Send your views to the Haass enquiry: pic.twitter.com/EeicgOXtzN
— William Crawley (@williamcrawley) September 27, 2013
Here’s what I sent in. I’m not afraid of argument or debate. I’m not afraid of polarised opinions and I’m also not afraid of causing offence to those who consider the exercise of their culture to trump the rights of everyone else. I’m also not afraid to admit I may have gotten it wrong.
I am afraid of the status quo.
I’m very concerned about what the last year has brought as I am seeing a rapid brain-drain and loss to the net industry of skilled workers. This is greatly affecting the ability of our local industry to grow and expand our markets. The troubles of the last year have also affected our ability to attract significant FDI into the local industry because, despite our expertise and talent, the message that was received in Japan from a recent Nintendo FDI visit, was “Belfast Mean Riot”. Similar visits from Bohemia Interactive and Square Enix in the last year turned out the same. The opportunity cost of this runs into the tens of millions in FDI alone.
I express our disappointment that our elected leaders continue to attack each other even while they are in a shared coalition government. I note the rising discontentment within the “Other” community who never get invited to the table to talk. More than 50% of Northern Ireland is not “green” or “orange” but no-one consults them because they don’t carry guns under the table.
I would beseech you to give recommendations on these contentious issues that support the rule of law, that give considerations to the population who do not take offence at the actions or words of others in celebration of culture and who truly understand that tolerance is something you seek within yourself and not something you demand of others. If we continue to capitulate to the threat of civil unrest masked as demands for “tolerance”, we can never move forward as a nation.
On Parades and Protests:
I fully support the rule of law and the rights of individuals to peaceful protest. We would consider that once a protest has become violent, that the security forces should move in to disperse or contain the unrest. To do otherwise is seen as appeasement by the “other” side which encourages them to further test the limits of civil society. These parades are defended as “tradition” but tradition in a country that is less than 100 years old is a sham.
My recommendation is that we can do something with the Maze/Long Kesh site in the provision of a parade ground and that parades are located there. It will bring much footfall to the rural area, providing a contained opportunity for tourism and concessions. If people must parade in this country, let it be a net gain and not a net loss for the nation.
The flow of public money to cultural organisations to organise parades and events should predicate on their cross comity involvement. There is an opportunity for either side of the struggle to take the high road and be inclusive. But if they will not take it voluntarily, they must be persuaded.
On Flags, Symbols and Emblems:
A US citizen appreciates the power and respect of a flag. In my time in the US, I witnessed how flags and emblems are to be respected. I do not see that in this country. Our streets are festooned with rags, some of our national flag and some commemorating terror organisations from our dark past. Civil society should treat signs and emblems of the IRA and UVF and other terror organisations as Germany treats the Swastika. These emblems represent our terrible history and serve to open wounds on all sides of the community. People who are not opposed to them still feel intimidated by them.
Flags should be reserved for flagpoles. They should fly during civil celebrations and they should be removed not more than one week after the event has passed. Flags that are not tagged by the erecting organisation should be removed immediately. We cannot legislate on flags on private property but the Council should have a record of every flag erected and have powers (and protection) to remove flags that are placed inappropriately.
Murals should be messages of solidarity and peace, not threats of war. They should not depict skulls, weapons or masked men. Slogans and emblems of intimidation should be banned. Councils should have the responsibility to deal with this and we would look to the Minister for Justice to enforce this.
On Dealing with the Past:
There needs to be a policy of seeking healing rather than justice (or retribution). We cannot forget the sacrifice of many in the defence of peace but some cannot forgive the transgressions of others. Our society must realise that as we pick open wounds, we cannot heal and move on. We have to recognise there were many victims of the Troubles, physically and mentally, but the response to this must be a conscious decision rather than an emotional one. Victim groups that are allied to one side or the other are counter-productive. We also have to accept that a mother killed in a bomb in a town centre is different to a son killed while trying to plant a bomb. We have to realise that we cannot continue to glorify individuals who spent a lifetime propagating horrors. We cannot congratulate terrorists for laying down their arms when they brought us into terrorism in the first place.
That said, the work of the Historical Enquiries Team is important because it highlights the transgressions of the past. Justice is needed if only because members of the security forces colluded to kill civilians. Justice must, however, be blind to the demands of victims and responsible only to the need for society as a whole. Criminals should be punished and shamed.
We are ashamed that there is a need for external intervention in Northern Ireland but we acknowledge that it’s necessary and we hope that there is a result from this.