“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”

  • Henry94

    Interesting article

    O’Loan, you may recall from two months’ back, is the Northern Ireland police ombudsman who produced the devastatingly detailed report that made headlines around Britain (for at least 15 minutes). She and her team revealed how police informers in one Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gang had been shielded by RUC officers as they murdered 10 or more Catholics – some of them total innocents. These loyalists were, in effect, sanctioned killers who the forces of supposed law and order left to get on with their grisly business.

    You couldn’t find a more damnable indictment: in Spain, in similar (Eta) circumstances, they locked up the interior minister for letting such things happen. But in Northern Ireland? These killings took place. Because only one UVF mob was targeted, there may well have been more the ombudsman never got round to. And, as she investigated, she got shamefully scant police cooperation.

    Serving officers said nothing. Retired officers said nothing. Even the chief constable of the time – now Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, if you please – found nothing to say. But, jobs unaffected, pensions intact, they’ve just been allowed to carry on as though nothing untoward had occurred. That – the time of police-approved murder – was then; this is now.

  • manichaeism

    “Nothing good can be built on such poisonous foundations”

    Let’s hope it’s not the very foundation of the Northern Ireland state that is too poisonous for anything good to be built on!

  • Greenflag

    ‘Let’s hope it’s not the very foundation of the Northern Ireland state that is too poisonous for anything good to be built on!’

    The present difficulty is compounded both by the rickety foundation of the NI 6 county State and by the forced involuntary power sharing D’Hondt mechanism for this Assembly . NI has now progressed from an abnormal one party State to an even more abnormal two party state . The former never had a credible opposition and the latter won’t even have an opposition . Sectarian politics are so irredeemably locked in to the system that it would be easier to escape from a black hole at the centre of some dead universe!