The received “wisdom” about Northern Ireland’s annual Summer riots goes something like this. “The peace process has been a top-down approach where politicians have learned how to get along but the people on the streets don’t really get it and still hate each other. Working class areas feel like they have been overlooked by the peace process. Meanwhile the parades issues still needs to be resolved.” This “wisdom” – the language of the “peace process” – needs to be replaced.
So here is my 10-point plan for changing Northern Ireland forever so that Summer riots become a thing of the past.
- Parents must assume the responsibility to teach their children that they belong to no tribe or group that claims to be better than any other tribe or group.
- Our society makes kindness the most important virtue. Kindness becomes the thing that our society holds most dear and that our society applauds most publicly.
- Any club or society that claims to represent the interests of one tribe, religion or group and demonises others tribes, religions or groups should be shunned by our society and particularly by our politicians.
- No politician should ever claim to represent any section of society more than any other. Our elected representatives should be left in no doubt that by claiming to represent Protestants or Catholics or Unionists or Nationalists they are helping to undermine our society and to return us to communal strife.
- No elected politician should attribute greater blame to any section of society over any other. They should recognise that a society that is based on tribalism is a society that is ill.
- Those who take part in marches or parades to maintain a “cultural heritage” that claims religious or nationalist superiority should be side-lined by our society. Marches and “loyal orders” should be seen for what they are, namely agents of hatred.
- The institutions of our civic society should be critically assessed by all. Churches and religious leaders should be subject to the same scrutiny as politicians. In a place that has been scarred and crippled by sectional conflict the role of the spokespeople for religions and sects should be reduced. Their voices should be replaced by voices that promote kindness and decency at the heart of our society rather than the people who maintain the tribes.
- The language of tribalism needs to be replaced by the language of decency. And decency requires that our civic institutions should not tolerate or use the language of tribalism and sectarianism.
- Our politicians need to recognise that they are all individuals answerable, ultimately, to themselves and their own innate judges. By perpetuating the politics of the tribe they ultimately do a disservice to themselves. They were not born Protestant or Catholic – those labels were applied to them by their parents and their community.
- We all have a responsibility to say, “Enough is Enough”. When people destroy and hurt in the name of a tribe or a community they do a disservice to us all. We need to recognise that intolerance and the mentality of superiority has been taught by agents we have created. But enough is enough. It’s time to change.