What would Bloggers do without Poppy Season? The annual commemoration of stories that define Norn Iron in all its crap-ness.
So the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Remembrance and Silence. And the Hall at Stormont. A short service.
For the first time, the Speaker of the Assembly is a nationalist…Mitchel McLaughlin and he and his panel of Deputy Speakers (one from each of the other parties) lay wreaths.
All very dignified. Especially as Sinn Féin and SDLP MLAs were in attendance, giving the event an air of cross-community. Taking it away from its Britishness. After all, we have Parity of Esteem…we are British and/or Irish and just about every other identity we choose.
And of course, we have all that “age will not weary them” stuff. Solemnly “we will remember them….we will remember them”. And Silence.
And…GOD Save The Queen. …the British anthem, started (he claims) by a Press Officer from the small Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party.
Not exactly cross-community after all. An ambush on nationalist politicians. Because it wasnt on the Order of Service.
So what is the reaction?
Well nationalist politicians such as Caral Ní Chualain (Sinn Féin) and Alban Magennis (SDLP) are disappointed that the generosity shown by nationalists to outreach to unionists was thrown back in their faces. David Ford (Alliance) is irritated that the spirit of the service was not observed by unionists.
But Peter Weir (DUP), one of the more sophisticated of DUP notes that “GOD Save The Queen” is a fundamental part of such services.
As always Mike Nesbitt (UUP Leader) talks out of both sides of his mouth at the same time. The ambush was regrettable but the British Anthem should have been on the Order of Service.
Is this Parity of Esteem? Hardly. Have we all been sold a pup with Parity of Esteem because when all is said and done, Britishness trumps Irishness.
But LetsGetAlongerists invite us to believe that these events can or should be a “shared” experience.
But the unionists dont seem to want to “share” Remembrance. The message to nationalists is if you show up to these events, you will do so on British and unionist terms.
But there is another unsubtle message. DUP and TUV ambushed nationalists. It was a win-win situation. They were treated to the spectacle of nationalists (and Martin McGuinness) standing while GOD Save The Queen. And SF and SDLP politicians walking out would have been just as much a “victory”. It will play well for DUP and TUV at the upcoming election.
But does that mean McGuinness and Sinn Féin are losers? Well…not quite. Sinn Féin can play both the “dignity” card on the canvassing trail. And they can play the “outrage” card.
Thats how DUP and Sinn Féin do things.
Thats how Norn Iron works.