How Stormont fiddles while cars and homes burn
This paper is this week spearheading a debate about how much longer Northern Ireland will continue to be dominated by Orange/Green politics. When will we ever be able to rise above our tribalism?
An honest answer might be — not until we actually confront it.
There are two realities in Northern Ireland. There is the reality of the salons of political discourse where the chattering classes discuss the need, particularly in these recessionary times, to address the pressing bread and low-fat spread issues of the day.
Then there’s the reality on the streets. In working class areas right across Northern Ireland people continue to live in self-imposed segregation. If anything the division is getting worse.
Derry, our second city, is almost entirely devoid of Protestants. Many towns are overwhelmingly Protestant or overwhelming Catholic. Even in those cities and towns which overall could be described as mixed the two communities, particularly in poorer areas, occupy entirely separate territories.
The peace process has not addressed this reality. Stormont fiddles while on the interface homes and cars still burn, the wire grids are still needed as defence against the next street’s missiles and another generation organises nightly sectarian clashes on Bebo.
Every so often another spate of attacks hits the headlines. Then it’s back to our generally acceptable level of violence. Until our leaders confront this reality — and attempt to do something to address it — we are caught in tribal time-warp.
And all those fine words about the need to prioritise bread and butter issues will count for nothing. With the economic cutbacks our politicians say we need to wake up and smell the coffee.
They still need to wake up and smell the petrol bombs.