While not exactly proof of Delphic powers, Eamonn McCann’s article in the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week is looking more prescient as the day, and the talks at Leeds Castle, go by.The link between the Agreement of 1998 and the increasing polarization that Eamonn McCann sees and foresees, when there is a case to be made for that polarization being the deliberate policy of certain parties, is, I believe, not quite as clear-cut as he appears to claim. He does however raise “the question of how sectarianism can be tackled, in the young or the old, when the notion of the separate development of “the two communities” is at the heart of our conventional politics and endorsed by the dominant Churches” and, while I would disagree with parts of his argument, he is right to link the sectarian attitudes present in the young with the sectarian stances taken by the increasingly dominant political parties. The difficulty is that those sectarian stances, and the policies that flow from them, are being increasingly endorsed by the votes collected by those parties.
Perhaps the imagined logic of this tacit endorsement of polarization is that by simplifying the political representation the problems, and therefore the solutions, also become simplified. But the reality is that the way for all of us to make progress is to recognise, and to begin to make the case, that both the problems and the solutions are in fact more complicated than we often care to admit. Put simply, to develop a truly representative accountable democracy, we require a greater variety of representation not less.