Hope and history twenty years on

I had slept late and herself was out at mass with the cubs.
A Derry comrade had crashed that night and he was my alarm call.
“It’s done. They’ve signed up for it”.
That was twenty years ago today.
I was ten at the battle of the Bogside and an enraged 14-year-old when the slaughter of Bloody Sunday happened.
Between that my late mother and I said in a Doig’s Tour bus weaving through the streets of Belfast, on Monday, August 9th, 1971.
Born in the late 1950s the Northern conflict would be the backdrop to my growing up.
It seemed interminable.
It took courage to reach out.
In the darkness of 1988, after Gibraltar, Milltown and the funeral killings it needed people of vision to search for another way.
By any objective criteria IRA was not defeated.
They were not short of weaponry or people willing to use them.
What the good Friday Agreement represented was a triumph of Jaw-Jaw over War-War.
I use those terms deliberately because it was the machinations of Churchill and his contemporaries that created the Orange State.
Twenty Years on the equality agenda is still to work through.
The DUP’s stonewalling on Acht na Gaeilge is indicative of a lack of parity of esteem.
That term was coined during the Stormont talks two decades ago.

In a sense, it encapsulated what the Orange State was for the nationalist minority.

Of course, that minority status will soon be a thing of the past.


Another item that is yet to be fully dealt with is the legacy of the conflict.
The relatives of the two massacres in Ballymurphy, either side of Bloody Sunday, are still waiting for justice.
On the unionist side, they could point to the face the transformation in the lives of many nationalist had made the union more secure than at any time since Partition.
Ah, events dear boy, events…
Brexit is a game changer on this island.
It was put the issue of Partition on the agenda again for many Northern Nationalists.
It has also, for the first time, got many unionists question the efficacy of remaining in the UK.
It would appear that history on my little island is starting to quicken.
My recent piece on my hopes for a United Arlene was well received.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Now, this was passed to me yesterday.

I was advised to be cautious by a veteran Republican who thought that it had to be a spoof.
Well, apparently it wasn’t.

Here is the piece in an Australian publication that contains the Nesbitt quote.

For the avoidance of doubt, Mike Nesbitt was a leader of “Ulster Unionism” (sic).
He is still influential.
When a leader of unionism can state the following then you know that, once more, hope and history can rhyme.
For him to state, as an assertion, that people would not be worse off in a United Ireland takes one of the major planks away from the unionist argument against reunification.
Of course, in the sink estates of the self-defined Protestant Unionist Loyalist community (PUL) community the objections are pitifully threadbare.
It’s about their desperate need to be The People.
There still be flegs there…
However, Nesbitt represents the worldview of the middle-class unionist.
The term was coined some years ago “the Prod in the garden centre”.
Economics means much to people who have something to lose.
The economy of the 26 counties is motoring away from what passes for a private sector in Narne Arne.
Soon the Republic of Ireland will be within the biggest trading block in the world and the UK will not be.
Unlike Scotland, which would need to apply for EU membership the Six Counties has the East Germany solution.
When Die Mauer fell the DDR was immediately part of a unified Germany and ipso facto part of the EU.
The stated aim of the Sinn Féin leaders as they entered ditto the Stormont talks two decades ago was to “take the gun out of Irish politics”.
Only the ballot box matters now.
The day of the ArmaLite has mercifully passed.
Now our gallant allies in Europe are in Brussels and the Republic of Ireland, as part of the largest trading block in the world offers the people of the Six Counties a way out of Blue Passport isolation.
All of these events are possible because the conflict in the North was demilitarised.
That process took a huge step forward twenty years ago.
It is worth pausing to celebrate that and all of those who had the courage to believe.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion