By Cllr Stephen Cooper
In 1998, the violence and threat of same from the republican movement was formally rewarded with the Belfast Agreement; the only accord with the authority to release hundreds of mass murderers, and amongst other constitutionally damaging annexes, the destruction of the anti-terrorist RUC.
The price of protecting the city of London from further economic bomb damage superseded the rule of law, the adherence to democratic values and most of all; extinguished any hope of justice for the innocent victims of the very terrorists who were rewarded with letters of comfort and even, sickeningly, Royal pardons.
It remains to this day the only political agreement with a mechanism to take N.I. out of the U.K. and after 23 years of concessions to IRASF, culminating in a two-tier policing policy and convicted IRA terrorists on the Policing Board and in the Executive of the very place they wish to destroy, the frustration and anger within my community is hardly surprising.
The attempts from those who called for the rigorous implementation of the N.I. protocol trying to absolve themselves from any blame for the recent violence spilling over onto our streets is only literally adding fuel to the flames; as is the hypocrisy from those who threatened violence and specifically a return to bombing campaigns if the border was at its naturally internationally recognised geographical position between N.I. and the Irish Republic.
Unionism maligned, marginalised and backed into a corner has continuously been under attack from every angle and a wide spectrum of sectors; from the Pan-Nationalist front, a mostly compliant media propagating the ‘process’, and on the international stage, Irish America with yet another spineless UK Government all ignoring and overriding our democratic right and insistence on our wish to remain within the U.K. on an equal and equitable basis with the rest of our citizens.
The causes are clear, the future direction is not, – but it should be.
The steps are quite simple, but it is evident those mentioned above have neither the backbone nor the political or moral will to tackle the flawed appeasement process for fear of upsetting those still commanded by armed terrorists.
The rule of law has been usurped by terrorists, that is the awful and undeniable truth.
Until this is addressed, then polarisation will increase and society will embed itself further into the entrenchment of perpetual division.
The cheerleaders of 1998 should reflect on the precedent they set 23 years ago and the immense damage they inflicted on any chance of a shared future for the next generation.
It was wrong then, and today it is crystal clear it will be wrong for many more years to come.