Northern Ireland 2013/2014
The Parades and marches of the Bands are the celebration of the Orange Order, [July 12] and the struggles of Sinn Fein.[August] They represent the Troubles between the Loyalists and the Republicans; the Protestants and the Catholics. Depending upon your point of view, they are ‘triumphalist’!
During this year confusing messages are being sent out across the world about the state of affairs in Northern Ireland.
First, Peter Robinson [First Minister] and Martin McGuinness [Second Minister] proudly declare the ‘conflict resolution’ skills of the members of the DUP and Sinn Fein in their debates at Stormont. They wish to promote’peace’.
Second, there is a constant concern that the votes of the Protestant Unionists will be outnumbered by those of the Catholic Republicans. There is a movement for the unification of the Unionist parties, as well as the Protestant churches, so as to secure their majority into the near future.
Already, in Belfast City Council there is a Republican majority. In December 2012, this Council majority voted to limit the Union Jack flag days from 365 to 19. The vote, and the removal of the flag, has been accompanied by regular protest demonstrations by Protestants in Belfast during this year. At the local level, it seems to be necessary to break links with the past!
Third, the Coalition government at Westminster show their confidence in the coalition Assembly at Stormont and arrange the G8 Summit on June 14/15/16 at Lough Erne, to be followed by an economic conference in October to promote the development of the industries of Northern Ireland. At an international level, it is essential to ‘keep the peace’.
The Queen visits Belfast on June 26/27 2013 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and meet the members of the Assembly and leaders of local communities. Such events would not have taken place ten years ago. It is important to remember that the Queen is not neutral. She is directly related to protestant King William of Orange, or King William III, and to the protestant royal family Saxe-Coburg of Germany. Her visit underlines the supremacy of the Protestant Church in England, as well as her position as the representative of the Orange Order in Europe. She represents the values of the Protestant, Loyalist, Unionists in Northern Ireland: they do not make up any threat to her. But sectarian peace has to operate so as to protect her from any risk of republican, catholic military action.
The governments of Westminster and Stormont are acutely aware of the need to police these events, and in response have spent 75 million GBP to bring 8000 extra police officers into Northern Ireland from the UK, so as to keep the peace.
Fourth, the official message from the administration at Stormont, and Westminster, is that the communities of Northern Ireland are at peace.
But the messages from the streets are different. The Orange Parades and Marching Bands of the week of July 12 have been organized to promote violence and attacks against the PSNI. In fact the Orange Parades have become more and more violent in 2010/2011/2012/2013. The more the Orange Men have felt under pressure, the more they have attacked the Republicans, and the Catholics on the street. At the same time, the Republican groups have continued to march and demonstrate and parade and fight: August 9/10/11/12. The government declares ‘conflict resolution’. The Loyalists declare a fight to the death of the Republicans.
Fifth, the key difference between now and ‘yesterday’ is that the British Army is not in occupation. But, the Loyalists continue to believe that they are losing their rights and privileges to the Republicans. These differences of perspectives are often revealed during the debates at Stormont between the Unionists and the Republicans; SinnFein and the Democratic Unionists. The Orange Order feels obliged to uphold the supremacy of the Protestants and reduce the significance of the Catholics. So as to control these patterns of hostility the efforts of the administration must be to maintain negotiation, and control any outbreaks of violence. ‘Conflict resolution’ must focus on cooperation, dialogue, debate, negotiation, compromise. Patterns of hostility between the many parties continue to require non-violent leadership. The administrations of Westminster and Stormont must remain resolute to keep the peace.
Northern Ireland is a classic example of communities at peace and in conflict at the same time
The Belfast Agreement of 1998 put a stop to the ‘Troubles’, and led to the disarmament of all the warring parties, and the withdrawal of the British Army.
But the elements of disagreement remain.
The Protestants wanted to maintain the connection with the British government: the Catholics did not.
The Protestants wanted to be financed by the British Government: the Catholics did not.
Parades and Marches in memory of the Orange Order, and the victories over the Catholics were regarded by the Unionist as essential. The office of Parades will allow the Assembly to supervise Parades.
Unionist Flags are to be displayed at will within the Unionist communities, and on all public buildings.The Stormont Agreement, 2014 set up a commission on Flags and emblems.
All communities want there to be investigations into the deaths of their families and friends during the ‘Troubles’ and prosecutions of the perpetrators. The Assembly will set up historical investigation units and carry out identification of the dead, and arrange for their memorial. If the investigations are to be successful, information must be available A Commission for Information Retrieval will be set up by the Assembly and the Eire Department of Justice.
Protestant [Unionist] citizens want the Police Service, the PSNI, to be armed and fully equipped for their duties of the protection of the Unionist citizens. The Catholics[ the Nationalists] do not. Some citizens of Northern Ireland have re-armed; and threaten to shoot/bomb security forces.
During 2014 the British government has made it clear that they do not intend to continue to provide the funding for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Civil Service. This has meant that all expenditures disapproved by Parliament will cease
The Assembly will have to cut spending.
The PSNI must reduce costs and expenses.
Recent debates in Parliament at Westminster revealed that 80% of the economy of Northern Ireland is funded by the British government.
In the light of the attempts by the Coalition government to reduce the national debt, and reduce the deficit, and ‘balance the books,’ Teresa Villiers, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made it clear that the government is determined to cut costs, and to fine the Northern Ireland Assembly if they fail to meet their financial targets. The annual block grant will be altered according to the demands of the Treasury.
At the same time,the Coalition government has accepted that these cuts will be difficult for the Assembly, and has agreed to offer a loan up to GBP 2 billion .The Executive has demanded, that in future, they be able to fund their programmes by private loans. Furthermore, they want to be able to vary corporation tax from 20% to 12%, and so be able to attract investors into Northern Ireland, in competition with Eire.
The arguments on Welfare Reforms are actually a debate about spending cuts. The Health and Social Services, and the Police, have been directed by the UK Parliament to cut costs, as well as to reduce employees. But the cuts jeopardise the viability of the Northern Ireland government, faced by threats from militant Nationalists in opposition to Unionists.
The UK government has finally accepted that the effects of the ‘Troubles’ are on going. For example, it is still necessary to find ‘the disappeared’ : People who were victims and survivors have to be found and supported by a Mental Trauma Service; and Family Support staff; as well as Historical Enquiries Units so as to find out who killed whom? when? where?
But, it is necessary for Northern Ireland to balance their budget. and get monies from private as well as public sources.
Some are arguing that the policies of austerity being pursued by the UK government, will result in the unfolding of the Belfast Agreement, and the onset of violence following the armed campaigns by the paramilitary groups.
Nevertheless, the completion of the Stormont agreement has been welcomed by others as a sign that politicians and communities are more able to negotiate and resolve differences about cultural practices and historical events .Parades, Marches, and Flags have been a bone of contention for many decades. The Unionists and the Nationalists have negotiated and agreed a settlement.
The Unionists, as led by Peter Robinson, are actively working to maintain their power base in the Stormont Assembly. As the Catholics visibly increase their numbers in the light of increasing birth rates, so the available votes for the Nationalists gets bigger.
Peter Robinson, the First Minister, is working to unify the Unionist parties into one party in direct opposition to Sinn Fein. In particular, he wants to link the Democratic Unionist party, with the Ulster Unionists,and Alliance party.
Sinn Fein has already gained a majority in the administration of the City of Belfast.
We see that the different political groups while they negotiate for peace, also manoeuvre for power. These transactions will lead to conflict.