DUP efforts at outreach now look like a cosmetic exercise

Posted By: August 15, 2019

Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, August 14, 2019

FOR years the so-called Derry Model has been an example of how negotiation and compromise can help resolve contentious parades without either side appearing to lose face.

But the trust and respect that has been built over nearly two decades were almost wiped out overnight by the ill-conceived actions of the Clyde Valley Flute Band from Larne.

Wearing the Paras’ [ British Parachute Regiment, one of the most elite in the world] insignia on their band uniforms was not only insensitive and offensive but provocative too.

Yards from where Saturday’s parade passed, 13 civilians were shot dead [by the Paras] on Bloody Sunday.

Nearly five decades on, the pain in the city remains raw and is accentuated by the prosecution of Soldier F and public displays of support for the former Paratrooper.

Given the context and the potential for trouble, the police action on Saturday was measured and justified.

This should have been acknowledged immediately but instead, there was dithering and equivocation that only inflamed the situation.

Somewhat belatedly, the Apprentice Boys said it recognized that the band’s behavior “may have caused upset” but declined to apologize, while Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann appeared to seek to defuse the situation by voicing support for the police.

He perhaps should have gone further by at least acknowledging that the band’s actions were ill-judged and dangerous but

Mr. Swann too often lacks the courage and decisiveness that characterize a strong leader.

However, when compared to the behavior of the DUP, his words were positively conciliatory.

Emerging from Tuesday’s meeting with the PSNI to discuss Saturday’s operation in Derry, Arlene Foster remained belligerent.

Flanked by Sammy Wilson and Gregory Campbell, the DUP leader noted that the band’s Para insignias were not illegal and “did not tangibly threaten a breach of the peace”.

It was a detached [unfeeling, without empathy] interpretation of the band’s actions that completely failed to take account of how the people of Derry, and in particular the families of the Bloody Sunday victims, would view such a provocative gesture.

She contrasted the police’s action against the band to its response to “events orchestrated by dissident republicans” in Derry on the same day and a recent Sinn Féin Hunger Strike commemoration in Strabane which she claimed was “glorifying terrorism”.

Mrs. Foster knows there’s every likelihood of an election in the coming months and with such whataboutery appears set on casting herself as the uncompromising leader of unionism, her efforts at outreach now looking like a cosmetic exercise.

In broadcast interviews yesterday, Mr. Wilson remained unapologetic, again claiming the insignia was “not offensive”.

What began as DUP criticism of police tactics has since seen the party double down in an attempt to justify the crass [conduct]..

Yet again the party is in danger of blinkardly painting itself into a corner that could provide justification for the actions of more extreme elements.