Fundamental to the recent unrest in Northern Ireland, and indeed the recent census results, is something I quoted here last week: we are all minorities now.
It is an essential point. Even rounded up, no religious denomination has a majority, and no national affiliation has a majority in contemporary Northern Ireland. We are a fundamentally diverse and pluralist society. This is important – if a communal politician speaks only to a single bloc, they are speaking to and on behalf of a minority.
We in fact need political leaders who speak for the bulk of society, not a minority interest. We need political leaders who have some capacity to think and feel for Northern Ireland as a whole, not for one particular minority segment. Otherwise they will continue to speak across each other, continue to excuse and even encourage outrageous (and even law-breaking) behaviour, and… innocent workers will continue to suffer, the hospitality trade will collapse, investment jobs will be withdrawn, tourism will decline to nothing, professionals will leave – in other words, our economy will inevitably be destroyed.
And ask yourself this: when is the last time you saw peace and stability in the context of a destroyed economy? Let us be quite clear about that.
So let us then be quite clear about this: An Assembly which does not address good relations/CSI/Shared Future (or whatever you want to call it) should cease to exist – because if it cannot address these issues, it will destroy our economy.
Too much effort is being put into the “institutions”, and too little into their purpose.
What is needed is a comprehensive CSI strategy – not the backward nonsense OFMDFM has concocted – which directly takes on the tough issues: flags, yes, but also parading, the past, and recognition of “every space a shared space”. Only by a comprehensive agreement (let’s call it that, for it will be no easier than 1998 or 2006) from talks incorporating all of these can we move on.
Without a CSI strategy (indeed a CSI Agreement) taking on the tough stuff, the above applies – no economy, no society, no point in our kids staying here. It’s that important. It must happen now.