The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, January 22, 2004

The culture that dare not speak its name...

The so-called Good Friday Agreement was based on a lie. What, in a masterpiece of euphemising comparable [1] to Final Solution, was called constructive ambiguity. The exquisitely placed missing link in the whole thing was that, although the Agreement was sold on the basis of terrorist 'decommissioning' of their arms, the Provisional IRA (aka PIRA) was not required to decommission a pea-shooter. Because it wasn't a party to the agreement.

Its political wing, Sinn Fein, was; but what the text of the Agreement [2] says, under the heading DECOMMISSIONING, is (emphasis mine)
3. All participants accordingly reaffirm their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations. They also confirm their intention to continue to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.

Critical in the whole arrangement was a letter (referred to here by Irish pol Garret Fitzgerald) from Tony Blair (he of the hand of history) to the Ulster Unionists, saying that
he interpreted the Agreement to mean that decommissioning 'should' begin straightaway. This was, however, a unilateral statement that could not by definition vary the written terms of the Agreement. Moreover, the use of the word 'should' rather than 'must' involved one more crucial ambiguity.

This 'deception' was, I believe, entirely understood on both sides to be a lie. What was proposed was a truce, nothing more. And, at that stage, a truce was worth having. No one rocked the boat, especially not David Trimble's Unionists.

Now, following Trimble's defeat in the recent Northern Ireland Assembly election, Unionists (amongst others) are (to quote Lionel Bart) reviewing the situation.

In which context arrives last Sunday (January 18) a piece in what was the Unionist house magazine [3], the Belfast Telegraph by one David Montgomery - a former News of the World editor that the Guardian (January 21) call
famously combative
which, in context, is code for obnoxious scrote. On the article [4], it says
On Sunday he went even further, penning a hard-hitting leader in which he set out his agenda for the newspaper and claimed Protestants had "been expected to feel shame and to experience a loss of dignity; to be relegated in status to second-class citizens".

"Making a start to rebuild Protestant and unionist pride and confidence begins today and you will already notice changes in this newspaper. The News Letter will more comprehensively reflect the life and achievements of these communities, town by town, city by city and village by village," he wrote.

"Giving back confidence and pride to Protestants and unionists must be matched with a growing respect from the rest of the community. If this is forthcoming then it will be time to do political business together and to mean it."

Now, it's fair to say that, PR-wise, Ulster's Protestants are in the dustbin next to Osama Bin Laden. A hundred and fifty years of chiselling by the original Democratic grievance-meisters, spared by the coffin-ships (perhaps to the regret of some), in the Land of the Free (pass that Noraid bucket, will you, Pete?) have placed them on around the same level of esteem as their Scots-Irish [5] cousins in the Ku Klux Klan.

There have always been the Angry Men of Ulster (most recently, the long-lasting Rev Ian Paisley). But the Quiet Men (think Gordon Wilson of Enniskillen) are, perhaps, more typical of the breed. With, perhaps, a rather English lack of insistence on their own culture: just as England (Great Britain, in fact) is the only country entitled to issue postage stamps without the name of the country on the face, so the English tend to think of those (like, most particularly, the (Catholic) Irish) who exert themselves mightily on their culture as protesting too much. English culture is the default. (Plus, the feeling that, somehow, being Top Nation (in the Sellars and Yeatman sense) was culture enough.)

Perhaps no longer [6]. The self-righteous Catholics of Ulster whine incessantly about equality of esteem - now, in the unpleasant form of D Montgomery, it seems that their Protestant neighbours might be demanding the same.

I think there might be some fun here: the bloated egos of the Catholic bloviators have assumed moral superiority for too long [7]. A scrote like Montgomery is just what they need!

  1. Linguistically. No infringement of Godwin's Law here, thank you very much!

  2. Northern Ireland Office page here; Agreement text here.

  3. Much as the (for the moment) Hollinger-owned Daily Telegraph (aka the Torygraph) was the Conservative Party in print.

  4. Which the search page on the paper refuses to give up.

  5. The American for Ulstermen.

  6. The reality of Top Nation status ended in 1914, really. Only the reluctance of the US to claim its prize in the inter-war period sustained the illusion that it still was so.

  7. The relationship between republican terrorism and the various political organisations on the Catholic side - the SDLP and others, as well as just Sinn Fein - is worth investigating.

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