Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Impasse that is Northern Ireland

Until Northern Ireland reaches a state of complete devolution there will be no resolution of the problems which are a legacy of the arbitrary division of the south of Ireland from the north. Ulster is an integral part of Ireland. The people, whether or not their sympathies lie with the Republicans or the Unionists, regard themselves as Irish. It is only a matter of time before the island of Ireland is united.

Yet, there is still a way to go, and the situation is bedeviled by the continued, yet archaic, holding of parades, glorifying the battles which were fought between the Catholics and the Orangemen, and in particular the Battle of the Boyne. It is time that the parades (of this sort) were outlawed as they serve to keep open the wounds of the past, and keep alive the memories which are better forgotten.

The public needs reassurance that when unification is achieved all interests are represented, political, religious and secular, and treated equally and fairly and that no discrimination whatsoever will be tolerated. Partition never worked, wherever it was applied in the world, but has always created conflict or has led to the division of peoples who have a common ethnicity, with the resulted tensions which have ensued.


Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland correspondent

The latest Northern Ireland political negotiations are now the longest sustained period of talks since the peace process began.

In the past 15 years, the parties have had plenty of long days and late nights - but never as many in one week as at Hillsborough Castle in recent days. The discussions began on Monday afternoon and by mid-evening on Friday they were still dragging on. One night, they finished at 0400 GMT; another night at 0530 GMT.

Even in the week before the ground-breaking Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there were not quite as many near-dawn talk sessions. More sleep was also had at the other 'hot house' venues over the years - from Leeds Castle in Kent, to Downing Street, to Stormont's Castle Buildings, to St Andrews in Scotland, to Weston Park in the Shropshire countryside. Hillsborough Castle has beaten them all when it comes to sleepless nights.

The negotiations to save the Stormont Assembly are not just a test of the peace process - they are fast becoming an endurance test.

The Situation

Northern Ireland is a land of contradictions, in its land, its people, and its politics. Its story is as fascinating, as it is tragic; as intellectually compelling, as it is violent; and as complicated as it is simple. For centuries, England has governed the people of Northern Ireland and has created and perpetuated the social conditions fueling conflict and violence that have plagued the province for 30 years, or 300 years, depending on when you start counting. It’s a beautiful, pastoral, land with 40 shades of green, beneath a dark cloud of enduring anger, sadness and suffering.

"The Troubles" in Northern Ireland really began when the British granted independence to the 26 of 32 counties in 1920 and partitioned the island, dividing the Irish people and imposing a different British identity on the North. In the decades following partition, the Irish people might have adapted and accepted the situation, but the governing class exploited and discriminated against the Irish minority, establishing an oppressive state and denying basic rights.

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