Appeasement did not work in 1930s and it will not work now in Northern Ireland
Unionists have been puzzled by the fact that the more they point out the Alliance Party’s predilection for siding with Sinn Fein on key issues, the more the Alliance vote goes up.
Let me attempt an explanation.
Sinn Fein, and the Army Council which controls it, has not changed its mind about the morality and usefulness of its past terrorist campaigns.
Instead, it has been convinced that, for the moment, a relative absence of violence is more profitable than terrorism.
This hypothesis has to be continually tested by evaluating the gains which it is making for its supporters.
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These gains are best secured if there is a ‘peace at any price’ appeasement faction on the pro-Union side of the fence, which is happy to keep feeding the tiger in the face of an implicit threat of a return to violence.
I believe that for some time this appeasement faction was happy that the DUP could keep the IRA guns quiet through their coalition with Sinn Fein.
Liberal middle class unionist votes, particularly in Greater Belfast, drifted away from the UUP to the DUP as the best way to keep the IRA on board.
With no assembly, the appeasement faction is beginning to think that voting Alliance might be a better bet.
Not only is this shift designed to persuade the DUP to be open to making constant concessions, but a new assembly, based much more on majority rule (and isn’t that an irony?), with Alliance holding the balance of power, is seen as less likely to offend the IRA Army Council.
In such a context, news that the Alliance Party and others help to keep Sinn Fein happy in Belfast City Council is seen as a positive thing by the appeasement faction, which I fear is, proportionately, at least as large as that in 1930s England.
Our response must not be to appease the appeasers, but to confront them with the moral consequences of their actions, which invite constant demands from the extortionist, and encourage new groups to hold us to ransom.
Appeasement did not work in the 1930s, and it will not work now.
It generates a process based not on hope, but on fear, and the corruption of moral principles.
Dr Paul Kingsley, Belfast BT4