Okay, so one of the good things about a political crisis in Northern Ireland that it draws a multiplicity views on our general situation (riots will always divide opinion). Not all of that has been bad by any means. Allan Massie in the Scotsman is generally sanguine about Northern Ireland’s future, if not David Cameron’s.
But it’s brought the leader of Fianna Fail back on the local news pages too. In an op ed in today’s Irish News Micheál Martin restates his belief in the local institutions [added link], but records his dismay in the way they are being used, or rather not being used:
My critique is based on a deeply held belief that the Executive can and has to work. Over the course of the last year I have made a number of interventions on the same theme – that the peace process was supposed to be about more than the absence of violence.
If the Executive is not making progress on child poverty, or economic inactivity, or sectarianism; if it is not even seen to be looking at such issues in a serious way or making any impact on people’s lives, can we really be surprised when a section of society feels entirely comfortable walking out onto the streets and causing chaos without any thought for the effect it has on the wider community?
And here I suspect he may have been reading one too many Slugger threads, but the point is a valid one its own political terms:
There are many within the Nationalist community who will characterise what’s been happening as a unionist problem – to reflect on a brief feeling of moral superiority over political opponents making a spectacle of themselves in the international media.
But that would be a mistake. It would be a mistake because anyone with any interest in moving forward republican politics in a spirit of equality will look at what has been happening and know that a genuine republican project means nothing if it cannot demonstrate to all communities that indigenous democracy delivers.
Then he points out that Sinn Fein protested against what appears to have been little other than the due process of the law outside PSNI headquarters, just before the flag vote at BCC:
It would also be a mistake because the thugs who have the front pages of the newspapers do not have a monopoly on disregard for the rule of law. As recently as November, we watched as Sinn Féin’s Justice Spokesperson led 300 protestors in a picket of PSNI headquarters in East Belfast because that party were unhappy with the direction of a PSNI investigation and wanted one of their own released from custody.
What moral authority does any public representative have criticising a protest that challenges the writ and authority of the PSNI when their party was promoting just such a protest only months ago?
He finishes by reienforcing his hope that the political indolence of Stormont will not continue ad infinitum:
If nothing else positive comes out of this obscene spectacle, I hope that at least some middle ground consensus will emerge that the time has come for the Executive to lift its game and that the time for any ambiguity about the primacy of politics and the rule of law is at an end. If this happens, and it is genuinely unequivocal, these protests will have the same shelf life that they would have in any other major town or city in Ireland or Britain.
If this doesn’t happen, if the north’s dominant political blocks continue to walk the path they have been for at least the last year, this dispute will drag on. And when it finally splutters to an end, my fear is that some other equally grotesque expression of disorder and disillusionment will take its place.
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