So…the Talks have collapsed. The Blame Game begins. No matter what the public statements say, the real debate…the real rancour is within parties. Spokespersons who are put forward (like Simon Hamilton of DUP) are essentially safe pairs of hands.
BREXIT is almost the only game in town. The British Government is no longer an honest broker. (Was it ever?) but the Westminster numbers show that Theresa May needs the DUP more than the DUP needs the Tories. May has no leverage…she has given the DUP millions to shore up her government.
So…no deal on Stormont? Well rather like BREXIT and the Tories who think that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, there are DUPers who see things the same way. Any deal involving an Irish Language Act is simply a step too far for the core supporters of the DUP.
Likewise the Sinn Féin leadership who might forlornly hope for joint sovereignty, there is the reality that they need Stormont more than DUP does. For a start, Direct Rule is the only way that Equal Marriage and Abortion can get on the statute book.
here was never likely to be a deal. And even though, it was well-telegraphed in the past 48 hours, Sinn Féin still looked shell-shocked. The DUP have Westminster influence. Sinn Féin have nothing. It would be easy to blame Mary Lou McDonald but she is not there long enough. And she seemed happy enough to leave the explanations to Michelle O’Neill. Success might have had two mothers. Failure has just one mother.
Humiliating as it is, an agreement without an Irish Language Act, would have been even more humiliating for Sinn Féin.
We have moved from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to the Ash Wednesday Disagreement of 2018. In six weeks we might be asked to celebrate the anniversary but tonight it looks shallow.
It seems to be in tatters. Those who opposed it…DUP especially have won. A ham-fisted, cobbled-together set of creative ambiguities designed to put moderates (like UUP and SDLP) in charge and marginalise DUP and Sinn Féin has not worked out that way. While UUP and SDLP might blame the British and Irish governments, they need to look to their own failures.
The Good Friday Agreement HAS achieved Peace. I don’t know how many funerals I attended in the 1970s. Obviously because of my background, there were more Catholic than Protestant funerals………but nevertheless going to the funeral of a (tortured for hours) victim of a Shankill Butcher or a victim of an IRA car bomb explosion in Belfast…it all concentrates the mind. Peace is a very good thing.
But it is a Peace without Resolution. And worse…a Peace without Integrity.
Does anyone seriously doubt that we have moved out of a phase of Post-Conflict.
Welcome to the next phase…Pre-Conflict.