Nationalism riddled with hypocrisy

Ulster election: Republican joins old foe as assembly is burdened by the past and search for a home; Conor Cruise O'Brien explains why he is running as a UK Unionist

I was brought up in an Irish nationalist tradition but from the advent of the Provisional IRA offensive in 1971, I became increasingly aware that the position of constitutional nationalists, with regard to political violence, is riddled with unconscious hypocrisy.

Nationalists condemned political violence, but regularly used it to convince the British of the need for concessions. Thus, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was sold to Margaret Thatcher in 1985 as being about "to marginalise the men of violence" by reconciling the nationalists to the status quo. There was not a soul in Ireland who ever really believed that, but Mrs Thatcher bought the line, thus infuriating the unionists; and this was the object.

After 1985, things got worse. John Hume and Gerry Adams began the insidious alliance between constitutional nationalists and Sinn Fein. Hume-Adams was sold in the nationalist press as bringing about the conversion of Sinn Fein-IRA to the democratic process. What happened was to a contrary effect. Sinn-Fein-IRA succeeded in converting democratic process in the Republic to its own use.

Irish government statements, and those of senior government officials, are couched in language acquired from Sinn Fein. This is not just rhetoric. The relevant people are now imbued with the spirit of Sinn Fein: paranoid distrust of the British, hatred and contempt for the unionists. Senior public servants revealed this month that the Irish government's objective, in negotiating with the British, is to "drive David Trimble wild".

Nobody in the Republic, except myself, seemed to see any objection to this version of the Peace and Reconciliation at which all the nationalist parties profess to aim.

This account may give you an idea as to why I reject Irish nationalism - now dominated by Sinn-Fein-IRA - and have become a unionist. I believe the more gains there are for what Adams calls "the Irish peace process", the nearer Ireland will get to civil war. Adams's peace process is a pincer-movement on the unionists. One pincer is the IRA's cat-and-mouse violence and related blackmail. The other is Irish pressure on the British to move down the nationalist agenda. If there is any serious movement in that direction, the loyalist ceasefire will break down.

When Bob McCartney invited me to be a candidate for the United Kingdom Unionists, I accepted without hesitation. He is the ablest as well as the most amiable of the unionist leaders. His party not only has no links with sectarian groups but is explicitly committed to anti-sectarian policies. His party is offering the unionist community leadership of exceptional high quality. They will need that, under the pressure of those pan-nationalist pincers. I am proud to be able to give them a hand in resisting, by democratic and peaceful means, a version of Irish nationalism that has turned into something very like imperialism.

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