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Sinn Fein seek reconciliation, yet they insist it can only be achieved in a united Ireland

You won’t win trust with lies, the suppression of truth and meaningless rhetoric, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published 28/11/2016

Canon David Porter speaking at Clifton House last week
Canon David Porter speaking at Clifton House last week

I have tried to address what I think is a psychological problem inside the heads of some unionist leaders. These were the words of  Martin McGuinness last week, as he participated in a relaunch in Clifton House of a Sinn Fein document on reconciliation.

This, he explained, took the form of asking about any new Republican initiative: “Is this a trick by Sinn Fein; is this a ruse by Sinn Fein?”

He’s dead right of course that Sinn Fein initiatives often attract that kind of reaction, and not just from unionists.

There are an awful lot of people who are automatically suspicious of anything that emanates from the Sinn Fein leadership.

Like Jeremy Paxman’s approach to interviewing politicians, they wonder “Why is this lying b****** lying to me?”

I’m one of them.

There are, I know, decent, honourable people who vote for Sinn Fein, and I would love to believe that over the past few decades their leaders have become enamoured of the truth, but they haven’t.

They are fixated on distorting Irish history so as to justify physical force, nationalism and legitimate the violence they perpetrated devastatingly and pointlessly during the Troubles.

To this end, they use barefaced lies, the hidden agendas, the groupspeak, the forked tongues and the meaningless rhetoric.

This was neatly pointed out by Belfast man Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chief of Staff who worked until recently as his Director for Reconciliation, and who was invited to speak at Clifton House launch.

“When I first heard Sinn Fein speak of reconciliation,” he said, “I have to confess that my immediate reaction was, here we go again.

“Republicans have form in colonising language.

“Speaking of peacemaking, peacebuilding and now reconciliation.”

You can say that again, Canon.

The document “Towards An Agreed and Reconciled Future” — subtitled “Sinn Fein policy on reconciliation and healing” — had been agreed by the party at its Ard Fheis last April and for relaunching purposes renamed “A Pathway to a Better Future”.

I have read the whole tedious document — which is just short of 5,000 words — and report that it’s short on content and long on wearingly familiar peace-guff.

The word “reconciliation” is used 82 times, “process” 26, “conflict” 21, “equality” 13 and our old friend “parity of esteem” 7.

What I didn’t see was that little word “Sorry”.

As usual, everyone else is to blame for everything bad, particularly of course, the Brits.

“For Republicans,” the document explained, “the partition of Ireland was an integral part of the British colonial strategy”.

Like 90% of what Sinn Fein peddles as the history of Ireland, that is simply untrue.

The border was imposed because the government saw no other way of avoiding a civil war.

(You can find the details in a long essay I wrote about the border recently: http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/british-exit-irish-wound)

Canon Porter’s fine speech is in full on that invaluable blogsite www.sluggerotoole.com.

Although constructive and friendly, Canon Porter was unexpectedly frank about what he thought wrong with the document, particularly its assumption “that ultimately reconciliation will only be achieved through uniting of the island into one state”.

The real partition in Ireland, he reminded his audience, “is not the lines drawn on the map but in the hearts and minds of the people”.

He said: “Uniting Ireland is a legitimate political goal for republicans to hold and to advocate but falls short as the ultimate test of reconciliation, which is essentially relational and not constitutional.”

To my delight, he also pointed out that good relations had not begun with Sinn Fein and the DUP sharing power.

He felt “distinct unease” that there was no “recognition or acknowledgement of the thousands in local communities and civic society who gave of themselves during the worst days of the conflict to build community relations and hold us together”.

The parents who prevented children from joining paramilitary groups and those who crossed barriers “to build friendship and trust had laid the foundations on which your policy now depends”.

You will not find this speech reported in the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht.

They’re still committed to suppressing opinions they don’t like.

It’s one of the reasons so many people don’t trust you and your Sinn Fein colleagues, Mr McGuinness.

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