Published 12 Sept 2017
I see the political parties are being placed under pressure to “go back and do their jobs”, “stop arguing” and “get on with it”. It’s worth pointing out that many of those making those calls have in their time called Stormont “useless”, a “basket case” and run down the institutions from top to bottom, never pointing out anything positive. Sometimes, they even pointed to the outrages of discrimination and lack of progress on civil rights issues and no progress on legacy. However, that lack of progress was usually put at the door of “politicians” in general, not pointing to who was actually responsible.
Since the moment the late Martin McGuinness resigned and said enough was enough, the very same commentariat bizarrely have been pointing out how much we need Stormont. The very same observations of “politicians” not agreeing is made, but in a mirror image of the previous criticisms. And again, this commentary misses allocation of responsibility.
You might get confused at this. Some intelligent and articulate people, promoted for their “expert” analysis, have done a complete 180 degree turn from saying Stormont was a disaster to saying we need Stormont. The only consistency has been this bland blaming for all ills on “all politicians”, and, of course, once again talking about “tribal” politics.
Universal human rights are not tribal. Peace Agreements, lodged with the United Nations with two government guarantors are not tribal, and insisting on their implementation is not tribal. Saying that it is however is lazy.
Notwithstanding that frustration are we now better off politically?
Well I think so. The issues that had caused frustration and a growing sense of lack of confidence in devolved government are now clearly identified. And they need to be addressed. Everyone knows that. And the Irish Government has begun, at long long last, to assert its status and the interests of Irish citizens. As a result it would be hard for them to reassume their position of lazy disinterest, which developed so quickly after St Andrews Agreement. Our community is more united, more vocal and more engaged in politics as a result. And that is a good thing.
But we need to talk about whether we value Stormont at all. I will nail my colours to the door. I am not Stormont’s biggest fan. However, if there is a deal to be made, if the commitments of all parties and both governments made in St Andrews and Stormont House are given a timetable and an implementation plan, if there is a clear and unambiguous statement of intention to share power on the basis of respect for Irish citizens who fully exercise their right to Irishness, IF all of that is secured, a deal should be made. Local accountability is better than British lordship.
We’re not a community whose politicians follow its constituents, a charge we often level at unionism when we despair at lack of political leadership. If there is a deal to be had, good. If there is not however, it should be called, and soon. But whatever happens we all have to engage with the implications of that. We cannot imitate the lazy convenient blame game. We will all have to put our shoulder to the wheel for whichever new path opens up in order to secure all of our peoples’ prosperity, rights and welfare.