“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.