Anthem row Stormont in a nutshell
It sometimes seems that our politicians are incapable of carrying out any act without offence either being given or taken. The row over what was intended to be a solemn civic act of remembrance on Armistice Day at Stormont is a perfect example.
Some unionist politicians are angry that the national anthem was dropped from the order of service and Sinn Fein members have taken offence that an impromptu rendition of the song was sung by a number of unionists attending the ceremony.
Yet there were positive elements to the ceremony. Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein hosted the event as Speaker of the Assembly and he laid a wreath, along with the head of the civil service. Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister and Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, both of the republican party, also attended.
That made the ceremony more inclusive and showed the progress that has been made since the days when Sinn Fein would have automatically boycotted such an event.
Now the burning question remains - who decided that the national anthem should be dropped from the service? Traditionally it has been sung at the end of the ceremony, but no one seems sure why that tradition was changed this year.
Of course, it would have been stretching things too far to expect Sinn Fein to participate in singing the national anthem, but as they well know from their own republican history, tradition is very important and any alterations to the accepted norm should be arrived at with the broadest possible consensus.
It would have been a simple matter for all the parties participating in the event to discuss any possible changes to the order of service. Did the Speaker, as host of the event, not consider that to be important? Did he make the decision to drop the anthem? Did he think that dropping the anthem would make the ceremony more inclusive? He could not have been ignorant of the place the anthem has in unionist hearts.
Given the sectarian undercurrent that exists in politics here, perhaps someone, mistakenly, believed that quietly dropping the anthem would be the best way forward. They may have thought that prior discussion would only result in a leak to the media and a row. But that is what has happened anyway and will always happen until there is sincere respect between all parties for their respective beliefs.