Tuesday, June 21, 2005

OO Heat

Interesting thoughts from Paul. Essentially, he is claiming that republicans are going to seek to bait loyalists through the marching season this year and that, in the light of this, the Orange Order should back off and not rise to the challenge. I'm not sure I'd follow this line on several fronts, though it is an interesting way to see things.

First, if I was a republican I wouldn't be entirely interested in baiting loyalists like this. I'd be more interested in driving a further wedge between loyalists and the state and PSNI. What international reputation the OO had has been, to say the least, badly damaged by events in Portadown over the years, but perhaps their most important and lasting effect will be that the Garvaghy Road has emphasised that policing in NI does not happen for the benefit of one community. In a certain sense, this is a good thing. In a politically strategic sense, it seems like pretty good news for republicans (which is different to saying that they necessarily arranged for this to happen).

Second, I'm not convinced that republicans are all that enthused about provoking loyalists. It might be a good way of deflecting attention from their own travails, but, as we know from experience, it would come at a significant price.

Third, the (I'm sure Paul would agree) rather pie-in-the-sky idea that the current situation would lead, for the first time, to someone seeing sense and moderating their behaviour would be lovely, but moderation has to be handled well. Ironically, I suppose, backing off is good news generally but saying 'if x happens, I'll back off' is sometimes bad news, because it just encourages x to happen. Moderation has to be mutual and simutaneous, which requires trust, which is, well, somewhat lacking.

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