Martin: “flags and emblems tacitly encouraged as a distraction from fact politicians are not delivering”?

If you have not read it yet, check out Brian Walker’s analysis last night on how Stormont’s incumbents are failing the populations of Northern Ireland by leaving the real and contentious business of politics to a small band of hyperactive terror merchants.

The leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin has a few similarly hard truths to deliver this morning’s Belfast Telegraph:

The problem as I see it is this – if politics is not demonstrably and tangibly about making people’s quality of life better in Northern Ireland, politics very quickly reverts to being about flags, emblems, parades and all the things that have defined public life for far too many people for far too long.

If loyalist gangs are able to burn the offices of political opponents, issue death threats, close schools early and cause economic havoc in the run-up to Christmas without sanction, all ostensibly in support of a proposition from unionist parties that was democratically defeated in Belfast City Council, there’s something very seriously wrong within the leadership of unionism.

Similarly, if republican politics in the North has not evolved beyond the point where a change in the timetable for flying a British flag and the naming of playgrounds are celebrated as major victories, it should raise serious question marks over what leadership is being given and how much serious thought is going into defining Republicanism in a post-GFA world.

That is of course unless, at some level, it suits the dominant leadership of unionist and nationalist blocks for a society and its media and its political establishment to continue to be seized by the images and rhetoric of flags and emblems.

Is it entirely unreasonable to worry that arguments about flags and emblems are tacitly encouraged as a distraction from the fact that politicians are not delivering on the issues that actually make a difference to the quality of people’s lives? Those who are interested in politics wonder where are the campaigns to highlight the fact that Northern Ireland suffers from unforgivably high levels of child poverty and economic inactivity?

At home in Cork, my wife and I have friends who run a small Irish crafts business. It’s a precarious enough existence, but their income each year is essentially earned in the few weeks running up to Christmas. I thought of them on Sunday when I heard that the excellent Continental Market at City Hall was forced to close. How many families are quietly and helplessly seeing their livelihoods being threatened as this failure of politics continues?

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