I once had an interesting conversation with a certain prominent journalist from this part of the world regarding the experiences of nationalists in times past.
He told me an intriguing story about how it became a regular occurrence outside his local “Chapel” or Church, as I would have it, that every Saturday evening, right on the clock as 7pm Mass was about to commence, the local loyalist bands would deign it suitable to parade the road outside with as much volume and venom as they could muster.
He called it “The Saturday night treatment”.
Nationalists in the north east of this Country may be familiar with this type of behaviour. I was not. At least not until I witnessed antics such as their behaviour in Belfast in recent years.
Happily living in tolerant, open minded Bangor for the last ten years or so, things seem very civilised on that front. Although the town is, on paper, only 15% nationalist leaning, things are open enough to allow room for the usual 12 July Orange parades, An annual childrens Easter parade and, this year, the Ulster Fleadh.
That, surely, is how it should be, although I believe there is work to be done still, such as a St Patricks day parade. (Perhaps that is one for another day)
Many have lauded the work done in Derry over recent years regarding accommodation for loyalist parading. Perhaps the local agreements in Bangor regarding parading past sensitive places should also be recognised and praised? These have been achieved at a local level, quietly, and without political fanfare.
Meanwhile there are encouraging signs of North Down being taken seriously at last by Nationalist Parties. Sinn Fein have begun canvassing Bangor for the first time ever and Posters and Leafletting are evident which I must say is a first experience for me.
I would expect very little electoral impact for the May elections but green shoots are evident and this bodes well for the future.
It is noticable from the comments on this blog that there is a substantial nationalist constituency that feels disenfranchised, particularly those with strong religious/social convictions and, perhaps, those with a right of centre viewpoint. There is a gap in the market here and I suspect that Fianna Fail may be eyeing it up.
Prior to the elections, Faha is preparing some detailed analysis which will be published here in due course