Two interesting aspects of Malachi O’Doherty’s latest post on his own blog. One is the soundtrack of the crowds in Derry listening to David Cameron’s broadcast speech from the House of Commons. First there are jeers, and then it gives ways to cheers. And then this, which is actually Malachi’s response to his first commenter:
…the moral economy has shifted. No previous prime minister during the peace process has hinted at a willingness to embarrass Martin McGuinness and at the same time had the potential to wound him on his own ground.
I think that even people who vote for Sinn Fein may begin to note that the evasiveness of the Sinn Fein leadership contrasts with Cameron’s frankness, and that there is no space left for whataboutery if the Brits are coming clean. Indeed, Cameron may set up a reverse whataboutery in which old enemies come under an onus to prove their willingness to be candid and apologetic.
And if, as I suspect, we see the army accepting Saville and shitting on the heads of a few of the psychos in the Parachute regiment, joy on the streets of Derry and west Belfast will be unconfined and people may feel more free to drop the old conceits, like the pretence that Gerry was never in the IRA.
And even if it doesn’t work that way, Cameron may feel that the more shame the army takes, the more he is obliged to assuage them by balancing the blame and being frank about the IRA / Sinn Fein relationship in a way that no PM since Thatcher has.
Or, as Anthony Barnett puts it over at Our Kingdom, “the Tories now consciously occupy the terrain of inclusion not polarisation – not by accident but by design.” Cameron has subtly, but powerfully, changed the rules of the game by being seen to become as Paul Bew noted yesterday “supremely flexible and self-critical”.
And, as Malachi notes above, that shift that will not be to everyone’s liking.
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