Sinn Fein resisting publication of Shared Future report…

It’s probably true to say that most of the ‘fun’ went out of politics in Northern Ireland when UUP was pipped for pole position in Unionist politics back in November 2003 by the well organised and tight lipped DUP. Despite the powerful ‘altruistic pacting’ between the DUP and Sinn Fein it barely disguises their distinct political values and mores. Noel MacAdam picks up a fascinating, if relatively minor, dispute at the top, over their new Shared Future document. The DUP wants it published as it is, while Sinn Fein, it appears, does not:

Senior DUP sources have privately insisted they would have been willing to fully publish the report but there were objections from Sinn Fein, arguing the best route to A Shared Future is the full implementation of meaningful equality measures.

It could also be interpreted, however, that the tenor of the report does not square with the narrative currently being promulgated of a province increasingly at peace with itself.

Shared Future was not directly at odds with such a perception. The challenge facing society here is neither isolated or intractable, it said, but problems can not all be put down to the paramilitaries. The province has been divided for centuries.

And while it could be argued the division between Catholics and Protestants is not a gulf of misunderstanding, but an issue of inequality, “this would not fit the recent historical record,” it added.

“Since the Civil Rights movement, the opportunity gap has rightly been narrowed – yet communal polarisation remains. The underlying difficulty is a culture of intolerance…”

Shared Future was not just about high-falutin’ aspirations, however, which the last Executive also espoused, in its vision of a “peaceful, inclusive, prosperous, stable and fair society”.

It is a dichotomy identified by the NICVA blog during the Assembly Elections last March, under the appropriate title of ‘Sharing’ or ‘Separate but Equal’? And, as noted in the siting of a paramilitary memorial outside the ruin of a Church of Ireland Church in Dromore, such provisions are often arbitrarily set aside for political convenience.

By coincidence, Professor Donald W Shriver, President Emeritus of Union College, New York, has been at the University of Ulster recently, where he argued:

…that unless societies can publicly acknowledge past conflicts and injustices then they cannot truly move on towards a shared future. His work draws on the injustices perpetrated on Native American and African-American communities in the US but he has also studied Germany, post-war; the US, post civil rights; Rwanda and South Africa, post-apartheid. Professor Shriver says that repentance for past injustices must find a place in post-conflict culture along with accurate teaching of history and public symbols that embody both positive and negative memory.[emphasis added]

As if in concert with Sinn Fein’s reluctance to publish anything new on the subject, none of the old documents on the dedicated site are now available to download. Hmmmm…

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  • Sinn Fein trying to conceal the truth and/or censor opinions that contradict their own? Surely not.

    It’s sad that others in the executive seem to have gone along with it though.

  • watcher

    There’s a bit of confusion in the newspaper article between A Shared Future which was adopted as government policy in 2005 and the new Cost of Division Report which was published earlier this year and which OFMDFM are now referring to as a ‘private report’ as it was commissioned by some other group of people at some other time before year zero and clearly has nothing to do with the new Northern Ireland which emerged fully formed in May 2007.

    A Shared Future already had an action plan (pretty poor one, though) and a companion strategy for Racial Equality. While racism is still to be tackled, because we can all get behind that one, the Programme for Government mini-pamphlet published 2 weeks ago makes no mention of A Shared Future – only A Better Future. Presumably this is one in which nasty words like sectarianism won’t be mentioned, or at least only by people who are ‘unhelpful’ and don’t want the devolved institutions to work and want to destroy peace.

  • DC

    They say the report is a privately commissioned piece of work but noone just goes about doing something for nothing in an ad hoc way.

    This Deloitte report may well have been commissioned as part of a strand associated with a former action plan of ASF, perhaps it was not, but the Deloitte report no doubt was initiated because of the need to substantiate the policy in a clear way.

    Further clarification welcome.

    As things stand it looks as though, as people would have us believe, that this report was commissioned in light of the Alliance Party’s claims over the high cost of separate but equal spatial and service provision planning.

  • Granni Trixie

    Even if history shows the folly of not addressing sectarianism which is deeply embedded in our culutre, remember that the DUP and SF rely on division for their vote. Even NGOs (such as the CAJ) are also opposed to a shared future policy, ostensiby on grounds that it would militate against “the equality agenda”. What really lies behind this kind of view I think however is that some people do not like a cultural analysis of our troubles, prefering a simplistic structural analysis which lays the ‘blame’squarely on the government.

  • Dave

    Accurate teaching of history.

    Had this taken place, in the first!

    I suspect that the troubles would have ever happened. lets have an accirate teaching of history as opposed to the terrorist teaching of history.

    Ruth D. Edwards seems to be able to write accurate history. I suppose some people would disagree with that.

  • Dave

    Oops! Should be (never) have happened

  • harry

    Ruth D. Edwards seems to be able to write accurate history

    yes, i am afraid that i would have to disagree with that. dear old ruthie very much places herself in the revisionist school of history.

    this when comes to irish history writing , involves disagreeing with old nationalist orthodox view of ireland.

    this revisionist approach may be valid, but ruth goes too far the other way, to justify, explain away, the britisih role in ireland. she like to portray the british as an innocent third party who refereed between two tribes.

    of course she is popular in todays media as they too subscribe to this revisionist school of history.

  • Definitely in agreement Shriver on this one, good line about it not being down to the paramilitaries.

  • Aquifer

    Better not let these political delinquents settle bigotry in aspic. Public Housing and Education are effectively segregated on religious grounds, and whose political theses does this suit? The Shinners pretend that we are poor and the prods put us there, and the DUP like to claim that them fenians are getting everything. With sectarian segregation and a growing social gap between rich and poor who gets to find out they are both full of it?

  • Rory

    Dave’s suggestion that Ruth Dudley Edwards might be commissioned to write an “accurate” history of our land and times injected a bit of humour into this thread (you are a card, Dave!) and reminded me of Delaney and Feehan’s A Comic History of Ireland (Mercier Press 1976 – some copies available on Amazon from £3.50).

    Although it was considered at the time (by me, at least)as “heavily inspired” by :

    1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, Comprising All the Parts You Can Remember, Including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates by W.C. Sellar and Robert Julian Yeatman (Paperback – 1 Jan 1930)
    17 Used & new from £0.01,

    and not nearly as good, it did contain some memorable pieces such as this take on Poynings Law by which “any Catholic was forbidden to come within four miles of any person, place or thing.”

    Funny as old Ruth Dudley is, Dave, I can’t quite see her cracking out as good as this.

  • interested

    We all really should be asking what Sinn Fein have to fear from the A Shared Future document.

    One small issue which we should take note of shows how far they go to distance themselves:

    Sinn Fein often talk of having a shared future, but you will never find in any of their written documents even any reference to ‘A Shared Future’ using the capitalised version – i.e. they don’t even refer to the existence of the document.

    As usual with the Shinners – you can have any shared future you like, so long as its their shared future!

  • watcher

    I think it’s fair to say the DUP want A Shared Future just as little as the Shinners. How would either of them sustain their ethnic voting blocs if physical segregation was broken down, kids were educated together and actually got to know each other and people could generally live, work and play together as they constantly say they want to in attitudes surveys like NI Life and Times?

  • interested

    watcher,
    What exactly do you have to prove that? Surely the DUP have made it clear in this case that they want to push forward with the publication of this document. How does that indicate some opposition to the document per se?

    BTW the DUP have already stated as F_D pointed out the other day that their policy on education is to have one de facto integrated education system. How does that indicate an unwillingness to have children educated together?

    So how exactly is it “fair to say” all of the things which you have alleged?

  • Hogan

    “A shared future” document? Who gives a f*ck?

    Why can nobody see that producing a document is just what people do when they are trying to avoid actually getting on with tackling the issue they are writing about?

    I agree it is significant for a thread if it is an examination of the fragile detente starting to unravel on the hill but if people are actually lamenting the absence of this document they are mad.

    Just govern for f*ck sake! schools, hospitals, jobs, transport, ……

  • the DUP have already stated as F_D pointed out the other day that their policy on education is to have one de facto integrated education system

    No, what the DUP believe is that the way to shared future is to shut down all Catholic schools instantly, which isn’t exactly the same thing; controlled schools have, as a matter of their constitution a heavy Protestant religious input, for a start. I think this whopping line came from Michelle McIlveen, who is always good for putting a little pep in your pecker if you think the DUP don’t have any dopey bigots these days.

    Why can nobody see that producing a document is just what people do when they are trying to avoid actually getting on with tackling the issue they are writing about?

    Hogan, I take your point (well made as usual); yes, publishing a document is not a substitute for action, but if they won’t even publish the document, what hope is there for any action?