With all this regressive hyperbole about NI’s past, is it time for a new sustainable narrative?

Good piece from Tom Kelly in the Irish News this morning, which subtly identifies the problem with the exaggerated claims of recent stories in the media. At a time when voter registration is falling right across the board, it’s an impoverished narrative to be offering voters who are already switching off from Stormont in droves.

He tops out his analysis with a reference to the enormously useful pre publicity Gerry Kelly’s been getting on the 1983 break out from the Maze prison, but more specifically Anne Cadwallader’s book on collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries:

During the period covered by the book the IRA claimed more than a thousand lives. The usual lineup of sympathetic suspects lined up to hail the collusion revelations as the most shocking of the past 30 years.

IRA apologists may appear to be candid about the past but they also want no judicial consequences to fall from that candour. Hypocritically, they want equal candour from other military protagonists but with judicial consequences and penalty to follow.

By necessity the price of peace has allowed many, whether in the security forces, republican or loyalist paramilitaries, unionists or successive British and Irish governments to walk away from the consequences of their actions or inactions .

That narrative is not edifying or best selling .

Well, quite.

Like too many of SF’s talking points, this single track narrative is aimed more at short term avoidance than building for the future. For instance Conor Murphy’s famous difficulties over using ‘Northern Ireland’ in his official role as minister in the Northern Ireland Executive later leads to utter confusion in the party’s own voting base. Own goal all round.

Stronger narratives enable parties to acquire greater power to get stuff done, and accordingly exercise their mandate to the greatest effect. Hume’s single transferable speech about an agreed Ireland may have grated by the end, but it proved to be hugely long lasting, defining and resilient.

We’re surely long overdue a new one?

Gerry’s book is not available in the Slugger bookstore yet, but Anne Cadwallader’s is.


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