To date, unfortunately, the only peace dividend we have experienced has been largely negative: NO aggressive, militaristic murals on our walls, NO – or reduced – and now largely covert paramilitary violence, NO constant political bickering on our TV screens.
But despite the constant grins of the Chuckle Brothers as they tour the capitals with their cabaret show, there is no political agreement on the way forward. Indeed the chief party of government the DUP rejoices that in the 10th anniversary of its signing, the Good Friday Agreement is dead in the water, while the others pretend it is being implemented. The Irish Language Act is gone too, as is every other hard-won concession to the nationalist community and security is firmly in the hands of the British Secret Service. These are Sinn Fein’s so-called achievements from the St Andrew’s Agreement. It seems enough for them that the DUP is now securely locked into partnership government with them. But they have no control, even partial, over security and justice, apparently their previous bottom line.
The much-vaunted Programme for Government is clearly a DUP document too – every shred of working-class element written out, in favour of the PPI (Public-Private Initiative) – supposedly destined to deliver economic progress but at the cost of improved public health and welfare. Yet far more jobs have been lost than gained in the eight months since Stormont got up and running and there is no great salvation on the horizon. The moderate parties at Stormont (all bar the two principal government parties) are unhappy, some even threatening to pull out to form an official opposition.
A tired and disillusioned electorate is prepared however, to accept all this if there is no return to the violent ways of the past. People who formerly retreated into their own areas and ghettos are now retreating into their own homes and insular lives, ignoring the puny efforts of their politicians. There is no great rejoicing in the Protestant community that a former IRA chief is now Deputy First Minister, or in the nationalist community that
Just now the countryside is caught in the grip of a hard frost.
Is that what has got me thinking in such negative terms?
Let’s try to see the bright side! Can Spring be far behind?