It falls to Tom Kelly to state the bleedin’ obvious, again…
We don’t expect our politicians to be businessmen and we certainly don’t want businessmen to be running the country but we should have an expectation that our politicians should be business like. There was nothing business like about the decision of the unionist parties to withdraw from the talk’s process last week. As a public we witness these processes with little interest and even lower expectations. The decision to hold talks in the lead up to the Twelfth demonstrations was not only naïve but it was foolhardy. A ten-year old child could have forecast the forthcoming tantrums. To the outside world, Northern Ireland despite its pretensions to modernity looks and behaves like some kind of medieval, feudal theocratic principality, led by barking mad princes, shadowy wizards and secret covens.
All too obvious is the basic lack of trust between the mainstream parties. The thought that they could successfully host talks without some kind of facilitation was completely absurd.
Even more hilarious is the degree of seriousness with which some of the protagonists are trying to market themselves as peacemakers to the international community. Northern Ireland remains at best an unsettled place. None of the main players are actually content in their own identities. Sinn Fein is so haunted by the spectre of its own grisly past that it is spending a fortune trying to re-write the narrative and spin away the blood that was spilt in the name of militant republicanism. Unionism is politically schizophrenic and anchored to a vision of Northern Ireland that no longer exists. Mainstream unionism continually fails ordinary unionist voters and yet they wonder why so many fail to vote. The aspirations and ambitions of the economically literate unionist community seem to play second fiddle to the beat of the lambeg.
It is time to ask some tough questions. Do we really want to make this place we share –a better place or is this as good as it gets? Often it looks like this is as good as it gets because our horizons are continually blinkered by the politically short-sighted.
Yes it could be worse- we could still be killing each other but are our standards for a shared future to be based on a threshold so low that most tin pot African basket case countries could pass?
And in the kicker of the week…
The Good Friday Agreement was of its time but it should not now be held up as some kind of untouchable shibboleth. Even Linus van Pelt in Peanuts finally stopped sucking his thumb by saying “It’s a good thumb but not a great thumb.” Which of our politicians will say the same?
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