Age of protest politics is passing…

I remember talking to a Kenyan journalist a few years ago who said that when Mwai Kibaki superseded the administration of Daniel arap Moi in 2002, his cabinet was made up of many of the NGO’s who campaigned and lobbied on a range of social and human rights issues. She said that when faced with the possibility of doing something power they’d won, they seemed almost paralysed and incapable of executive action, even though they knew very well what problems needed tackling. Tom Kelly argues that with devolved power finally transferring into the hands of local politicians, the appeal and utility of protest may be fading, in the short term at least:

Our politicians need to be honest and they should not long-finger bad news – if it has to be bad news.

With the direct rule ministers having already clocked up some £7 million putting in place the architecture to collect water charges, this should not be stood down for political expediency only to be kick-started again in a year or two.

So too with other costly projects like the Maze. Its promoters need to be more realistic as costly white elephants are an extravagance when there are more pressing demands from health and education.

If we are ever to break our dependency on the public sector then, as Sir George Quigley and the economist Mike Smith keep saying, we need to do something seismic and significant with our tax position.

Invest NI and its supporters can dress it up anyway they like but inward investment is more likely to come to Northern Ireland if the incentives offered are simple and uncomplicated for foreign companies to understand.

  • merrie

    Some people are naturally good at protesting and bringing about change but they find they cannot govern once the change has happened. The most recent example of this is the Polish leader Lech Walesa who, against his better judgement, was persuaded to become President. Another Eastern European leader had to be replaced (can’t remember which country) because he was too suspicious of everyone.

    It will be interesting to see how the NI MLAs face up to the responsibilities of real governance. Some MLAs would have preferred that no change had occurred. It would be easier for them to make the Assembly unworkable. Let’s hope that they don’t do this.

    All the MLAs are relatively inexperienced in governing and they should be given time to get used to it, just as when a party is in opposition for a long time, as the British Labour Party was for 18 years. In the early stages there may be mistakes, both costly and retrievable ones.

    In NI perhaps the worst mistake would be to persist with a “themmums” attitude. If they can think of the community as a whole, and get expert advice, then they will be really serving this little statelet well.

  • Southern Observer

    A few lines a poem I had learned 30 years ago at school – all about the dilemma of the protester/revolutionary:

    Tabhair dom casur no tua go mbrisfead is go millfead an teach seo,
    go ndeanfad tairseach den fhardoras ‘gus urlair de na ballai,
    go tiocfaidh scraith agus dion agus simleir anuas
    le neart mo chuid allais…
    Sin chugam anois na clair is na tairni
    go dtoigfead an teach eile seo…
    Ach, a Dhia, taim tuirseach!
    Caitlin Maude (1941-81)
    (Give me a hammer or an axe to break and to destroy this house, To take the door from its frame and make floors from the walls, To take the shingles from the roof and the chimney downwith the strength of my sweat… Now give me the timber and nailsto build this new house…But, God, I’m tired!)

  • assemblywatchman

    the kind of democracy we are about to witness will not be the real thing – the D’Hont system allied to the lack of courage shown by the UUP and SDLP has seen to that. enforced coalition = no real opposition. so when for example the Finance Minister presents a draft budget to the Assembly it will have already been through the Executive and signed off by all four parties. The Ministers / Leaders will whip the ordinary Joe’s into shape and herd them into the chamber to vote ‘Yes’.

    The sooner we move to voluntary coalition the better.

  • merrie

    > The sooner we move to voluntary coalition the better

    Assemblywatchman: that will happen when NI rejoins Eire.

    Not possible with the local politics, ghettoisation, the “themmums” mentality etc.

  • The Dubliner

    Merrie, things have changed. Everybody has “moved on” and all that sectarian stuff is a thing of the past… isn’t it? That is what all the leaders and their cheerleaders keep telling us, anyway. Tom Kelly assures us that we are observing the “shadow of the dinosaurs passing beneath Carson’s statue.”

    Well, a good way to find out if we have returned to normality or not would be normalise the democratic process. If people have really “moved on” then they can be trusted to administer democracy in a pluralistic manner that is liberated from the sectarianism that they have “moved on” from, can’t they?

    Of course they can. To conclude otherwise is to conclude that neither tribe has “moved on” at all and that neither tribe ever shall – that, given the chance, they would each revert to their respective type and the dismal charade would be exposed as bogus. That would leave a lot of cheerleaders looking very giddy indeed… as the “real primeval instincts of our politicians take root.”

  • Rubicon

    From the BBC:

    “A petrol bomb and other missiles have been thrown at police in east Belfast.

    Meanwhile, four people have been arrested following a number of disturbances in Bangor, County Down. Trouble broke out after a junior Orange Order parade in the town. Police were deployed in full riot gear to bring the crowd under control.

    Meanwhile, there was fighting on a train coming from the town. The police boarded it in Belfast and escorted all the passengers off at Central Station. Police said it was necessary to prevent any further public disorder.”

    Doesn’t look much like things have “moved on” much for some – not the Orange Order either. Their statement is pretty much true to form, a spokesman for the Orange Order said they were unaware of any trouble involving Orangemen. “The organisers of the parade feel it passed off peacefully and was enjoyed by thousands of people,” he said.

    And what a wise choice for the police to allow these thugs on a train to then escort them off at Central Station – with another riot going on 100 yards away!

    I’m not sure if this classes as “protest politics” – but after just passing over the Albert Bridge it’s pretty ugly. Short Stand is sealed off with a half dozen police land rovers facing large groups of knuckle-draggers congregating at Cluan Place, Templemore Avenue and the Woodstock Road. Rocks with glass and rocks strewn across the road. The police have clearly been under sustained attack.

    Anybody wanting to hand out more taxpayers money to support these cultural festivals? Oh yes, and let’s target money to PUL areas – to repair the damage if for nothing else.

    I hope the police officers facing this ‘cultural barrage’ ask some questions of the wise guy who decided it’d be better to move the thugs from Bangor to East Belfast. Wouldn’t want the senior officers and judges in Bangor to loose their sleep!

  • abucs

    i guess there’s no real reason why the attitudes, personel, structures and skillsets best suited to fight government should also be the best suited to forge government.

  • Aldamir

    The reason for the death of protest politics is because much of it was utopian and unrealistic. It is easy to complain about how bad things are, quite a bit more difficult to find a way to make anything better.

    I also have the feeling that youthful idealists tend to turn into power hungry cynical borderline fascists by the time they gain political power in their middle age. OK, slight exaggeration but there is a grain of truth in it.