When Trevor Ringland, formerly of the Ulster Unionist Party and now linked to the Conservatives, writes (January 13) that Sinn Fein and the DUP both play on stirring up sectarian feeling for party electoral gain most readers will think they know what he means in referring to “sectarian”:
That is he means “sectarian” in the sense of the narrow rivalries between the various confessions or traditions of the church, and the playing or exploiting of one or more of these, or the past residues of these in the subconscious, against the others for electoral gain.
If that is what Trevor Ringland and those who read him might have in mind they should think again. Whatever may be said of the DUP, it cannot be said that Sinn Fein exploits the prejudices of one Christian sect against the other, in the way the DUP, or some of its party members, exploit prejudices over, say, a visit to Belfast by the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis.
Sinn Fein is not sectarian in exploiting religious differences as religious differences. It is anti-catholic, in the broad sense of the term, not the sectarian, when it comes to the matter of marriage for example. It is prepared to alienate all church traditions, rather than exploit them, by dismissing what most, if not all, the sects or confessions or traditions of the church, at least up to the present, uphold with respect to the institution of marriage.
But to note this difference between Sinn Fein and the DUP is not say that Sinn Fein does not go in for divisiveness. It does, but on matters not of religious tradition but on what might be called matters of being part of, that is on matters of belonging. And it is on these matters of belonging that it should be disputed.
Like those who took over the Dublin Post Office in Easter, 1916, Sinn Fein displays the same totalitarian mind set. It claims ownership of the term “Irish” to the exclusion of others. It demands respect to be shown to what it terms, the “Irish” community as though other communities, who have different ideas are intruders, not Irish, nor even Northern Irish.
And it does so again when it insists on using the English term “Irish”, and not the “Irish” term, in referring to a form of Gaelic or Gailige, a variant on that spoken in Scotland (the land of the Scotti, a tribe from the north of Ireland) as “the Irish language” with all the associations that has when said in English.
Noting these matters, however, should be no more than a preliminary, to what should concentrate the mind in all parties in the coming totally unnecessary Assembly elections brought on by Sinn Fein thereby preventing any examination of the RHI scheme.
What should concentrate the mind is not how many Orange Halls have been subject to arson attacks or how many snubs have been given to the “Irish” community, but the possible reality of a hard border for the first time, a matter in addition to RHI the Executive should have been considering prior to talks.
That is a border running from Derry down to Warrenpoint then turning south, down the middle of the Irish Sea: the end of a common travel area (and a common fishing area) that existed long before the EU came into existence if the EU, not London or Dublin, should so decree.
And the EU could well do so, not for the sake of making things difficult for all but with the hope thereby that the Republic of Ireland, with which it has tax issues, would also take itself off.
W A Miller, Belfast BT 13