Like FitzJamesHorse, I get a sense that something important may have happened this week, though like him I also think it is way to early to conclude too concretely what they might be. But here are some short near ground thoughts to extend yesterday’s briefing for Hillary.
I think it demonstrates that government parties under our rigid and inclusive system put themselves (and the rest of society) in a very dangerous position when they indulge in activism, particularly when it involves stirring oppositionalist voices that have no residual voice on the hill.
As Mark Devenport notes, this was our first street crisis that genuinely touches Stormont’s political arrangements (think three elections in a row with no discernable change).
For all the deaths and injuries arising from dissident Republican activities (the death of David Black was discounted almost immediately), none of it has done much other than stress the body politic and force them to unify.
By contrast these events have brought out and defined political differences to an extent we’ve not seen since before the election of November 2003.
The bit in the middle in society actually matters more than people imagine it does. Alliance got hit because they actively used their balance of power. It made them relevant, and now they are being attacked for it. The question arises, can they follow through? Do they have a critique of where the big two are leading us that will actually impress the voters?
Perhaps it is significant that Belfast City Council is becoming one of the few place that people can make a political impact? The radicalising effects on the body politic have come from local authorities, rather than Stormont where everyone is on their best behaviour and nothing moves without prior agreement from OFMdFM.
Perhaps a little bit of trouble makes people think and reassess matters. Once that trouble takes to the streets it becomes scary and dangerous. Should our politicians not be looking to take more of that trouble off the streets and on to the floor of the house?
Only we don’t need to be talking about flegs, or the names of children’s playgrounds. These just end up taking centre stage because we cannot deal with bigger stuff that actually matters to people.
This is some of what Mike Nesbitt was stutteringly trying to say last night on UTV, but he was already mired in the street fight and once you are down there, and off policy, as Brian pointed out yesterday, nobody actually cares about jobs, education or all island economies, when gratification comes quicker when you can burn something down.
If we are not careful Stormont will resume the role it had in the early troubles: remote, aloof, and most of all, irrelevant to lives of the people it is supposed to represent. Perhaps what we need is more trouble makers, but in Stormont rather than on the streets?