Opportunities and Opportunism

Although in small areas problems may loom large to the people involved viewed from the outside by objective observers they seem inexplicable and minute.
Yet, despite the impact on the world economy of the unacceptable, appalling events in New York and Washington and the impending response (classified as War), sectarian disturbances still occur in North Belfast as do the objections and demonstrations against primary school pupils walking through a ‘Protestant’ housing estate to a Catholic school.
In microcosm I suppose just another interface at which cultures, beliefs and political agendas clash and impact, beyond narrow parameters of conflict, upon the wider society.
And in the Lilliput land of Northern Ireland perhaps it is not surprising that its politicians are constricted in outlook and reluctant to lift their eyes from the stony ground of historical battles, indignities and hatreds generated, sustained and embellished by the happenings of three decades of violence.
They have up to now slithered away from confronting themselves and how inbuilt reflex actions and myopia are perpetuating the old old story, keeping them in mental prison chains when the door of opportunity has been wide open for years, particularly since April 10 1998.
In the pursuit of their own partisan agenda – the avoidance or delay of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement – the game of wrong-footing opponents is being played so that its collapse (which is clearly likely at present if they continue in that mode) can be blamed on their opponents.
Now, on the back of the international campaign against ‘Terrorism’, launched via a coalition of doubtful unanimity, Ulster Unionist David Trimble, an opportunist indeed, seeks to carry a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly in its second coming out of suspension, to exclude Sinn Féin from the Executive.
Also, in a political pincer movement, along with the No No Paisley party, DUPES, he has agreed to nominate members to the Board of the new Police Authority, outflanking Sinn Féin who have refused to cooperate with it. The SDLP had been the first to submit names for consideration.
What is reprehensible is that the Unionists’ continued accent on decommissioning, along with their Assembly manoeuvring, is designed to make it difficult for Sinn Féin to persuade the IRA to actually put weapons irretrievably beyond use when the signs, according to security sources, were that they were on the verge of doing so.
This is blatant cynical opportunism so if they can collapse the Agreement and the vacuum is filled with actions of violence again, they will invoke the War against Terrorism argument to the UK government, hoping to split them from the Irish government on the issue.
Sinn Féin on the other hand has given a ‘hostage to fortune’ and another stick to the Unionist camp to beat them with by inviting political representatives of the Basque separatists to their annual conference, highly controversial in the present political climate.
This opportunism by Trimble places the work of many years in jeopardy and is a disgraceful example of myopic, small minded, self centred people conditioned by their desire to maintain their own position and that of their party rather than the true interests of the Six Counties and its people as a whole.
What we require in this Lilliputian conflict (which end of the egg was to be cut was the issue in Swift’s story) is a Gulliver to step in and bring the pigmy politicians to their senses.
So far the present Secretary of State has not measured up for the part and Prime Minister Blair is preoccupied with his role on the world stage. The old saying, “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” (or woman) unfortunately is still just failing to become evident.
Unless a quantum leap is made now the Agreement will be just another piece of paper blowing in the wind of Ireland’s troubled history.

©: Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, Wales, 26 September 2001.

Samuel H. Boyd

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