The Blog

Northern Ireland's 15th Birthday Present and Reward for Unruliness: A Handsome Cash Transfer

Fifteen years ago Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and other statesmen mediated the un-mediatable and created the Northern Ireland that we know today. Some see the bargain as a grand failure. The creation of a parochial sectarian state suspended in a form of purgatory with a bloody history and no future.

Fifteen years ago Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and other statesmen mediated the un-mediatable and created the Northern Ireland that we know today.

Some see the bargain as a grand failure. The creation of a parochial sectarian state suspended in a form of purgatory with a bloody history and no future.

Others are more upbeat; Irish historian Ruth Dudley Edwards being one of the positive voices.

I'm undecided. Yes there's less bloodshed. There's less fear on the streets. However, as we keep hearing: there are more peace walls than ever and speaking generally, it's plain to see that the tribalism of old is very much part of society. Catholics go to Catholic schools. Protestants go to Protestant schools.

Apartheid in the purist form if you ask me. And people wonder why the old suspicions, mistrust and habitual hatred of old persist.

Any way, what better way to celebrate an unruly child's fifteenth birthday than with a gift of a big cash payment!? Yes the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers and the hatchet men in Whitehall have pledged an economic aid package of amount yet undisclosed to go on top of the £7 billion annual subvention for the petulant child of British and Irish politics.

And 'childish' Northern Ireland politics and politicians are. Leading Northern Ireland industrialist John Cunningham said of the political establishment:

"It's like watching children argue, arguing at school. What relevance does it have? Why don't they put it all behind and really look and address the problems that we're facing.

"We're not facing these arguments and these historical things are not going to change the way we go forward.

"They're only going to keep us in the past. They're not going to keep our young people at home. They're not going to put prosperity into the Province. We should put them behind, move on."

Fifteen years on and political deadlock reigns; legislative incompetence and incontinence typifies the law makers; the working classes have been left behind; and the programme for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration flounders in a sea of partisan mudslinging.

BBC journalist Mark Simpson suggested that the elected officials are 'dull' but they're positively uninspiring.

Seamus Mallon was right, our Northern Ireland politicians are 'slow-learners'.

But seriously what we have is a perverse state of affairs and a perverse form of government. Two radical parties in a mandatory coalition which does nothing but grandstand and stonewall.

It's forever a politics of green and orange instead of left and right. Politicians are playing to their gallery and their grass-root radicals.

And by doing so they are ignoring the majority 'normalised' section of Northern Ireland society and encouraging the 'shrill' minority who are stuck in the past.

As it was suggested in the Belfast Politics, it's an 'old-style politics blind to society's changing shape'.

When the Union flag dispute hit Belfast streets on December 3 2013 Fraser Nelson of the Spectator said that 'the troubles are back'. However this is a distorted view of Northern Ireland. In the main part Northern Ireland society is civil and settled on improving relations and growing the economy.

The suggestion from Fraser Nelson that 'the troubles are back' is incorrect but understandable. But most importantly, it shows the ability of a radicalised and detached minority to destroy the good image of a majority Northern Ireland.

Jeff Peel has rightly spoken of the increasing 'normalisation' of Northern Ireland society:

'We're blighted by the shared future/education nonsense that's peddled by people who just aren't very bright - who fail to see that people can see beyond the trivia of Northern Ireland's two-tribe-machine.

This society is normalising. It's more accepting, more tolerant, less incendiary than it ever was. The Internet has made it more included in a global culture that moderates extremes and creates debate. The Internet has made this place less insular in a way that no other local cultural development could ever have hoped.'

Our children and our adults are leaving behind the nonsense of the past - despite the shared future nonsense-mongers that follow us around and sap our public finances.'

What Northern Ireland needs is jobs and a healthy economy. Yet what so viscerally animates the people is the old matters like flags, emblems and identities. How detached from reality can you get.

The reality is that the a great majority of people in Northern Ireland are educated and ambitious; they want to compete in the global race.

What Northern Ireland needs is a sustained effort of on the ground politics; of re-engaging and re-orientating the perspectives of the lowest in society. Make them outward looking instead of introspective.

And there's an important point on this: the introspection is a symptom of the soviet-like nature of Northern Ireland. Many of the people are almost totally reliant on state subvention. Even the card carrying republicans who make full use of the generous welfare system.

They have lost the stoic and marshall virtues. They love big government and the generous welfare payments she has come to offer; certainly they would not like it summarily dismissed.

No longer should Northern Ireland politicians be allowed to behave as they have. As John Cunningham said: 'if Stormont were a business they'd be bankrupt.'

And so we should not put up with it. We should not allow our own puerile politicians to use their own disfunctionality and that of the detached minority to leverage more cash off London.

It's like North Korea threatening global nuclear war to get a bit of aid. Except in Northern Ireland we cry poverty and maladjustment to prize out ever more money off a cash-strapped British government.

Have some shame. We in Northern Ireland should wish to stand on our own two feet. And we can do that if we educate the most radical and practice a politics of left and right that is interested in the economy instead of a brand of politics of green and orange that is interested in the dangerous arts of identity.

Lets not let Northern Ireland reconcile itself to the permanence of state largesse that makes it a soviet-style economy reliant on Westminster munificence.