We all love a simple story, particularly if its sad ending brings about long-term good. The most recent example was the untimely death of Lyra McKee, shot dead apparently by a dissident republican. There can be few who don’t grieve the loss of such a young life; but when we say that from her death will come harmonious political relationships and a vigorous, working Stormont, we try to force life follow into the symmetry of art, and art often simply won’t bend to our efforts.
The core problems at work in the north of Ireland will not be resolved by the brutal death of Lyra. During the Troubles we used to talk about ‘the politics of the last atrocity’. The Peace People sprang out of the deaths of three young children in 1976, when a car containing an IRA man shot dead by the British army went out of control and killed all three . Months later their grief-sticken mother took her own life. The horror of that fateful day made hundred, thousands of people campaign for an end to the violence. Their efforts were in vin.
The factors that divide the main parties in Stormont will not be resolved because of the horror felt by just about everyone at Lyra McKee’s death. The division will be resolved when the DUP take seriously the core notion of parity of esteem. We’ve been waiting for that somewhere between ten and twenty years for that to happen. It hasn’t happened yet.
The DUP is now on a mission to persuade the public that they are – always have been – a tolerant and agreeable party. Jeffrey Donaldson told us only the other day that he had no objections to the Irish language and Arlene Foster has said something similar. But neither has agreed to an Irish language act or to the thorough investigation, no ifs or buts, of the many Legacy cases. And then there’s the RHI thing.
Lyra McKee’s sdeath won’t lead to a new dawn of respect and reconciliation. Neither will the DUP’s words, full of softness but empty of meaning. More and more nationalists and republicans are convinced the Stormont experiment has been tested to destruction point. Like it or lament it, I suspect it’s goodbye to all that.