Belfast Telegraph

In our changing world some things always stay the same

By Sharon Owens

It's an interesting time for politics and politicians. Osama bin Laden may be no more, but already the experts are saying the trouble is not over. The central issue in the Middle East remains: the dream of an independent Palestinian state.

And until that happens, so they say, global terrorism will continue unabated. Many of us ordinary non-experts now doubt even this latest wisdom. Perhaps nothing less than a new Islamic World Order is the goal of the terrorists? And what can we do to help ordinary Arabs campaigning for basic human rights amid a maelstrom of feared dictatorships, foreign bombardments and religious fundamentalists?

US President Obama may well gain a second term in office because of the secret raid on bin Laden's Pakistan hideaway but, really, was the War on Terror worth such a massive debt, estimated in the trillions, to the USA economy?

Humanitarians might argue that the US would have been wiser to focus on the help it already gives to the world's poor. Certainly it would have cost them a lot less than the War on Terror.

If it was bin Laden's aim to bankrupt the United States, well, he didn't do too badly. Why can nobody stop the waste, the wars, and the unfairness of it all? Will ordinary Arabs ever be free to live their lives, with freedom of expression, and freedom from fear?

Closer to home, the DUP have increased their percentage of seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and retained the position of First Minister.

I knew it would happen the moment the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr was announced, and indeed the DUP leader Mr Peter Robinson was said to have dedicated his party's great results to the memory of Ronan Kerr. A few years ago I might have thought this was the DUP icon being slightly insensitive; now I simply accept that republican dissidents handed the DUP their best-ever election win on a plate.

Some suggested Peter Robinson should have resigned when his wife Iris went through a difficult period in her life last January. Well, those people stand humbly corrected. Robinson, and indeed Martin McGuinness, show no signs of slowing down.

They have been fixtures on our political landscape for so long now they feel as familiar as family. Some things never change, possibly because we don't want them to.

The SNP have triumphed in Scotland, with whispers of a referendum on Scottish independence being only a few short years away. Certain English commentators have said they'll not miss having to pay the Scots a massive subsidy each year, if and when the United Kingdom begins to break up.

I'm not so sure the Scots will vote for full independence, not unless the figures add up, and it is shown that Scotland could support itself financially.

Then again, successive English MPs must have some reason for retaining Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; otherwise they'd have allowed the English a referendum on the Union decades ago.

Maybe they need soldiers from the regions. Maybe they need space for agriculture as England becomes ever more overcrowded. Maybe they think England on its own would look too small on a map of the world.

Maybe they need someone to feel superior to.

A few decades ago I might have thought the Republic of Ireland would have welcomed back the six counties with open arms and much jubilation. Now I'm sure they've not got the time or the money to think about reunification. Word is, the Republic is about to admit it cannot repay recent loans within agreed timescales.

So there we have it. Terrorists around the world are still in business, we are still discussing the pros and cons of the UK plc, the population of the world's poorest countries is still suffering, and many people in the developed world are heavily in debt.

The only happy people these days, according to my favourite magazine, 25 Beautiful Homes, are the investment bankers and the hedge fund managers.

Or at least they look very happy as they proudly show us round their new-build mansions in the Home Counties with every available luxury from hand-crafted beds to bespoke kitchens to "media rooms".

Maybe one day there will only be two tribes left on this little blue planet: billionaire bankers and billionaire terrorists?

The rest of us will be just a distant memory. I say, be kind to yourself, try not to worry: all things are passing.

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