This week, in the midst of the political drama, the BBC yet again fed us the line that “people” are fed up with politics and don’t care anymore. That is convenient spin that tries to give cover while vested interests remove political power from ordinary citizen. Every week in this paper is evidence to the contrary of the spin. We are an engaged political constituency with the political instinct to smell a rat.
This political drama is playing out like the end of a film you had stuck with for an hour and a half, even though it was a bit rubbish. And then the last half hour gets a bit surreal and you sit going “What the Hell happened there?” Some want that to result in a switch off by the electorate. Wouldn’t that be handy?
Mind you if it was a film it would get really bad reviews with much of the plot being so predictable. High profile arrests on the day of political talks and subsequent releases as soon as the impact of the arrests serve their political purpose? Oh please.
What was a bit unpredictable was the sight of Peter Robinson running like Chicken Licken shouting “the sky is falling in! We are off to tell the Secretary of State!” Peter normally likes to play it cool. And just as in the story when Chicken Licken was told to go home and sort out the very manageable problem of falling leaves, Peter was told to go home, roll his sleeves up and take some responsibility.
In another eyebrow raising moment, Theresa Villiers actually defending the integrity of the institutions was a moment not to be taken lightly. Unless of course you were looking at her thinking “your disengagement and speech in Cambridge has contributed directly to this environment and gave cover to all of Unionism’s subsequent shenanigans”. But let’s not allow clear thinking to ruin the moment.
Oh – another unpredictable moment. The words of Charlie Flanagan nearly taking on the British Government after that speech in Cambridge which had threated the unilateral action of dissolving the institutions and imposing welfare cuts. He nearly called them out for tearing up the co-guarantor status of the two governments to the peace agreement. Of course his trying to persuade the SDLP to down the Executive kind of undermined all of this. But hey don’t underestimate the first tentative steps of this Irish government defending Irish citizens living in their own country being denied the full rights of their mandate.
Right now we are in the process of being told by a newly exposed sectarian Unionism that direct British rule and political abdication are the solutions to the sharp end of conflict resolution. Thankfully Sinn Fein and the SDLP are having none of that and defending their mandates. Dirty tricks and the adrenaline of political threats are worn out distractions – albeit very dangerous ones. This is a time for calm and leadership. More power to the elbows of those who exercise it.