So, it’s a new year and it's also an election year in both jurisdictions of this little island. Politicians on both sides of the border have their sights set on these upcoming elections: and that does not just mean Sinn Fein, who will be contesting both.
New elections bring new promises and commitments however the electorate is still waiting on the old promises to be fulfilled. ‘Dealing with the Past’ is one such commitment that has yet to be addressed. The latest failed attempt, from our political representatives, to tackle this toxic legacy, was the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’. Some have labelled this as the ‘False Start’ but a more apt characterisation could be that we were served up a ‘Fresh Turd’. Now that we have had time to digest this agreement our first impressions have not been improved upon: we are still left with a bad taste in the mouth.
Previous efforts to address the past met a similar fate. Last minute spanners were strategically thrown into the new machinery that was designed to process the toxic sludge of conflict, and its effluence. This time that spanner is called ‘National Security’. We are told that to reveal the intricacies of the ‘Dirty War’ would threaten the security of the State and certain individuals. Whereas the real truth is that it is the integrity and legitimacy of the State which would be tarnished. It is to the benevolent State that we look for protection. To reveal otherwise, that the State was in virtual control of many of the violent protagonists, would strip away the longstanding tenet that Her Majesty’s Government was a neutral referee between two warring tribes. As many of us already know, and sing in unison, “The referee’s a W**ker”.
On a more sympathetic note, it is unfair to put all of the blame at the door of our own local elected politicians, and those MPs across the water, for that matter. It is evident that a democratic mandate is not strong enough to bring about any real change. Political commentator Brian Feeney has often claimed that even the Secretary of State is politically impotent; that the big decisions ‘are above her pay grade’. I would put it that the big decisions are above the ‘pay grade’ of all elected politicians, even Prime Ministers. The real power to deal with the past lies with those who don’t need to concern themselves with trivial matters such as 'pay grades'. The Establishment will never need to worry about the ‘Dirty War’ coming up through their sewers. Their plumbers in MI5 and MI6 are on top of everything: a convenient spanner here and a bung over there will clog up the machinery for many years to come.
So what are we left with over here in the Big House on the Hill? The Fresh Start Redux is coming down the line, we are told. More negotiations. What’s the old saying…you can’t polish a turd? Next week will see the unveiling of our new marriage of convenience between the DUP and Sinn Fein. First we had the jovial ‘Chuckle Brothers’, then came the incompatible ‘Step-brothers’, and now it’s Martin and Arlene. One possible portmanteau for this relationship springs to mind: Marlene (why do I hear Boycie from Only Fools and Horses in my head?). Will they hit it off or will their honeymoon be stopped short by the oft poisonous election fever?
Time will tell but I suspect that ‘whataboutery’, mutual resentment, and a good dose of ‘othering’ will resurface well before the ink has dried on the Wedding Register. Maybe if they followed the wisdom of Marlene Dietrich herself who held that “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast” would we see the oFMdFM work in partnership, as it is supposed to; for the betterment for all of us in this part of the world.