23 November 2006 Edition
The Mitchel McLaughlin Column
Testing Time ahead for Republicans
Republicans are entering a testing period. But it has nothing to do with obstacles created by the DUP. No-one, least of all the DUP, should question our sincerity about building a peaceful and democratic society. It was after all, the refusal by the unionists to allow the democratic franchise for all citizens that created the intolerable conditions that led to conflict on our streets. Therefore, if any section of our society is entitled to be sceptical and questioning, then nationalists and republicans have much that we could demand of unionists. But what would that achieve? Would it progress our political project of convincing society that the future is one based on equality and respect? A future where the force of argument will replace the argument of force. A future where all parties are free to actively pursue their political aspirations without threat or hindrance.
I know that the obnoxious language used by some DUP spokespersons can grate on even the most reasonable of people. But republicans must guard against allowing such intemperate jibes from impacting on our thinking and thus derailing our strategy.
We should instead, see such rhetoric for what it is -- a sign of the immaturity of a political philosophy that has never learned the art of accommodation and indeed never had to. Unionism has always had a receptive ear in London. Unionists only had to make demands and no matter how unreasonable they seemed to nationalists or republicans, British governments generally acquiesced.
It is this legacy of arrogant belief by unionists that they have an absolute right to rule and set the conditions for participation by others that makes negotiating so difficult. But republicans are progressively breaking down these barriers. While there may be some understanding of the unionist and British attitude there is no good reason for the Irish government's refusal to confront them. The Dublin government, it would seem at times will sheepishly follow the path of least resistance to the British, rather than act as the guarantors of the rights of the people of Ireland.
As I have said, it is a testing time for republicans. But we will only achieve success by being resolute and focussed on our goal. Let us not be deflected by arrogant bluster from the DUP or threats from those who have no political strategy or vision.
It is essential that republicans concentrate on the task ahead. Advancing our strategic goals by increasing our representation in both the Assembly and Leinster House. That is the opportunity that we have to grasp if we are to move others onto the path that we have set.