Unionism needs to waken up and smell the coffee
So, here we are in 2023 and this is the year that we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement – or will we be witnessing its funeral as some unionists have implied? At this moment in time no -one knows the answer to this question, least of all the DUP who are currently abstaining from any participation in devolved government and are refusing to allow the institutions to get up and running. People should remember that 25 years ago the DUP were opposed to the GFA and stayed outside the negotiations for an end to the ongoing conflict in the six counties. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was then a member of the UUP and left his party because of their support for the peace process.
Over the past 25 years we have seen no reason to make us believe that their original attitude to the GFA has changed in any real way, they are simply working the institutions for their own ends and many would say that overall they haven’t moved a single inch towards genuine power sharing. For the past year, despite the economic crisis, the worsening recession and the pandemic the DUP have used the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent devolution from working here, thereby denying the electorate a local voice in all areas of public life.
They are fully aware that crashing the institutions has no affect whatsoever on the protocol, but with no local government the people here have been left to the mercy of the British government which has clearly shown, time and time again, the contempt in which it holds the north.
Meanwhile, nationalists and republicans have moved quite considerably and have accepted that the reunification of this island can only happen when a majority of its citizens want and vote for this.
In general, unionism has made little progress in recognising and accepting nationalists as equals, and as a result their failure to move with the times has left them in a time warp of their own making.
By honestly and sincerely working the political arrangement, nationalism and republicans have moved forward and are ever more confident that their political aims can and will be achieved through engagement. Those who claim that Sinn Féin, by working the GFA, signed up to partition are also ignorant of the facts that Sinn Féin signed up to a peace process which will allow for reunification through democratic means, and enabled a long and bloody war to come to an end.
If unionism continues to delude itself, and remain stuck in the past, then it will find itself part of a new political arrangement on the island of Ireland in which it failed to negotiate its part.
Craigavon, Co Armagh
This apathy cannot be allowed to continue
We have come through a tumultuous couple of years, Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and price Inflation – all arguably outside our control.
But what is in our control are the local decisions, local inaction, no visionary leadership, no courage to deal with the big multi-year projects to improve our lives, selling the benefits and then delivering the correct end result. When did anyone spell out the cost of not doing something? What is the cost of not doing the York Street Interchange in Belfast, of not building an energy from waste plant, not delivering Casement Park football stadium? How many people have died (been killed by us) by our inaction in changing/improving health provision?
It is time that the two biggest parties stopped focusing on the UK or united Ireland and focused instead on giving good government here in Northern Ireland.
If they don’t show vision, imagination and courage, surely it is up to the electorate to change them. If it was up to you, as an individual, would you stand over the continuing unnecessary costs in money, taxes and deaths?
Surely this apathy cannot be allowed to continue.
Stormont is a ‘dead parrot’
As the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly attempts to breath life into Stormont, he could do worse than watch Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch. Much like Monty Python’s parrot he would discover that Stormont ‘is a stiff’, it is ‘bereft of life’ and if the British government, the Irish government, the European Union and Irish America hadn’t nailed it to a perch, it would be ‘pushing up the daisies’.
I believe that devolution in Northern Ireland has failed because the political common ground of all parties working together for the building of a democratic, civil, peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland doesn’t exist. That was the promise of the 1998 Belfast Agreement and it is a promise that has been consistently broken by Stormont parties over a period of 25 years.
Until such times that political unionism and nationalism can commit to building a democratic, civil, peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland, James Cleverly should put his energies into putting in place a sustained period of direct rule governance rather than trying to breathe life into a ‘dead parrot’.
Dungannon, Co Tyrone
Good Friday Agreement has failed to deliver
As this year marks 25 years from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement – it has not delivered the progress it set out to achieve. I was a very young person when that agreement was negotiated. The point of the issue is it still has not delivered on a bill of rights for all the people of the north. It has not delivered democratic rights for Irish nationalists in the north as we can’t vote for representation into an all-Ireland parliament or we can’t even vote for an Irish president. We don’t even have a an Irish passport office in the north. Why, when all the people of Ireland could vote for the GFA as one island we couldn’t vote for all-Ireland marriage equality or a woman’s choice?
It also seems the GFA was renegotiated in 2005 to suit the DUP after all they were extremely opposed to it. The same DUP is now blocking democracy just as the Free State is. Housing is still an issue and it seems some civil rights has not been won. This generation sees homeless people on our streets, drug abuse, sectarianism, racism, homophobia/transphobia and political policing. Is that what the GFA delivered – little reform and less change?
SEÁN ÓG GARLAND