Eamonn McCann brings a much needed sense of perspective on the break down (and enduring significance) of the Haass talks:
the North isn’t Iraq. It is possible the Stormont institutions will eventually fall apart – but not on account of events at the Stormont Hotel, nor with comparably disastrous consequences. Evidence for this is to be found in the cynicism on the street with regard to the talks and the calm which has greeted their failure.
Few believed the talks would succeed, nobody has panicked that they haven’t. The main reason there was a fitful peace to begin with is that a substantial majority of the Catholic working class, the constituency which sustained the Provo war, has long ago reverted to its traditional position of rejecting violence to bring about a united Ireland.
Thus the increased support for Sinn Féin as it retreated from the objective which the IRA campaign had been designed to attain. And thus, too, the luxury of being able to make concessions more comfortably than was the case with the DUP.
As an instance: the proposed ban on parades involving emblems or uniforms associated with banned organisations would rule out commemorations such as sparked unionist rage at Castlederg last year. But SF leaders would be more than happy at having to desist from defending even ersatz displays of IRA militarism.
The DUP, on the contrary, cannot afford to dilute the traditional politics it has proclaimed throughout the Troubles and has little influence on, much less control over, loyalist paramilitaries. It cannot agree and could not deliver a ban on UVF insignia at loyalist demonstrations.
So Sinn Féin comes out as the relative good guys; the DUP, which has never had a paramilitary wing, as, again, the villains of the piece. It must be galling. The difference doesn’t arise from DUP deficiencies but from SF leaders’ wish to discard a perspective already out of step with their electorate, if not with those who hold hard to the ideals in pursuit of which IRA chiefs had sent volunteers out to kill or be killed or to waste years of their lives in prisons.
On a more positive note, SF and the DUP published the text of the final document within 12 hours of the talks ending, in contrast to the sexual orientation strategy promised seven years ago of which we haven’t seen a syllable. Maybe they’ll get down to that now. Maybe not.
To which I can only add that I wish I’d said all that myself…
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