Charles Dickens’s Mr Micawber was the hapless character who stumbled through life, hoping against hope that “something would turn up”. As we near the end of 2014, it looks as though the British and Irish governments, along with our political parties, have done the same. They’ve addressed all the problems and postponed the evil day – but only postponed.
We’ve been ‘given’ £2billion – but most of it is actually lent and will have to be paid back somewhere down the road. We’ve got or will get a Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition – but it won’t be reporting until two years from now. We’re to get a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which will be reporting in five years time. We’re to have an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, set up jointly by the British and Irish governments. Any information it’s given will not be disclosed to law enforcement agencies (where have I heard that before?). But it won’t be reporting until five years after its establishment. The Assembly will have fewer MLAs – just in time for the 2021 election.
You see the pattern? The things that matter have been targeted, Something is being done – but nobody will know if it bore fruit until five years or more. In the meantime, who knows what will turn up? Harold MacMillan knew: ‘Events, dear boy, events’. For a start there definitely will be one election in the coming year (Westminster) but there might be two (the next Assembly is scheduled for 2016 but…) or even three (the Dail). Events like that would toss all the balls in the air. You could conceivably have Martin McGuinness, First Minister of Northern Ireland, meeting with An Taoiseach Gerry Adams before Christmas 2015. Who would have envisaged such an appalling vista ten years ago? Or even five? Events, dear boy, events. The only thing we know about the future is that it won’t be what we expected.