Dublin Betrays North … Again ?

Posted By: August 02, 2013


Denis Bradley. Irish News ( Belfast). Friday, August 2, 2013
ORPHANED. To be orphaned once is natural. To be orphaned twice might be described as careless. It is the feeling of many who live in the north of Ireland.

It is the feeling of those who have emotionally and intellectually attached their loyalty and their aspirations to the Irish state.

They feel that the family home that was always there, if only occasionally visited, is now empty.

The parents are no longer in residence and the old place is looking neglected and desolate. No place to go on the days when the heart needs to touch and be touched by the familial.

It has happened slowly over a good number of years. Ironically, it began under a Fianna Fail government.

The same people who had invested so much time and energy and reputation into the peace and politics of the north initiated the psychological and even physical withdrawal.

As the violence receded from the streets and the memory, the political strategists decided it was safe and even beneficial to force our politicians away from their dependency on one or either or both governments.

When the economic crisis erupted the north receded even more in prominence and import.

The Irish government was particularly traumatised by the loss of economic sovereignty and the north was relegated far down the priority list.

That distancing and disinterest increased under the coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour.

Those are the stated reasons or excuses or explanations for leaving the nationalist-minded people of the north feeling like orphans.

As one of those who feels orphaned I want to respond – how dare you.

I do not accept the reasons or the excuses. I think they are misplaced, ill-advised and pathetic.

If the rationale behind the excuses were once thought out and pertinent, they have long since lost purpose and credibility.

It has been clear for a number of years that there are legacy issues in the north that are complex and difficult and need the attention of both governments.

It is clear that Taoiseach Enda Kenny was probably surprised and certainly embarrassed on St Patrick’s Day when US president Barack Obama told him he would need to pay a bit more attention to what was happening in the north.

It is embarrassing that Joe Biden, the US vice president, shows more concern and insight into the north that Eamon Gilmore, the Republic’s minister for foreign affairs.

Eamon Gilmore has responsibility for the normal political intercourse with the north and with the British government.

I could count on one hand the number of times he has visited the north since he took on that responsibility.

I cannot remember one thing that he has said that could be considered insightful or memorable.

Between the lines I interpret his current strategy as getting past the G8 summit, the Irish presidency of the European Union, into the autumn and seeing what happens then.

The Northern Ireland Office is generally ‘laissez-faire’ minded and Irish Foreign Affairs shows no inclination, under Gilmore’s leadership, to upset their slumber.

Well, excuse me, but the Anglo Irish Agreement is not something that you pay a bit of attention to on a quiet day.

It is the agreement that underpins the peace in the north and is the context in which divided Irish and British communities, both living in the north, try to find a path into the future.

Enda Kenny has displayed as much political courage and integrity as any Irish taoiseach in my lifetime.

But not on the north. Irish policy on the north might formally reside in foreign affairs but anyone long enough in the tooth knows that it is ultimately the taoiseach’s office that has the final word.

His advisers have kept him away from the issue.

Just the odd visit and the timely statement, enough to spare the blushes and keep the SDLP quiet. Nothing that would comfort and reassure the nationalists of the north that their feelings were understood and in good hands.

Nothing to show that they will be properly represented and included within the strands of governance while they patiently wait and hope for a new Ireland.

On the contrary, Martin McAleese, presumably appointed because of his interest and experience of northern affairs, steps down from the Seanad, a body that had as one of its founding aims to give a voice to the various strands of politics in the north.

Enda has replaced Martin McAleese with one of his own Fine Gael councillors from Co Galway.