The Return of the Prodigal and the Banishing of Pessimism
Anyway, my worst fears expressed on Wednesday evening had not come to pass...
The question is whether my worst fears of Thursday evening will do so?
On Thursday afternoon the Democratic and Ulster Unionist parties involved in Haass-lite talks at Stormont pulled out because it had just been announced that the Ligoniel Oranges lodges have been refused permission to return from the field on the 12th via the Ardoyne shops by the Parades Commission determination... I have already expressed on facebook that, from my outside perspective the determination seems wrong-headed, but also my incredulity that Unionist politicians were withdrawing from talks which, theoretically, included the possibility of removing/reforming the Parades Commission because the current Parades Commission was not doing what they want... Given that this is the third process to reform/remove the Parades Commission that has been rejected or withdrawn from by the Unionists or the Orange, a cynic might suggest that they seem to like having the Parades Commission there as a bogeyman to blame for intransigence, rather than actually having to support another agency they helped establish when it inevitably will be forced to make decisions they don't like... That cynicism might be reinforced as some say that the parties involved were already priming the pump for such a move days before the Parades Commission determination was announced, and that their coordinated statement with the TUV, PUP and UPRG was far too well crafted to have been quickly cobbled together in the wake of the determination... given that those parties couldn't normally agree on the time of day this statement with its promise of a "graduated response" was not a spontaneous moment of unity.
My fear is what that response might graduate into... The claim that the Parades Commission is perceived to be rewarding the threat of violence by representatives of Ardoyne residents might well be true (and I for one cannot understand why the representative in question who reiterated those threats on TV cannot be prosecuted for incitement to violence), but their approach may well foment violence on the loyalist side... as happened with the ill-chosen strategy regarding the same march last year and regarding the vote over the Belfast City Hall flag... And once again there will be much washing of hands in public and blaming of the police/parades commission/politicians of other hues/residents of Ardoyne/uncontrolable hooligan elements within loyalist community/the church...
I hope and pray that those fears will no more come to fruition than my fears about our cat did.
I unashamedly said I loved our wee cat, and I longed for her to return...
I unashamedly say I love this wee country and I long for it to return(?) to some semblance of normality... where we can learn to live with each other despite our present differences, past hurts and future aspirations...
But if we are going to get there then we are going to have to abandon traditional routes of confrontation and whataboutery... There will need to be a lot more grace injected into the mix... Forgiveness and forbearance...
A number of months ago church leaders agreed the following principles that would characterise a healthy community here... a society where
- Peace is nurtured and genuine reconciliation facilitated, so that all can live free from violence and the threat of violence.
- Truthfulness is encouraged, fostering trust and forming the basis for dealing with the pain of the past, engaging with present problems and forging a more hopeful future for all.
- Diversity is celebrated, and our interdependence recognised, whilst sectarianism, racism and other prejudices that create a climate of fear and division are rejected, thus contributing to our cultural and economic vitality and indicating our openness to new ideas, perspectives and people.
- Democracy is cherished and fully participative, the rule of law respected and all communities are liberated from the oppressive grip of organised criminality and paramilitary activity.
- Justice is treasured, not only in terms of perpetrators being prosecuted, but also victims being cared for, and social wrongs being set right, so that all might enjoy personal dignity and equality of opportunity.
- Rights are valued, and mutually respected within a context where people also recognise their mutual responsibilities and relationships, meaning that in a spirit of generosity some may choose not to exercise their rights for the sake of the common good.
- Hope and imagination are fostered, breaking a spirit of pessimism and apathy that has convinced many that things will never change, thus transforming the dynamic of public life and raising personal aspirations.
It's not just church leaders or political representatives that need to commit themselves to these principles, but all of us in all our enagements with one another, wether or not they are ostensibly political. Some are more pertinent at particular times and places. In the light of yesterday and with the 12th looming, the point regarding the respect of the rule of law being respected is particularly poignant... and personally my thoughts and prayers are with the PSNI and their new Chief Constable as they seek to implement the rule of law in the midst of this morass. But given my personal depression at present, maybe I should highlight the last one, which speaks of "breaking a spirit of pessimism."
May my pessimism on Thursday night prove as fruitless as that on Wednesday... I long to be a prophet of doom who is proved wrong...