Jake O'Kane: And so, we invariably trundle onward towards the next crisis. Sin é

Edwin Poots already had negative favourability ratings amongst all age groups, both genders, DUP voters and voters of all other parties - though I'm sure his Mammy loved him

Edwin Poots defied his own party to nominate Paul Givan as first minister on Thursday; hours later, he was forced to step down as DUP leader after just three weeks in the job. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jake O'Kane

BURY My Heart at Wounded Knee is a book covering the history of how Native Americans were impacted by the expansion of white settlers in the late 19th century.

I remember reading three quarters of the book before giving up, exasperated at the gullibility of the various tribes when negotiating with the US government.

Every chapter seemed to follow the same script. The settlers would arrive, the Indians would react, the US government would intervene and offer a treaty which the Indians would sign in good faith.

Then, within months, the US government would break the treaty and the Indians would be driven off their lands and relocated onto hellish reservations.

I was young and naive when I read the book and believed when a treaty was signed, it should be upheld.

Nothing much has changed, as today, treaties and agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on. Instead of definite positions of intent, they're viewed as mere starting points for further negotiation.

This is a worrying development. How can there ever be trust if one party claims the right to default on what was agreed simply because they no longer like it?

Our society is underpinned by a belief that agreements are absolute and binding, not something to be changed or altered on a whim.

Sadly, the presidency of Donald Trump seems to have spawned a generation of politicians who view duplicity as more a virtue than a vice.

During Prime Minister's Question Time in Westminster on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said he wanted 'New Decade, New Approach' (NDNA) implemented in full.

Yet, a matter of minutes later, he threatened to ditch the NI Protocol if it continued to be problematic, even though doing this breaks an international treaty.

We seem to have slipped into a parallel universe where agreements/treaties - be they signed by President, Prime Minister, or leader of the DUP - are viewed as pliable. It's hardly surprising therefore, that the DUP reneged on NDNA because it includes an Irish Language Act.

It could be argued this cavalier attitude to agreements in NI dates back 23 years to the Good Friday Agreement. In 1998, we came together as never before and voted by a majority of 71.1 per cent to move our society away from violence and towards peace.

The gun was to be removed from Irish politics, and paramilitary organisations agreed to disband and disappear.

Yet not a week passes without a pronouncement from the Loyalist Communities Council, the mouthpiece of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.

It has been invited to speak at the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster, and its opinions published widely in the media. Yet nobody points out the continued existence of the organisations they purport to represent is illegal.

Despite the GFA rejecting political violence, Edwin Poots on Monday said "peace was at risk" if Sinn Féin failed to nominate a deputy first minister.

Those talking up violence should be asked to clarify exactly who would be the target?

It can't be nationalists, as they voted against Brexit and its inevitable outworking, the Protocol. It can't be the PSNI, as they're merely enforcing the rule of law set down by the British government. The only feasible target remaining is the British state; if that's true, what then does the term 'loyalist' mean?

The level of dysfunction within the DUP was laid bare in this paper on Tuesday in a piece by Arlene Foster's Spad, Lee Reynolds. He painted a picture of a party riven by in-fighting with old scores being settled.

He also pointed out polling by Jeffrey Donaldson's campaign had shown that Edwin Poots had negative favourability ratings amongst all age groups, both genders, DUP voters and voters of all other parties - though I'm sure his Mammy loved him.

With the Assembly in limbo important issues remained unaddressed.

Hospitals here were operating above capacity, with exhausted staff and 335k people on waiting lists. Last Saturday, 280 children discovered they had no post-primary allocation, leaving distraught parents phoning schools in search of a place.

Another extension of Covid regulations seems probable due to the Delta variant, which will lead to many local businesses forced into closure.

As I was writing this, at 2.30am on Thursday June 17, news broke about an agreement for Westminster to pass Irish language legislation if local parties fail to do so.

But just hours later, DUP dysfunction was back on show in the most spectacular way, with Poots forced to step down after just three weeks as leader.

And so, we invariably trundle onward towards the next crisis. Sin é.

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