So, Obama’s speech? As Fionnuala O’Connor pointed out on BBC NI yesterday comparisons with past speeches are ill-placed. When Clinton spoke in 1995, she argued there was a lot riding on it. There was virtually nothing riding on Obama’s delivery yesterday.
The regular mis-pronunciations were testament to the downgrading of Northern Ireland both in the President’s own strategic hierarchy and the amount of resources set aside for it at State.
As Barak headed west to Fermanagh, Michelle wasted no time heading south for dinner in Dublin, a run out to Wicklow with the girls this morning to be followed by lunch in Dalkey with Bono…
The speech itself was long, like preacher asked to deliver 5 O’Clock Mass in some parish he’d barely heard of before, he sounded tired half way through.
As Mark Devenport notes, it was general enough to keep everyone happy, not least the new Lord Mayor, who’s US commercial interests will not be harmed by the fact that he was one of the few not to suffer the mangling of his own Irish name…
Though Mark also notes, the insertion of a passage on integrated education was perhaps a result of a misbriefing somewhere along with the way, we don’t have any plans for scaling up integrated education, just building them all nice and close, but with the institutional walls still firmly intact…
it’s worth thinking back to the last visit by a US dignitary – Hillary Clinton’s farewell tour.
Mrs Clinton arrived in the teeth of the union flag dispute and it took some fancy diplomatic footwork to ensure her Stormont Castle presser didn’t descend into recriminations between the first and deputy first ministers.
Having a repeat performance with the president in town would not have been an option, so although the G8 agenda has very little to do with Northern Ireland, to that extent this summit has influenced the course of Stormont politics.
Contrast the celebration of ‘coming out in the world’ of Bill Clinton’s 1995 speech at Mackies, or the forensic focus of George Bush’s envoys, Mitchell Reiss and Richard Hass with the simpler fare of the only public park in Europe that’s divided by a wall…
Yet there are a few lines worth picking out:
no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey. Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.” But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow. This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been.
And then Colum McCann’s lines from the NYT in March (H/T Patricia):
“Peace is indeed harder than war,” the Irish author Colum McCann recently wrote. “And its constant fragility is part of its beauty. A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”
It’s how we interact with one another, civilization. On the one hand, I’m interested in how we avoid tearing one another to pieces. Peace is not that, peace is the absence of that, peace is the absence of war: the opposite of war is custom, customs, and civilization.
Civilization is custom and manners and ceremony, the things that Yeats says in “A Prayer for My Daughter.” We have a vocabulary of how to deal with one another and how to behave, a vocabulary of behavior, as well as things to say to one another . . . and out of that come laws and agreed ways of doing things .
Some of the simpler things are worth remembering…