Unionists in pool can’t let go of the sides

By Brian Feeney

Fascinating to watch unionists of all shades tying themselves in knots about human rights and devolution of justice and policing. In their heads they know they have no sustainable argument to oppose an expansion of human rights legislation or to take control of justice and policing and in their guts they know they’re nuts to land themselves in the position of being agin human rights but still they dig a deeper hole. Why?

They’re in a time warp. They describe in their comments a Britain, which if it ever existed outside their minds, vanished some time in the 1950s when people began to criticise the monarchy in print, when the Festival of Britain, the Labour government’s attempt at national morale-boosting, was more a demonstration of weakness and nostalgia than of the future.

They use the words ‘UK’ and ‘Britain’ inter-changeably.

When they remember that the north isn’t part of Britain they fall back on the UK or ‘the mainland’, a desperate attempt to find a single entity to be part of.

Unfortunately for unionist yearning, neither Britain nor the UK is a unitary state nor has either been for many a long day now.

There have always been regional variations, some of a very fundamental nature such as law and the legal process in Scotland - for example the right to a trial in Scotland within 140 days.

Would you rather have the Scottish system than what happens here when a person can be held for years on remand? Does that right make Scotland less a part of the UK?

Why would you not want the power to pass such legislation?

Can you believe a person is serious when he or she opposes an extension of human rights because, wait for it, it might lead to a united Ireland? There’s you thinking you needed a referendum.

It’s a laughable argument. It’s nonsense yet the Church of Ireland Gazette published it as an editorial despite the uninformed and puerile ideas about the state and the ignorance displayed of the role of Europe in society and law here.

How is any of that balderdash connected to resistance to devolution of justice and policing? It’s because it exhibits exactly the same mentality - a futile desire to hang on to an imaginary Britain, a belief that any demand for change is a fenian plot, a laughable faith in the notion that ‘British justice is the best in the world’, that Westminster is the mother of parliaments and the even more ridiculous idea that the UK is a modern democratic state, with its monarchy, hereditary peerage, established Church, anti-Catholic legislation and first- past-the-post electoral system.

Perhaps most depressing is that such a mentality indicates a fear of self-reliance, a unionist unwillingness to stand on their own two feet, to take the opportunity to strike for as much independence as possible as the Scottish Parliament did as soon as they had the chance. Unionists hide behind the absurd idea of ‘constitutional exceptionalism’ ignoring the fact that each part of the UK is an example of constitutional exceptionalism, nowhere more so than here.

What other part of the UK, or anywhere else in Europe for that matter is legally tied into joint ministerial meetings to allocate and share resources across borders?

Well, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands for a start. The exception

is Britain. Has it done any of the others any harm?

The current excuse for resisting devolution of justice and policing is that Sinn Féin will have a ministry.

So the principle has already been conceded - the only objection is political. Who exercises the power. It’s a bit like being in the swimming pool but too scared to let go of the bank, which more or less sums up the whole unionist attitude to power-sharing.

They have had to be dragged and cajoled every inch of the way wearing water wings and a lifebelt.

This recent outbreak of the jitters suggests that, rather than stand on their own feet, unionists prefer to opt for a backward-looking provincial status in everything they do.

Is that really the limit of their ambition, to be a dependant province of an imaginary state?

Yes, of course it is.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News