A Republican's appeal to Unionism

Following on from today's historic announcement that the weapons of the IRA have been destroyed I think it is time to look at Unionist fears and mistrust.

I know that it will be hard for many Unionists to accept that the IRA's armed struggle is over and the guns destroyed. I also accept that Unionism has lost many loved ones at the hands of the IRA. I suspect that even had every single Unionist been present at these acts of completion they still wouldn't believe that the IRA's intentions were peaceful and that their use of the gun was a thing of the past.

Unionism and Nationalism has been at each others throats for centuries, there has been hurt inflicted by both sides. It would be foolish to expect this to change over night. This is not an issue of clean hands because there are no clean hands in this country. Everyone has given in to sectarianism or violence at one time or another even if the manifestation of such an action has not happened.

There is however one clear truth in all the twists and turns of political speech.

We have to learn to live together!

Do we want our children growing up in a society were they text their counterparts for a riot at the age of 9? Where they see no other option for their community but through the barrel of an AK47?

I believe Gerry Adams when he told Unionism today that we have no Plan B, I know that because I was told that myself by Republicans. I was told, as was every other Republican, after the IRA's imitative that this was not a wink wink episode, this was for real. There is no doubt within the Republican community that this is the end of physical force republicanism. For some republicans it will be a somber occasion and I fully expect the calls of "traitor" and "sellout" to come from the Barstools but that does not matter. This is a truly momentous occasion for the people of Ireland.

I do not expect Unionism to jump straight away, this is going to take time and Republicans need to be sensitive to Unionist fears and mistrust because some of them are legitimate fears. Unionism must be given space to fully digest what has happened.

I hope they make the leap of faith because there really is no other option for us as a people.

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