Double standards and simple solutions

Picture this. A man is walking along the Falls Road. It’s lunchtime and the place is busy with people shopping, chatting, working. Suddenly there’s mayhem - shots ring out and passers-by see two men firing point-blank at a man already lying on the ground. The man is rushed to hospital where he dies a short time later. The gunmen are identified as members of the IRA and the killing is acknowledged as a revenge killing: the man in question had annoyed some senior IRA people.


Can you imagine the reaction? There’d be a crisis in Stormont, unionist parties would withdraw in protest, IRA acts of decommissioning would be declared bogus, there’d be a political crisis and the peace process would wobble and conceivably collapse.

Last Friday at lunch-time Robert Moffett was shot dead on the Shankill Road by members of the UVF because, it’s said, he annoyed some senior UVF figures. Has any politician - unionist, nationalist or republican - stood up and said UVF decommissioning was clearly a fraud? Has anyone expressed outrage that the UVF clearly still has its weaponry and infrastructure still in place? Why is there no talk of ejecting the PUP from Stormont, no declarations of support for the bereaved by prominent politicians, no high-profile trips to the US by grieving family members?

“Oh, bu this is different. Sinn Fein are in government, the PUP isn’t” - that’s the justification for the contrasting response. And it’s a logical response, if you’re someone who believes that double standards help make sense of the moral terrain. If you’re agin double standards, you may find the calm acceptance of a UVF murder sickening.


The cost of policing parades last year was nearly 3 million pounds. At the best of times that’s a hefty sum; in the present stormy waters of recession it’s a criminal waste. There are two ways this waste could be avoided. The Orange Order could accept that it’s their activities that are causing this drain on the public purse and agree to carry the cost themselves. That’s a logical solution. If I were to tie up towns and villages throughout the north for weeks and months on end, it’d be a twisted logic that’d excuse me from having to pay for this kind of disruption.

But there is another and better solution: stop marching. OK, fine, you like putting on a bowler hat and/or an Orange collarette. You like thumping a huge drum until your hands bleed, you like raising banners commemorating your political and religious heroes. But do you have to MARCH when you’re doing it? Or maybe just march on the spot, if you feel in need of exercise. But the idea that you must GO somewhere, as though you were suffering from restless legs syndrome, is bizarre.

There’s a third solution, but I’m reluctant to offer it because it’s too blindingly simple. With this strategy, you’d save the 3 million pounds. you wouldn’t offend people in places like the Ardoyne, chaps’ hands would stop bleeding and the rest of us wouldn’t have to take detours past towns and villages because there’s a band practice or a parade. The solution is, give up on the Orange thing. The membership is shrinking, it’s provoked some appalling violence (remember the Quinn children in Ballymoney?) and for six months every year it chafes and abrases relations between the unionist community and the nationalist community. So simply confine your love of William III and your gratitude to him for giving you your religion, freedom and laws to a nice big oil-painting in your front room.

Yes I know. Too simple. Far, far too simple.

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