Bit of a severe heading, right? Well I think that it is correct and after what I have viewed over the past few months I am pretty much convinced of it.
Many commentators, including myself, have discussed in detail the union flag row in Belfast and how this could be tied in with Peter Robinson’s ‘Kafflik Outreach’, the upcoming census results for the North which may show an increase in Catholics as well as those designating as Irish in the North and how this out break of violence could be in line with unionist paranoia about that day finally coming; when they are no longer in the majority religiously and how that may eventually translate into that becoming a reality politically too.
Well, it would appear that part one has occurred, there is no longer a Protestant religious majority in the North. Again, in rather crude terms Protestants have voted unionist while Catholics have tended to vote Nationalist. Over at the Irish Times, they note that the gap between Protestant and Catholic is now 3% with 48% and 45% respectively, the remainder as other. Again, with the OFDFM financing the census perhaps Robbo had a sneak peak a few weeks ago at the results and re-wrote some of his speeches? It made a few of us laugh when he came out with his Outreach thingy especially after what has happened over the past few days to the Alliance and how a matter over the policy for flying the union flag (bringing it in line with other unionist councils such as Lisburn might I add) has been clearly hijacked by loyalist paramilitaries who have been egged on by both the DUP and UUP.
You would think that for them the apocalypse is nigh when clearly it is not; the union is (unfortunately) still safe for the next few years yet they try and play on the politics of identity and division as opposed to really going for a Kafflik Outreach as the UUP/Tory tie up was supposed to (they failed terribly).
With the Alliance party facing concerted and orchestrated attacks in East Belfast and elsewhere we have a rather interesting piece in the Bele Tele where tetchy former UUP man, Alex Kane, tells us that the big winner in this whole debacle is … Sinn Fein. We have had near 15 years of the Good Friday Agreement yet the only thing that yesterday’s men with soap boxes are interested in is defeating SF. Whilst I am not a member of SF to think you will defeat a party such as it that is the main party of Nationalism in the North really shows the mentality of unionism up and the spirit of cooperation that is clearly lacking.
Am I naive enough to think that this is all one way? No, I know that Nats need to do more but when I go through the list of things I wonder if each community is not psychologically in different places. As a Nat, I have seen since I was young our lot politically become better as the years go by, whether it was seeing friends who I played football with in Portadown no longer having the Drumcree return leg rammed down there throats as the stood up and said enough, the signing and implementation of the GFA and Nationalism coming into a settlement where we would no longer face a tyranny of the majority and have a cross border dimension, the RUC being consigned to the dustbin of history and viewed abroad for what it was or there no longer being soldiers on the street, all of these were something I think Nats celebrated either quietly or hanging out of black taxis on the Andytown Road.
However, as we had so little to start with and unionism has had to ‘give up’ so much and will have to in the near future, is it right to think that maybe we are dealing with a community that will be facing a very real sense of bereavement? One where they have become accustomed to certain things and ways of life and that now they are being told that they are no longer acceptable or morally right? Do we have a case of a people whose political class still lives in denial and is unwilling or unable to prepare their community and those outside of their elite for what the future holds?
Further, as a Nat, I too have to ask whether I am happy with the Stormont settlement and the constitutional arrangement in the narrower sense? Where is our Languages Act? Where are our tax raising or lowering powers? What concrete plans have the parties of Nationalism have for a forward thinking economic policy? At the moment, whilst I have argued that we are not facing a crisis in Nationalism, I have to wonder whether if we continue to be ineffective to bring about change at Stormont and progress our wishes and desires where they do not legitimately impinge on others, will many natural Nats simply stop voting? We know what we want, it is not (too) controversial, why has it not been enacted? Why is there this log jam? What can we do to make the process up at Stormont more conducive to compromise without endangering our legislative and executive settlement within the framework of existing treaties (GFA and St Andrews)?
Finally, what must be truly amazing about the vote at BCC and the fall out from it is not necessarily the violence (I do not wish to make light of a serious matter mind) but the fact that this decision was made at all, for if this motion had made its way to Stormont it would not have passed thanks to the community designations. In fact, so little passes unless we all agree that it makes it difficult to do business. Whilst this is the case for all parties, whilst we have a unionist status quo in effect at Stormont it must be asked, what benefits does Nationalism receive by being in the current set up? We know that unionism is not getting all that it wants but since the state is a unionist state to begin with it does make it harder for Nats to push their agenda and even make the state more reflective of the rather large ethnic population and its representatives.
How does this bring about a ‘shared future’ when Nationalism seeks compromise or recognition for its symbols and culture when little lee-way is forthcoming from our ‘partners’? Forget about symbols for a moment, what is our economic policy for starters because I’ve read SF’s and the SDLP’s and it is light. I am not saying that the DUP, UUP or Alliance’s is great reading either, but it is incumbent upon Nat parties to outline what a UI means, what institutions we will have, how we will join up with the South and how matters will become settled. It is also incumbent on us to show that we are serious in working with our neighbours without compromising on our beliefs. Otherwise, we most definitely have a crisis on our hands and soon enough.