By John Kelly
Now that the loyalists marching to Drumcree have buried the Good Friday agreement beneath their trampling feet, where will they go? Do they really think that the world cares very much about their silly bowler hats, their indecipherable sashes, their tortured history as unwanted colonialists, and, above all, their psychotic reluctance to enter into the real world?
They have effectively killed the agreement. What did anybody expect? They will have to face the consequences of their own obduracy. They will even have to ask questions about what they want, who they are, where they came from, and above all, they will have to ask who really cares? Except, of course, the children of the future, even their own grandchildren’s children. They are the people who may suffer most as the result of their unbelievable stubbornness. Now that they have taken the decision they have, where do they expect to go?
They claim to be British. But the British do not want them. Like the majority of people in Europe and in the United States, the British, for whom they were once useful, have grown beyond their stunted, ghetto mentalities. The British do not want them. After all, the British are no longer what they used to be. The flat, canvasbacked, wrinkled map of the world that once covered almost every school blackboard in the United Kingdom is no longer covered in that dominant shade of reddish pink that signaled British colonial possessions. The world is different. It has changed.
The loyalists have not changed at all. And that is the problem. People use guns. They can do no harm so long as nobody pulls the trigger. Bombs have no pity. They can be used only where there is no pity. In Britain, the United States and the Republic of Ireland, there can be little pity for people who refuse to change even though they realize that the world they live in has moved far beyond the parameters of their ancestors.
Loyalists marched bravely to the Somme in World War I. There is no doubt about that. But so did republicans. John Redmond, from Wexford, gathered an army of volunteers to join the most decorated regular British Army regiments, The Dublin Fusiliers, the Munsters, the Connachts, in World War I. They did not fight only because they were loyal to the Crown. Many of them were not. Instead, they did it because they saw it as the way to advance the cause of Ireland and the Irish people who sought their own parliamentary powers.
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David Trimble should have marched to the modern equivalent of the Somme. He should have taken his seat as First Minister in the Northern Assembly. He should have shown courage and nobility. Instead, he displayed a churlishness that would be remarkable only if it was not unionist. The empty seat betrayed the empty mind.
One must ask why the Unionist Party signed the Good Friday agreement in the first place. They had the same reservations about arms decommissioning as they have now. They said then that all arms had to be handed in. And even as they said so, loyalists who were armed were planning pipe bomb sectarian attacks on innocent attacks. The killing of Rosemary Nelson was being planned.
The Patten Commission on the RUC has not yet delivered its report. Para-military organizations — you must be joking. Those of us who are unfortunate enough to remember the B-Specials will remember very well that it was certainly a paramilitary organization, armed and supported by the British government, the government of the same United Kingdom that does not really want the North.
There can be only one reason why the unionists, the DUP, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all, signed the Good Friday agreement. It was not because they hoped for an Easter Sunday.
The only possible explanation is that they hoped that under the weight of the necessary Constitutional changes in the Republic, combined with domestic and international public opinion, the republicans would founder. They hoped that the "IRA/ Sinn Fein," as they like to describe it, would split. And if they did not, they had a Plan B in hand.
We saw the manifestation of Plan B last week. Trimble did not sit as first minister in the Executive he agreed to form. And the Rev. Ian Paisley described it as a "good day." For Jeffrey Donaldson, the man who left the Unionist Party hierarchy because he was against the agreement, almost before the ink, was wet, it was assuredly a good day. Not alone was he back in the fold. He was herding the sheep as well.
The only man who emerged with real dignity was Seamus Mallon, deputy first minister. He was there to take his seat. He was there also to declare that he was forced to resign rather than to maintain the charade. He knew what he was elected to do and he did it. Not Trimble. But where is he and his party going?
Do they really think that the vast majority of people on this island and the UK as well are going to continue to put with their foolishness? Do they hope that two prime ministers who have put their reputations on the line are going to continue to allow themselves to be fobbed off by an alleged majority that is, in fact, a minority that has nothing whatsoever to do with their more enlightened electorates? So Trimble left a Unionist meeting in Glengall Street, just a few miles away from Stormont, and uttered incredibly that he had better things to do than spend his time in the Assembly he had agreed. A Nobel Prize he may have received, a noble man he certainly is not. A "good day," as Paisley put it, but for whom? Hardly for all of the people who have died, and hardly for those that may yet die. The unionists have disgraced themselves again. This time, the world will see them for what they are.