December 4th 09
The lesson of history
There is understandably enormous curiosity among everyone this Blog meets about the current crisis in the political institutions and the sharp words that have been exchanged between the Shinners and the DUP.
At one level it’s about the tranfer of powers of policing and justice but at another deeper level it’s about the principles of equality, and justice and democratic change, underlying the Good Friday Agreement.
The reality is that the northern state was created to ensure a unionist majority and unionist domination. And the status of nationalists was institutionalised, in a way not seen in Ireland since the penal laws, into that of inferior and third class citizens. You know the record of discrimination and injustice and repression. This Blog intends to return to this theme next week.
So, after decades of one party unionist rule and British direct rule, the political institutions are about delivering equality and partnership into every facet of life in the North. The institutions are not there for the optics. They are there to deliver. If they aren’t doing that then what’s the point? Common sense stuff you might have thought.
But not for the DUP.
The reality is that it’s now 2009 – not 1969 – or 1920 or for that matter 1690. And we’re all living in an Ireland governed democratically by all-Ireland institutions, and by unalterable equality and powersharing mechanisms within the six counties.
In that context, the deliberate refusal of the DUP and the failure of the British government to fulfill their explicit commitments under the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrew’s Agreement – including devolution of policing and justice – has become totally unacceptable.
While Sinn Féin is accused of making threats over the future of the institutions, All thinking people know that this is a bogus accusation. Sinn Féin isn’t in the business of making threats and anyway these are not just Sinn Fein issues.
The reality in the six counties is that the greater the political inequality, the lesser the political stability. That’s the lesson of history.
And while nationalists and republicans have been prepared to continually bend themselves to help this peace process, a key political condition has always been the maintenance of a system of equality and partnership as the basis for peaceful and democratic evolution towards a united Ireland.
That’s the bit the DUP – and their ideological counterparts in the Northern Ireland Office – hate the most.
But the British and Irish governments need to realise that’s why things are in difficulties now. And they need to ensure that in keeping with the commitments made at St. Andrews, that the full devolution and implementation of Agreements needs to happen. At St. Andrews all of the parties agreed that signing up to that Agreement meant that the transfer of policing and justice powers would take place by May 2008. We are long past that agreed date.
This Blog comes to you enroute to Wicklow which was one the foremost counties in the United Irish Rising of 1798. Michael Dwyer, who is credited with inventing guerilla warefare, fought long long past the Rising in the Wicklow mountains, The memory of Michael Dwyer is still strong there. Anne Devlin a key participant in the planning of Robert Emmet’s Rising of 1803 was a relative of Michael Dwyer. She was to endure torture and a life of poverty rather than betray her friends.
During that great revolutionary period between 1919 and 1923 Wicklow was represented by Erskine Childers a TD in the First Dail. He was executed in November 1922 by the Free State government.
Now the people of Wicklow, like others throughout the southern state, are under threat from their own government. Michael Dwyer must be spinning in his grave - at least that’s what your man says. Me? It’s all about fightback, standing up for our rights, putting the government in its place. That is out of government buildings.
Back to Belfast at first light we are planting one thousand ash trees in the Stormont estate. The intention is to do this in one hour. So if you like trees and you want to get into the Guinness Book of Records join us at 11 am on Saturday morning.