Belfast Telegraph

The unionist turkeys voting for Christmas

By Liam Clarke

If the republican dissidents in the Real IRA or Republican Network for Unity were asked to draw up a policy for unionism they could hardly have come up with something more damaging than the "graduated response" the unionist parties did in fact adopt this year.

The response was drawn up at a meeting of all the unionist parties and the Orange Order after the Parades Commission refused the Ligoniel Orangemen permission to march past Ardoyne shops on their return from the Twelfth celebrations last year.

The detail, now revealed by UTV's Tracey Magee, shows clearly that the unionists were, when they adopted it, prepared to risk everything for that march of a few hundred yards. If implemented fully and vigorously it would weaken the link with Britain, destroy devolution and bring joint London/Dublin rule closer.

The parties committed themselves to non-participation in talks on parades till the Ardoyne impasse was passed and reserved the right to pull out of talks on flags, parading and the past as well. The document suggested pulling out of Policing Board and Police and Community Policing Partnerships. It suggested action at Westminster and in Europe.

That could be embarrassing, but the real damage will be done in the Assembly if the graduated response ever rolls. Committees would be disrupted by non-attendance or boycotted altogether, petitions of concern would be more widely used to block legislation, and unionist ministers would adopt a minimalist approach to the North South Ministerial Council.

The last option is withdrawal from the Executive and the collapse of the institutions. The document states this would be "the final card" to play.

Final card indeed. It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. If the TUV and Ukip, who have just pulled out of the unionist forum, believed this would ever get off the ground then they are more gullible than they look.

If this response ran its course the Orangemen still would not get past Ardoyne, that requires agreement. Instead, the British Government would have us back on its lap under direct rule and events would have shown that the only reliable ally it has here is the Irish Government - local parties would have shown themselves incapable of ruling, with unionists taking the lion's share of the available blame.

This would be a dismal landscape for unionism and a boost for those who hold that Northern Ireland is essentially ungovernable.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph