Since the onset of the flag protests last December one of the most bemusing things has been the persistence of the blame game model of early Peace Process™ politics. In truth it is tough to reliably judge which of the two OFMdFM parties is responsible for the spectacular lack of progress (legislative or otherwise) after six years of unchallenged power.
Any political coalition involves something like a three legged race. One leg of each player continues to move freely enough, but it has to match the tempo of the shared limb. Otherwise, the price is continual crashing.
Over on the Compromise After Conflict blog, I have made a long argument that compromise as an essential precondition for any concerted action within coalition Government, eventually arriving at the idea that there is no point in arguing against the reflexive distrust of those currently in power, and their return to…
…their own Clausewizian logic of war. The real deficit lies in the lack of any committed action across the liberal middle ground on either side of the communal divide.
In their current weakened states, the former moderates of the UUP and SDLP have become far too comfortable in their self appointed role as the moralising headteacher to whom people barely listen any more, rather than providing a functional political alternative to the broad voter base.
If they were to provide such a functional opposition we might then begin to address the structural issues by changing the dynamics from intra-ethnic competition to a inter-party/govt vs. opposition competition.
As Fareed Zakaria has noted, there is no inevitability about the ascent of liberal democracy, whether in Northern Ireland, Egypt or anywhere else. And much of the last twenty five years has shown that you can’t WIN militarily and expect that to be the end of it. Is there in fact a Win if there is no compromise, these days?
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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