Posted By: November 28, 2014

Briege Gadd. Irish News ( Belfast). Friday, November 28, 2014
SCUNDERED, or disgust coupled with despair, might be a better description of how a
great many of us feel at the moment about the goings-on among our politicians. 

At a time when we know that Northern Ireland is still to experience the worst of the
recession in our public and voluntary services; at a time when we are also faced
implacably by a Treasury fine because we haven't yet started to apply the deep cuts
to welfare spending, it is just appalling to see the leaders in our two main parties
perform like dames in a macabre pantomime, even down to the 'oh no you didn't, oh
yes you did routine'. Except that unlike pantomime, a large portion of the paying
audience, far from joining in, is gazing on in silent disbelief. 

While we have become used to poor and unfunny humour among our politicians, I, like
many others, was shocked at Gregory Campbell's description of his party's response
to Sinn Féin's agenda for the current talks. 

It wasn't the unnecessary, immature crudeness of his words, it was the venom with
which they were spoken. 

And on behalf of a party who in the current talks supposedly signed up to open
mindedness, to listening, to finding common agreement. Had these words been spoken
in any other setting where mediation or negotiation takes place, there is no doubt
that the chairperson of such a forum would have immediately cancelled or postponed
the process, until the true motivation and intent of such a major player had been

While such an approach would be considered basic good practice in any setting, the
inaction of the Secretary of State[TeresaVilliers] is bewildering, not least because
there are other imperatives which place major responsibilities on the Westminster
government. It is worth reminding ourselves yet again of Para (V) of Article 1 of
the Belfast Agreement, an international treaty agreed between the two governments:
"...the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised
with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their
identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for
and equality of civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from
discrimination for all citizens and of parity of esteem and of just and equal
treatment for the identity ethos and aspirations of both communities." 

So the question that I think it is quite legitimate to ask, post DUP conference, and
in the light of the first minister's support for Gregory Campbell, is what the prime
minister, the secretary of state and her ministers will now do to honour their
commitment to the above agreement. 

And as a fellow signatory what will the Dublin government do to ensure, on behalf of
the nationalist people that the British government acts on its responsibilities? 

For years now we have all become used to the verbal negative competitive sparring of
all politicians who, apart from some of their abilities to claim expenses, seem to
be caught in a quagmire of inaction. I suppose hope rather than realism made the
most positive of us hang in there. We know the implications locally and globally of
a failed Stormont government. We took heart from opinion polls highlighting the
majority of the public's wish to see politicians working together for the good of
all in Northern Ireland, because we thought they knew that the alternative with its
potential return to violence was too awful to contemplate. We pretended, maybe
naively, that behind the scenes public enemies might be working together. 

Well, Gregory Campbell's remarks spoken on behalf of the DUP, and one would assume
carefully timed and scripted, blows away the remaining vestiges of hope. 

There are many now who have spent their lives working for reconciliation, putting on
a brave face in the face of politicians' betrayal, who see last weekend's events as
a tipping point. Sinn Féin's wish list is not only particular to that party. It
contains the aspirations also of many non-political people who believed in the
commitment of the British government to parity of esteem and of just and equal
treatment for the identity ethos and aspirations of both communities. Unless this
crisis where we have hit rock bottom jolts the politicians into positive action,
Stormont is doomed and the future looks like direct rule except it won't be. 

It will of course be a form of joint authority. Is this what is really on the DUP's
wish list?