Shared future means “free and equal access to public and residential space”

I’m sure there is some glib joke to be had along the lines of “how many social workers does it take to change a lightbulbs” about the peace processing parties that have inherited leadership in this post Belfast Agreement era..

As Duncan Morrow notes in the Irish Times today, things are immeasureably better than they were fifteen years, or ten. Why then, he asks…

…if things are so good, do things feel so bad? And what should be done? The answers take us into the heart of the carefully worked “non-agreements” at the heart of the peace process: no agreement about the future, and none about the past. Indeed, the prize of agreeing to share power depended on not agreeing about them.

Revisiting national aspirations to accommodate others would have stopped negotiations in their tracks. The mantra that “you do not have to change and neither do I” was presented first as wisdom, second as morality and third as obvious. It was clever politics, but nonsense.

Without change, the peace process is a stalemate between enemies who loathe each other. Without a shared basis for mutual accommodation, there are just contradictory visions of the future wrestling for supremacy. And there is a significant risk that more incidents such as the flag riots will explode.

“Loathe” is a bit strong. No one really believes that these guys don’t know each other, or even admit to some trust, if not out and out affection for each other. A set of politics that allows them to take office but not compromise sufficiently actually get things done is failure of politics.

The result of the stalemate is that areas which took the brunt of the violence are stalemated into confined standoffs, with no sign of relief. A case of some public spaces being treated as though they were private has the effect of hemming large communities into unfeasible small and tense spaces.

As Morrow notes, “Sustained effort to develop free and equal access to public and residential space is an issue of the rule of law as well as housing and public services.”


  • keano10

    Sorry to go off topic but not a single thread on Slugger in the past 2 days in relation to the catastrophic tenure of Edwin Poots???

    Tomorrows Belfast Telegraph headlines with ” Day of Chaos – Poots fights for his Job and axes Chief”. “Minister admits Care Home Plan a Disaster”. I cant even begin to imagine how many leas threads you would have posted Mick if this was a Sinn Fein Minister presiding over this total shambles…

    Shameful stuff…

  • JH

    Fret not Keano, Pete Baker will be along soon with one of his regular DUP-sceptic articles and Kilsally will be along later to tease out the political nuances behind the story.

    It’s a shame really because that’s what this blog used to be great for back when I merely lurked here, giving a bit of insight behind the story from people who were stepping outside their comfort zone rather than pontificating from within it. Hope it gets back there.

  • JH

    That’s not to take away from this article tho; Mick, Alan and a few others are reliably good.

  • aquifer

    “free and equal access to public and residential space”

    Especially for paramilitary murder gangs who like to see flags kept up.

    Get out of my face.

    You are stealing your ministerial salaries.

    You don’ t run the place, the armed thugs do.

  • New Yorker

    It may be that the Poots fiasco and the main topic are directly related. As Duncan Morrow states the current arrangement is “nonsense” and really good and competent people do not waste their time with nonsense, thus the generally poor quality of those in government highlighted by some really incompetent Ministers.

  • Neil


    true that, I also suspect if a SF candidate was convicted of carrying out sectarian pipe bomb attacks in Antrim we might have had a half dozen threads. However DUP requests of SF to reaffirm their commitment to law and order were worth a thread.

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, I hear you keano… The View was pretty much dedicated to that and nothing else…. but lets not use that as a pretext for ignoring the subject here…

  • sonofstrongbow

    Yes Neil it was must have been a hamfisted attempt by the DUP to out Sinn Fein Sinn Fein. However the Dupers were never going to match the stellar cast of murderers and bombers that comfortably sit as the Shinner elected representatives.

    The DUP even kicked the guy out of the party. I mean what were they at? Couldn’t they even find a space for him as a Spad or something?

  • seamusot

    The Scottish Referendum will in time be seen to have a major influence on emerging trends within Ireland. Should it come to pass that Scotland releases her people from the yolk of English domination there will be consequences for Ireland. The nonsensical current partition will be even less logical than “peace walls”. “Stalement” in the interim is perhaps the most practical approach. Violence and discrimation levels are hopefully continuing to diminish. However in the longer term leaders are required to address matters of community aspirations. Is it likely that post Scottish independence unionists will wish to politically side with England or Scotland? Would Scotland require a sectarian adrenalin boost? Such questions will arise. Nigel Farage and his UKIP/BNP boot boys might suit some of the fleg protestors but not all of the current moderate unionist community. September 2014 is not that far away.

  • Ginger

    We’ll have to wait and see whether, as Seamusot so quaintly puts it, “Scotland releases her people from the yolk(sic) of English domination.” Current polling would suggest that a majority of Scots have no wish to be released from this “yoke” and the history of the last three centuries would equally suggest that most Scots were enthusiastic participants in both the British Empire and United Kingdom.
    The unlikely, hypothetical event of Scotland leaving the U.K. may encourage Nationalists on this island, but it will also strengthen the determination of unionists of both the small and large u variety. In the end economics will determine the future of partition, not what happens in Scotland : partition will only be rendered “nonsensical” if, and when, a majority can be convinced that they would be better off in an all Ireland state. The equally hypothetical discovery of oil off the coast of the Irish Republic is the only circumstances in which I can currently envisage that happening.

  • Zig70
  • aquifer

    “how many social workers does it take to change a lightbulb?”

    I like the one ‘how many economists does it take to change a lightbulb?’

    None. The market will do it.

  • belfastcityboy

    There is a much more fundamental problem with our ‘free’ media than some attitudinal lack of willingness on the part of journalists and individual media organisation to make things uncomfortable for powerful people. The fundamental issue is systemic. The big agenda setting media that influence millions of people are overwhelmingly corporations that are part of larger conglomerates whose primary goal is to maximise profit and the return of their shareholders(in fact it is their legal obligation to this). Just like we may not have trusted Pravda to tell the truth about Sovietism we should not expect the corporate media to tell the truth about the corporate dominated world. Exceptions, such as the Scott Trust run Guardian and public owned BBC, are run by governing boards stuffed with ‘respectable’ people from the business world and establishment types whose minds instinctively synchronize with powerful interests.
    In this system debate is permitted and encouraged, but crucially, within carefully policed boundaries.
    So take the example in question, Stephen Nolan. Ostensibly, a combative and straight talking guy unafraid to stick it up to whoever gets in the way in his fearless pursuit of the issues.
    But just stop for a moment and think about the things he does not say and the boundaries he dare not cross. Take for example some of fundamental issues facing our world and the North of Ireland: War, the environment, poverty and a so called shared future.
    War: A fearless Stephen could begin by breaching the sacred principle of international affairs, namely, that ‘we are the good guys’ and ‘we always mean well.’ In doing this he would perhaps challenge American and British leaders on the greatest military disaster of our generation – the Iraqi war. He could accuse them of direct responsibility for the unprovoked attack on a defenceless country – the ‘supreme international crime’ (as defined by the judges at Nuremberg) – a crime that has led to the deaths of over 1 million people, the displacement of millions more and brutal civil war. What if he asked his viewers to phone in and offer their opinion on the idea that Blair, Bush, Cameron and Obama should be brought before an international court and tried for wars crimes.
    Environmental catastrophe: Imagine if Stephen were to explore the nature of our psychopathic economic system were ‘externalities’ such the threat to the survival of the species are subordinated to short term money interests. Perhaps when he is on this topic he could also thunder at the state-corporate nexus that enables this system and prevents any focus on the scientific consensus on climate change. He may even express his exasperation at our society’s impression of walking like lemmings towards the cliff edge.
    Poverty: perhaps he could fume at the ‘impeccable and enlightened men in suits’ at the forthcoming G8 who are complicit in the looting of the 3rd world; rage when they deceptively speak of 3rd world debt relief. While on this he could perhaps press them to begin paying reparations for the historical role their ‘great’ nations played in contributing to the current bleak existence of people in the poor world(not to mention the death and misery ‘our’ carbon fuelled lifestyles visit on their societies in the form of droughts/floods etc)

    Shared Future in the North: Imagine he was were to propose that the greatest single obstacle facing the political process today is unionist unwillingness to live as equals with nationalists(even within the current context of the union). He could challenge unionists in their abuse of the term ‘terrorism’ in applying it almost exclusively to a section of the working class people from the historically subordinate community; he could draw attention to their hypocrisy in appropriating noble terms like ‘democracy’ in the context of their history of resistance to Irish democracy. He may invite a comparison between their supremist philosophy and the outlooks of other colonial-settler groups.
    Of course these things are utterly unsayable in our intellectual culture, totally inconceivable to the captive media herd that have internalised the dominant orthodoxies of the powerful. By purpose of clarification, Stephen, like most other mainstream journalists is probably a decent and honourable guy who tells the truth as he sees it. The problem is if he believed something else he would probably not be where he is today. In short he can say what he thinks because they like what he is saying.