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…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty