This was our fiscal cliff. The Haass talks. We needed maturity, moderation and conciliation. Make a deal on the past, parades and flags, save face and show the world markets that Northern Ireland means business.
We got immaturity, acrimony and cowardess. These aren't statesmen. These are hopelessly incompentent, partisan politicians. The deadline for a deal was set and then missed, and now our credibility has gone tumbling over the cliff edge. Whatever credit rating we had is now far and away beyond junk status.
We in Northern Ireland are conditioned for Himalayan levels of obduracy and belligerence, but the Haass affair has gone far into the realm of the absurd. We've slipped into the Orwellian where the First Minister calls failure as "success". Conflict is peace.
We're stuck in some sort of sick, brutal and dispiriting Cold War stalemate; Paralyzed by mutual recrimination and mistrust and under a constant threat of extra-political exchange. Contrary to what James Joyce said, we're still an "outcast from life's feast."
For its failure the London Independent slammed the status quo Unionist parties, and they were right to do so. (Eamonn McCann puts events into perspective regarding Sinn Fein here.) And here's the consequences of the Haass failure in a sentence: The DUP and UUP has sold out every last moderate, young person and able mind for the extremist and the mad-man.
But why would you or anyone be surprised? Brian Walker said here that the Haass talks an analysis and examination of what these parties of power-sharing government are all about.
Let's look at the DUP. These are the political offspring of Ian Paisley, Ireland's answer to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton. Foaming religious fundamentalists. Except none of these reactionaries made any serious in-ways into political office. Unfortunately ours did. Ian Paisley was a dangerous and brutish calvinist demagogue, who preached prejudice and hatred and made a political ideology out of non-compromise. He incubated mad-men and scared off and shut-out every last sane voice of moderation and conciliation. He was a religious fanatic who perfectly allied religion with politics, made a mockery of classical liberal values and positively strove to legislative by a biblical code. He established his fundamentalist Free Presbyterian church and political party because none of the others were bigoted, indignant or anti-catholic enough. He came to the table for a peace deal that was on offer over 30 murder-filled years earlier.
So you do realise, this is the party that is governing Northern Ireland? You should never forget this, less you be conned. Like the GOP in America, unionists are the nullification party and candy for the white, uber-protestant supremacists who want to hold sway over a protestant fiefdom free of gays, alcohol and any trace of the 21st Century. Except in comparison with the GOP, the DUP are absolutely absent of moderation, we have 38Ted Cruzs.
But make no mistake. I'm no supporter of Sinn Fein, not even slightly. Sinn Fein are no republicans in the traditional sense of the word. They are catholic nationalists. Inheritors of the political ideology of the dubious John Mitchell, not Wolfe Tone, O'Connell or James Connolly. They are inheritors of Arthur Griffiths: a racist, anti-Semite and reverse imperialist. They don't seek to unite the planter and the gael, the Protestant, catholic and dissenter. Rather Sinn Fein are there to positively piss-off Protestants, unionists and loyalists. They are there to turn Northern Ireland into a bucket-shop and ensure that loyalists are their vicarious agents of destruction (as it was said here).
Yes they are holding up well in the recent polls; but I say to that, so are the Front National, Ukip, Golden Dawn and other political party selling reaction and cheap populism.
They are the party of hagiography who have appropriated what it is to be Irish and swagger like they are the true republican party. They preach their dewy, moist eyed story to the young and the credulous like some sort of cult as Eoghan Harris called it. They make it that to be Irish you have to be not-British. Nonsense as I wrote here. They make it that Sinn Fein fought for freedom and liberated the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Nonsense. As Tom Kelly said in The Irish News here:
"Gerry kelly recently said young people like him in the early 1970s had no choice but to join the IRA but that is simply not true. Back then as now they had choices. The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 was actually stronger in nationalist terms than either the Good Friday or Saint Andrews Agreement. The vast majority of young nationalists did not join the ranks of the IRA. Had they, the Maze would have been five times the size it is."
No, Sinn Fein fought a 30 year guerilla war that copper-fastened Northern Ireland to Britain. As Fintan O'Toole said, Gerry Kelly and his type were simply "angry young Catholics." They are not of the Redmondite tradition as they'd have you believe and shame on them for that delusion they peddle.
These are the two parties of coalition-government in Northern Ireland, the DUP and Sinn Fein. They are the parties of the barbaric, sectarian leaders who so ruined, bankrupted and beggared this country and continue to do so. They are the conflict politicians who are trying to govern a post-conflict society.
Within the carapace of a conflict Northern Ireland state exists an almost completely post-sectarian secular society. So much part of life's feast. So much of the world. And in fact there are two world's in Northern Ireland and the DUP and Sinn Fein are at complete odds, variance and out of step with mainstream moderate society.
Alf McCreay spoke for many in 1976 when he said:
"I want a society where we will have politics and not a sectarian pantomime, where tomorrow is more important than today."
Seamus Heaney spoke for much of Northern Ireland when he said:
"But listen to what I'm saying! Protestant, Catholic--the point is to fly under or out and beyond those radar systems."
Conor Cruise O'Brien felt the same. Fintan O'Toole explained O'Brien's philosophy here:
"He does not accept that the really important challenge at the moment is not to move from nationalism to unionism, but to move beyond both."
How can this be, that political representation is so out-of-step with the man and woman on the ground? The problem is that the delinquency and deviancy in political office is self-sustaining. It's a self-perpetuating negative feed-back loop.
"None of these internal émigrés participates in or endorses the antics of the yahoos waving flags or hammering big drums outside Catholic Churches... Yesterday's [Haass talks] failure will simply reinforce the majority of unionists in their opinion that, in the words of Alex Kane, they prefer to go to the garden centre that bother voting."
On this opt-out, internal émigré I've written a series of blogs posts by the title, 'The two world's of Northern Ireland' here.
But this opting out and internal émigré can't be sustained. Silence, apathy, indifference is as good as approval and collusion. You can't be neutral, indifferent or abstentionist. This is a fight between modernity and backwardness. The madman will ruin will ruin the moderate if you do nothing.
"The threat to Northern Ireland's future is not... the IRA or even Nationalism. It comes from Protestant Ulstermen who will not allow themselves to be liberated from the delusion that every Roman Catholic is their enemy."
Here's my very modest proposal. The chronic delinquency demands agency and activism. They will repeat the Paisley experiment of maximal-demands and non-compromise ad-finitum. The young person must reclaim what it is to be Irish and demand from their leaders modern and progressive legislation and leadership. They the post-conflict generation must be louder and more demanding.
That's why I've created the Third Way (non-party political) civic activism group (see here and here) that is committed to pushing-back against the extremists and to offering a counter-narrative to the drivel and babble that comes from the political pantomime and self-appointed types. It's up to us, we are the "masters of our own fate."
No longer will it be the muzzled moderate. But the aggressive progressive. It's time for civil intolerance. And we have big belief and big plans. As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
The toxic millstone of the past, parades and flags must be lifted from the necks of the children of Northern Ireland. We can either sit back and let the mad men (adults?) run this place into bankruptcy and civil war, or you can stand up, speak up and out and free our children from a sectarian purgatory with a past but no future. Only then can we all truly enter the life's feast.
Haass paper in full here (39 pages).