Mike Nesbitt’s latest absurd article in the Belfast Telegraph just gives away the self-evident truth that Unionists fundamentally do not know the country they live in.
Essentially, it amounts to saying to Nationalists that, if only they would admit they were wrong all along and agree to honour Unionists’ national flag, then he will generously agree to get along with them! Seriously? In 2013? From an Oxbridge grad?
The worst of it all is that I think Nesbitt knows what he is doing. He knows that real reconciliation – where you apologise for your own indiscretions and make room for others’ identity and not just your own – requires strong leadership. Much better just to appeal to the lowest common denominator, blame themmuns, appear generous by hinting (but not specifying) that you may have carried a small percentage of the fault, and watch the communal (ahem, sectarian) votes roll in.
There is nothing wrong with demanding “Republicans” admit past sins. Unlike Mr Nesbitt, who chickened out of doing it, I have done this to their faces at a Sinn Féin conference. However, I have news for Nesbitt – the Union Flag is not and never will be “their flag” – any more than the German flag was my flag when I lived in Germany. The 1998 Agreement was quite clear that people in Northern Ireland may opt not to be British, while still remaining full citizens of Northern Ireland. Now there is an “inconvenient truth”, but it is not one Nesbitt wants to grasp, as it may require coming to terms with the country we actually live in.