Every little helps

The Taoiseach Brian Cowen gave a better than ritual answer to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore’s question in the Dail yesterday, making clear that he had no “predetermined destination in mind” for the GFA. Always useful to be the honest broker when times are fraught.

Mr Gilmore Is there too much hand-holding in this process?
Mr Cowen

“I do not see at any time how the Government could fulfil its obligations by stepping back in the process. The Government should be there to assist a deeply divided political culture . . . We are in a brave new world, a situation in which everyone’s view must be accommodated, but we must also have generosity of spirit informing that process and in people making compromises. The culture has never been about making compromises successfully in the past. Those who made compromises paid the political price.” There was a need to foster relationships between political opponents.“ (Who has he got in mind; Trimble, yesterday and Robinson today, or wider?). It’s not about a separate but equal operation. It’s about a coherent whole working together, recognising that there are people with very strongly held and different perspectives on many fundamental issues of what they’re about and who they are and where their affiliations and loyalties lie.
“The great genius of these agreements is that we are not seeking to reach a predetermined destination. We’re on a journey here that will take us wherever it will, based on principles of consent and respect and mutual interest and we have to devise a culture that sustains institutions to be effective, to be responsive to people’s needs.”

He stressed it was his “strong view that the spirit of the agreement is just as important as the letter of the agreement.
“This is not some inane, abstract mathematical formula about setting up structures for people to co-exist peacefully and tolerate each other.”
I hope to review the arguments about whether the structures of the Assembly help or hinder agreement soon.

  • “We are in a brave new world”

    It seems the bravery has to be demonstrated by Joe and Josey Public as London and Dublin cultivate a culture of lawlessness here in the expectation that its tentacles will not establish themselves in other parts of these islands.

  • Rory Carr

    But yet, Nevin, we do have a society that is divided and which has only recently emerged from a long, brutal conflict as a result of that division and the process that we are now engaged in is fragile and often slow and tortuous but what matters is that it remains ongoing.

    The remaining lawlessness in our society to which you refer is of course of major concern and might indeed be seen as a by-product of the very tentative steps that are, I would argue, of necessity being taken to slowly develop a social and political concensus. If we fail to reach that concensus then the lawlessness is likely to become much worse and , yes, it would likely spread as far as London and Dublin but we would surely not criticise the powers-that-be in those jurisdictions for any attempts to reduce that likliehood.

    Cowan is right. Patience is what is required and when that falters then what is required is more and yet more patience. As the world and his wife increasingly recognise the exercise of such patience in Sinn Féin we should not rush to condemnation of another party as it works out its own difficulties. There will be time enough for that if the DUP should fail to grasp the nettle.

  • Rory, local communities here are being sacrificed to the whim of local paramilitary godfathers because of hypocrisy emanating from London and Dublin.

    In effect patronage on the allocation of homes was removed from councillors and has ended up in many communities effectively in the hands of paramilitary godfathers.

    Would you provide information that would assist the police if you saw the police working on community projects with these godfathers? What confidence could you have that your personal details and this information would not find itself in the hands of the godfathers within hours?

  • Greenflag

    He stressed it was his “strong view that the spirit of the agreement is just as important as the letter of the agreement.

    Mr Cowan got that right . While Pete Baker may remind us of the dotted i’s and the crossed t’s of who said or meant exactly what’ 12 months or 20 years ago the facts of political life and public perceptions count for more both in the near electoral sense and in the longer term civil discourse within a polity .

    ‘“This is not some inane, abstract mathematical formula about setting up structures for people to co-exist peacefully and tolerate each other.”’

    And that’s about all this power sharing agreement has going for it .As Mr Cowan says

    ‘I hope to review the arguments about whether the structures of the Assembly help or hinder agreement soon. ‘

    Which is a strong indication that he is not ‘deaf’ to those who have serious doubts as to whether the ‘structures’ help or hinder the effort towards longer term political peace in the ‘divided ‘ polity that is NI.

  • “indication that he is not ‘deaf’”

    Greenflag, you’re failing to ‘see’ that the ‘hope to review’ is Walker’s not Cowen’s!!