So, it's not the big boys but instead one of the Adams Youth will be taking their seat there as a member of the UK Youth Parliament today. Connor Morgan will be not only sitting on the famous benches, but also speaking today in House of Commons Chamber, in the Irish language no less.
I can understand Iain Dale's gut reaction:
I applaud the peace process. It is remarkable what has been achieved on both sides of the political divide. But the fact that Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats still shows what a divided place Northern Ireland is. I have tried to write up this story in an unemotional manner but believe me, I am tempted to write it very differently. For my heart still tells me this is wrong. That a supporter of a cause which took the lives of Lord Mountbatten, Airey Neave, Ian Gow and so many more besides, should today be sitting beneath the plaque to Airey Neave in the chamber of the House of Commons, leaves me coldSo, I can understand it but Dale is wrong on a number of levels with this.
Firstly, Connor Morgan is exercising a fundamental democratic right as a British citizen (well, he will have been born one at the very least). We don't have to agree with what our opponents say but if we start putting on limits on where they can exercise that right, then it's us, not them, who are undermining democracy.
Unionist MLAs at Stormont every day deal with Sinn Fein, a party which contains members who murdered friends, colleagues and family members of many of the UUP and DUP's representatives. I've written before about the plaque there dedicated to the murdered law professor Edgar Graham and I often wonder what he would think about seeing Adams, McGuinness, Kelly and Co sitting in the chamber and forming part of our Executive. That we will never really know for sure. However, if in the interests of a peaceful settlement Unionists at the sharp end are prepared to make such a compromise, then those who have *only* suffered indirectly at the hands of the IRA should be prepared to do the same.
Finally, Sinn Fein no longer aim a metaphorical and real gun at the head of Unionists but are instead now sending members to the United Kingdom's Youth Parliament, to speak in Irish, at Westminster. Sinn Fein now play a meaningful role in administering a "partitionist" assembly and in the UK's democratic process. The Union is more solid (although also radically different...and better) now than it was before they began their campaign four decades ago. The "armed struggle", in other words, failed. I know me saying this may upset some, but I genuinely believe Connor Morgan speaking at Westminster today, in a strange way, is the proof of that fact and the proof that Ian Gow, Airey Neave and indeed, Robert Bradford didn't die in vain.