Jamie Bryson: Dublin and London seem to want to reward Sinn Fein for the politics of hostage

The ongoing talks illuminate the moral blackmail at the heart of the Belfast Agreement ‘process’.

The loyalist Jamie Bryson outside court in Belfast in 2018 in a challenge to the legality of search warrants issued against him that summer.

Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
The loyalist Jamie Bryson outside court in Belfast in 2018 in a challenge to the legality of search warrants issued against him that summer. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Given that the process is designed to incrementally ease Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom, and into a United Ireland, it is unsurprising that unionism is always seen as an impediment to ‘progress’.

The whole process is predicated upon the notion that it must keep incrementally advancing towards its end point, in order for us to have the luxury of ‘peace’, and therefore this necessitates that nationalism must be constantly feted with concessions in order to maintain their support for the ‘peace process’; a clever anti-oppositional term designed to create the narrative that if one wants peace, then you must support the process.

And that is the basis upon which the current talks exist.

Nationalism has issued a demand that they must have an Irish language act, and the liberal elite are offended that unionism aren’t playing our designated role as process-enablers and rolling over to pay the ransom demand.

The issue is a much wider one than the Irish language, there is a fundamental principle at stake.

Should the politics of hostage be rewarded?

The very notion that the British and Irish governments seem to think so is a worrying indictment of the nature of the process unionism is locked into post-98.

The fact of the matter is that the grassroots unionist/loyalist community will not accept Irish Language legislation; not out of a hatred of all things Irish, but because our community is fed up constantly having to pay the ransom demands required in order to appease nationalists.

In 1998 even those unionists that voted for the Belfast Agreement, and I oppose it robustly, did so on the basis that it was a settlement.

Twenty years on these talks demonstrate that it was in fact the beginning of a process; is it any wonder that even those within the unionist community who supported the agreement are becoming increasingly hostile to the trajectory of its outworking?

That resentment, built up over 20 years of unionism being mocked, derided and dehumanised as a regressive impediment to the process, is fuelling the angry resistance to any notion that unionism should give more ground to nationalism in these talks.

The Irish language lobby have had their political demands elevated above all others in Northern Ireland, including those crying out for mental health provision and other vital services, and it is right that unionism expressed concern at the secretary of state giving them special treatment.

Of course, it wasn’t long before nationalism used surrogates to try and deflect from that elevation of the Irish language lobby, by seeking to make much of the fact loyalists met the secretary of state.

There is of course one important difference; loyalists are not permitted to hold the government ransom until political demands are met.

It is also notable that when Sinn Fein tweeted a picture on Tuesday of their talks meeting at Parliament buildings, clearly visible were unelected individuals widely named as senior members of the republican movement.

I see no similar outrage at such hardline republican involvement in the heart of the talks.

If you wonder why, we cast our mind back to February 2018.

Nationalism, and their liberal elite allies, expressed outrage that the deal collapsed and blamed the media for giving people like me, and others, a platform to ‘unpick’ the deal. Jim Gibney even published a column denouncing the Nolan Show and urging the media to be more helpful to the process.

I am sad to say some sections of the media are indeed seeking to be more ‘helpful’ to the process.

It is not the media’s job to suppress legitimate political dissent, or to forsake public interest journalism for ‘peace process’ journalism.

There is widespread, legitimate and fierce opposition to any form of Irish language legislation within the unionist community.

All the peace process journalism in the world by the hand of the liberal elite isn’t going to suppress that reality.