I’m sick, sore and tired of it. I’m an Irish citizen in my own country and yet still that statement is contested.
I grew up in Dublin taking my identity completely for granted. Now I live in my second home, with the Belfast family I now cherish. I have been living here longer than I lived in Dublin. Which makes me feel very old, but that’s another day’s tale. Not once since I moved here in 1994 have I felt I could be fully comfortable in my Irishness, just taking it for granted and just being. I moved up in May ‘94 and I will never forget my first July. I thought I would physically choke with the intensity of suffocation I felt. I never understood sectarianism before I moved up. Because I never understood that someone could hate me only because of my identity. And I have been diminished by knowing such hatred lives in the streets next to me.
In 1998 me, my family and this community were all made a promise by the Good Friday Agreement. That our identity as Irish citizens living in our own country would no longer be treated as second class. That in 2017 we still listen to hatred and bile regarding our nationality, language and aspiration is truly at the heart of the failure to secure a re-establishment of the institutions. And I am sick of it. And I want peaceful reconciliation with every fibre in me. But that part of me is given little space or dismissed.
In the 1960s when progressive citizens sought equality they were met with an intransigent state. Things have progressed now so that thousands can march in favour of progressive politics without fear of being beaten or shot, but where is the political change in response?
I completely resent English progressives looking west, after all of these years of insult and ignominy, to express their concern at social inequalities, while that same British parliament is condemned in every single international forum, from the United Nations to the European Court of Human Rights for the failures in law to those whom they bereaved by direct state actions or through collusion. That same parliament might tinker with abortion rights, may well discuss LGBT rights, but will swerve well clear of meeting its obligations to those families, who continue to suffer the direct oppression of state enforced occupation. A belated attention to some social outrages by a left wing or liberal agenda is not what we need or require.
The agreements negotiated and agreed in our country by our country’s politicians must be implemented. They were written to secure our citizen’s rights – all of the citizens, including all victims of the conflict, and Irish citizens. But I won’t pretend I’m not impatient. I don’t want to persuade or cajole any more and I most definitely do not want to witness any more payoffs in kind. The DUP’s approach is disgraceful. And they know it. They feign incredulity when they know exactly what they need to do. And they know what they need to do because they signed the agreements in the first place.
But the real question is do they have it in them? Does unionism have it in them to agree to real equality? Equality in law and in practice. The answer is unclear in the fog of July bonfire smog.