Yes I voted for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998…more than 90 per cent of nationalists did so and more than 50 per cent of unionists did so.
It is a simple enough balance sheet. It ended violence. That is no small achievement. If you lived thru the bad decades of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, you will know just how important that is.
The Agreement necessitated a lot of compromises, some of which (the early release of “terrorist” prisoners) were hard for unionists to take. The “constitutional position of Norn Iron” was hard for nationalists.
Eighteen years later for both unionists and nationalists, the outworking of the Agreement…no parity of esteem for the Irish language (hard for nationalists), the effective disbandment of the RUC (hard for unionists) and the absolute abandonment of the Victims (hard on everyone).
Sadly the abandonment of the Victims is not accidental. It suits both the British Government and Sinn Féin and the rest of us seem compliant. It is deemed more important to keep Stormont in place.
I have written before that SDLP are right to blame the British and Irish Governments for hollowing out the Agreement. But crucially, SDLP has yet to fully recognise their incompetence in the decade after 1998. The Party is inching its way to accepting its share of responsibilty.
I recognise my own. Do I regret voting for Sinn Féin from 1993 to 2009? I actually regret the years 1993-1998 when I was motivated by a sense of personal injustice. But I dont regret the years 1998-circa 2007, when it was clear that SDLP compromised too much.
The switch back to SDLP in 2009 was because Sinn Féin compromised even more. If SDLP is the “Stoop Down Low Party” then SF is the “Stoop Further”.
The Agreement is not so much about power-sharing itself. Rather the Agreement is about power-sharing between DUP and Sinn Féin. It is practically the “Constitution” aided and abetted by a supine Media and “Civic Society”.
We have Peace. We have no Dignity.
IS PEACE WITHOUT DIGNITY WORTH IT?
Voting is of course an act of Dignity. The majority of those who vote put #1 for DUP and Sinn Féin. Sadly they are motivated more by hatred for Sinn Féin and DUP and select the Party with the biggest flegs and the loudest rhetoric. Ironically this suits DUP and Sinn Féin just fine….beyond the flegs and the rhetoric, they are joined at the hip in a one-party State.
But where exactly is the Dignity in the NAMA Scandal? Where is the Dignity in the Sinn Féin silence?
Where is the Dignity in giving a load of cash to organisations that are linked to loyalist paramilitaries? Where is the Dignity in the Sinn Féin silence?
Where is the Dignity in this latest scandal over Renewable Heat Initiative? Where is the Dignity in Sinn Féin silence.
And where is the Dignity every time Gerry Adams denies something…anything? Where is the Dignity in DUP silence?
And when the PSNI tells us that UDA and IRA are still active? Why the universal silence?
We have now gone beyond Farce?
It is no longer about voting against a Government. It is about campaigning to end this “Constitution”.