Monday, October 16, 2006

 

Are the Troubles Really Over?

'My mission is to pacify Ireland' said Gladstone when told he was prime minister in 1868. Well, it's taken well over a century and still the Emerald Isle has not expunged the troubles created by centuries of British misrule. But maybe, as Peter Hain, secretary of state for the province, believes, the final piece of the peace process jigsaw has been inserted at the recent St Andrews' Agreement. If so perhaps the chronically legacy conscious Anthony Lynton Blair will be able to claim he's completed the task which the Liberal leader set himself 138 years ago.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement(GFA) was a historic breakthrough but failed to include the fiercely suspicious DUP led by that veteran, gravel voiced curmudgeon, Dr Ian Paisley. He was convinced the IRA, under its official disguise of Sinn Fein, could not be trusted to govern until all its arms had been given up. On 15 October, 2002 the UUP collapsed the delicate Northern Ireland Executive(already suspended on threee previous occasions), then led by David Trimble, over the issue of alleged Sinn Fein spies within the fabric of government. No proof of the spy ring was ever forthcoming but since then but politics has moved on apace.

The second elections to the Northern Ireland assembly were scheduled for May 2003 but were delayed until November because of the deadlock over attitudes to the GFA.In these elections the DUP eclipsed the more moderate UUP as did Sinn Fein the moderate SDLP, squeezing the centre ground and making re-establishment of the Executive seem a mere aspiration. But then, maybe lured by the prospect of office, a thaw was discerned early this summer on both sides with the IRA recently announcing it has virtually disbanded itself.

The government then made a new initiative, threatening to wind up the Assembly if both sides refused to agree. It seems this well timed threat has borne fruit and agreement by the deadline of 10th November could see the Executive reincarnated on March 26th, 2007. There are still things to achieve-Sinn Fein have to accept the validity of the Police service of Northern Ireland-but if this can be achieved the extraordinary concept of(the pictured) Stormont Castle hosting the 80 year old Paisley as First Minister with Martin McGuiness as his Deputy will become a reality. Blair will then have deservedly placed a trophy in his legacy cupboard which has eluded every government since the end of the last century. The Guardian leader today warns that the agreement provides 'a blueprint... nothing more'; but if it really happens, then, up there, no doubt on God's right hand, the Grand Old Man is likely to be smiling.

Comments:
Blair deserves the accolade you give him, but there were many players in this process: John Hume (the "Hume-Adams" talks were a truly courageous and selfless (what did the SDLP stand to gain?) step on his part); Albert Reynolds (I will never forget what he said on Question Time when asked if a paramilitary organisation could really become a peaceful parliamentary party: he gently reminded them of the origins of Fianna Fail); David Trimble (it hurts me to say it, but there it is); and not least Gerry Adams. I sometimes think people in England have no comprehension of the enormity of what Adams has achieved or of the distance he has travelled.
 
Yes Sinn Fein/IRA have stopped murdering innocent people for the past ten years...congratulations, have a medal(!). All of the people you have mentioned tried and failed to appease murderers, and the unionist people in turn voted for Ian Paisley. Only he has achieved the disarmament and effective surrender of the Republican murder gangs. And he will let Blair and the other failures know when the unionist people are prepared to cut a deal. In my opinion, what has been offered to them still falls some way short of addressing the concerns of the unionist people, and thus they would be quite within their rights to reject the current offer. I would.
 
M.O.
Congratulations Michael on achieving a level of intransigence even greater than that of Ian Paisley!
 
Michael, I have to ask: Do you do this just to piss people off, or do you seriously believe what you say?

without condoning either side, do you not think this is a little one sided? I mean, I know you want to see Britannia rule the waves again and all that, but come on!
 
I believe in opposing murder of innocent people whereever I find it. So in that sense I am absolutely one sided. Sorry if that is awkward for you and Adams. Paisley's triumph is one for democracy, and I rejoice in it.

And Skipper, I wouldn't underestimate what you call Paisley's "intransigence" - I believe the word means accepting when you are proven wrong. Hasn't he been proven right? He has been elected by the majority community there to stand up to the murderers, and I really don't see him letting them take a seat in the Government, when their defeat is almost complete.
 
Actually Michael, I don't disagree with your analysis wholly but I think it's a bad omen to some extent in that Paisley has used intransigence as a more successful weapon than Adams' intransigence. Instead of a genuine compromise with which both sides could be happy, we risk more outbreaks from the republican side who feel 'sold out'. 'No Surrender' was the bane of both sides and if Paisley's version is seen to have triumphed I worry for a return of the murders.
 
I think you are right, ultimately the unionist people of Ulster risk their lives by resisting terror. But I think they should not decide their form of government because of a fear of the return of the gunmen. Just as this country didn't, and shouldn't have, changed its foreign when London was bombed by other terrorists. The unionist people of Northern Ireland deserve our respect and help for their courage.

The "No Surrender" line gained a very bad reputation by the people in England who just wished the Ulster "problem" away, but one wonders why. Surely no surrender in the face of the kind of violence they have faced is only to be admired.
 
I think Michael, there are some differences between Churchill in 1940 and Ulster. In the former not just us but the world was threatened by a great moral darkness; in Ulster there are two antagonistic communities/tribes with one reacting against appalling misrule and the other for having had the sins of their fathers visited upon them. Seems to me warring civil communities really must learn to co-exist and try to forgive and forget. Imagine what South Africa might now be like if Mandela had not somehow worked his miracle. While Paisley is to be admired from some angles, he is a moral pygmy comapred to Mandela.
 
Well Paisley is popular with his people, and I trust their decisions. Mandela is not a man I have ever warmed to, and sorry but I have been to South Africa recently, and if that is the model for your ideas then I think I will take my chances with rejecting this peace accord: aids, crime, corruption and the rest. A real lefty showcase of filth and squalor. Just because Ulster is small does not mean it should be handed to the murderers to buy us peace.

The whole underlying causes argument just doesn't hold: Northern Ireand is British because its people want it to be: anybody who doesn't like that can get lost, and if they commit crime then we have prisons for them.
 
Well Paisley is popular with his people, and I trust their decisions. Mandela is not a man I have ever warmed to, and sorry but I have been to South Africa recently, and if that is the model for your ideas then I think I will take my chances with rejecting this peace accord: aids, crime, corruption and the rest. A real lefty showcase of filth and squalor. Just because Ulster is small does not mean it should be handed to the murderers to buy us peace.

The whole underlying causes argument just doesn't hold: Northern Ireand is British because its people want it to be: anybody who doesn't like that can get lost, and if they commit crime then we have prisons for them.
 
The claim that "Northern Ireland is British because its people want it to be" is a tremendously misleading simplification. True, the Unionists are a majority in the six counties, but they are a minority in Ireland as a whole and in four of the six counties. Why was Derry City included in Northern Ireland at the time of partition? Or South Armagh? Or Fermanagh? Was it because the people who lived there wanted this? Let's be frank, these areas were included in Northern Ireland by force of British arms, and by that alone. Their inclusion had no democratic political legitimacy whatever. Perhaps one ought not to dwell on these old sores too much. I broadly agree with Skipper that the two communities must learn to co-exist. There were wrongs committed on both sides. The Good Friday Agreement has many faults (some socialists criticise it for "institutionalising sectarianism") but it is the best thing on offer. Each side has to give up something: the Republicans give up a United Ireland (except as an "aspiration"), the Unionists give up their loathsome "Protestant state for a Protestant people" in return for sharing power with the other community (Whether they will prove capable of this is as yet uncertain. Some actual political leadership on the Unionist side might not go amiss).
 
Michael
South Africa is very imperfect but so are many poor copuntries, especially in Africa. You must agree surely, that it would have been and would be be much, much worse, without the remarkable compassionate efforts by Mandela to heal the ounds between the balcks and the whites.

And as for your comments on the 'Northern Ireland people', Politaholic makes the point better than I could, that a very big slice of that population do not want that outcome. That, after all, is the essence of the problem!
 
Skipper, go to South Africa, take off your lefty glasses, and tell me, how COULD it be any worse?

A very long sob story about Ireland's history Politaholic - you could even BE an Irish nationalist! I don't care about minority groups in these ghettos who spent a lifetime supporting and in some cases carrying out the murder of British soldiers. If they want to be Irish, let them save up for a train ticket and head for the border. Northern Ireland will be British forever. But I not you don't query the bottom line. The Northern Irish are British because most of them want to be. I couldn't about the people in the Irish Republic think about the constitutional situation in Northern Ireland - their opinions on this issue are about as relevant as the elctorates of Paraguay and Thailand. For "leadership" you mean capitulatiion. They have leaders, very popular ones, who defend their interests. If it wasn't for Paisley, the likes of you would have passed them to the doom of a so called United Ireland. So I suspect your venom is more frustration at their lack of gullibility.
 
"Northern Ireland will be British forever" - until the catholics become the majority....
 
Do a bit of reading on recent NI demographics...you will learn a lot. I believe Slugger O'Toole has a bit to say on it...but you won't like what you hear! :)
 
“Do a bit of reading on recent NI demographics…..but you won't like what you hear! :)” – I can assure you it matters not to me. I am just being awkward and obtuse, something you obviously excel in.

“I have been to South Africa recently, and if that is the model for your ideas then I think I will take my chances with rejecting this peace accord: aids, crime, corruption and the rest. A real lefty showcase of filth and squalor.” – Don’t you just love it! :)
 
Sorry I was under the impression you were trying to make a point and hold it up in debate. My mistake...you should go back to your village, it needs it idiot.
 
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