Unionist explores grounds for peace

Gerard Curran reviews The Elusive Quest by Norman Porter, Blackstaff Press, £14.99 pbk

EARLY IN the work Mr Porter pays tribute to the Good Friday agreement and argues that it owes much to the work of both Irish and British governments. He forgets to mention the pioneering efforts of John Hume and Gerry Adams.

He makes the important point that unlike partition the agreement was not saddled with colonial connotations. Also it did not split the Irish people or local parties involved, had the support of the most significant of the paramilitary organisations and was the first agreement to cater for “the totality of relationships”.

Norman Porter holds that the Good Friday agreement has the ability to give all citizens of the six counties the feeling of belonging.

In the author’s somewhat stilted language this is how he put the problem: “Neither unionist nor republican interpretations of the agreement are interrogated with a view to determining whether they offer reasonable conditions of belonging to non-unionists and non-republicans”.

This is followed by criticism of both unionists and republicans, showing how they fall short of accommodating full reconciliation He complains that the unionists are making the reform of institutions subordinate to the principle of British sovereignty -- hence the squabbling about flags and reform of RUC to make the force acceptable to Catholics.

The unionists have to remember that the creation of Northern Ireland that has no grounding in justice. When in power unionists failed to create a society free from discrimination.

He accuses republicans of being preoccupied with future unity of the country at the expense of contemporary reforms and he trots out the usual unionist line about delays in ‘decommissioning’.

Porter, like the British government pretends not understand that if the IRA were to speed up decommissioning and leave the scene too soon other groups would appear who believe exclusively in military means. As Gerry Adams once remarked: “Better the IRA you know than the one you don’t.” In his criticism of the ‘armed struggle’ stage, Porter has forgotten the attack by armed RUC and B Specials on the Catholic population in Belfast and Derry in 1969 and that internment and Bloody Sunday also played a big part in precipitating armed conflict.

Nevertheless, I am confident that this work will cause a lively debate among those who sincerely wish to the get the assembly back on track.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2003-05-22 12:40:54.
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