Attacking Blair only steers political reform into a cul-de-sac

 Robin Wilson’s dismissal      ( link repaired)  of Tony Blair’s handling of the peace process is misconceived. It’s not clear what his precise objections are. For Robin the form of power sharing which was adopted only institutionalised sectarianism. Can we really heap all that on Blair’s head? In one vital respect the prophets of doom were wrong. The system did not collapse when the  “extremes ” became the majority in each bloc. With all its faults, Model 2 looks more stable than Model 1. Robin has yet to spell out an alternative. Perhaps Platform for Change will deliver it.

What else would you have had Blair do? The question applies to Robin as to other critics of various hues. His is the cry of the idealist that blames the ruler for failing to rule us beyond our present capacity to be ruled.

To state the obvious, “what has been achieved ” is a death toll reducing from 57 in 1997 to 3 in 2009. This is hardly to be taken for granted. Does anyone suppose this would have happened without a political deal? For some the peace walls are instruments of continuing, even deepening polarisation. For others they define places of safety.

Robin attacks Blair for viewing the situation “through Anglo-centric eyes…, as fundamentally a conflict between the British State and the IRA. “ Up to a point Lord Copper. Blair indeed paid particular attention to SF because as he admits, they were the guys with the guns. Realpoltik if you will. But the aims were dual, remember: not just to set up a government but to end the war.

It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that unionists and even the SDLP had a problem he didn’t share, of granting moral equivalence to SF.  But that, I assume,  isn’t what  Robin is driving at. 

Blair the non historian was always bound to think differently from our typical mindset steeped in the sophisticated dialectics of the past. ” I thought the whole thing to be ridiculously old fashioned and out of touch.” Superficial? Maybe – but fair enough as far as it goes.

Seamus Mallon and Reg Empey are united in sourly accusing Blair of bad faith. But then they come from the parties that lost out. What a pity they failed to pull together better when they had the leading roles.

Nothing gets up our noses more that outsiders’ disrespect for the fearful integrity of our quarrel. Blair’s account is self centered and lacks the analytical depth we think we deserve . Worse, his version often reads like a  black comedy, patronising to the massed ranks of  chippy egos.   Republicans will add an extra twist to the indictment.  Blair simply isn’t aware of Britain as part of the problem they insist it is, rather than the solution.  He finally irritates because he dares to believe he has that solution, or at least the technique  for reaching it.

Blair himself has moved on. He has boiled down our experience into ingredients for a 10 point model of conflict resolution. Why should he not? The way ahead is up to us now. Further disiilusion may be the result if too much is expected too soon and we divert into the aridity of  a blame game about the past, focused on the prime minister whose achievement in Ireland  stands alone. 

In Whack fol the diddle, Peadar Carney, author of “Amhrán na bhFiann took a great rise out the Blair approach of his time. But maybe he had grudging respect for it too ?

Now Irishmen, forget the past!
And think of the time that’s coming fast.
When we shall all be civilized,
Neat and clean and well-advised.
And won’t Mother England be surprised?

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  • Dewi

    1st link don’t work for me Brian.

  • percy

    good copy,
    Its fair to say, the people of the North, are amongst the most politically aware in Europe, but also the most politically pampered

    so long as the 9 Billion a year subvention comes rolling in, unionists in particluar will moralise and nit-pick in bakeresque fashion , till the cows come home.
    as long as its not them who are out doing the herding!

    Take the money away and we’ll get some realpolitik,
    as me ma says, “they’d have to stand on their own 2 feet “

  • wild turkey

    “To state the obvious, “what has been achieved ” is a death toll reducing from 57 in 1997 to 3 in 2009. This is hardly to be taken for granted. Does anyone suppose this would have happened without a political deal? For some the peace walls are instruments of continuing, even deepening polarisation. For others they define places of safety.”

    brian, i suspect quite purposively you hit the nail on the head with one word. SAFETY. i have lived in belfast for 30 years. in my cynical moments, i would view belfast, and the north, as an amalgam of ghettoes. some are safer than others. and i think it is safe (no pun intended) that whatever his journeys and humane and noble motivations, Robin has lived in a relatively safe ghetto. most, or many, people here do not. that is a simple fact

    post GFA april 98 when the peace process was kicking in, i wrote BBCNI and UTV with a simple suggestion. it was this. on any given calendar day when the news was broadcast, that broadcast would conclude with the number of people who had , over 30 years of “conflict” died, been murdered, killed on that particular day. the idea was to let us all , including the purists who protested the peace, to do some basic human arithmetic

    Perhaps the critiques advanced by Mr Wilson are sincere. i have no reason to think otherwise. but then again, on that level of sincerity, you could say the same about P T Barnum.

  • Dewi

    “The former Queen’s politics professor, the late John Whyte, famously concluded to the contrary in a vast survey of studies of the problem, demonstrating that Northern Ireland was primarily an internal, sectarian conflict.
    This would not, he pointed out, be transformed by the exit of either the British or Irish states from the equation – as, respectively, political Catholics (‘nationalists’) and political Protestants (‘unionists’) wanted to believe.
    The implication of Whyte’s thesis was that violence was what social scientists would call a ‘dependent variable’ – symptom, in other words, not cause”
    From the link and makes sense.

  • wild turkey


    your point being?
    exactly what?
    cut n’ paste doesn’t uh. cut it.
    how does it make “sense” and what sense are you appealing to?

    i await the obligatory cheap shots on this one. that said, not necessarily from you my friend.

  • aquifer

    Lawyers will try to split the difference, recoiling from matters of principle, and will try to settle something so they get their payoff. This works for a while.

    Seamus Mallons’ comment had him wondering ‘who do I sell next’ and may sum him up. He sold the centre,, and the centre is too split and stupid to demand a refund.

    The arch pragmatist, running the country from a sofa, showed he could at least match the IRA in tactical fleetness. And he had irish and catholic connections that defused their innate paranoia and hostility.

    If he had demonstrated more principle or firm reasoning that might have been a problem, the locals believing they already had right and god on their side.

    God is the problem, a real socialist would have sent him to siberia.

  • Alan Maskey

    RTE video section report that the war criminal has cancelled a London book signing, saying he does not want to put extra pressure on the Old Bill’s resources. This shows:
    1. wasting Irish resources does not matter.
    2. The democracts who were prevented form entering Easons on Saturday have had a positive ripple effect.

  • Alan Maskey

    Or Blair thought Dublin would be a ‘soft’ start and seeing his mistake realised London would be at least ten times worse. No one in London really cares about the north, and they are certainly not grateful to Blair for anything. His appearance to sign books would have been mayhem. Not exactly the kind of publicity the ‘hero’ wants.

  • I was going to keep well out of this one: a determination now reinforced by the ever-self-indulgent, ever-trolling Maskey @ 8:52 am.

    I first saw Wilson’s piece on the ourKingdom site. I’m assuming that’s a verbatim re-treading.

    Time might be better spent reading the glorious fetail of Blair’s thoughts on the NI settlement. An extended extract is freely available on-line. Why fisk the monkey, when the organ-grinder’s there for the abuse?

  • HeinzGuderian

    North what ? Pole ?? 🙂

  • HeinzGuderian

    It makes me chuckle to think of the many on here who actually celebrated when Blair got elected…………..where are they now ?? 🙂

  • A.N.Other

    Non sequitur …

  • Nuance

    I’m not here to stand up for Blair (though in my devil’s advocate way, it irks me that ‘Blair-bashing’ has become the latest trendy thing to do, this season’s new black, if you like. But it’s safest just to baa and go along with it).

    But one thing I will say is that this kind of hysterical logic used to heap more criticism on Blair gets on my nerves. If you will criticise him, stick to a decent line of argument. Perhaps, instead of concluding from all this that ‘wasting Irish resources does not matter’, you could just recognise that, I don’t know, the slightly more likely scenario was that he was taken aback by the events in Dublin and felt bad / didn’t want the bad publicity of another bad event in London?

    No wait, that’s not paranoid enough. I know. I’ll go back to the drawing board. It was all a big plot to destroy the Irish economy.

    Ye gods.

  • I’ll say “yea” to that.

    I gave up trying to work out whether “democracts” [sic] was merely a typo or a fair description of rentamob Trots.

  • Greenflag

    Some of their representatives are in power sharing which was not the case before Blair’s election . Progress in NI comes dripping slow even more so for the slow learners 🙁

  • Greenflag

    ‘God is the problem’

    Not at all .It’s GODS . Before Blair the Unionist God only spitted at the Republican/Nationalist God while the one true God could’nt even sit on his heavenly throne as it was occupied by Ian Paisley .

    Tony Blair was the right man at the right time to help the blind sectaries of NI to see past their noses . The man must have had the patience of Job. In his place I would have battered both sets of unionist and republican negotiators to death after about 5 hours . But then patience has never been one of my stronger points;)

  • Greenflag

    Some of their representatives are in power sharing which was not the case before Blair’s election . Progress in NI comes dripping slow even more so for the slow learners