A little bit of history was made on Monday when Máirtín Ó Muilleoir became the first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast to attend an Armistice Day commemoration.
Ó Muilleoir stood alongside the DUP Deputy Mayor, Christopher Stalford, during the two-minute silence for the war dead at Belfast City Hall and described his decision to attend as "difficult for Belfast’s republicans ... because of the experiences we have had with the British army over the last three decades, and more, to accept that a mayor who comes from a Sinn Fein tradition would be at the cenotaph."
However Ó Muilleoir said he was fulfilling a pledge he made on taking office to be a mayor "for all the people of Belfast".
"Part of that means reaching out to unionism and today really was about peacemaking towards unionism,"
"I think it's the most difficult decision I have made in 30 years in politics and community activism. It is a challenge and I think that it had to be done. I think building the peace and building a better Belfast demands that we have to move ourselves into places where we are uncomfortable, which challenge us and which move us into new positions of peacemaking."
The Deputy Lord Mayor welcomed Ó Muilleoir's attendance and Ulster Unionist Leader Mike Nesbitt commented:
"I consider these gestures important at a time when a generosity of spirit will be required from all political leaders, if we are to succeed in our current efforts to reach agreement on the difficult issues under consideration in the Haass talks process."
On the same day an exhibition covering the period from 1912-1914 'Home Rule Crisis... the unionist response', opened in Dublin. It brings together the largest collection of UVF memorabilia ever gathered together in one place. The Ulster Volunteer Force was formed to resist plans to make Ireland self-governing, but many members went on to fight in the First World War. It was officially opened by the Irish Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan. A priest read prayers before people in UVF costumes laid wreaths at the War Graves Commission memorial to those from the Republic who died fighting for the allies in the two world wars.
Jonny Harvey, who this time last year was chairman of Ulster Protestant Voice (one of the main organisers of last year's flag protests) and now a member of the PUP tweeted:
Sadly on a day of progress, some in the 'Unionist Family' could not find it in themselves to suppress petty begrudgery, led as ever by everyone's favourite shit stirrer, unelectable wannabe European M.P. Wee Jamie Bryson (a former colleague of Harvey in the UPV)
Bryson's lack of equanimity was echoed elsewhere on Twitter:
As one might expect views on Facebook were even more scathing:
Written attacks on social media are a reminder of events in August when the Lord Mayor was attacked by loyalist 'peaceful' protesters on a visit to open a park in Woodvale, near the now infamous Twaddell 'civil rights camp' and dogging site.
These people speak for a tiny minority of Unionists (the fictitious "PUL" community) as evidenced by their pitiful electoral showing in the past. The protests at City Hall and Twaddell are dying a slow lingering death and only the threat of further 'peaceful' protests, and the potential for further street violence as we approach the anniversary of the democratic decision to fly the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days only, can give these trouble makers any sort of voice.
Whilst recent statements by Nesbitt et al in calling for the cancellation of the loyalist protest on November 30th are to be welcomed, isn't it time the entire mainstream 'Unionist Family' spoke out as one against the likes of Bryson, Frazer and their apologists in the so-called Protestant Coalition?
The leaders of Unionism must now show genuine leadership and condemn the sort of rampant sectarian bigotry displayed by Bryson & Co. and tell them "enough is enough," or perhaps more appropriately say...