Hamill’s Beat - How to work magic on unionists

Can unionists be turned into nationalists and how can it be done? (That’s not “turned into” like silk handkerchiefs turn into white doves with a wave of a wand. It’s not like those magic tricks the Queen can do. She can turn towns into cities. Of course, in reality, the trick some people would prefer to do with unionists is to make them disappear altogether.)

The first part of the question is easy and the second part is more difficult. Yes, unionists can become nationalists. A surprising number have made the switch but it needs to be made an attractive option for others.

Let’s leave that thought for now and go back to the killing in Omagh. By no stretch of the imagination was young Ronan Kerr part of the, “British presence in Ireland”. He wasn’t a collaborator with it either. He was a proud Gael.

His killing raises some big questions. Why are the splinter groups so opposed to Catholics joining the PSNI? Clearly, it’s because they don’t want the North to become a more ‘normal’ society. If this is still British occupied Ireland it can’t be allowed to be normalised.

It’s a perfect catch 22 situation. On the one hand, the splinter groups don’t want this place to be normalised but on the other hand violence drives the unionist community further and further into their trenches. That’s not surprising if their vision of a united Ireland is of small groups trying to enforce their will on those who disagree with them. ‘Agree with us or we’ll kill you’ is hardly an attractive message for anyone, never mind for unionists.

Understandably, a tidal wave of emotion has followed Ronan Kerr’s death. Sad as all killing is, we now need to focus on a more objective and rational response. We need a vision of Ireland built on respect for human rights and justice. Where was justice for Ronan Kerr?

Wouldn’t it be better if the splinter groups would turn their attention to building up Ireland on decent principles? Or is it good enough just to replace foreign tyranny with a home-grown version of the same thing? That’s the tyranny of minority groups trying to foist their will on other Irish people by force.

Back to that question we started with. How can more unionists be turned into nationalists? It can only be done by making the nationalist alternative more attractive than it appears to be at present.