Interesting comments reported by the BBC from the Northern Ireland First Minister, DUP leader Peter Robinson, speaking at a Co-Operation Ireland dinner at Queen’s University in Belfast on Thursday night. From the BBC report
Mr Robinson said that while it is easier and more comfortable for politicians and people in wider society to retreat to safe and familiar ground, that is not the ground where progress will be made.
“I am entirely convinced that a shared and united society in Northern Ireland is the only way forward for all of us,” said Mr Robinson.
“I would not be here tonight, or be involved in politics at all, if I were not personally committed to making progress in Northern Ireland.
“Anyone who believes that there is a better alternative to the political process we are engaged in simply doesn’t understand reality.
“Finding solutions is easier said than done. Progress can be slow – frustratingly slow. And when two steps forward are followed by one step back it is easy to become disillusioned and forget how far we have come.
“I am absolutely convinced that ‘respect’ is the key to progress. And that ‘understanding’ is the key to ‘respect’.
“Understanding requires us all to listen as well as talk. There is a difference between listening and merely hearing. Sometimes I feel that unionists say one thing, but nationalists hear something else. I’m certain the reverse is also the case. We must learn to communicate better.” [added emphasis]
As a diagnosis of the problem here, it’s a reasonable attempt. Even if it leans on the dialogue of “White men can’t jump”…
But Sinn Féin and the DUP have been communicating directly at the heart of the NI Executive since the Assembly was restored in 2007.
If there is still a failure to communicate between those two political parties, then that failure rests within OFMDFM and any resultant political dysfunction is their combined responsibility.
Whether that is because those involved are not communicating honestly, or do not have the authority to communicate on behalf of their respective parties, is a different problem.