Thursday, 29 May 2008

Principle of consent should be upheld despite SF complaints

A couple of days ago Mark Devenport reported that the Assembly Commission had furnished Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff with a list of ‘symbols and emblems’ contained within the Stormont Estate. To refer to many of the contents which appear on the list as ‘symbols’ or ‘emblems’ is actually stretching the terms to breaking point. All the various paintings, ornaments, artefacts and paraphernalia which have been acquired since the building opened have been included, whether they are on open display or in storage.

McElduff has already released a statement on PSF’s website, urging a ‘shake-up’ in the distribution of symbols. As yet the tone is fairly sanguine, although whether this is because of the storm of derision at previous PSF symbol ‘audits’ in local councils, or whether the Shinners have as yet to decide which objects they will choose to be offended by is not clear.

There are a number of items in the existing list which reflect the Irish nationalist tradition and more which allude to a more all encompassing sense of cultural Irishness. If reasonable proposals are made whereby more emblems of this type can be introduced in the interests of equality, reasonable unionists should not have any difficulty with such suggestions.

Reflecting a sense of Irishness and acknowledging the Irish nationalist tradition within Northern Ireland is not however to be confused with recognition of symbols and paraphernalia associated with the Republic of Ireland state, nor does it require the removal of furniture of statehood which reflects Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom. Sinn Féin should not be allowed to employ an equality agenda to attempt to wriggle out of the consequences of their acceptance of the principle of consent.

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