On the week that Unionist politicians walked out of a Down District Council Meeting over the Irish language, the Queen has had a reception for 300 of the Irish community at Buckingham Palace. Is there something wrong with this picture? Had the Down District Council had a reception for 300 of the Irish community would there have been a walk out?
Unionism is about a loyalty to Britain and ultimately the Queen. Is that loyalty to a figurehead or is to the leadership of the Queen? The Queen’s state visit to Ireland in 2011 and, ironically in the light of this week’s events, her use of the Irish language was a seismic change in relations between Britain and Ireland. The Queen modelled a leadership that overturned centuries of hostility and ushered in a new day of changed relationships. Is it not now right that those loyal to her and proactive in their desire for Northern Ireland to maintain the Union to Britain to live in this new dispensation? Should Unionists and Loyalists walk out of meetings because they believe that they are being ignored or are they indeed ignoring the lead of she who they are being loyal to and desire Union with?
Don’t get me wrong, I have some sympathy with my Unionist and Loyalist friends who feel that the changes at work around them have somehow disorientated them and made them feel ignored. They might even have a genuine feeling that they are somehow being left behind. We need to be aware of such feelings but we also need to be asking what Unionism and Loyalism should now look like, if those are the names they wish to be identified as, in 2014. As the Queen and Britain’s lead shifts how does Unionism and Loyalism shift with their monarch and people? Are their leaders who can bravely lead in such a tricky terrain and navigate through?
How does the Church pray for and pastor such leadership or those who feel the brunt of the changes in our Northern Irish society? Questions… many questions…