Is the Parades issue a signal of underlying political drift in Northern Ireland?

So, much to the bemusement of some of the Fine Gael TDs I sat with this morning at the BIPA in Glasgow, Micheal Martin’s accusation that under Enda Kenny the southern government has taken its eye off the ball regarding Northern Ireland seems more than just a little calculated.

Yet, there’s also a fairly robust analysis of the kind of things that are rarely described these a in Northern Ireland as a political problem:

The Peace Process was always intended to be about more than an absence of violence. The people of the North deserve a political system that delivers progress that demonstrates that politics works and which is about making their lives better.

Any calm and objective analysis of the performance of the Assembly and Executive over the last year would, very reluctantly, have to question whether they are delivering in these terms.

There have been notable successes – the ‘Our Time, Our Place’ campaign has been excellent, but we have seen just five pieces of legislation pass through the Assembly and we have seen the news dominated by old ‘parades politics’.[emphasis added]

Yes. Parades. That would be that little annual matter that costs something in the region of £7million. That’s not far off the price tag of the cervical vacine programme in the Republic every year, and a far chunk out of that extra £200million.

In political terms it’s worth paying some attention to Peter Osborne’s remarks:

“We have listened carefully to local politicians and others outline their intention to engage in processes and quiet conversations aimed at delivering progress. The Commission has long advocated the positive effect that constructive leadership can have on difficult and contentious issues.

“We will assist any efforts and, as consistent proponents of local accommodations being reached through dialogue, we will give these processes and initiatives the required time and space to take their course.

“Ideally, if local accommodations were reached the Commission would not be required to make determinations during next year’s traditional marching season. That is an ambitious target, but the building blocks are already in place.

“The momentum generated by ongoing political leadership, a willingness to engage in dialogue and further demonstrations of goodwill and mutual respect could have significant benefit for the 2013 marching season, provided the work is started now.”

Hmmmm… “provided the work is started now…” Actually the general form is not act in concert on anything that’s too controversial, to leave it to that by now well rehearsed principle of creative ambiguity.

Firstly on Martin’s direct point, the Assembly put through just four five pieces of legislation last year (a welcome increase in productivity from the previous term nonetheless).

Second, there’s an aspect of sham fight about these events which helps underline the differences between the two partner parties in OFMdFM.

I’m not saying that either actually wants the north Belfast rioting to continue, merely that the incentives to develop a strong joint political response (of the type Osborne is clearly hinting at) to it is weak.

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  • iluvni

    The less those eejits legislate, the better..

  • Neil

    I’m not saying that either actually wants the north Belfast rioting to continue, merely that the incentives to develop a strong joint political response (of the type Osborne is clearly hinting at) to it is weak.

    That’s the key right there. Political drift is a very polite way of saying they’re unmotivated because the parades flare ups does them no harm. Some might say it helps, reminds the tribes that the zero sum game is still in play. Because by and large they have very little else going for them.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Is “Our Time, Our Place” really a success?
    To me it has never seemed like anything more than an empty slogan.

  • BarneyT

    Which party would be the first casualty if politic-normale hit the North and can you ever had a normal political landscape akin to ROI and Britain whilst the border exists? Partition and the related “disputes” serve as fuel to the two main parties for sure.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Partition and the related “disputes” serve as fuel to the two main parties for sure.”

    Agreed, BarneyT, and it was a FF government that signed up to the 50%+1 ‘solution’ to the constitutional question ie a ‘tug-of-war’ solution. Mind you, that in itself is progress over what had gone before. I’ve also referred to this as the dumbbell solution where power resides at the extremes.

  • Clanky

    If you look back at the history of the peace process, there is a consistent theme of SF / DUP, creating crisis after crisis and then finding a solution as soon as they have persuaded enough voters on each respective side that they are protecting the rights of “their” people.

    In so doing they have edged both the SDLP and UUP onto the sidelines through maintaining the idea that each community needs strong leadership to prevent the other from gaining anything extra from the process.

    On the parades issue they have been left behind by local people being sick and tired of their pointless grandstanding and actually speaking to each other. If there is going to be a political shift lets hope that it’s towards ordinary people refusing to be used as pawns in the power games of politicians. Maybe then the politicians might start to look at the real issues effecting people rather than telling people what the issues are.

  • HeinzGuderian

    “Partition and the related “disputes” serve as fuel to the two main parties for sure.”

    Agreed,the sooner Southern Ireland rejoins the Union,the better.

  • IrelandNorth

    Am I right in intuiting that the power sharing peace process in Ulster/Northern Ireland is the incubation or laboratory unit for the island of Ireland as a whole. And that the island of Ireland as a whole is the focus group for that between the British and Irish Isles. Alas, the more the compulsive bipedalists of the Orange Order parade like turkey peacocks, (and hire incontinent loyalist bandsmen who perform their rendition of “Urination Once Again’), the more they expedite the certainty of their mainlander’s (sic) pushing them out to sea with a 32 foot barge pole.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Am I right in intuiting that the power sharing peace process in Ulster/Northern Ireland is the incubation or laboratory unit for the island of Ireland as a whole”

    That would have been part of the John Hume mindset, IrelandNorth, as well as that of the Redemptorists backing Gerry Adams. It was an obstacle to progress in the negotiations that culminated in the 1998 Agreement, an obstacle which was eventually overcome by taking account of the two constitutional aspirations.

  • IrelandNorth

    Cheers, Nevin! Mind you, I did blog on a certain neo-liberal Irish-American website sometime ago that the [S]om[m]bre men of the Surplus Shoeleather Society should consider walking the full 9 yards (800km) of the ancient pilgrimage route along the Camino de Santiago/Way of Saint James – across northern Spain/(southern Basque country). Rather than walking around in circles in NI, observing the sons of Ulster marching (from Saint Jean Pied du Port) towards Finesterre would be truly miraculous indeed, along this more generically Christian (rather than Catholic) route walked by many European monarchs. (The Emilio Estevez film “The Way” being a honourable treatment of its merits!)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Camino de Santiago/Way of Saint James”

    It’s not the Ulster way, IrelandNorth …

  • IrelandNorth

    If not the Ulster Way Nevin, then surely a cobbler’s dream?