Unionist politicians are often rightly criticised for their negativity, their lack of positive alternatives and at times their downright sectarianism. As a former Belfast city councillor, I remember being sickened by the way in which unionists often demanded the death penalty or internment after republican murders, but had a dramatically less hostile response to UVF/UFF murders.
Any objective observer would have to conclude from the current situation that the Irish Government and other elements of nationalism are also exhibiting inconsistent policies at the present time.
Last week the Taoiseach said that Sinn Féin could not be included in government in the Republic because it needed to “resolve its relationship, as Fianna Fáil did at the time of its formation”.
In other words, the Taioseach is saying he is not prepared to do himself what he has spent two years lecturing unionists in Northern Ireland that they must do! Indeed, he is even more hardline than they by suggesting the Sinn Féin leaders must leave Sinn Féin and form a new party!
The Irish Government is demanding that the new police service in Northern Ireland is subject to the most rigorous accountability and scrutiny, something which the Alliance Party certainly concurs. However, it is disingenuous for such a strong line to be taken, given that the Garda Síochána suffers from a major accountability deficit. This led to a devastating indictment by the European Nations Human Rights Committee earlier this year.
He absence of any independent scrutiny of the shooting of Mr Carthy of Longford a few months ago raises major questions bout the integrity of the Irish Government’s commitment to police accountability. (Even before any of the Patten reforms, such a shooting by the police in Northern Ireland would have resulted in a semi-independent enquiry under existing legislation.)
The Irish Government (along with the British Government) continues to insist that the IRA/UVF/UFF ceasefires “are intact”, even though young men are beaten and shot by these organisations on a regular basis. Three people have recently been killed in the UVF/UFF feud, and it is generally acknowledged that the IRA murdered a man in May 2000 in a pub in the outskirts of Belfast.
The agreement also states that all prisoners belonging to organisations on ceasefire are to be released, but the position of the Irish Government is that this apparently solemn commitment only applies north of the border!
The Alliance Party is fundamentally committed to a culture of human rights, scrutiny of public servants and fair treatment for every citizen. That is why we find it all the more disappointing that the Irish Government is in effect saying to the people in Northern Ireland: “Don’t do as we do, do as we say.”
While the above individual issues are all important in themselves, as a group their combined effect points up a fundamental lack of political and moral integrity in public affairs. It is hardly surprising, therefore that the essential component of a real peace, genuine and mutual, is so limited.
If the outlook for Northern Ireland seems somewhat uncertain, it is neither honest nor reasonable to put all the blame upon the Unionist “no men.”
Philip J. McGarry