THE noble, legitimate constitutional conversation is happening and is protected in treaty and law. It is respectful, inclusive and framed by the peace process, the peace agreement and peaceful conditions.

No-one will be harmed by conversations. People exchange ideas, research, interpret, agree or disagree. There is no predetermined outcome. Change will only happen with consent. In the meantime, the constitutional status quo is guaranteed. 

Currently the only people who are making this legitimate conversation contentious are those who have a vested interest in the perpetuation of conflict. The people who prefer to see businesses close, hospitals collapse and classrooms dysfunctional, rather than engage with democratic realities.

The people who tolerate armed loyalist groups who operate as narco-mafia groupings in different areas. The people who benefit from those groups’ existence. The people who are nothing without the aura of the threat of violence.

Who would these people be without the position they claim in the framework of loyalist groups? Few are engaged in real world contribution. They see human rights as threats and wish to manipulate law to defeat rights, progress or equality. They claim space on airwaves and in column inches by making false accusations regarding a supremacist nationalism or a “nationalist elite”.

They make threats to restart violence then pretend that these are not threats.  In 1912 then British Prime Minister Asquith introduced the third Home Rule Bill for Ireland. In response the gun was introduced to 20th century Irish politics when the Ulster Volunteer Force was founded.

In 1914 the political debate in Ireland was thrown into further militarisation with a mutiny by British Army officers in the Curragh, Co Kildare, who made clear that they would not uphold law and order, or the democratic wishes of the people of Ireland.

If the UVF engaged in armed actions, they would not act. And so, the term “the Orange Card” came into play. Legitimate, democratic and lawful progress would be challenged by the use of force by a loyalist militia with the tacit (or at times explicit) complicity of British state forces for every decade to come. We live in a partitioned state founded with murder and upheld by murder.

The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was meant to put an end to that. When some armed republican groups participated in actions threatening that peace agreement the republican and nationalist community isolated those responsible, and made it impossible for their rhetoric or attempts at legitimisation to gain currency.

This year we have seen illegitimate mouthpieces of loyalism courted by the media, the NIO and in particular by the DUP. Last week we have seen the latest but inevitable outcome of that.

The mouthpieces are saying that our peace is at risk.  This steam is about making the peaceful constitutional conversation “contentious” or even “dangerous”. It is about making the populations north and south afraid of destabilisation.

It’s the 2022 Orange Card being played.  The PSNI is currently giving a security assessment, in so many words, that this is all the hyperbole of wannabe big lads mouthing off; however, it is up to both governments and the PSNI to now inform us and assure us that it will never succeed; that this peaceful debate and those engaged in it will be protected and that our peace agreement will be protected from the mouthpieces and the conflict-addicted.