Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Theresa, threats won't force us to live in harmony

Does Theresa Villiers really have a handle on this place, do you think?

Our Secretary of State recently sparked considerable political flap with comments to the extent that if local representatives didn't make progress sharpish towards our old friend the "shared future", economic aid would be withheld by Westminster.

She did not make clear the amount of aid which might be withheld.

But – something we can all agree upon re this Kim Jung unprecedented blackmail aimed at forcing DUP/Sinn Fein togetherness – the withholding of any amount of cash in this place would be disastrous.

Especially at a time of recession.

And yet ... 15 years after the signing of the Agreement you could argue that Tess of the Villiers does have a point. Children who were toddlers back then have now reached adulthood. It's about time we saw some progress on real reconciliation.

Tellingly on the day the Secretary of State made her comments she was visiting one of our many, still necessary peace walls.

We all know that it's unlikely these tour bus favourites will come tumbling down any day soon. Precisely because it's not in the interests of our political parties that they should. Why would political parties want to work towards togetherness of the people when they know that this is likely to spell their own demise?

Every so often it suits politicians on both sides to stir the pot a bit and ratchet up the inter-community tensions.

The DUP and Sinn Fein can get along fine and dandy when it suits them. But they never want to be seen as too pally. That's not the way to attract votes.

This Stormont interpretation of divide and rule has, in turn, left its coarse imprint upon the electorate. This place is still the hotbed of sectarian spite that ever it was.

It may even be worse.

This week for example, we've had masked men on cherry pickers hoisting flags to commemorate 100 years of the UVF.

This commemoration, we're informed, is to honour "the old UVF" – that honourable body of men who marched to the Somme and in their many thousands laid down their lives there.

Speaking as the descendant of just one of those men, I am pretty certain that my great-uncle who fell in battle would recoil in disgust at the thought of his memory being "commemorated" by flag-hoisters in balaclavas and a modern day "UVF" whose stock in trade is violence, extortion and drug dealing.

Meanwhile over on the other side, a snap poll of delegates at the weekend Sinn Fein ard fheis in Dublin (as exclusively revealed in this paper) shows that over a quarter say that dissident violence is justifiable. And that's just one of the findings pointing to a shocking degree of backing for the dissident terror campaign.

The flag protests, the children dressed as mini-terrorists, the mass online incitement and sectarian sniping, the petrol bombing, the pipe bombing, the ongoing utter hatred, it's all symptomatic of a political "solution" that depends upon keeping people apart.

Amid this tumult, the clipping shut of Ms Villiers' purse is not going to make a blind bit of difference.

The point you are missing Theresa, is that actually we are already agreed on our "shared future".

It's a shared future of division.

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