What’s normal is normal, whatever the norms elsewhere

Elsewhere on Slugger today and yesterday, there has been some speculation as to whether we have reached the end of Northern Irish history/Slugger O’Toole (even Fukuyama doesn’t believe it literally comes to an end). Jane Jenny, who writes South Belfast Diary believes our politics will not stop, but we may be in for some unpredictable changes.

I suspect those who talk about the ‘normalisation’ of NI politics mean one of two things by it (i) politics like England – in particular, the ability to vote for the British Labour Party (ii) the end of sectarian, or should I say nationalist, politics. But let’s think about the use of the word ‘normal’ in this context. The only people who have no problem with the term are statisticians and religious fanatics. The rest of us realise that normality is a very elastic concept. On the one hand, normal politics in NI is what we’ve got at the moment: it’s normal for us, and it has evolved in the way it has in response to local conditions. On the other hand, if party political options do change in the next five years or so, there’s no particular reason to assume that the new pattern will be the same as anywhere else, because our society isn’t. As for the departure of sectarian/ nationalist politics, dream on. Both Irish and UK nationalism will continue to be part of NI’s political landscape for a long time to come. The questions are: how big a part and which other political ideologies will be competing.