Eamonn McCann thinks talking about change will have limited appeal unless it comes with a proposal for material change that people will be motivated to vote for:
History teaches that the only occasions when sizable numbers of Protestants and Catholics have detached themselves from communal allegiance to make common cause have been occasions when they came together to fight together – 1907, 1911, 1932 and onwards to 2010. There is no recorded case of any such thing happening as a result of people being preached at.
The struggle to realign politics along non-sectarian lines must have a material as well as a moral basis. It is precisely in defending the public sector against the ideological assaults of privateers, for whom the pursuit of profit is the only engine for driving society forward, that the material base can be found.
Every wave of cross-community action for the betterment of all has eventually receded, leaving the contours of the political terrain unchanged.
Cynicism re-emerges to ride high and proclaim that no new narratives are possible in Northern Ireland politics; that we are fated to live forever through nothing but the same old story.
And why? McCann’s answer is as entertaining as it is damning and direct:
One reason this happens is that that decent and well-meaning people who devoutly wish to be done with the ugliness of communal hostilities have no stomach for immersing themselves in the rowdy masses, either; wouldn’t be seen dead on a picket line against privatisation, think slashing the wages of public servants a jolly good thing and not before time, reckon that it’s a sign of Executive weakness that water charges weren’t brought in long ago, advocate the demonstrably nonsensical notion that the private sector (banks were private sector, right?) will always serve society better than public provision.
When it comes to turning ideals into material reality, too many in Platform for Change are to be found on the wrong side of the barricades.
They are guilty of the age-old Irish sin – the expectation of salvation without adopting the necessary means to attain it.
It’s a class thing.
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