Alex Kane with some much needed perspective on the events at Elizabeth Windsor’s gaffe in, erm Windsor…
…what we are now seeing in the changing nature of the relationship between the British/Irish governments and their collective political establishments is also inevitable. This is the story of two countries going out of their way to indicate that, irrespective of the toxicity of political relationships in Northern Ireland, they will work together and find common values and benefits in each other’s culture and shared history.
They are coming to grips with dealing with the past and accepting that progress is always possible.
No one in Northern Ireland, particularly Sinn Fein and the DUP, should underestimate the significance of what is happening at levels above them. In essence, London and Dublin are saying to Belfast that change is inevitable if done in a calculated, measured way. And it is the inevitable outcome of their decision in 1998 to jointly underwrite the Belfast Agreement.
As Kane points out, there’s not much call for either party of OFMdFM to crow one over the other. This was a celebration more than anything else of the primacy of the relationship between Dublin and London (which is one reason why SF has abandoned most of its responsibilities at Stormont in search of real power in Leinster House).
So here’s the question: are the local parties up for change? No, let me nuance that – do they really want change? I suspect not. They are too old and too set in their ways. And that, of course, begs another question: from where will the change come? At this stage I don’t have an answer, because we still don’t have any genuinely post-conflict parties.
But I do know that change will come because I hear enough people telling me that change is necessary. It’s a longer process than I anticipated back in 1998: that said, it is inevitable and it will happen. What I’m no longer sure of, though, is whether it will be a change for the better.