Although I was only four in 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was as much a part of my history, and my future as it is yours.
The Good Friday Agreement put the constitutional issue of Northern Ireland into a box. I envisage the box being labelled – “short term solution” and in addition that box has been left right in front of the two largest parties in the Assembly. Either the box needs to be moved aside or the constitutional issue needs settled for good.
The box with the constitutional issue lingers in front of the DUP and Sinn Fein. Both parties plan their politics around that box because the box is never far from their thoughts, which is stemmed by the fact that the short term solution provided by the Good Friday Agreement allows them to pursue their constitutional agenda over their legislative mandates .
Sinn Fein’s droning demands for a border poll when clearly the support for a United Ireland is not there, is tiring – but how can Sinn Fein be blamed for their pitiful agenda which is fed by the short term solution and by increasing support for the status quo as they begin to realise they have lost the war and may have lost the argument.
The DUP tell us the Union is more safe than ever when asked about a border poll but somehow feel the need to whip up tensions – ask yourself this. What issue has the DUP most successfully raised, the issue that brought thousands to the streets? You guessed it. It was the issue that brought us into line with the majority of Ireland? …No, Great Britain.
How many people did the DUP motivate onto the streets to protest over the fact that our elderly citizens could be chucked out of a home were they feel comfortable?
With the above in mind, it appears that John and Basil have an ample opportunity to set out a coherent agenda which recognises that the Good Friday Agreement settled the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Yes it allowed for a border poll, but that is the secretary of states decision to make when there is sufficient support for it – not Sinn Fein’s decision to make when there is little support for it. John and Basil have the opportunity to take ‘that box’ into the back room, because whilst that box looms over the Assembly, we simply will not succeed in removing politics from the sectarian trenches, if politics is not removed from the sectarian trenches ill join you in collectively waving bye bye to that shared future.
If John and Basil were to do this, I imagine they would get accused of being a Lundy – “Don’t you know how important the Union is to us?” they would cry.
You can’t force someone to become a Christian by forcing it down their throat. Nor can you convince someone that the Union is the best way forward by flying Union flags from every other lamppost and by colouring in your kerbs.