Sunday, April 07, 2019

Hard Brexit and the Ulster Covenant

This book, HEAL NOT LIGHTLY, was written by a friend of mine a number of years ago, but the message is especially vital right now; especially as we face the prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Since the Good Friday Agreement, we've been living in a time of relative peace - that's "peace" as in "no noise", or "no people being killed", but one that requires "peace walls" between communities that still hate each other.

With a hard border, a major supporting factor for the Good Friday Agreement will have disappeared. We could be back to square one. It's time to tackle the root of the problem. That, according to Harry Smith, is the Ulster Covenant. His book gives an excellent background and a way forward. You can  buy it here.

My grandfather and my great-grandfather both signed the Ulster Covenant. It was a covenant solemnly sworn by two thirds of Protestants in Northern Ireland in 1912, to fight and be willing to die rather than submit to rule by the Dublin government, which was perceived to be Catholic controlled. In effect, we coerced Great Britain to keep us.
The crowds outside Belfast City Hall waiting to sign the
Ulster Covenant on 28 September, 1912

The Ulster Covenant was signed before God, and, in the words of Bob Dylan, we had "God on our side".

The only hitch was, God never gave us the mandate, as Christians (which is what Protestants are), to fight or spend our energy in making the world safe for our own kind. So rather than assuming we have "God on our side", should we not ask, are we on God's side?

The sentiment that both inspired the Ulster Covenant and is reinforced by it, is the same that is now pushing us towards a hard border situation; but what's worse is, the same sentiment also insures that the road beyond will be fraught with violence and strife. The next decision facing NI after a hard Brexit is whether to remain in UK, or reunite with the Republic. The Good Friday Agreement stipulates that that would be the choice of the people of NI. It will most certainly be debated, with more than just words...

I believe, with all my heart, that we've come to the crises point in Northern Ireland history, in which we have to examine our attitudes and correct the mistakes of the past. God has been telling us about this; we are now approaching the due date.  For myself, I've asked God's forgiveness for my grandparents' part in the signing of that covenant.

I believe that's our only hope for true peace.