“nothing good can be built on such poisonous foundations”

As previously noted, Paul Bew mentioned that “[the British government] believe that the power-sharing structures of the Good Friday Agreement are so strong that [Sinn Féin and the DUP] will have no alternative but to compromise”.. but not everyone agrees. The Guardian’s Peter Preston draws in some points which indicate the insidious nature of the foundations being built upon – the recent Ombudsman’s report and the next announced investigation, although he does miss a few others – in a bleak assessment of the path ahead. From the Guardian’s Peter Preston

So order a few pints of bleak and bitter in this last-chance Stormont saloon. The moderates of history, the ones who stood against violence and won Nobel prizes, didn’t win. Their moderation is history now. Of course Paisley and McGuinness can hobble along together for a while in a nightmare coalition of twisted motives, but don’t for a moment believe that four-party rule is anything but an illusion. Where else in the world would such a construction work?

In reality, it’s a no-party system, designed to operate in the sectarian bunkers, giving voters no great alternative (just a little Alliance somewhere in the middle). If the flaw that’s blighting devolution in Scotland is that things were subtly rigged to keep the Nats out of the action, so the flaw here is that Stormont is rigged for “normal” stagnation, disillusion and recurrent crisis at the whim of any supposed partner. The centre cannot hold because there isn’t a proper centre to begin with. What of the next election and the one after that? Chant “more of the same” until supplies of sameness run out? What if Ulster’s general election vote holds the British balance? Chant “chaos is come again”.

The awkward truth, demonstrated yet again as the legacy-makers depart, is that mainland UK wants shot of this problem. Hold on to Scotland at all costs, but let Northern Ireland go its own sweet way as the troops head home. Been there, done that, had enough. But the coalition we leave behind isn’t a way forward, more a full stop: an agreement to play politics for a while rather than play demagogues or gunmen. And the underlying craving for justice in a fresh, non-sectarian land? Ah! It’s party-party time. Pour one for Nuala.

To paraphrase, it’s not “the basis of a civilised society”

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