Sunday, 14 February 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Regular readers will be aware of the Blether Region's view that the case for an Irish language Act has been considerably strengthened by recent arbitrary reductions in the budget available for the variety's promotion. Unless minimum standards are enshrined in law, the argument goes, the question of how best to safeguard and diffuse the language will for ever remain a political football.

A similar argument might be made regarding contentious parades. Over the past 12 years, the Parades Commission has been remarkably successful in removing the issue, and its associated violence, from the public sphere.

The body's achievements in that regard have been anathema to the Orange Order, an organisation that appears to require a certain level of anticipated strife to justify its own existence, just as its "historians" project their Manichaean world view as far back into the past as possible — and not just the British-Israelite ones. In the bad old days, whether a parade could go ahead was decided by the Chief Constable of the RUC on public order grounds rather than by whether residents of a neighbourhood felt comfortable with their noisy visitors. This was an outrageously supine attitude on the part of the civil power. We should all be thankful that property rights or a woman's right to decide if she wants to have sex are not decided the same way.

A recent report in the Times shows just how arbitrary the UK's constitutional set-up is. In the context of whether Scottish MPs should be allowed to vote on laws affecting only England, David Mundell, the shadow Scottish Secretary, detailed the Tories' latest plans and "revealed that the changes would take effect 'in the first few weeks' of a Conservative government because they did not require legislation."

While the Blether Region is, if anything, desirous of even less Scottish influence on English politics, and vice-versa, there can be only one possible interpretation of the ease with which such a major change might be implemented. It seems that the voting rights of Scottish MPs were never fixed in writing — or at least, never in a document with the force of law. The message regarding Irish is simple: only legislation can guarantee a stable future.

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