Perhaps I’ve been a little too zealous, pressing Ignited to specify issues which he fears candidates of the new Conservative and Ulster Unionist force might be reluctant to deal with, lest they ‘get their hands dirty’. If this is the case, it is only because I recognise that Redemption’s Son is a weblog offering a surer grasp of grassroots unionist opinion than that to which I would ever lay claim. I greatly respect Ignited’s analysis and I would like to fully understand the apprehension expressed in his article.
If he fears Conservatives will be loathe to put their heads over the parapet on any contentious issue which divides people in Northern Ireland, I’m bound to say that I don’t agree. It is my belief that David Cameron’s party is fully committed to applying its principles to the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. These principles are for the large part compatible with those of the Ulster Unionist Party. If that were not the case, then a deal would not have been completed in the first instance.
Just because a majority of nationalists, or an alignment of nationalist parties, happens to take a particular tack on an issue, I do not foresee the Conservative or Ulster Unionist parties shying away from laying out their position. I was particularly heartened, for example, to hear Dominic Grieve’s strong rebuttal of the Northern Ireland Human Rights’ Commission’s lamentable suggestions for a Bill of Rights, specific to this part of the UK.
Very clearly these proposals, which aspire to remove elected representatives’ discretion to deal as they see fit with a raft of socio-economic matters, are inimical to Conservative principles. The very approach the NIHRC took to defining human rights, cheapening the concept, seeking to diminish the division between state and society, could not be less reconcilable with the ethos of Cameron’s Conservatives. In contrast, it offers a perfect example of Ulster Unionist philosophy coinciding with that of the new style Tories.
Not only has the shadow home secretary undertaken that a Conservative government would throw out the NIHRC’s draft without hesitation, he suggests that Northern Ireland should be included in a new UK bill, drafted by his party and tweaked to reflect any particular circumstances which might pertain to Northern Ireland. In other words, this part of the UK would be treated like any other, not withstanding local circumstances. Any Bill of Rights would be set in a larger framework, with some specific provisions crafted to adhere to the original remit which the Belfast Agreement laid down.
Not only is Grieve transparently in the right on this issue, his counter-proposals are precisely compatible with arguments unionists have been raising. Just because right and interest coincide, there will be no embarrassment simply because nationalists happen to be arguing from a different perspective.