Where was Sinn Fein’s concern for human rights on Bloody Friday, at Claudy, La Mon or Enniskillen?
Equality is important, but not when weaponised as part of republican ‘war by another means’, says Nelson McCausland
I’m tired hearing Sinn Fein politicians lecture us about the importance of a “rights-based approach” to everything, including language and culture, because I know very well that they don’t really believe what they are saying.
“Rights-based” has become a stock phrase of Irish republicanism and I wish I had a pound for every time I have heard it from Gerry Adams, Michelle O’Neill, John O’Dowd and other Sinn Fein politicians.
For a start, the most basic human right of all is surely the right to life and yet the IRA denied that right to all those whom it murdered.
What happened to the right to life when the IRA bombed Belfast on Bloody Friday?
And where was the rights-based approach when it drove its car bombs into Claudy? Where was the right to life when it murdered men, women and children?
We also hear today about the “right to family life” and yet the IRA denied that to all those who lost a husband or a wife, a sister or a brother, a son or a daughter, a father or a mother at the hands of the Provisional IRA.
What happened to the right to family life when the IRA murdered Mary Travers as she left St Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church with her family on a Sunday morning in 1984?
Sinn Fein is in no position to lecture anyone about human rights. That is why its strident demands for “rights” and a “rights-based approach” ring rather hollow.
The truth is that Sinn Fein exploits the language of human rights and a rights-based approach to fight its “war by another means”.
It’s rather like its approach to equality, which Adams described as a “Trojan horse” and a way of breaking unionists.
Sinn Fein uses human rights in exactly the same way.
That does not mean that we reject the principles of equality and human rights. In themselves, they are valuable concepts.
However, it does mean that they have been damaged by Adams and others who have weaponised them and use them to fight their “war by another means”.
They have wrapped their Irish republicanism in a cloak of human rights and that is not good for the cause of human rights.
Sinn Fein has put the Irish language at the heart of the political negotiations, and that is not surprising because culture has been at the heart of its political strategy for several decades.
It launched its new cultural war in 1982 at a seminar where a Sinn Fein cultural officer said: “I don’t think we can exist as a separate people without our language. Now every phrase you learn is a bullet in the freedom struggle.”
It is worth remembering that one of the current Sinn Fein negotiators, Mairtin O Muilleoir, helped to organise that seminar.
This was the background to the cultural element in the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, which committed London and Dublin to “foster the cultural heritage of both traditions”.
In practice that meant the promotion of the Irish language, while other cultural traditions were ignored, and that preferential treatment for Irish Gaelic persists to the present day.
In 1998 the Belfast Agreement exacerbated the situation by putting specific commitments for Irish Gaelic into an international agreement, while ignoring everyone else. Indeed, that was one of the major flaws in the Belfast Agreement.
Now, Sinn Fein wants that preferential treatment expanded and embedded in law, with a commissioner to enforce it and the power of the courts behind him.
Moreover, by blocking the restoration of devolution, Sinn Fein is behaving like a spoiled and selfish child, who can think of nobody but himself and who throws a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way.
It’s bad behaviour, and past indulgences by successive British governments have merely reinforced that pattern of behaviour.
The way forward to a stable and better future has to be on a road where there is real fairness, and that means an end to the preferential treatment for Irish Gaelic culture alone.
We need a new approach that provides a fair deal for everyone.