Richard Haass’ failure to facilitate a “comprehensive agreement” on Northern Ireland’s “contentious issues” represents yet another missed opportunity for would-be opponents of the SF-DUP axis.
To recap, NI’s main problem is not its past, its parades, its parties or its people.
Instead, it’s the structure of the current Stormont arrangement where a “battle-a-day”, to quote the SF President, plays out as a sectarian conflict. This is not the design flaw but the design; a brinkmanship contest that inevitably rewards the parties most committed to tribal rivalry with mandates from voters most invested in tribal scorekeeping.
For voters least interested in these issues the alternatives are twofold: don’t vote or emigrate.
The battle-a-day is, in reality, a charade-a-day. The absence of a Stormont political contest rooted in government vs. opposition makes the interminable, intolerable, and intractable orange-green arm-wrestling the only show in town – and who better to fight it than the DUP and SF, the two parties most committed to it preserving it?
Breaking this dynamic was never likely to happen on the watch of the two parties who benefit most from it.
The question is whether or not Northern Ireland has any moderate parties who can offer an alternative to the DUP-SF axis of eejits.
For a number of years, the SDLP and UUP have been casually referred to as just such. They’ve done little to earn the label, neither during the prickly Trimble-Mallon years nor in their failure to form a real coalition of opposition since.
The fall-out from Haass process offers them an opportunity. Will they get together and collectively lambast the failure of the talks on SF-DUP?
Or will they prove there are no moderate parties in the nationalist and unionist blocks by depicting this latest failure as content-based rather than participant-based?
Northern Ireland will never have agreement on its past. No societies – even peaceful ones – ever do. But for its future to be based on something other than distractions about parades and flags, an opposition to the current Robinson-McGuinness carve-up must formally emerge on the benches of Stormont.
Don’t blame the Peter and Martin show for where we are, that scorpion was never going to carry us over the water.
If the UUP and SDLP cannot or will not form an opposition, focus your ire on them.