Issue 4-2022 small

28 August 1997 Edition

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Proximity talks won't do

Unionists are in absolute turmoil over whether to sit down and talk with Sinn Féin on 15 September. In many ways it is understandable. Unionism has within it a supremacist philosophy which has been sustained and nurtured by successive British governments. Unionists have never had to countenance a society in which they sit down with nationalists on the basis of equality and hammer out a common future. But now, that is the prospect with which they are faced.

No wonder the divisions among them run deep. But these are not days for sympathy or reassurance. Unionism must go through the painful process of realising that times are changing, that the future can be nothing like the past. Already some - in the Churches, the business community and in the Ulster Unionist Party - can see that talks, and through them the prospect of a new future, should be grasped with confidence. It is difficult to know if that tendency is in the ascendant. That some Unionists are speaking about `proximity talks' rather than face-to-face negotiations shows that the Ulster Unionist leadership may not be ready to grasp the nettle. They should be loudly told that proximity talks won't do. They have less than three weeks to face the next logical step.

Need for vigilance

The threatening noises from Billy Hutchinson and other leading loyalists are all too familiar to nationalists. The UVF, UFF and LVF were formed with one aim - to murder Catholics. They have never targeted anyone who might possibly fight back and their history is one of shameful, sectarian cowardice. Their sham ceasefires are now said to be under threat - albeit, it is said, because of in-fighting.

The feuding among the death squads has much to do with the current political changes which are taking place. As ever, at times of change loyalists strike out and eventually their insecurity pushes them to target nationalists. It is right that people remain vigilant.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1