Sinn Fein jumped through DUP’s hoops and fell short
The long-awaited Hillsborough Agreement is a sham with grave consequences for the
nationalist community, says Chris Donnelly, a former Sinn Fein council candidate.
Two weeks ago, the DUP stood isolated, cornered by circumstances and by the
party’s failure to abide by its obligations in the eyes of the governing consensus
throughout these islands and beyond.
The cracks in the one-time solid DUP edifice weren’t long in appearing as the
leadership stood poised to pay the price for its enduring failure to educate its
membership and community base about the pains of compromise at Stormont.
Alas, agreement was reached and the elbow-worn podiums wheeled out to prop up the
by now very weary prime ministers.
Amid the smiles and laughter, there was even the promise of a new beginning; a
hint that, this time, the deal would survive.
I’m afraid I don’t buy it. This deal’s a pup, a sham which would more
appropriately have been agreed at Scarva.
Within minutes of publicly endorsing the ‘deal’, DUP leader Peter Robinson was
boasting of his clever device to pull the shutters down if he didn’t get what he
wanted over parading. How’s that for a new commitment to partnership?
As each of the firmly-set deadlines approaches, we can expect sabre-rattling and
late night negotiation.
The Hillsborough deal has ensured that the DUP can effect the downfall of the
Stormont administration on more favorable terms if republicans do not concede
critical ground on the parading dispute.
The decision by Sinn Fein to agree to a rigid timeline over parading has elevated
the issue in a manner which has unnerved many within the nationalist community.
It is discussed in terms which ask plenty of nationalists, but nothing of
unionists regarding developing an equal society based on trust, tolerance and
Nationalist communities continue to suffer due to the inability of the leaders of
nationalism/republicanism to alter the parameters within which the parades issue
Those parameters decisively favor the Loyal Orders — and, by extension, the
unionist political leadership — as the ideal compromise becomes one in which the
unionist ‘quid’ of entering into negotiations with residents is deserving of a
reciprocal ‘quo’ in the form of an unhindered parade.
Sinn Fein repeatedly jumped through DUP hoops in the vain hope of obtaining the elusive prize of the devolved policing and justice ministry it failed to nail down at St Andrews — a shortcoming which itself illustrated that republicans need some fresh, legally literate pairs of eyes around the top table.
Imagine were republicans to insist that discussions on parading only take place in
the context of dealing with how either community embraces political and cultural
expressions of the ‘other’ side.
Think what republicans could bring to that table regarding the display of the
Irish tricolor — not to mention localized solutions involving reciprocal parading
through loyalist communities.
Once DUP representatives realized that the price for pursuing a parade through the
Crumlin Road interface would be having to sell a republican parade through
Ballysillan, the present ‘parades-or-bust’ strategy would be shelved.
The republican mantra of seeking dialogue as the panacea for all parading ills is
idealistic claptrap exposing a failure to adapt tactics which has seen nationalist
communities outmaneuvered in areas like Ardoyne, Rasharkin and Springfield,
provoking considerable local discontent, something which people living on the
Garvaghy and Ormeau Roads are acutely aware of.
For the sake of the entire community, republicans need to jettison the tired
rhetoric of talking and walking as it merely plays into the hands of the Loyal
Orders and a Parades Commission, which has shown itself to be sympathetic to the
walk for talk solution.
A resolution to parading is predicated on the acceptance that mutual respect
entails being prepared to do precisely what we ask of others. Posing that
challenge to the political leaders of unionism is the key to moving the discussion
out of unionism’s comfort zone.
The people in Nationalist areas such as Dunloy, Rasharkin, Lower Ormeau, Garvaghy
Road, Ardoyne and others where these contentious parades take place each year are
not in favor of the Hillsborough Agreement. The SDLP has denounced it as a sham as
has the UUP. It seems that the only ones in favor are the two parties in Stormont
who agreed to it, the British and Irish governments both of whom want to wash
their hands of it, and the usual cadre of American politicians who have an
insatiable need to be involved in Irish issues especially in the run-up to St.