn up the heat on the issue in order to remind ‘their’ voters what they are about and how they view the current settlement.
The level in which Sinn Fein have turned the heat up on this issue has done nothing to convince Unionists and Loyalists alike. Take the issue of the flag over Belfast City Hall: this was the ‘straw that broke the camels back. The current and ongoing protests are about the border above all else. This is the politics of identity and symbolism in operation, something Sinn Fein do understand and wish to play upon.
Adam’s ends his statement, arguing: ““The current qualified and conditional claim by Britain on the North will change when a majority of citizens vote to end to the Union. Sinn Féin wants to see a border poll held in the upcoming period. That means building support for a poll and for a vote to end Partition.”
This is clearly a man and a party that does not seek to make Northern Ireland work, but to see it wiped from existence. Reconciliation is therefore not about uniting and breaking down barriers of sectarianism in the confines of Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom, but within a 32-county Republic. Such a policy will not lead to progress, but violence, hardship and increased division – all of the things that clearly worked out for Sinn Fein and their little war between 1969 and 1996.
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