By Jamie Bryson
The Belfast Agreement put a noose around the neck of the Union, but in exchange for Unionism willingly embracing the noose, the ‘reward’ was that the chair upon which the Union stood- the Act of Union- would be protected by a principle of ‘consent’.
As David Trimble said in 1998 “…the Act of Union remains firmly in place. The Act of Union is the Union.”
Watching this spectacle was Northern Ireland society (who would be ultimately required to give consent) who have been perpetually fed a one-sided narrative, with unionism consistently demonised and dehumanised.
It was to be (and has been) an Orwellian ‘two minutes of hate’ directed at the Union every day, until a majority of those eligible to cast a vote were sufficiently brainwashed, or otherwise worn down, in order to endorse the chair being kicked away and thus the noose delivering the fatal blow to the long suffering, much maligned Union.
That is the ‘process’ breathed into life by the Belfast Agreement.
The objective was to turn unionists into an underclass, without either the means or the spirit to resist the ‘inevitable’ ending of the rigged ‘process’.
But then along came the Union-subjugating Protocol. It kicked the chair upon which the Union stood away, and in consequence not only did the noose around the Union tighten, but it double-knotted- and began the process of slowly choking the life out it.
This, finally, caused unionism/loyalism to awaken and realise the absurdity of the situation in which we find ourselves.
As Jim Allister QC rightly aptly put it: if we do not kill the Protocol, the Protocol will kill the Union.
And yet, we are told that unionism should continue to embrace the absurd spectacle of the Union with a noose around its neck.
Indeed, if any voices speak up- thus interfering with the Orwellian ‘two minutes hate’ (which lasts in perpetuity)- the baying mob howls- as we have seen this week- demanding that such voices be censored or silenced.
The crime of those who speak up, is calling attention to the absurdity of Unionism being expected to facilitate the destruction of the Union.
We are told- such as in Maria Cahill’s column in today’s Sunday Independent- that such an approach is “hardline”. Rather, it seems, Unionism should- for some unspecified greater good- embrace the ridiculous spectacle of implementing our own destruction, otherwise we may risk the apparent ‘peace’.
But herein lies the problem. Why must Unionism support a ‘process’ and/or Protocol which is designed to bring about the dismantling of the Union? Is the premise that Unionism must do so, as a price of peace?
If that, as it seems, is the premise, then the logic of that is that ‘peace’ is dependent upon the continuation of the incremental dismantling of the Union.
And that leads us onto the other prevailing premise across much of the commentariat, namely that if one is opposed to the ‘process’ or Protocol, then this equates to opposition to peace. That is wholly illogical, and would mean that those who would threaten violence have a veto over a political agreement.
But that, it seems, is precisely what has happened. We are told that the Union-subjugating Protocol is necessary to ‘protect peace’. No-one ever seems to look beyond that superficially attractive assertion.
If the Protocol is necessary to protect peace, then that means peace is dependent upon nationalism’s political objectives prevailing. That, of course, would be acting with total fidelity to the core ethos of the Belfast Agreement and the ‘process’ it spawned: unionism must give, and nationalism must get.
That is the real root of the Protocol: nationalism would not countenance a land border, so unionism- to protect peace- are expected to swallow a sea border.
Unionism must give, nationalism must get.
After almost twenty five years of such perpetual humiliation, dehumanisation and being expected to willingly implement our own incremental destruction, some people are surprised that the scales have fallen of the eyes of a great many more people within unionism/loyalism, and the majority now share the very clear message that Enough is Enough!
It is the shock amongst the commentariat, elements of the media and nationalism that surprises me. Did they really think that unionism/loyalism would endlessly endure humiliation and the tightening of a noose around our neck, without there ever being a mass mobilisation to resist such a shameful injustice?
There is no one sensible that wants such resistance to take the form of violence. That is not the society anyone wants to live in. However, there are many people who look at the rewards accrued by the IRA’s terrorist campaign, and indeed realise that the Protocol ultimately came about because of threats of violence collectively perpetuated by nationalism, the EU and the Irish Government, and worryingly conclude that violence gets rewarded.
It has been political unionism and loyalism that has tried to defuse the powderkeg precedent set by the rewarding of threats of nationalist violence, instead urging the mobilisation of our community to be peaceful.
There need not be any violence to rise up and cut the double-knotted noose from around the neck of the Union, thus freeing it from both Protocol and the Belfast Agreement ‘process’.
What is required is a political mobilisation, and that can be driven from a surge from the grassroots pressuring unionist political representatives (and let us return as many as possible at the ballot box) to cut the double-knotted noose, putting an end to both Protocol and ‘process’.
There have been some foolish utterances from some within unionism who say they want to remove the Protocol (and even at that, they don’t specify the constitutional remedy), but pledge undying allegiance to the Belfast Agreement ‘process’.
If we once again return to our vision of the crowded room. The Union stands with a double-knotted noose around its neck, the injustice of which has become apparent as the scales have fallen from the eyes of the majority of unionists who have cast off the twenty five year brainwashing.
If the Protocol was resolved- and it can only be truly resolved by the restoration of Article 6 of the Acts of Union- then the noose would still remain around the neck of the Union, the only difference is that the chair upon which it stands would be restored.
What would the point be of the revolution within unionism/loyalism which has caused the scales to fall from the eyes of even those who campaigned for the Belfast Agreement, if we surged forward only to replace the chair under the feet of the Union, but failed to cut the noose around its neck?
That wouldn’t be much of a revolution, would it?
It is time for a glorious revolution within unionism/loyalism uniting to politically and peacefully free the Union from the double-knotted noose around its neck.
The Protocol and the ‘process’ must go. Full stop.