Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

A shared future the way to go

Proposals: Richard Haass
Proposals: Richard Haass

'Who is in charge of the clattering train' is the opening line to a famous poem.

It was often cited by Winston Churchill in the build-up to the Second World War.

It struck me that our so-called "peace process" is a bit like that clattering train.

Take the Haass talks: party leaders saying "We're 80%-90% there", then the whole process falls apart.

Post-Haass, all the parties need to reassess where they are on their own peace process train.

Is Sinn Fein happy with progress towards their vision of a united Ireland?

Are they any closer to getting a majority if a border referendum was held?

Sinn Fein seem to think that getting a simple majority will suffice. But, based on recent polling, getting a pro-united Ireland majority seems unlikely.

Unionists thought the same regarding Northern Ireland; as long as they had a majority, they could rule without consulting the minority.

Unionists don't seem to understand that the demographics of Northern Ireland are changing. To make Northern Ireland work, it has to be shared.

It's also interesting how the pro-Union side in the Scottish referendum debate are making the same mistake.

They think that, if they get a majority in the September referendum, that will be the end of the argument.

However, say they win 60%-40%. What do they expect the 40% to do? Give up their aspiration to an independent Scotland?

It would help if the pro-Union camp asked themselves why it is that a substantial number of their fellow citizens want an independent Scotland.

But back to my literary mood: 'Who is in charge of the clattering train/The axles creak and the couplings strain/For the pace is hot and the points are near/And the sleepers have deadened the driver's ear/And signals flash through the night in vain/For it is death that's in charge of the clattering train.'

Maybe it's even more frightening; maybe our local politicians are in charge.

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