Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One-off opportunity?

I know well enough that Ulstermen of all persuasions are a stubborn lot and that we generally need to be dragged kicking and screaming in the direction of progress (just ask the Big Ulsterwoman), but Tony Blur's laying it on thick these days.

According to the greatest spin-meister the UK has ever had in government, the cross-party devolution talks which got underway in St Andrews today are a "one-off opportunity" to do a deal securing devolved government in Northern Ireland / the Six Counties / Our Wee Country / The Occupied North (please delete as appropriate). Don't make me laugh.

Don't get me wrong either. I want devolved government, I want power-sharing, and I want all law-abiding people in Ireland to feel included, represented and useful. The thing Blur needs to realise is that Irish people are canny. Ulster people won't swallow anywhere near the volume of tripe the English queue up to eat out of his hand. We may be slow to move, but we know a shyster when we see one, and we avoid them like the plague. The man Blur has to persuade is a guy whose ideal social life involves a cup of tea and home-made scones, not Bolly and canapés.

As someone from a similar social background to Ian Paisley (but who doesn't share his politics), I can tell you that when you hear someone with Blur's background and credentials telling you this is a "one-off opportunity" your initial response is to retch. "The future's a long time", you think. Finally, if you've any sense, though, you ponder on all the similar opportunities you've had down the years.

In 1921 Unionists said "no", and the ancient nation of Ireland was divided into two jurisdictions. It may have seemed like a creative solution, but the only people it served well were the Unionist élite, and even then it only lasted 50 years before their bad decisions caught them up.

In 1972 Unionists said "no" to Gerry Fitt and the SDLP, the people they'd give their eye-teeth to be negotiating with now. That decision cost 800 of their own lives and over 1,000 other people's.

A one-off opportunity now? No. Just the latest. And each time, the Protestant people of Ulster stand to gain less and less. Their Catholic neighbours feel more and more alienated, and the two governments get more and more pissed off. The real price for "no" is paid, ultimately and always, not by our political representatives but by your average Ulsterman.

So, Ian, don't say "no" this time. What's a future worth with half our population uneasy and alienated? We're equals now, thank God. Time to give a little and be surprised.

Do a deal while you still can.


At 8:17 p.m., Anonymous Arthur said...

Another good post, BU.

I'll say it again: a deal is definitely do-able in my opinion. There will never be a better time than now.

At 3:51 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

B.U.: I'm with you 100% on this one. Arthur, I'm really sceptical about a deal this time out. Truth be known, England and Ireland should have gone for joint rule decades ago. If they were to exclude all Northern Irish born people from government, policing etc. for a generation or two, the problem would very probably simply disappear. Unfortunately, we Ulster Scots disappear with it.


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