If you were the last German soldier to be mortally wounded in Berlin in April 1945, you might think it wasnt worthwhile. Conversely if you were the last Russian soldier to be mortally wounded, you might think it was at least worthwhile. Losing and Winning.
Looking back, the fall of Stormont in 1972 was a good day …for nationalists. Likewise Good Friday in 1998. Although there were some later twists and turns during the course of the day, it was around 8.45am when BBC Radio Ulster finally said it was all agreed. Memory plays tricks….but as I recall, we had almost arrived at my wife’s workplace and as we stopped the car, I said “thats it…we made it”.
Of course others we knew did not live thru it. Not just the people who were killed, including those who were prepared to kill. It is a simple fact of life that if you were born in West Belfast in 1952 and 1958, then we had family,school-friends, neighbours, co-workers who were killed. In my wife’s case it includes a female cousin. Strangely, we both know where we were on a certain day at the funeral…long before we ever met…My wife, then a schoolgirl following the coffin and me, a 20-something standing outside the crowded church.
Of course other relatives like my father or friends like Harry simply died of natural causes in the 1980s and 1990s and they never saw the “end game” either.All those people who prayed at Clonard or who took part in their own services or cross-community vigils…many never lived to see it.
The Good Friday Agreement was a compromise. Compromise is a good thing. We signed up to it because we could compromise without being compromised. Nobody won and nobody lost. Or so we were told.
And yet it was a Big Lie…albeit a Big WHITE lie. Unionists were told it was a series of obstacles to a United Ireland. Nationalists were told it was a series of stepping stones to a United Ireland. At least one tribe was being lied to…and nationalists bought into the lie more than unionists did.
Of course, there can be no denying that it brought Peace.
But the Big Lie is the elephant in the room.
Did the End (Peace) justify the Means (a Big Lie)?
Viewed in 1998, the answer is YES. Viewing in 2016,I am not so sure.
Conflicts DO get resolved.
The Battle of Berlin ended World War Two in Europe. The Fall of Saigon ended the war in Vietnam.
The price of defeat was the process of de-Nazification of Germany. And the re-education of vietnamese in jungle camps.
The problem is that our Conflict never really ended. We accepted that we just stop fighting and on balance thats a good thing.
Enter the Conflict Resolutionists. They sought to analyse what we preferred not to know…salient facts like the status of Norn Iron as part of the United Kingdom. The LetsGetAlongerist approach to accept the status quo is not a neutral stance. By definition, the status quo is unionist.
Conflicts are resolved…Victory and Defeat.
The role of the Conflict Resolutionist in Norn Iron has been to attribute victory and defeat.
It exceeds their academic brief to socially engineer a LetsGetAlongerist Society….with (altogether now)….Integrated Education. A LetsGetAlongerist Society is an (albeit liberal) unionist society.
Strangely when I first became involved with Slugger O’Toole in late 2009, Conflict Resolution was the “hot topic”. Eames-Bradley, doing something …anything …for the victims. That was how Conflict Resolutionists saw it. It seems that the Conflict Resolutionist way in 2016 is to “just get over it” and the moment for Truth Commissions etc has passed. Isnt it odd that nobody talks about it any more?
It is not the full picture to say that the Good Friday Agreement was undermined by British and Irish governments appeasing DUP and Sinn Féin. Or St Andrews. Or Hillsborough.
There is a long history of “confidence building measures for unionists”. It is almost a cliché.
There are two stories to this election. The constitutionally neutral People Before Profit took two seats from nationalist parties…one SDLP and one Sinn Féin. And the constitutionally neutral Green Party took one seat from SDLP.
Or to put in another way, the number of nationalists seats in 2011 was forty forty three and now it is forty.
More starkly, the nationalist share of the vote has fallen by 5%….SDLP losing 2.2% and SF losing 2.9%.
Nationalists are not voting. Apathy? NO….that does not really explain it. Apathy means not caring and I suspect DISGUST. The nationalist population bought into the Good Friday Agreement more enthusiastically than the unionist population.
Consequently, the nationalists are more disappointed.
For nationalists, the outworking has not been as good as was expected.
For unionists, the outworking is not as bad as they expected.
And the commentators repeat the message. “THE UNION IS SAFE” and with a falling nationalist vote and representaion in the Assembly then surely they are right.
But I dont think that a lot of nationalists went into the polling stations in 1998 to “make the union safe”.
The best Sinn Féin can come up with is to be the junior partner in coalition with DUP. As newly elected Christopher Stalford put it…”happy to be the junior partner in a centre-right coalition”.
Hard to disagree.
The best slogan the SDLP can come up with is “making Norn Iron work”. EH???
Thats not what I voted for. I had hoped that the Good Friday Agreement was so riddled with contradiction, it would collapse.
Indeed when David Trimble signed up to Parity of Esteem, it was the great “GOTCHA!!!!” moment in Irish History. Unionism does not do Parity.
So what did happen to the Irish Language Act? It should have been a red line…and it wasnt. Likewise Flags and Emblems.
Now LetsGetAlongerists might say “it doesnt matter”. But tell that to the nationalists who stayed home on Thursday.
No point in looking to the Dublin Government for inspiration. katherine Zappone!!!!…
But it seems to me the entire process is in danger.
If half the electorate dont give a tinkers curse about PEACE, then they are equally unbothered by Conflict and it looks like we are heading that way.