By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
Ever since the north failed as a political entity in 1972, the British administration which took over has created a series of shop-window fronts to give the false impression, particularly to those looking from abroad, that Britain was addressing the unique problems here.
To that end officials set up various paper tigers with important-sounding names but with neither the power nor the authority to do anything.
So we had the Fair Employment Act, the Fair Employment Agency which made no difference to discrimination, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights which stood by as the British army and RUC violated human rights on a daily basis, the Police Authority which had no authority over the police, and so on and so on.
The one surviving remnant of this mentality is the Community Relations Council, which has been in formal existence for 16 years during which it has made no difference whatsoever to ‘community relations’, whatever that is.
Then of course the CRC wasn’t meant to DO anything about improving community relations. Like SACHR and the FEA and the other quangos, its function is just to BE there so that the British can point to it and claim they’re doing something.
There was a rare intervention in politics from the CRC’s chief executive last week in an article in a local paper urging politicians to support ‘practical measures’ to implement the NIO’s failed Shared Future policy.
His article was very revealing, though not intended to be. It’s worth quoting the two most revealing sentences in full.
“For nationalists, a shared future means committing to full engagement in a state with which they have never felt comfortable and some have dedicated their lives to replacing. For unionists, the hard part of sharing will be making political arrangements with previously violent enemies who have deeply traumatised friends and relations and coming to terms with the Irish dimension to the six counties.”
So there you have it. Apparently, in this mindset, violence was all one way. Unionists, despite being traumatised, will have to make political arrangements with “previously violent enemies”.
All nationalists have to do is engage fully in the state. Dead easy. Obviously none of their friends or relations were victims of violence from unionist sources, paramilitary or official, or a combination of both.
Unionist politicians have all clean hands.
Just forget the effects of systematic discrimination or the endemic sectarianism of unionism which insisted on creating and possessing this place to exclude nationalists.
You could see why nationalists were never comfortable, but that’s OK: sure nobody ever did them any harm. Unlike the horrible nationalists who carried out all the violence. Hmm. Fascinating insight, isn’t it?
Completely wrong-headed. Not just in apportioning blame, but in the CRC mindset you don’t mention sectarianism.
The sentence should read: “For unionists, the hard part of sharing will be treating nationalists as equals with as much right to run the affairs of this place as unionists and accepting that unionists no longer own the north.”
It’s not a case of simply “making political arrangements” and putting up with all-Ireland bodies. The central problem facing unionism is its inherent sectarianism, which no unionist politician has ever confronted because it’s the basis of their political creed.
Look at the continuing sectarianism of unionist councillors, most obviously in Ballymena and Lisburn. Does any unionist leader condemn it? Does any even admit it?
Do you think it likely that the CRC would even name it as a problem never mind do anything about it? Ooh noo. Nayce people call it ‘community relations’.
Yet we’re supposed to believe that the sectarian bigots who dominate councils are suddenly going to treat nationalists as equals in a partnership administration at Stormont with more at stake than emptying the bins and burying the dead. The NIO has been compelled to deal with discrimination and policing. The central gaffe in the CRC article shows there’s a long way to go before they’ll be compelled to deal with sectarianism.