We all know that a brand’s power resides in its ability to touch the adherents’ highest emotional intensity. The stronger the belief in that self-identity, the more powerful the brand.
In Northern Ireland (not a part of the Republic of Ireland but a semi-autonomous part of the United Kingdom), ancient hatreds and emotions run deep. The “Troubles,” as is the common term for the violence in Northern Ireland from the late 60’s until the Good Friday agreement, are an ancient wound going all the way back to Strongbow and Cromwell. It is the bloody blade of ancient cultures and deeply felt nationalistic brands.
This is the background for the reports that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was arrested last week on suspicion of ordering Jean McConville’s murder in 1972. I have no way of knowing who was responsible for that murder, but what I do know is that truth and reconciliation is always seen through the tinted glasses of branding. When you are the brand, well, the truth is a malleable certainty.
Neither the Unionists nor the Republicans in Northern Ireland are able to look at this 42-year-old murder and see truth. While going back and examining this crime may make judicial sense, the brand of a working and fair Northern Ireland is the brand at risk.
Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, means “”we ourselves” in Irish. The brand of that political wing represents then and now as being part of the Irish Republic and rejecting its inclusion in the United Kingdom. For many years, this rejection was brutal and retaliatory. Since the Good Friday agreement, it has been mostly political.
In fairness, I need to tell you that I went to Trinity College in Dublin back in the early 80s. So I witnessed first hand the marshal rule in Northern Ireland and the violence between the fringes of both Unionists and Republicans.
I worry that new examination of the crimes committed against citizens from both sides without the blanket of truth and reconciliation like the protections offered in South Africa 20 years ago will open a deep wound and stir emotions once again.
When such emotional ties, replete with irrational beliefs existing, better minds should be careful when picking at old scabs. Sometimes they uncover a deeper cancer and end up killing the host.