By Fr Des Wilson (for Andersonstown news)
It is truly astonishing. Peter Hain visits this area for a couple of days now and again and makes decisions about what our elected representatives can do and about how we shall be governed. Once he has done this there is no political way we can say No to, or change, what he decrees.
Normally we would expect that we could go to court and raise our objections there if necessary. That is what happens in normal countries.
But the Appeal Court ruling legitimising the British Secretary of State’s decision to appoint two Orangemen to the Parades Commmission, but no residents, is indicative of the society we’re living in.
This is what the DUP and other unionists are insisting should continue. In other words, they prefer a dictatorial form of government to one in which we will have a say in our own affairs. They have rejected even a form of government in which there would be a way of overturning that which a political secretary decrees when we find it objectionable.
Does anybody really realise to what depths the people of Ireland’s northeast have been lowered?
* They are the only people left in all the European community who are governed by decrees which nobody has the political power to challenge.
* They are the only people in the European community whose own solutions to their political problems are outlawed from the negotiating table.
* They are the only people in the European community whose economic, social, political and educational progress is able to be held up by the decisions of a single man or by a single minority party whom he favours.
* They are the only people in the European community governed by the last remnants of European dictatorial government.
If ever we find something in all this for which to be grateful it will be this: that by his actions Hain has revealed once again, stark-nakedly, the true nature of the regime by which Ireland’s northeast is governed.
If the Secretary were to appoint a fully Orange panel to the Parades Commission there is nothing decent people could do about it.
The courts are legally powerless in the matter, the Assembly is politically powerless to do anything about it. The universities and the churches and most of the communications media either have no power to question it or if they have any persuasive power, however slight, they have decided not to use it.
The people of Ireland’s northeast are in fact a powerless people. And it is the determination of the DUP and other unionists to keep them that way, which makes them the only remaining people in the European community who are willing to be ruled by decree rather than by the free decisions of a free and responsible people. To those who value their dignity this is truly an astonishing choice.
Years ago we used to criticise - some of us were even willing to struggle and pray and work against - people who chose government by decree rather than government by free choice. Now our criticisms have come home to roost, a sizeable section of our people are doing the same themselves, choosing to be ruled by decree rather than to be self-governed by their own free choices. And if it fills us with shame that any of our people, however browbeaten by clerical and other bullies, behave in this craven way, so it should.
Many, many people in our lifetime have struggled against dictatorial rule of that kind. Now we are stuck with it and, in the words of the Bible which ruling Christians ask us to read, “We like sheep have gone astray”.
The late Sean MacBride called it the remnants of the slave mentality in Ireland. It must be something like that.
So let us insist on saying that those who think this way are a minority of a minority and must be discredited through their own foolishness and by decent people’s opposition to it.