Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

By Paul Bew; Henry Patterson et al. | Go to book overview

8
A FRAMEWORK FOR PEACE?

Following the failure of the 1992 talks, both the British and Irish governments contemplated a new approach. The key concept here was 'inclusiveness'. In short, it was decided to make an effort to bring in the political extremes of Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries. The Irish belief in this principle, however, was always more rigid and wholehearted than that of the British; also, the British were only willing to pay a decidedly limited price to bring about this objective. The first indication of the British side's approach came with Sir Patrick Mayhew's intellectuall complex 'Identity and Culture' speech at Coleraine in December 1992; supplied in advance to Sinn Fein as briefings on the 1992 talks had been the speech stressed yet again British neutrality. But as this theme was in itself no novelty, a decision was made to add a dose of green rhetoric. Thus the speech was replete with flattering references to a rather ill-chosen gallery of violent Republicans, such as Ernie O'Malley, and less than conciliatory Nationalist heroes such as Joe Devlin, all safely dead. (Embarrassingly, the recently released British intelligence reports of 1921 (PRO CO 904/156/58) describe O'Malley thus: 'His salary as IRA staff captain was 6.10s a week, augmented by any perquisites that he could obtain from the pockets of murdered cadets.' Joe Devlin was hardly a suitable role model for democratic Nationalists either; it is true that in 1916 he belatedly embraced the notion that northern Unionists could not be coerced into a united Ireland, but for most of his time as a northern Nationalist leader from 1900 onwards he was a bitter, and even violent, opponent of those Nationalists who sought to understand the Unionists. Thus there was an attempt to disguise the basic lack of any concrete concessions to the Nationalists in a camouflage of meaningless and insensitive to Unionist feeling rhetoric.

It was said that Sir Patrick Mayhew came to regret some of the rhetorical flourishes if not the substance of the speech. 'Identity and Culture' certainly surprised local Unionists if only because some

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