Nelson McCausland: Only Project Fact can expose Sinn Fein propaganda about the way it has weaponised equality agenda
A properly shared future scares republicans, who are loath to lose their privileged status, writes Nelson McCausland
In an unguarded moment in Enniskillen in 2014, when he was addressing a Sinn Fein gathering, Gerry Adams let the cat out of the bag. He described equality as the "Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy" to break unionists. He said: "The point is to actually break these b******s and what’s going to break them is equality. That’s what we need to keep the focus on and that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy."
The strategy was exposed for what it was, but Sinn Fein has stuck with it. In speeches, debates, newspaper articles and election campaigns Sinn Fein politicians talk much about “equality”. The word has appeared on millions of Sinn Fein leaflets, advertisements, posters and billboards.
Sinn Fein portrays itself as the foremost promoter and defender of equality and it often links that with the words “integrity” and “respect”.
But that isn’t really where Sinn Fein is.
There was no respect in what Adams said about unionists. His language was the language of arrogant disdain and angry disrespect. There is no integrity in a Sinn Fein strategy that is built on deception and designed to “break” unionists.
So, how should unionists respond to that Sinn Fein strategy? Some unionists have shied away from issues of equality, respect and a shared future, but that is the wrong approach. Unionists should not surrender these important principles to those who merely want to exploit them.
Unionism should set itself to addressing the inequalities that have been brought about in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years, ever since the Anglo-Irish Agreement and especially since the Belfast Agreement.
First of all, that means identifying and quantifying the communal, cultural and structural inequalities that advantage Irish nationalism and republicanism. If Sinn Fein really believes in equality, then surely it will support such a process? How could it be against transparency?
I realise that it has been utterly resistant to transparency as regards IRA terrorism, but that is about criminality and criminals and the friends of criminals tend not to favour transparency. This is not about criminality; it is simply about communal discrimination.
Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney, a former party chairman, may talk about, “a false, negative narrative”, which he labels “Project Fear” and he may accuse unionists of mounting a “Project Fear”, but he is wrong. Unionists should be mounting a “Project Fact”. It is simply about uncovering the facts, so that we all know where we stand.
Most of us have a general sense of those cultural and structural inequalities and some of them have been properly identified. Some of them have even been quantified, but others have not and “Project Fact” should be about establishing the whole picture.
Secondly, it means understanding how these communal, cultural and structural inequalities came about. Understanding how a situation arose is often the key to resolving it.
Some were handed to Irish nationalism in the text of the Belfast Agreement and others were handed to them by successive Westminster Governments in response to the bargaining power of Sinn Fein and the firepower of the IRA.
The section of the Belfast Agreement about “equality” actually provided the basis for the growth of an Irish-medium education sector and an Irish language broadcasting sector, but gave nothing at all to any other cultural tradition.
It was the very antithesis of equality and actually provided a legal basis for inequality. But that is only one part of the background, which is much bigger and broader than that.
The sad truth is that, in so many areas of society, Irish nationalism and republicanism have gained a privileged and preferential position and Sinn Fein is determined to hold on to that supremacy. When Gerry Adams addressed that Sinn Fein meeting in Enniskillen and talked about equality as a “Trojan horse”, he asked a question: “Who could be afraid of equality?”
The answer to that question is: Sinn Fein is afraid of equality.
In fact, I would say it is terrified of it.