Malachi O’Doherty, the freelance journalist and occasional expert on Norn iron have a lot in common.
He is the same age as me (61 ish).
We comes from West Belfast.
He went to the same Christian Brothers Grammar School as me and near contemporary Gerry Adams (65).
I confess that I dont remember either of them at school. I would have remembered the beards.
But the point is we were born Catholics and lived in West Belfast and witnessed the early years of The Troubles. He has even written about the year 1972.
There the similarity ends.
Malachi usually talks SHITE.
I never talk SHITE.
Last night at Platform for Change Event, Malachi said something interesting.
He has changed his mind about the Good Friday Agreement.
He voted YES in 1998. He would now vote NO.
This is also my position.
The Good Friday Agreement effectively ended the Troubles. Or brought us Passivity.
It was riddled with half-truths.
We called it Creative Ambiguity.
And it was held to be a strength.
What has happened since?
Well a number of factors.
To some extent, the SDLP are right to blame the sponsoring governments…Ireland, Britain, United States for not fully supporting the UUP and SDLP. And effectively changing sides to support DUP and Sinn Fein.
Yet it is hard to find a SDLP member other than myself…who blames SDLP (UUP were always useless) for being too anxious to placate David Trimble and frankly SDLP rested too much on their laurels when the Agreement was signed.
Twenty five years after the Sunningdale Agreement, Seamas Mallon memorably claimed that the Good Friday Agreement was “Sunningdale for Slow Learners”.
That looks hollow now.
Of course the Agreement was intended to tame the extremes(DUP and SF) and put UUP and SDLP in charge of a power sharing Executive.
Alas DUP and SF did not read the script.
They are now the undisputed champions of Unionism and Nationalism. They dont have to do anything.
As Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP Leader has noted when these parties agree…they bulldoze legislation past UUP and SDLP. When they disagree …things stagnate.
What they agree on most is preserving their own positions.
They NEED each other …to scare their own supporters.
And they operate as the Orange and Green wings of a One Party State (I think thats a phrase coined by SDLPs Mark Durkan).
The very Creative Ambiguity of the Good Friday Agreement…initially a perceived strength is actually its great weakness.
Like Malachi O’Doherty, I would now vote NO.
We got Peace ( more or less) but we hopelessly compromised ourselves.
Some aspects of the Good Friday Agreement have been dealt with….Policing and Decommissioning.
Other aspects….shelved. Bill of Rights. Irish Language Rights. Victims Rights. The Past.
And thats how DUP and Sinn Fein like it. And they have bought off the undemocratic and so called moderates in the Alliance Party with ministerial responsibility and salaries and perks, in excess of their democratic mandate.
We did not deal well with Post Conflict. We let it slip. That train has left the station and we did not get on board.
The Conflict Resolutionists tell us about Post Conflict.
They are too late.
We have now moved into Pre-Conflict.
I am not the only Cassandra saying this.
Last night, Malachi O’Doherty stated that the only way the present arrangement would be brought down is the same way the old regime ended in 1968 (sic).
He is right.