The elephant in the room
Election posters of Michelle O’Neill declare that it is time for real change! Almost a quarter of a century following the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), the posters scream there hasn’t been any real change in all that time. Advocates of that agreement, from the Free State establishment and leadership of the republican movement, sought to convince us this meant for the first time there was a constitutional path to achieving Irish unity while both the first time accepted a unionist veto over the wishes of the majority living on the island. Meanwhile John Hume and the SDLP argued that the formation of political and economic unions like the EU had eroded the concept of nationalism. Brexit and the current situation in Ukraine tend to demolish that argument.
What Brexit showed, however, was while the GFA suggested that it was for the people of Ireland alone, subject to the wishes of a majority in the six counties, to determine their future, this was solely in relation to whether they wished to remain part of the UK or a united Ireland – as it is clear that a majority in both the Free State and the six counties were opposed to leaving the EU. The Brexit agreement finally reached included the protocol aimed at going some way for people living in the six counties to enjoy some of the benefits that EU members also enjoy. Now we have both Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg signalling they are in the process of drawing up legislation that would effectively tear up the protocol. The justification for this is that a significant proportion of the population in the six counties are opposed to the protocol. What he conveniently forgets is that proportion is a minority of people living here and this is the elephant in the room. The British government has signalled that it is prepared to abandon an international treaty to uphold the interests of a unionist minority here.
It is not the first time that Britain has upheld the wishes of a minority here. Its failure to honour its agreement to implement Irish language legislation is another example where it is upholding the rights of a unionist minority here and while it was acceptable to label the leader of Sinn Féin in the assembly as the Deputy First Minister, it is keen to renegotiate these titles should that title become the prerogative of unionism.
All of this begs the question whether the commitments given by Britain in the GFA are worth the paper they are written on. Instead of Britain upholding the wishes of a majority here, as it declared in the GFA, it is now consistently showing that it is only prepared to uphold the wishes of a unionist minority. That is not democracy, it is authoritarianism and it challenges the assertion that Sinn Féin has made that there is a constitutional path to achieving Irish unity and, after a quarter of a century, whether this is a time for real change.
When it’s your time to vote make it count
Election slogans call on all citizens to come out and make their vote count. In Ireland, north and south, we should always answer this call as a sacred duty to challenge destructive politics and vote for progressive alternatives that will govern all of us equally and justly regardless of gender, race, creed or party-political association.
To make your vote count you should only vote for political parties that can count (mathematically at least), in the south of our country Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil think the sum of Ireland equals 26 counties and in the north of our country the unionist parties think our beloved Ulster has only six counties – they all have misgoverned accordingly within these artificial boundaries.
Take control by voting for politicians who can count and we can count on them to end the wasteful division of our country and unite the people of Ireland (the whole island) to end poverty and injustice at home and in other nations.
I think it is important to note that the history of the world has shown us that natural or artificially created democracies have the same capacity as autocracies to abuse their authority by creating division based on religious, language or culture differences to name but a few so as to maintain their absolute grip on power.
Real democracies treat and respect all their citizens equally and lawfully so that no person or group feels left out or threatened because they hold a minority view in their own country.
When it’s your time to vote make it count.
Dunmurry, Co Antrim
Chris Donnelly – ‘Will the DUP finally be punished by the unionist electorate’ (March 28) – reminds readers of the many, many clashes that the DUP has had in the past with issues involving transparency and diversity among them. He also observes the contradiction in the DUP protesting about the protocol and the fact that the party championed the vehicle which delivered it.
My own take on the DUP’s current activities is that we are observing the logical outworking of reactionary politics - all else in society distilled into a single issue. And what is the DUP trying to sell here? That this protocol is the cause of all our ills and removing it will be harmony. This reminds me of the ‘snake oil’ purveyors who proclaimed one bottle of same would cure all ills.
Yet there is another perspective. As with all reactionary behaviour it displays a large degree of insecurity when it comes to addressing a changing environment. Rather than have the courage to reason and respond, there is rejection and aggressive defensiveness.
Mr Donnelly writes about the DUP circling the wagons. A fair analogy, yet how tight is this circle? Outside it is the cost of living crisis, the issues confronting a society is change, matters pertaining to genuine inclusiveness. All urgent and demanding of a response. One hopes that the electorate will say no to a party which itself was complicit in the creation of the protocol.
Put an end to binary referendums
We know that “all the wars in the former Yugoslavia started with a referendum,” (Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo’s newspaper), February 7 1999); that the conflict in Ukraine also started with binary voting, in 2014; that Luhansk is now calling for yet another ‘false flag’ plebiscite; that Republika Srpska is also rattling its ballot boxes and sabres; that Ireland’s recent Citizens’ Assembly used multi-option voting in its own deliberations and recommended its use for future referendums; and lastly, that these other more accurate multi-option procedures are well researched and sometimes used (as in New Zealand’s five-option referendum in 1992). Can we please, therefore, stop advocating binary referendums here on this island (or in Scotland or Catalonia). We should therefore review the Belfast Agreement in accordance with paragraph 5 (Validation and Implementation), for our own sakes, but also for that of Ukraine and Bosnia.