Analysis: 2 And 3 Reasons To Be Cheerful

By Fr Des Wilson

Dealing with unionists, as some of our patient elected
representatives are doing at the moment, is difficult for a
number of reasons.

For one thing, unionists, as has been pointed out here a
number of times, do not keep their word. While you negotiate
in order to change that attutude, in the end they have to be
made to do what they have promised. Only strong government can
bring them to that point. The duty of the London government is
clear. It has to say that after the election those entitled to
take part in government will be invited to do so, and if they
refuse to take their governmental positions then the party
next in line will take those positions.

In this way, justice will be done, unionists will not be
forced to take seats in government which they do not want and
if after some time they decide to take their rightful places
then they can do so. Blair must be strong enough to say this
and Ahern must be courageous enough to insist on it.

What pressures can SF and SDLP put on London and Dublin to get
to this point? They can insist that Articles 2 and 3 of the
Irish Constitution be put back in place. This can be done -
and must be done - by a simple act; it would not need a new
referendum in the south. Also, the voters should take a case
to the European courts. We are entitled to an election, but if
you allow people an election and take away the effects of it
then you have denied their right to election. We have the
right not only to have an election but to have an effective
election, otherwise we have no election rights at all.

Efforts have been made to reduce the voters lists in this
coming election, so desperate are the London and Dublin
governments to produce their own results rather than the
results wished for by the voters. But even with all that the
elections should take place and when that is done the elected
representatives who believe in democratic processes should
make new electoral regulations which will ensure that it is
the voters' results and not the administration's results that
must be accepted.

In these ways the difficulty of unionists not keeping their
word can be overcome.

The second major difficulty is one which we have noticed
often. Unionists do not have negotiating skills. One reason
for this is that they never had to negotiate about anything.
Another is an attitude which tells them that if they even talk
to people they are losing. Whereas most business people and
many others realise that talking is a way of getting the best
available deal. It would be impossible for unionist business
people of this kind to negotiate about prices, for example.
They will state a price and fail to do the negotiating work
while others better able to negotiate will come in and take
the business. This has already happened - unionists have lost
more businesses than enough, and you have only to look at
Belfast's Royal Avenue to realise the extent of their business
failures. You walk from Tesco and Debenham at one end to Tony
O'Reilly at the other with scarcely an important local
commercial venture left to us in between.

In any case, unionists always had a London administration
paying for their indolence and mistakes. Ireland's northeast
has been so reduced that people cannot believe the depths to
which we have sunk by waste, inefficiency and loss of
productivity. What is wrong with the various institutions and
businesses is not just ingrowing dislike of other people but
an appalling failure to use resources. Unionists are no
business people, which is another way of saying they cannot
look after their own interests, let alone the interests of

Blair, as was pointed out for some years, is a disaster for
his own people as well as ours. His interest is to make sure
no more bombs explode in English cities and to keep his
political position. He wants to secure the future of his
Labour Party not by vital new policies but by pleasing the
power groups which are already there. That is what he is doing
in Britain, that is what he is doing in Ireland. And it is
dead policy.

If he can achieve this and at the same time render unionists
and republicans and nationalists as well as the Dublin
administration powerless over their own political future he
will have achieved his purposes in Ireland. He must not be
allowed to do this. Articles 2 and 3 must come back again and
we must assert that after more than 80 years of trying no
solution proposed by London can succeed. We have tried often

Now the time has come once again for all the Irish solutions
to be put on the table - accompanied only as an equal by the
London solution - and we then negotiate with the clear
understanding that there are sanctions for those parties which
refuse to negotiate in a mature way.

It will quickly appear that neither in the DUP nor the other
unionist parties is there a team which can negotiate in a
mature way. There is neither the tradition nor the practice
for it. However - and this is something people have yearned
for during all these years - once the London administration
stops its unquestioning support for them and Dublin insists on
principle rather than softness for a change, then contact with
competent and principled negotiators may induce both
politeness and negotiating skills in the unionist community.
It may even help to reveal such skills that have not been
given a chance to appear up to this time.

And meanwhile, if some intellectually competent unionists
would show impatience with their present leadership this would
help both them and the rest of us.

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