One thing I learned from an earlier life working with collective forms of narrative is that stories (and histories) don’t just end when someone says they do. The world did not stop with the Belfast Agreement, nor yet the St Andrews Agreement. Brandon Hamber in the Bel Tel has some useful questions in this regard:
As the agreement has unfolded, what has become apparent is that what reconciliation means to different parties is not clear.
The original commitment to promoting integration has also waned. Politicians’ inability to agree an overarching policy to promote integration is evidence of this.
One of the reasons why this policy has not been agreed is because there is no commonality on the vision of what society we are working towards.
Is the goal one of ‘thin’ integration or deeper social transformation? Are we going to settle for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate and, hopefully, equal, co-existing in negative peace? Or are we seeking more profound change, where all aspects of life are integrated?
Co-existing and sharing society might be an acceptable goal in the short term, given the history of conflict. But is it enough?
As I noted some years ago, I have to say that I doubt that such a narrow vision will suffice in order to aleviate the problems in those areas currently suffering the brunt of sectarian violence:
Perhaps the longer term answer will differ the one currently on offered. Or perhaps not. Much as many of us are inclined to see it as an end in itself, the Belfast Agreement was just a beginning. Nothing about history is as inevitable as politicians would sometimes prefer us to believe.
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