Are the DUP glad that Ian Paisley took off the gloves, put on his boots and kicked his erstwhile acolytes Robinson and Dodds all over the place, wife Eileen following up with a few thumps of the rolling pin? The reasonable answer would be of course not, the DUP may have its kinky corners but masochism is hardly one of them. But think for a minute: what did Paisleygate mask from our view over the past week or more? That’s right – the Haass document. Half-forgotten Haass, hadn’t you?
But it’s still there and it still needs resolving. The CBI chairman Colin Walsh has urged political leaders to put the future of the economy and people here first : “The business community is keen to see our political leaders focus on building a better future and creating more opportunities and jobs for our young people. In that vein, we strongly urge our political leaders to make further progress today and over the coming weeks on these issues.”
President Michael D Higgins has weighed in with similar sentiments: “I applaud these painstaking efforts. I welcome this achievement and hope that the political leaders in Northern Ireland will together find it possible to make further progress on these issues in the coming weeks and months.”
Governments, churches, trade unions and student bodies have all added their voices to the need to resolve things. What none of them has done is identify where the problem lies. Note the wording of the CBI chairman: ‘We strongly urge our political leaders to make further progress’. Note President Higgins’s words: ‘I …hope that the political leaders in Northern Ireland will find it possible to make further progress’. So the blockage then is caused by ‘political leaders’.
How pleasingly vague, when we know that the blockages is not caused by political leaders but by some political leaders. The leaders of Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance have made it diamond-clear that they are ready to go with the document produced by Haass after six months of negotiation and renegotiation. The leaders of the DUP and the UUP have made it clear that they will not go forward with the document produced after six months of negotiation and renegotiation. Having sent Haass back seven times, having indicated in the case of Mike Nesbitt that the deal was as good as done, unionist politicians have said they will not accept the product of drawn-out negotations.
Why is it that people like the CBI chairman and the Irish president don’t point to this fact? Because they believe they look better if they talk about ‘political leaders’. It’s not unionist politicians’ fault, it’s all politicians’ fault. That way you sound even-handed, balanced, not kicking with either foot.
You also look lily-livered and prevaricating. The world and his mother knows that unionist politicians are what stand between us and a historic breakthrough in relations between people here. To chicken out of saying as much is not to be even-handed, it’s to be half-assed and unhelpful. If we haven’t the courage to point to the source of the problem, we’re highly unlikely to solve it.