It has been a month or so since I decided to let the dust settle a bit following the Panorama episode which looked at collusion in Belfast. What a month. That ten thousand-man march passed of as a rather damp squib with just over one thousand people taking to the cold streets to moan about the flags one year on. Shops and restaurants still reported massive losses in what was meant to be their busiest weekend, but never worry because that was the only disruption they’ve…oh yes, there’s been two explosions, a couple of bombscares, some shootings at the police and an absolute moron set himself on fire while trying to leave an incendiary bomb in a golf shop.
NEVER FEAR: we’ve flown in an American diplomat to sort it out- good old no-frills, ram-stam fixer, Mr Wolff-wannabe and all-round American good-guy Mr Haass has arrived to conclude the allegedly INTENSE TALKS he started over a month ago. No amount of hyphenated words could be too much to describe this go-getter. So it’s grand. He must know everything about the place. He must really care. He must be talking to our leaders about SOMETHING OTHER THAN FLAGS.
He must…be just like an overpaid marriage counsellor because: a) he doesn’t know everything (or even very much from what I can gather) about the situation (only what he’s been told in American government reports and our party delegates, all of which are usually less than bang-on); b) he doesn’t really care or he wouldn’t be so unabashedly trying to wrap this up in time for turkey on the 25th and c) HE REALLY IS FOCUSSING ON FLAGS FOR A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF TIME. What he is doing is going between the parties in a completely outdated bilateral system which actually reminds me of the proximity talks which worked in the 90s because people had never sat down together. Coming in and pretending that this is the way forward, to me, is just giving credence to the apparently ‘DIFFICULT’ issues facing our politicians who have it so tough- issues like flags.
The DUP have refused his documents on the basis that they will not consider the flying of the Irish tricolour on government and public buildings here. Sinn Fein hope they can make a deal still about the tricolour. Yes, readers, this really is the sack of shite our politicians are discussing with foreign diplomats at a time when unemployment and emigration figures rise among our young people; when the elderly struggle to meet the demands of rising fuel costs; while more people are forced to turn to food banks; while thousands stare blankly at the next two weeks wondering how they’ll cope with Christmas.
Also on the table at Stormont is the foundation of a (note: incoming new buzz word) ‘Fact-gathering Service’ which will compliment a new Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which will apparently be known as the Historical Investigations Team (HIT). I for one think Northern Ireland could do without another government-run HIT-squad, but whatever, that’s just me being flippant. The main thing here is that Jeffrey Donaldson saw fit to clarify this in no uncertain terms (but using so much terminology that he seemed uncertain), that there will be no amnesty for criminals. Fair enough, I think. However, why can’t they tell us what it will entail instead of focussing on what it won’t be like?
I mean, I don’t imagine they’ll be asking David Moyes to take over, state of the job he is doing at my beloved Manchester United, so I wouldn’t expect his name to come up; I also won’t expect them to talk about Jamie Oliver’s mince pies or the latest episode of Family Guy- STOP TELLING US WHO AND WHAT IT WON’T BE AND TELL US WHAT IT WILL BE, WHO WILL RUN IT AND FOR HOW MUCH!? IS THIS REALLY SO DIFFICULT? IS IT AS DIFFICULT AND BEWILDERING AS THE FLAGS PROBLEM?
As I’ve said on numerous occasions, Stormont is a gravy train. If the passengers on the train pretend they are privileged and smarter than the rest of us; that we should all have to walk or get the bus, we play into their hands by believing them. To be clear- when they tell me the flags issue is difficult, I am disappointed but no longer am I surprised. It keeps them in a job and it keeps us weedling out an existence in an economy and infrastructure that is comparable to the rest of Western Europe in the late 1970s. But it’s ok because Arlene Foster was in town today so that must mean it’s safe. Must mean we are fine.
I wonder if she was in town the other night when they evacuated the Cathedral Quarter- I was and I stayed away from bars that I was happily going to spend money in. Everything is not fine, nor is it pandemonium, let me be clear. I don’t think the sky is falling, but I’m sick of this sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality and dressing the country up like a cheap tart for Mr Haass and other ‘dignitaries’ to ogle. Stop telling him our problems, or at least if you are going to tell him the real ones, not these piss-anty made-up ones that actually only come into the thinking on a small but loud minority.
Speaking of which, there is no space for the voice of the majority here- it is politicians, business leaders and the loudest, least informed members of our public that make the news. There is a time when the entertainment value of the like of the ‘no surrender’ granny and her mates dwindles, and dwindled it has for me. Why do these people have a voice that is not only considered but also broadcast when the average hard working civilian here has to put up with the traffic jams, the evacuations, the protesters in the middle of the road and all the other disruption?
The decent people have political thoughts too, probably more developed ones- they just have too much decency and a sense of public service to let their personal politics infringe on the lives of others.
STOP TRYING TO BUILD A TRUTH COMMISSION/PARADES COMMISSION/FACT-GATHERING SERVICE/HISTORICAL INVESTIGATIONS TEAM- GIVE A VOICE TO THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE. The ‘normal’ people here are just as badly represented by current politicians- voter turnout here is a joke, apathy is high. People vote out of habit, I’d even contend that many no longer vote out of desire to see a party in power, more out of a ‘lesser of two evils’ mentality. We need a public space for discussion that isn’t centred and moralised by Stephen ‘I like to wind it, wind it’ Nolan and his typical demographic.
So, I hope we all have a happy Christmas and that the bastards who are trying to wreck the city choke on their indifference, if not a dry piece of the turkey’s brown meat. As for Haass, I hope our leaders can realise he (and the foreign intervention he represents) is not a cure-all for Northern Ireland. Just like kids on Christmas morning, our politicians are going to have to learn to share and play nicely with others. Otherwise, they’ll end up getting coal next year…which might actually be quite handy for them to give to the old people in their constituencies- after all aren’t they the only ones still voting regularly?
Happy Christmas and a Happy 2014.
The Cyanide Christ