Thursday 8 December 2016

Tectonic plates are shifting in the North as Brexit takes us into uncertain time

Tim Pat Coogan

Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30

Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on the 'eleventh night' in Belfast. Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Loyalists make final preparations to their bonfire on the Newtownards road on the 'eleventh night' in Belfast. Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

In the wake of the Brexit disaster, as the Orangemen gather for the Twelfth, it behoves the leaders of the Green tradition to pay more attention to the real position of fundamental unionism on this island than was shown in the recent clumsy handling of the All-Ireland Forum idea which the DUP so contemptuously dismissed.

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Before highlighting a situation which has an important bearing on the Unionists' position, let me recount two episodes which illustrate unionist thinking. One was related to me by the legendary Harry Diamond, the Republican Labour representative for Belfast's Dock Ward, to which the late Gerry Fitt succeeded.

One morning, back in the days of Lord Brookeborough's premiership, Diamond called in to the office of a senior Stormont civil servant seeking a favour on behalf of a constituent. He was one of the few friendly faces Diamond normally encountered at Stormont. The civil servant chuckled when Diamond entered the office saying, "Oh Harry - you'll be interested in this!" Someone on the Unionist benches had asked Brookeborough a question about the numbers of Protestants who had won decorations during World War II, expecting that the answers would highlight the loyalty of the Protestants and the corresponding disloyalty of the Catholics.

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