SO, look. I am a strong supporter of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process generally.
I know it requires compromise and challenge. God knows we all in the republican community get that. We gave up Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution in favour of a process where Irish citizenship was unqualified and supported by the new institutions. We recognised that British withdrawal was not a realisable outcome of those 1998 negotiations so we recognised the value of new bilateral relationships that improved the wealth and well eing of all of our people. Oh, those heady days of optimism and hope.
Irish citizens living north of the border were promised a whole new position in a shared society, in exchange for the territorial claim of the 26 county constitution.
With a sharp intake of breath we overwhelmingly supported that, yep, being an Irish citizen meant more than a territorial claim and is about lived lives and the everyday expression of identity.
So what makes us Irish citizens? Oh, isn’t that a fierce existential question? And a subjective one. Mine is as far away from dancing at the crossroads as I can imagine. But I tell you what it most certainly does not mean: that our language, games and perspective can be subject to everyday abuse, denigration, or insult. And it definitely isn’t about that vilification coming from one of the partners in a shared government.
Right now I have no idea what the DUP think they are doing in government, other than trying to win a war we all agreed to put behind us. Why do they think governing should involve the pernicious (see, I am claiming some of their language) insult of victims of state violence, the entire LGBT community, women facing crisis pregnancies, and especially and without apology, Irish citizens.
I see no authenticity to the current DUP position of sharing government. Undoubtedly for them, sharing authority is a necessary evil. But they do it with a deliberate disregard of manners and bad form that makes many of us question the very notion of sharing government at all. The words used by Arlene Foster to the Taoiseach’s invitation to the all-island conference on Brexit is one example. The decision by Peter Weir to render the Irish language invisible a sickening other. It feels like such a compromise that nationalism will share power with those who will deny gay marriage or our very identity as Irish citizens.
I get that walking away is not an option, as completely legitimate and understandable as that might be. But there is nowhere to walk to and the vacuum created would be occupied by those who violently campaign against peace itself.
But in the absence of that option there must be a third way. The current arrangement of the DUP displaying nothing but bad faith, insult and aggression must be met with something more effective than what currently pertains. It is singularly demoralising to have a situation where Catholics and republicanism are treated in this way and the DUP then expect to perform in joint initiatives, without consequence, with a “what’s your problem?” attitude.
Equality requires respect, accommodation and thoughtfulness. A third way which demands and achieves such a mutual approach appears to be seriously required.