“like power, an obsession with history can also corrupt”

Thanks to Newshound, we have Patrick Murphy’s historical assessment of the long months ahead from Saturday’s Irish News.. and the the risks to the political reputations of the primary players – “Since there is no guarantee that forthcoming events at Stormont will lead to political power, a favourable place in history may be all that the main players have to aim for.”Of Blair, Paisley, Adams and Ahern, Patrick Murphy argues that it is Ahern who feels the least pressure from the hand of history on his shoulder –

All three leaders could, of course, take lessons from the fourth character in the drama, Bertie Ahern. His place in history will be enhanced no matter what happens at Stormont. If the assembly runs, Bertie will get the credit. If it fails he will evoke sympathy for effort. He has perfected the art of instant historical approval for all he does.

So as the possibility of power at Stormont ebbs and flows over the coming months, watch as the older players eye up the parachute of history if they feel they have to bail out.

But the problem with history is that people keep making more of it. Future events, as yet unimaginable, will inevitably shape the subsequent description and interpretation of current events and today’s politics will be judged, not by our standards, but by the cultures and values of future societies. History is relative.

In any case it is probably easier for scientists, poets and philosophers to find a positive place in history because, as Enoch Powell said, all political careers ultimately end in failure. Paisley, Blair and Adams will want to prove that wrong as they seek political immortality.

But they should remember that, like power, an obsession with history can also corrupt. It just takes longer.

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  • Bertie’s always looking for the ‘can’t lose’ scenario. He’s everyone’s friend and none. He never, ever takes a risk, and I believe that history will not record his role as one of huge significance, but rather as a competent administrator. Dedicated, yes. Committed, absolutely. But not an agent of change, nor a catalyst for substantive progress. It is his reluctance to take a risk that will consign him to the also-ran’s of history, while risk takers such as Alan Dukes (who wasn’t even Taoiseach, but may get similar recognition to Noel Brown) and even Charlie Haughey will rank higher as notable contributors (for good or ill).

    Bertie was interviewed in the Sunday Tribune supplement on the Munster / Leinster game, and was asked who he thought would win. His reply? Well, he said, I’m from Leinster, but my Mam and Dad came from Munster, so I can’t lose. Typical. Couldn’t even be committal on a bloody game of rugby.

    Risk takers all around are eating into Fianna Fail’s vote – Sinn Fein and the PD’s notably – and Fianna Fail will need to re-invigorate themselves if they are to remain relevant. There could be a shock at the polls next time out.

  • willis

    “So in the coming weeks he (Paisley) will play the elder statesman, exuding a new and even ecumenical brand of blunt wisdom and clerical charm in the off-chance that Blair’s desperation will bring the DUP an offer they cannot refuse.”

    Steady on!