Play the European card
Play the European card

By Fr Des Wilson

It is difficult to see how democratic people can make any further concessions to the British government or its Irish representatives.

No agreement made with them will be kept. Even an internationally recognised agreement signed with all due solemnity by heads of state in the sight of the international community was not kept. So if democratic people make concessions to the British administration to get agreed concessions in return this is futile. They will not keep agreements. And even if the United Nations were brought into the picture, we have seen in recent times how the London, Washington and Madrid administrations treat the UN.

United Nations decisions or desires or mandates will be over-ridden by Bush and Blair on behalf of those who control politics and economics in England and the United States. No agreement with unionists is worth the paper it is written on and this will be so as long as Blair and the present unionist leadership are in place.

So, is this a hopeless situation? No, not at all. It means, however, that no concession of any kind whatever should be given to the British administration. You will get nothing in return. However, if democratic people say to the British administration - certainly you will get this, that and the other, but only if you concede this, that and the other in advance - that is different. In other words, new arrangements have to be made which can be brought to the European courts, which will say 1) that there must be elections now, and 2) that any public representatives who refuse to accept the governmental positions they are entitled to must give way and let the next party down the line take their places.

It is simple. It is democratic. It recognises the rights of voters to have representatives of their own choice. It recognises also - and this is important - the right of unionists to remove themselves from any democratic process.

If unionists do not want to be part of a democratic voting and representative process - and clearly they do not - they must not be forced into it. Those who do want to be part of such a process, however, must not be penalised by the unionist refusal. The obvious solution is that after the elections, unionists are offered the seats their numbers entitle them to and if they decline to accept them then the party with the next highest vote takes their place in government. If, however, after some time they decide to take part after all then the situation is changed and they take their rightful place. But local self-government which promises fairness is so important that it must not be sacrificed by the refusal of any party to take its rightful place in it.

One big question is whether the Blair administration has the courage to say this and whether the Ahern people have the courage to insist on it. The answer to both questions is probably no - the development of good government in Ireland's northeast could lead to a demand for similar advanced representation elsewhere, thus upsetting the political patronage systems for both. But in that case surely it is right for us, the people, the voters, to take a case to the European courts. We are not asking for privileges, we are demanding recognition of rights.

The London administration does not give us those rights, it has the duty to recognise that we have them. It has not done so and has no intention of doing so. The European courts are a possible answer and we should get there as quickly and strongly as possible. We have to understand that the British administration has problems but because of its own history the European community will understand them only too well.

The unionist community is a community of fear. For decades they were ruled by the landed gentry and their associations, by high churchmen, low churchmen, secret societies, Orange Order, freemasons and the British political institutions. Deviation was punished by loss of jobs or exile or worse. And the unionist community with few exceptions accepted this until it was too late to change it.

Today we can see a startlingly recognisable pattern in what unionist militants are doing. They are prepared to forego democratic government themselves in order to keep others from having any part in it. They attack schoolchildren, they daub shops and homes with racist slogans, they attack religious services and threaten the lives of worshippers. They burn churches and try to eliminate people from districts and jobs. They forbid mixed marriages and oppose schooling for those outside their community.

Where was there behaviour of this kind before? It mirrors almost exactly the pattern of behaviour in Germany from the mid-nineteen thirties. In those days the targets were the Jews and other minorities but it might well have been any group who were vulnerable and important enough to be a focus for envy. The Europeans would understand that situation very well indeed because their peoples experienced it.

Persuasion does not deal adequately with such abuses. Law still can if you apply it soon enough. And if the London administration is not strong enough - and the Dublin administration not courageous enough - to deal with it, then European courts possibly may.

At least we have them nowadays. The poor unfortunates in Germany in the nineteen thirties had no such protections. Let's use them.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News