You know it and I know it, time and time again our government in Northern Ireland is heralded as one giant failure of colossal proportions. If naming failures of the Northern Ireland Executive were a topic in a pub quiz, we’d have no problem winning that round.
The most recent political failures have been around welfare reform and not being able to secure a deal on that, which has subsequently led to the budget crisis and ministers warning that vital public services will be cut.
A more general failure of our politicians is the complete lack of any collective government. If my memory serves me correctly, I can remember back to an episode of The View where Stephen Farry and Danny Kennedy were complaining that the DUP and Sinn Fein were not consulting with them, their partners in government; to which John O’Dowd said the now famous reply, ‘so what?’
It seems that recently Stephen Farry forgot about that episode and the collective government he sought as he announced live on The Nolan Show that the planned expansion of the Magee Campus would not be going ahead, and judging by the political reaction, Farry must have forgotten to bring this one up at the Executive table. Tut tut.
Nevertheless for all the faults of our relatively young government, we should remember that we are still transitioning from a period of horrific conflict towards something of a more normal society and government.
That’s why we should remember exactly who the politicians are who form the meat of our government. They are men and women who, just 20 years ago never would have imagined being in the same room with one another, never mind in a government with one another. There are some who were key players in our conflict.
That’s also why our politicians should realise the potential impact and influence that they could have on other conflicts in the world, especially on the current escalation in violence in the Israel/Palestine conflict if they decided to put their political grandstanding on hold.
Of course Martin McGuinness isn’t going say outright that the IRA’s campaign of violence was wrong, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read between the lines and realise that if he seriously still passionately believed that the IRA campaign was justified then – would he really be in government with his enemies now?
As for Peter Robinson, the leader of the party of ‘Never, Never, Never’, remember that he’s also in government with those he calls terrorists, those people who the DUP would never share power with… If he truly believed that the compromise wasn’t worth the cessation of daily violence, he also wouldn’t be in a coalition with his political enemies.
And so the two extremes of our political landscape may never admit in public the sacrifices that they took for peace, and for reasons of political expedience they won’t let on how significant their sacrifices were in 1998, but they will admit that peace is better than the conflict we had.
If that’s anything to go by, quite clearly our politicians know that compromise is better than their previous entrenched, tribal positions that allowed conflict to flourish, and they’re living proof that in divided societies, compromise is the only solution to ending conflict.
Yes, we are a small country, and yes our government is riddled with failures, but a dysfunctional government is better than a democratic deficit and the almost daily deaths during the troubles and just because we are a small country doesn’t mean we cannot be a world player in other countries conflict resolution. If there is one thing that our politicians have got right so far, it’s that their compromises have delivered a relative peace and if there’s one thing that our politicians should be able to speak up on, together, as a united front, it should be that.
Over to you, politicians.