I watched this BBC NI interview with John O’Dowd of Sinn Fein & Edwin Poots of the DUP in the wake of the McElduff affair. While the tone was a little different from many such interviews in the past and John O’Dowd’s comments about McElduff and Kingsmill are to be commended, much of the talk from both men was full of the same old political cliches. In fact they both seemed to be reading the same script.
‘priority is to make politics work’ – O’Dowd.‘politics needs to move on’ – Poots.‘move society forward’ – O’Dowd.‘move things forward’ – Poots.
I suspect the marked change in tone, if not substance, is caused by politicians coming to the realisation that the people may finally turn on them.
Only once was a fleeting reference made to ‘access to justice’ (O’Dowd).
The entire focus – as it always is with the BBC – was on getting the politicians back into regular employment. Even Edwin Poots’ career plans were discussed! It’s as if the past never happened in Northern Ireland.
Surely the lesson of the last week has been that unless the issues of the past injustices to victims are dealt with and wounds healed (as far as possible), then there can be no ‘moving forward’, our society will continue to be traumatised and the careers of our politicians will be in constant jeopardy.
It seems to me that this search for ‘agreement’ and ‘moving forward’ without dealing with the past is a ridiculous zero sum game which will repeatedly come unstuck.
But of course that is a deliberate strategy and we know why it is played.
All politicians have in fact a tremendous amount in common. They all seem trapped in a virtual world created by the BBC. The state broadcaster has an incredibly powerful influence on political debate here. They frame the debate, set the agenda and create the language by which issues are addressed. The political parties seem unable to break from the spell the BBC creates. Many people live in TV Land, mouthing cliches not of their own making, but created by the Thought Police. This TV debate was a good example.
In spite of the fact that the latest crisis was created in reference to the murder of ten people by a gang of around a dozen gunmen over forty years ago for which no one has ever been held accountable, there is no discussion on the BBC of addressing this and many other similar miscarriages of justice that burn at the heart of our society. This surely should be the priority. But it is not. The priority seems to be getting the politicians back to work so they can ‘move things forward’. This obsessive desire to ‘move forward’ seems to be a desperate ploy to avoid the past.
Surely we need to reach an understanding of our past and to heal whatever pain we can before ‘moving forward’? If this is true in any personal relationship it is true in a society.
Throughout their ten years at work in Stormont these politicians singularly failed to address the issues of past injustices to victims. The demands of victims for justice were continuously brushed aside. So there is no link between functioning ‘democratic’ institutions and justice for victims.
But all this is how the BBC frame the political discourse in Northern Ireland. The aim being to prevent a huge scandal enveloping their political masters, the British government, for their involvement in murder and mayhem here.
This entire discussion is nothing more than an engineered distraction from the central issue for this society, which is not the reinstating of totally ineffective political institutions and preserving the livelihoods of politicians, but addressing the legacy of miscarriages of justice that continue to poison our society breeding alienation and bitterness.
The public should be demanding that our wounds are dealt with before anything else and not barking like Pavlovian dogs for politicians to get back on board the gravy train.