Moving forwards and slipping back

Shortly after the initial Belfast agreement we frequently heard about the need to keep moving forward lest we slip back to violence. Whenever people baulked at the idea of letting assorted criminals out of gaol we were told about the need to move forward lest we “slip back”. The leading advocates of the need to move forwards and the dangers of slipping back were usually the more liberal parties. The targets of their dread warnings, more often than not, were the DUP.For a while the talk about slipping back to violence seemed to have gone away. However, I saw it had been revived recently by the some of DUP themselves. When some of the relatives of those murdered at La Mon stated that they did not want Paisley at the commemoration a DUP spokesperson was reported by the Newsletter as saying “The party understands the hurt of victims and we understand the current arrangements at Stormont are not easy for some people. But we must build for the future so we don’t return to similar events such as La Mon.” Paisley himself also seems to have got the “moving forwards bug”: “We are going forward and I am just saying to the people: you have a task to play. Play it with us and we’ll get through.” From the same debate Martin McGuiness is also worried about “no hopers who want the army back on the streets.” SF are fairly clear on the direction in which they want to move forwards namely towards a united Ireland. The DUP’s forward movement is possibly a bit less clear but is unlikely to be in a parallel direction. As such all this movement could be described as being potentially random, possibly even Brownian.

The idea that the whole process must keep moving and keep momentum lest it collapse has been around for some time. However, we cannot keep moving forever in some bizarre political version of the Flying Dutchman. To change the metaphor the process cannot be a child on a bicycle forced to keep moving lest it fall. At some point the process must stop evolving and moving forward. By the logic of those supporting moving forward one might think, however, that this is necessary and should it stop violence will return. That thesis could easily end up with believing that the only final rest for this particular Wagnerian tragedy or Faustian pact (depending on which opera one prefers) would be in a united Ireland.

Of course this proposal is totally flawed and specious on another level as well. The DUP spokesperson I quoted earlier said “we must build for the future so we don’t return to similar events such as La Mon.” Now currently those threatening violence against the process and to “drag us back” are the dissident republicans who unfortunately have been reappearing and might even try to become organised. These dissidents, however, completely reject the agreement and are unlikely to be made more or less amenable to it by any building, movement or whatever other metaphors are used. What might be implicit in what the DUP are suggesting; however is that if some form of movement is not forthcoming the mainstream republican movement might be tempted to go back to violence. That of course begs the obvious question then of what on earth the DUP are doing in government with them. If, however, there is no danger of them going back to violence then how can “building for the future” prevent “similar events such as La Mon.” The DUP cannot have it both ways.

The reality of course is that the DUP is now intoxicated by power. They are willing to say practically anything to justify the movement in their own political position and to cling onto their power. As such they are willing to buy into one of the greatest fallacies of the agreement, which was that the cessation of criminality by a group of terrorists required the rest of society to start giving the criminals at least some of what they wanted. This fallacy that somehow everyone else is obligated to and in debt to the IRA for no longer murdering people (to the extent of even ignoring actual ongoing murders) is one of the great lies of the current process. That the DUP are falsely marrying the end of terrorism with the necessity to make political changes is one of the greatest intellectual about turns that they have made. Whether or not the DUP actually believe this is of course open to debate. Those who genuinely did believe it in the past were sincere but in my view in grave error. The DUP now seem both insincere and in error. The question is will the unionist population demonstrate that they know that their new emperor has indeed, not only no new clothes, but in this case is actually well aware of that fact.

  • joeCanuck

    Love all those apt allusions, Turgon.
    Brownian motion
    Flying Dutchman
    Wagnerian Tragedy
    Faustian Pact
    Emperor’s clothes.
    A tour de force.

    As to the substance of your thesis, I think I’ll leave that for the unionists to slug out.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Turgon, the state to which you owe your allegiance has negotiated with what you refer to as “Assorted Criminals”, put them into governement, conceded constitutional ground( forced cooperation with ROI), wound up various armed wings of the state ( UDR, RUC etc) and let the ‘criminals’ out of prison and that is against a background of these ‘criminals’ conducting what you consider was an ethnic cleansing campaign against your community.

    At what point does this allegiance start to disintegrate – after all the SF/IRA view of the world is closer to the Btisih view than is yours?

  • “The leading advocates of the need to move forwards and the dangers of slipping back were usually the more liberal parties.”

    Really, Turgon, the ‘moving’ and ‘forward’ are oft used by the illiberal and Mafiaist Provisional Republican Movement. That said, it’s hardly surprising that Papa Doc should now be borrowing from their propaganda tracts …

  • kensei

    . However, we cannot keep moving forever in some bizarre political version of the Flying Dutchman. To change the metaphor the process cannot be a child on a bicycle forced to keep moving lest it fall. At some point the process must stop evolving and moving forward.

    You are wrong. The world does not stand still. Laws are introduced, adapted, rescinded. Constitutions are amended. New groups spring up where old groups retire. “Devolution is a process” was a statement applied to Scotland: how much more true is it here?

    The institutions we have put in place have yet to do anything. There remain serious unresolved issues important to both sides. It is sheer complacency to believe that violence can never return, particularly while there are groups in existence who want just that. Things move whether you want them to or not. You can accept that and attempt to direct the course, or you can get swept away by it.

    You know this, and your issue isn’t so much about “moving” but rather you disagree that the movement is “forward” or a place you deem worth going. This is not at all the same thing.

  • methinks

    Who would take us back to violence? Surely, not nice Sinn Fein/IRA who the DUP assure us are committed to wholly peaceful means, and who superbrain Poots says have abandoned their all-ireland dream. But, then if he’s wrong about the second, he could be wrong about the first!

  • joeCanuck

    It seems to my memory that there is a direct correlation between SF’s gradual abandonment of violence and the growth in their electoral support.
    A return to violence would, I believe, drive them to political extinction.

  • aquifer

    “the DUP are falsely marrying the end of terrorism with the necessity to make political changes is one of the greatest intellectual about turns”

    The about turn is the DUP accepting that political change, in terms of progress for catholics, should happen at all. For a generation they distanced Unionism from the British mainstream with their sectarian intransigence, undermining the anti-terrorist effort.

    Their acceptance that democracy should work and is better than the local alternatives is not so much an intellectual about-turn, more a discovery of political reason.

  • kensei

    Who would take us back to violence? Surely, not nice Sinn Fein/IRA who the DUP assure us are committed to wholly peaceful means, and who superbrain Poots says have abandoned their all-ireland dream. But, then if he’s wrong about the second, he could be wrong about the first!

    I can’t see Sinn Fein doing it. But there are groups currently active that want to use violence. It doesn’t take many to mount a campaign, and it is not impossible that a situation could spiral. It should also be noted that versions of the IRA remained active long after the civil war in the South, and though they never were truly effective, had capacity to cause trouble.

    If Poots has claimed that SF have given up on a United Ireland he’s a fool. If he believes Nationalism has in general he’s a bigge rone.

  • shankly’s socialism

    Dawn Purvis pointed out that ‘Emperor Paisley has no clothes’ during the budget debate. I thought it was a good analogy and sums up the situation they have gotten themslelves into perfectly.

    Looking solely at the hypocracy around ‘violence’:-

    When you have people like Donaldson coming out and saying murders carried out by IRA members were not sanctioned etc etc it gets to the point of being ridiculous, when the DUP werent in power it was ‘evidence of the IRA’s continued philosophy of violence’…now it is a hiccough by renegades or dissendents.

    They have a similarily reveresed positon on neraly everything.

    Someone should collate a list of quotes for Paisley pre St Andrews vs anytime before and for the rest of the DUP too, at least the top table, it would ake for embarassing reading.

  • shankly’s socialism

    …..of course that should read “Someone should collate a list of quotes for Paisley post St Andrews vs anytime before….”

  • “That the DUP are falsely marrying the end of terrorism with the necessity to make political changes is one of the greatest intellectual about turns that they have made.” For clarification, is that to say that in the past the DUP maintained a position that the cessation of terrorist/military activities should not be hostage to political negotiations, and should happen regardless of what happens in the Process?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Turgon your piece ignores perhaps the chief characteristic of politics — political expediency.
    Had anyone predicted 20 years ago that Paisley would be first minister alongside a self-confessed PIRA commander, they would have been laughed out of the building. Had they further predicted that SF would appoint ministers to Stormont having overseen PIRA decommissioning and endorsed the PSNI, all without as much as a hint of a UI, they’d have been taken away in a straitjacket.

    Certainly the DUP have become almost unrecognisable in their attitude to the RM, but SF are even less recognisable in their ‘British minister’ role.

  • GlvsC, in the age of the makeover perhaps the Chuckle Brothers are wearing magic knickers.