"Dazzle them with brilliance or blind them with bulls**t". That’s how one wit summed up his essay writing options, in a piece of graffiti I once read on a desk in Queen’s University library.
It’s a phrase which springs to mind too after the Executive parties’ doomed attempt to reach an agreement on parades, flags and ‘the past’.
The failure of the Haass process and the tedious, predictable theatre of all night talks which the politicians indulged in on New Year’s Eve, illustrate perfectly how the current parties are failing people in Northern Ireland.
It was embarrassing that Dr Haass had to be called in to sort out these problems in the first place. It is even more embarrassing that, for all his efforts, an accommodation was impossible to reach. Indeed, it provides stark proof that the current incumbents at Stormont are attempting to provide the illusion of politics which are working, rather than striving constructively to achieve that reality.
They engineered more ‘hot house’ talks only because they’ve failed repeatedly to build a shared society themselves. One of the most lamentable aspects of the Haass process was that the flying of flags soon became its most intractable problem. Yet, it should have been the easiest to sort out if the parties had simply agreed to respect the principle of consent, which was endorsed by referendum on both parts of the island and fly the Union flag on designated days, right across Northern Ireland.
Something good can still come out of the Executive parties’ latest let-down though. This time we didn’t end up with a complicated document, which looks like progress, but actually only covers up how ineffective politics here has become. As we embark on 2014 and yet another year of conflict at Stormont, deadlock on important issues and failure to address people’s most pressing concerns, we can all collectively say ‘no more’.
The NI Conservatives will be standing at the European and council elections on a promise to represent real politics, which get on with creating jobs, addressing social issues and delivering good public services. We want people who believe that politics should be delivering on these, everyday concerns to give us their backing and warn the parties at Stormont that their lack of delivery is no longer acceptable.
The executive parties at Stormont are failing and the best thing that 2014 could bring for Northern Ireland is a new start for politics.