Opinion

Tom Kelly: Obsession with identity politics destroying the fabric of society

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly is an Irish News columnist with a background in politics and public relations. He is also a former member of the Policing Board.

Flags, emblems, marches, blood and thunder bands and the seemingly endless cycles of commemorations have their place but not above the real time concerns of daily life Picture: Mal McCann
Flags, emblems, marches, blood and thunder bands and the seemingly endless cycles of commemorations have their place but not above the real time concerns of daily life Picture: Mal McCann

The world seems caught up in a tidal wave of discontent. A belligerent Russia taunts the world over the Ukraine and a global energy crisis is imminent.

Developing countries struggle with the pandemic and human rights are trampled into the ground by despotic dictators.

In the UK, the country is led by a disingenuous chancer.

He leads a government where populist gibberish is rated over scientific knowledge. Personal greed, political avarice and corporate rapacity are seen as virtues.

Welcome to BJ’s Britain where principles are optional.

In Northern Ireland positivity is sucked from the air like a Dyson on overdrive.

That said, it was joyous to watch health minister Robin Swann announce the recently passed organ opt out legislation will be known as Dáithí’s Law. This tenacious young boy and his family deserve much credit for convincing politicians to act together for a greater good.

A glimmer of hope which showed local politicians, if so willed, can lift their heads out of the quagmire of pettiness, sectarianism and begrudgery which so often dominates political debate.

But what if we could change other things too?

The Sinn Féin/DUP duopoly has clearly run its course. Even what they manage to stitch up together often falls apart.

The New Decade, New Approach deal had hardly dried on the pages it was printed on before both parties started re-interpreting it.

Even today, they are poles apart on issues including the Irish language/ Ulster Scots/ Britishness and of course, the Northern Ireland Protocol. They break and make up rules as it suits their respective political agendas. Public interest plays second fiddle to party political interests.

Sixteen years is a long enough experimentation in dysfunctional government.

It was Einstein who reportedly said that the definition of insanity was to repeat doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome. Unsurprisingly, if we repeat the electoral outcomes that have gone before then we can only expect more of the same.

The obsession with identity politics is destroying the fabric of society and it’s psychologically and physically unhealthy.

Flags, emblems, marches, blood and thunder bands and the seemingly endless cycles of commemorations have their place but not above the real time concerns of daily life such as standards of living, equal opportunities, access to quality education, job creation, housing provision, healthcare and the protection of the most vulnerable in society.

The culture/counter culture of themmuns and whataboutery are perpetual millstones used to grind down communities. If our political classes believe they are standing on the shoulders of giants, then it’s time they looked beyond and above the miles of ‘peace-walls’ separating those they represent. As long as those walls remain, politics has failed.

One of the biggest failures over the past decade has been the planning service in Northern Ireland. It’s cumbersome and clearly not fit for purpose. Current legislation makes it an objectors' paradise. Despite damning reports from within the department, from CBI and more recently from the Auditor General’s office there has been a sustained and consistent failure to grapple with the permanent state of paralysis and indecision which engulfs the entire planning service from council level to the top of the Department of Infrastructure.

The late Seamus Mallon said, if you sort policing then you can sort out politics, but nowadays it is minister Nichola Mallon who needs to sort out planning in order to accelerate economic growth.

And finally, a thespian friend remarked about a recent contributor to the Nolan Show. The contributor was unhappy about the continual platforming of political strife.

The noted actor quipped: “To retain respect for sausages, it’s best not to watch them in the making” and the Nolan Show regularly “takes us on a close up tour of the sausage factory”.

A keen observation of the need to change another increasingly repetitive narrative.

Unfortunately, change, like peace, will come dropping slow. So this writer has low expectations.