There is a thing that happens with human rights and the discourse around them. Generally, the status quo doesn’t want them if they cause change or cost money. So rather than say “no, we don’t want you to have those rights” what is said is something along the lines of “the time is not right”, or let’s have a consultation.
We know this here. Victims and survivors of our conflict were mentioned in two lines as part of our peace agreement. There is a general narrative that says if their interests had been considered that the governments and parties would still be talking. So began the horrible trail where the systemic denial of the rights of those harmed by conflict is still permissible.
For those living their lives through the Irish language their rights were recognised in the Good Friday Agreement and in an Annex in the St Andrew’s Agreement but somehow legislative protections with an Acht na Gaeilge was asked to wait due to the strained priorities of devolved government.
Equality of love has been asked to wait in our local context despite its recognition in the south and in Britain. It has had to wait because the protective Petition of Concern was repeatedly abused and violated.
When the devolved assembly was collapsed under the weight of DUP abuses and contempt those who had been asked to wait found voice and it appeared that their time had arrived. There was a general consensus that a new Assembly required significant change and at the heart of that would be the delivery of rights to those egregiously treated to date.
Campaigns for victims and survivors marched in poignancy. Campaigns for Acht na Gaeilge marched in red, Dearg le Fearg. Campaigns for equal marriage marched in celebration of their fabulousness. It was notable that they did not march together. Despite many marching in all three because they were affected by the violation of their rights on all three fronts, there has been a strange demarcation.
Simultaneously the conversation on a united Ireland grew in momentum as our Six Counties remaining in the British union perpetuated the denial of rights. A highly discomforting scenario for those comfortable with the constitutional status quo. That there was an intersecting of the debates is discomforting for those who want to pretend that our constitutional arrangements have nothing to do with the denial of rights and it is about “politicians” who are “all the same”.
In Westminster, following the construction of the axis of the desperate between the DUP and the Tories, some progressives discovered that there are people who live with a denial of rights in the North of Ireland. In particular, they discovered the lack of equal marriage and the lack of access to abortion. So those rights found advocates. In the middle of the legislative extension of devolution the causes of equal marriage and abortion found their way into legislation and if devolution is not restored, which is unlikely, they will become law very soon.
Note what was ignored. The rights of those seeking truth and justice for conflict related harms, and the rights of those living their lives through the medium of their native tongue. You would almost swear that Irish citizens cannot rely on a British parliament to restore rights they took away in the first place.
It is interesting that some “liberal” quarters previously giving out murder that the Irish language should not prevent Stormont from sitting, now say it should not be restored before abortion and equal marriage are introduced. It is almost like some people’s equality is more equal than others’.