“There’s nothing impossible about such progress”

In the Guardian, Peter Preston, with echoes of a point he made in 2007, identifies the limits of the “politics of peace” – and our current ‘indigenous’ arrangements. From Peter Preston at Comment is Free

Yet this commonsensical chorus only takes you so far. It clears the bloody detritus of the past; it provides a suitably united response to the murderers who remain; but somehow it still fails to address or secure the foundations of a quite different future.

Nationalism (as chronicled by the Guardian in Catalonia and the Basque country last week) is an itch that can never be quite scratched away. It is the politics of real or supposed deprivation. Those bastards over there – in Madrid, or London – aren’t being fair! Only we, ourselves, alone, can provide such fairness. Wreathe that struggle in mists of rhetoric and selective history and there’s a potent refrain that declines to die. It may fall silent for a decade or two. But you can’t ever be sure that it’s gone forever unless other fresh tunes totally drown it out.

So here’s the next challenge, beyond simple condemnation, for Westminster, the Dáil and for Stormont. It’s been vital for Catholics and Protestants to come together in government, for the polar opposites of the Democratic Unionist party and Sinn Féin to show they can rule in relative amity. This was always the mandatory first stride towards sanity and away from the turmoil of terror. But it was only a first stride – and until something more akin to normal politics takes over, with one lot in and another lot out because the electorate says so, until the essential arguments are all about schools, hospitals, roads and taxes, then the past will never be wholly exorcised.


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  • Eglise en bois

    So maybe changing the way we do things is the best way forward and best for the peace process!


  • Henry94

    If we had of way of getting one lot out based on schools roads and hospitals that would be well and good but that’s not how people vote. The state was set up to provide a in-built sectarian majority. Changes of government were non-existent under the old Stormont and would be again if we went back to anything like majority rule.

    Voluntary coalition can never work as anything other than an exclusion method based not on road or schools or hospitals but on the same old divisions.

    Any good ideas for improvement should be welcome but a new system is impossible. Concentrating on making the existing one work would be a better use of peoples time and brains.

    One idea would be to allow secret ballots for MLAs on policy issues so that a Minister couldn’t push a policy through the Assembly without winning support for it rather than just whipping support for it. Taking power from the executive and giving it to the Assembly could make for a better system.

  • Dec

    Is it only people called Peter who think return to one party rule in the north is a good thing?

  • Dewi

    “Nationalism (as chronicled by the Guardian in Catalonia and the Basque country last week) is an itch that can never be quite scratched away. It is the politics of real or supposed deprivation.”

    Bit of a generalisation by Mr Preston there.

  • aquifer

    Not really. If the deprivation is not real it has to be re-invented to maintain a case for a cultural or ethnic nation as a better basis for political organisation, as people nowadays cannot be relied upon to decide that cultural self-determination is more important than material wellbeing. You have to imagine you would have done better living in a separate nation state, whatever the reality.

    People might tend to lose out by splitting big states, due to loss of scale economies, unless a region was already more prosperous than the rest.