Here we go again
Here we go again

By Bill Delaney

Like a lost soul caught in the limbo between Heaven and Earth, the North appears destined to keep repeating the same bitter cycle of talks, breakthrough, collapse and chaotic recrimination.

It is all the more frustrating on this occasion, and the recriminations all the more intense, because it seemed a major paradigm behind the dispute had finally been exposed.

Asignal development in the past number of years is the admission in Ballymena of unionism’s craving for a symbolic victory, when Ian Paisley called for the humiliation of the IRA.

Subsequently it emerged that, whatever unionist demands the IRA satisfied -- decommissioning, demobiliisation, disbandment -- all was subordinate to the requirement that the IRA be shamed and the croppies seen to lie down.

The word ‘humiliation’ is extraordinarily potent. And Ian Paisley’s expression of that desire, in clear terms, revealed a great deal.

Not only is the demand unreasonable, it is also irrational. It is a demand for the unachievable, in the knowledge, conscious or unconscious, that it cannot be achieved.

And the explicit pursuit of an unachievable goal is the vivid expression of the unionist dysfunction which has prevented any credible peace deal in the North.

And so, for a while, it stood before us all, naked and ugly and whole.

Republicans could not stop using the word, although the concept is obviously anathema. Humiliation is still on the lips of the republican leadership, who still appear to be grappling with its meaning.

But for a month, we had a chance to explore why unionism is seeking the degradation of its old enemy.

The possibility existed for unionists and their cohorts to step back from that primitive motivation, and to recognise nationalists and republicans as people and citizens with equal rights who could not, and should not, be humiliated.

It would have involved the greying of black-and-white questions of victory and defeat, vindication and negation, right and wrong. It could have opened the door to a discussion of forgiveness and redemption instead of the battle for supremacy and oppression.

But, once again, all has been scattered to the high winds in a maelstrom of unsubstantiated allegations. If it wasn’t a bank raid it would have been something else.

The mayhem which surrounded Hugh Orde’s declaration on Friday was reminiscent of the frenzy of ludicrous allegations against the Colombia 3.

At one point, they were accused of plotting a nuclear strike on London. The dogs in the street delivered their verdict long before Judge Acosta did, and the lamp-post journalists had the story then too.

Plus ca change.

Now, once again, the IRA has been established in the media as the most evil organisation ever. Sometimes the old certainties are the best.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News