We need fresher thinking than this

Two New Year articles worth noting which struggle with the abiding theme. Given prime billing in the Irish Times, Robin Wilson laments the anti-democratic and physical force elements in both of our traditions as we move further into the decade of commemoration. His historical sweep of a century reinforces his determinist case against the GFA accommodation, leading to his usual bleak conclusion.

For Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, the Northern Ireland “peace process” was defined by a realpolitik where moral considerations were entirely absent. But for as long as political leaders in the North and elsewhere continue to legitimise past violence, in defiance of norms now accepted as indeed universal, they will not only give credence to those who take up the mantle today but ensure that reconciliation remains an ever-receding horizon.

The trouble with this view is that it’s impossible to know what to do with it. He offers a critique but no practical alternative. The  human rights revolution aint around the corner, alas. The most useful reading I can give it is that it might spur the parties to prove him wrong. Perhaps Peter is listening…?

As far as it goes, a perfectly sound analysis has appeared in the Indo

One thing is certain. Unionists will need to improve their civic manners. They had also better start praying that the new majority behaves towards the minority with a greater sense of justice and respect than the old one.

And the Indo might have added…. to avoid turning any avowed Protestant minority into an aggrieved minority like the old one. Today’s demonstrators and rioters are members of no former master race. While one party rule lasted 50 years- (and has been over almost as long, remember) – it was never a monolith and left plenty of the demonstrators’ forebears out in the economic cold.  Today, handwringing and finger wagging supported by linear analyses straight from history are not enough.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London