It is strange that any upcoming election will focus on two rival Plan Bs rather than the alleged purpose…electing a power-sharing Executive for Norn Iron.
The Good Friday Agreement is a failure. Whether it deserves to fail…thats a different question.
By common consent, about 95% of nationalists voted for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998…not very different from the vote in the Republic of Ireland. And by common consent about 55% of unionists voted for the Agreement.
This is significant. Nationalists had more faith in the Agreement. The failure therefore hits nationalists harder. Nationalists analysed the Agreement as stepping stones to a United Ireland. Those Unionists who voted YES saw it as a series of obstacles to a United Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement was sold to the two tribes. For the best of reasons…Peace…it was sold as a Lie…maybe two lies. A Great Big Lie. And I bought it.
A third way to look at the Agreement is that it was neither. It was about letting the pieces fall…but doing nothing and the DUP ensured no progress meant a status quo was embedded …a unionist status quo.
Since 1998….SDLP (initially) and Sinn Féin (latterly) have snatched Defeat from the jaws of Victory.
I always thought that the definition of Hubris was Seamus Mallon proclaiming that the Good Friday Agreement was “Sunningdale for slow learners”. Sometime in the next two decades some nationalist politician will claim that the newest Agreement is “Sunningdale and the Good Friday Agreement for VERY VERY slow learners”.
So….an Election. But SF are publicly doubting they can work with DUP. And SDLP seem to prefer NOrn Iron to be ruled jointly by London and Dublin. In the context of Brexit, it actually makes sense.
The Public might well be disgusted at DUP-SF but their hatred of each other actually ensures they will be the biggest unionist and nationalist parties. The Opposition parties can not cobble together a credible electoral pact (the UUP are simply too mired in sectarianism), a credible platform…SDLP-UUP division is a weakness but DUP-SF division is a strength.
The Public Anger will manifest itself as abstention and a boycott of the election will work against the Good Guys (in this context, SDLP, UUP and Alliance) more than it will work against DUP-Sinn Féin.
Readers of this Blog will know that I have wanted Stormont to fail for some years. It is a constant reminder of how badly I miscalculated….and how badly all nationalists miscalculated in 1998. SDLP blaming the British and Irish governments is not totally convincing. But it is marginally better than Sinn Féin trying to blame everyone else for their constant humiliation at the hands of DUP …thats laughable.
You may think SDLP is the Stoop Down Low Party. I may think Sinn Féin is Stoop Further.
This is an election about Plan B….SDLP and even Sinn Féin would be delighted with Joint Authority. DUP and even UUP would be delighted with Direct Rule from London.
James Brokenshire is unlikely to prevent an election but the NIO will note the turn-out. An a second election is likely to show even lower turn-out.
Brexit DOES throw a spanner in the works but certainly I can see that NIO will facilitate a Dublin dimension BUT still control things….and appoint that ultimate Quango….the Quisling Quango of academics, business people, civic society, lobbyists who have been waiting on this opportunity for years.