Letter: Unionists no bigots

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Sir: I would like to draw attention to one aspect of the recent manoeuvrings over the Stormont agreement which has not received the analysis it has merited: the decision to counter the gaffe of the release of the Balcombe Street bombers by releasing Michael Stone, who murdered six Catholics and injured dozens more in a grenade attack.

This demonstrates more clearly than any other single act I can recall the complete misreading by the Northern Ireland Office of the thinking of the average Ulster Unionist. The mandarins are so sure that Unionism is at heart no more than a raucously inept rationalisation of bigotry that all that was required was to keep the blood count "sectarianly stable". That the sight of another thug flaunting his imminent immunity from the law should be used as a strategy for soothing the breasts of those concerned with the maintenance of law and order defies all logic, or rather reveals total cynicism. The wavering Unionists cannot mean what they say; they are, by Northern Ireland Office definition, Catholic-haters and so must, despite their protestations, be pleased to see "one of theirs" in triumphalist mode.

The average Unionist does not identify with loyalist paramilitaries. Can the same be said of his, by Northern Ireland Office definition, moderate nationalist counterparts? While the moderate nationalist seems to be content to be repelled by terrorism, the moderate Unionist sees law and order as the only bulwark against the Province-wide spread of the anarchy which terrorist-appeasement has created in the Maze prison. If there were signs that the Irish government and the SDLP could take an equally non-sectarian view, that, rather than this Faustian pact, would create a sense of togetherness and co-operation among moderates which is the true basis for agreement on this island.

ROY BLAIR

Larne, Co Antrim

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