Nationalists may be in for another long sectarian marching season
The emergence of pictures of two DUP councillors posing for photographs as the Irish National flag was burned on a bonfire in Portadown suggests that nationalists in the North may be in for another long sectarian marching season. Surely it is long past time that the Orange Order and the DUP ceased closing their eyes and turning their backs on the actions of those associated with Twelfth bonfires?
The burning of Tricolours has become such an integral element in Orange Order and loyalist culture that it does not even warrant comment in much of the media anymore. However, we are now confronted by sinister new developments in sectarianism. Effigies of the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in a coffin are now incinerated alongside Polish national flags. These appalling acts of sectarianism and racism are new lows even by the standards of ‘normal’ Twelfth Orange Order celebrations.
Nowhere else in Europe would the ceremonial burning of many hundreds of the national flags of peaceful neighbouring states go virtually unchallenged. What if every Bastille Day the Union Jack was burned across France, or if on St George’s day the flags of Pakistan, Jamaica or Nigeria were burned in British cities? Understandably, there would be harsh diplomatic protests and perhaps riots in the streets. But in Northern Ireland this systematic incitement to hatred has been allowed to become an integral part of unionist culture.
The British government seems to be in a state of denial over their legal obligations to prevent and punish such flagrant incitements to hatred. In April 2007 Britain, along with 26 other EU countries, signed a declaration to punish those responsible for incitement to hatred on the grounds of colour, race, nationality or ethnic origin with terms of imprisonment of between one to three years. Britain itself enacted a similar ‘Religious and Racial Hatred Act’ in 2006. The unwillingness of moderate unionism to confront those who incite hatred is an abdication of moral responsibility and an affront to civil society.
Too many politicians still more concerned about the past
Last week’s Irish News was full of stories of our politicians being outraged. In no particular order: some unionist councillors took a selfie in front of a Twelfth bonfire; some DUP spokesperson felt that Sinn Féin were not serious about talking to them, (possibly a lack of self-awareness there) and Conor Murphy claimed to be “disappointed” having discovered unionists march around in the summer months singing charming little ditties like the Billy Boys. Next Conor will be telling us the Pope is a Catholic.
Am I too cynical in wondering if perhaps Sinn Féin and the DUP have privately agreed to “outrage” each other to justify taking a well-earned break from the talks process?
What is truly disappointing is that SF/DUP seem not to have noticed the R2E report on the damage to the mental health of our young, caused by our now dual 11-plus systems.
At least the DUP supports the 11-plus (just as they believe in creationism, harassing pregnant women and denying gay couples the right to marry), but what is Sinn Féin’s excuse?
Perhaps their cunning plan is to pass the, now awkward, education portfolio to one of the other parties and blame them. After all it wouldn’t be the first time Sinn Féin has handed powers and responsibilities back in a file marked “too difficult”.
Something needs to be done to stop this 11-plus obscenity, a system that no independent or intellectually honest, educational expert would support. Children are our future, sadly too many of our politicians still seem more concerned about the past.
For me, that is truly outrageous.
Mystery and mystique key to monarchy’s survival
Two of the more compelling arguments against the institution of monarchy are, firstly, it privileges individuals on the grounds of birth and not on need or merit. This is immoral. Secondly, without consultation, the public, willing or unwilling, are required to pay for its upkeep. This is unjust. Unquestionably, most UK citizens admire royalty and will feel blessed at the honour of bending the knee before even its most minor members. To the outsider and the objective observer this subservience is a mystery but mystery and mystique are the key to the monarchy’s survival. Its members are not, never will be, ordinary like the rest of us. They are largely dream creations of the media – perfect, untouchable, unreachable and almost heavenly. Actors, politicians and civil servants aspire to be recognised by them with knighthoods and peerages but, alas, can never be them despite all yearning. You’ve got to be born to it. Depressingly for monarchists, most democracies manage quite efficiently without royalty so its defenders’ dubious fall-back position is the assertion that we’ve got to have it because its existence boosts the economy of the UK through tourism. However, nowhere is there a scintilla of concrete evidence that this is so. Indeed, according to official UN tourist computations, republics, like France and Italy, per head of population, have significantly more tourists than the UK. So too has Spain, which also has a monarchy, but few will disagree that we go there for the sun and sangria and not to bend the knee.
ith regards to the potential standoff at Hannahstown Cemetery, Mrs Nolan has stated she is not going to back down and will fight to keep the headstone of her sadly departed daughter. It is a very emotive subject but hopefully she will be advised that rules are rules and are not there to be interpreted as it suits an individual. Hannahstown cemetery is a place where it is a privilege to be buried.