While the issue of his appearance atop a police land rover will draw plenty of comment elsewhere, what was widely missed was that Gerry Kelly MLA found time to tweet on 23 June:
“A 16yr old nationalist arrested last night for waving a Tricolour in a nationalist area Orange breaches half hour earlier-no arrests!”
Firstly, no one gets “arrested” for “waving a Tricolour”. Such a suggestion, not least from a member of the Policing Board, is nonsensical and provocative. This is playing to the sectarian audience, not leading us to a better future.
Secondly, any “Orange breaches” should be reported to the police and, if found to have occurred, arrests may well follow, just as they did during the street protests a few months ago.
Thirdly and probably worst of all: who exactly are “Nationalists” and, in particular, what precisely is a “Nationalist area”? To a true “Republican”, such a thing cannot possibly exist.
Of course, sadly, Sinn Fein lacks true Republicans. A true Republican believes absolutely in common citizenship and that rights and responsibilities derive from that common citizenship of any given jurisdiction. People cannot be treated differently, for a true Republican, based on ethnic, national or religious background because that would be to award them different rights and responsibilities separate from those of the common citizen. A true Republican labels people only as “citizens” and nothing else; to label someone anything else is to imply that person should be treated differently from other citizens on grounds other than merit – something to which any true Republican stands utterly opposed.
Then, the term “Nationalist area” gives the game away completely. A true Republican would seek to allow religious and national cultural expression – be it through parades or display of symbols – everywhere; there can certainly be no distinction between one road and another road merely because of the religious or political background of the people living there, as that again is to distinguish them from their fellow citizens on grounds other than merit. The right to wave the Tricolour must apply in the same way everywhere; as must, of course, the right to parade.
What Gerry Kelly is saying, of course, is that it should be fine to wave the Irish national flag in an area whose majority regards itself as of the Irish nation. That rather contradicts his case for a “United Ireland”, however, as he clearly contrasts this with the “Orange” (who are implicitly not of the “Irish nation”) and with non-Nationalist areas where it would implicitly be unreasonable to wave the Irish national flag. By logical extension, the Irish nation thus does not extend to the entire island of Ireland, given that part of it is populated by Orangemen and other non-Nationalists. This is something Gerry Kelly believes, obviously; but it is not something any true Republican could believe.
Of course, a true Republican wouldn’t be making up stories about the democratic and legitimate forces of law and order to start with.