That was the week that was. Another roller coaster of expectation and disappointment in the political journey of our occupied six. For many it was a case of, “there they go again”, with that carefully fostered cynicism, fed by irresponsible morning chat shows.
Thinking about it all one thing strikes me. This current failure is not just the DUP’s fault. They are the political sandbags of a British government, content to let this place drift. Since the accession of David Cameron into No10 we have seen a fast track to the dissolution of the institutions and a stubborn lack of committed energy to get them up and running again. Is that merely because we have had successive tubes as British secretaries of state? Is it the lack of capacity of these individuals? Or is it deliberate policy? If it is, like much British policy regarding this place since, well forever, a misguided one.
It is worth always restating – the British Government is not neutral. That non-neutrality is not because this government relies on 10 DUP ministers in Westminster. That cannot be the narrative. A different Westminster vote did not result in a different Westminster approach.
Let’s say that this approach is not just a malign Whitehall mentality. Bear with me. Let’s recognise that the British government has a duty to British citizens who live here. And to the Good Friday Agreement consent clause. OK. I voted for that. So yeah, I have an open mind about that.
If that is the case then British government policy is failing British citizens living here. Their approach makes no case whatsoever for the retention of shared, locally administered government as opposed to a united Ireland. The current British Government approach is building the case for a United sovereign Ireland every day.
The British government is silent on the discriminations of the past that bring into sharp relief the need to secure equality today. They merely blush and avoid the subject when interrogated about their abdication of their obligations to Strand 3 of the GFA. And refuses to recognise its role in the conflict, except in isolated statements of “regret”.
Instead they indulge the worst excesses of a threatened unionist siege mentality. They operate as though the assertion of a unionist veto is OK in 2018. They pretend their policies of arming and directing militant unionism for decades has not been exposed to world view and that they hold moral superiority in relation to the debate on legacy. And informingly, the new Secretary of State. Karen Bradley’s first statement on anything is always exclusive, pretending a continuing blindness to Strand 3 and the Irish role in the governance of this place post GFA.
While it has always been necessary to highlight unionist extremism, that focus can never let the British government play the neutral. The political process does best when both the Irish and British governments are engaged at the highest levels. Not just turning up for a press photo at a finale. Whitehall mandarins need to urgently update the policy memo to reflect this.
Local unionism’s pragmatists must be supported and of course support needs to come from our community. But support for change must also come from the absentee generals in Whitehall who pretend there is an alternative for those resisting sharing power on equal terms. Or at least faced down. It is only then that Strand One devolved institutions will stand a chance.