‘SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR – how much later?’ – by Brian Rowan

We were told that the election – now just a few weeks away – would be both brutal and bruising.
It is certainly living up to that characterisation; this the manifestation of a very public breakdown in the political relationship between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The fallout over the RHI debacle is but part of the story; other word battles have begun over an Irish language Act and a legacy process.

DUP leader Arlene Foster describes them as part of an Adams wish list, likening the Louth TD and his party to a crocodile that if fed will come back for more.

“It’s not the way the Democratic Unionist Party does business,” Mrs Foster said.

The tone was terse – the Adams response jokingly dismissive as he replied: “See you later alligator.”

That humorous, flippant response should not be mistaken.

We are not watching the scripting of some movie with the Dail politician cast in the role of ‘Crocodile Dundalk’, but rather the reading of lines describing a deepening political crisis.

Adams is not asking for new agreements. The demand is for the implementation of old agreements.

To go back to his throw away comment, see you later alligator, the question is: How much later?
How long will it take to fix what is broken? Can it be fixed? 

The war of words is making all of that more difficult.

Unless Foster and Adams can make a post-election agreement, there will be no return to government, no First Minister and Deputy First Minister, no Executive.

Politics in “suspended animation” was how one insider described it.

The Foster commentary on Monday brought with it the headline: DUP will never agree to Irish Language Act. 
Listen also to the political battles over the past – the wars over investigations and the rewriting of history.

Then listen to other thinking on the legacy issue to emerge in a panel conversation broadcast on Monday by UTV’s View From Stormont; The thinking of former IRA hunger striker and prisoner Leo Green that there should be no more conflict-related jail sentences – “not republicans, not loyalists, not British Army, not members of the RUC/UDR”.

In other words, investigations that would search for truth but would not end with convictions.

Listen to the loyalist Winston Irvine make the argument for “all the major players” to be included.

“The mandate for loyalism, in my view, is that they can bring information to the table,” he said.

Listen also to how academics Louise Mallinder, Kieran McEvoy and Anna Bryson – all equipped with international learning – can work their way through this subject in a much calmer, measured and thinking way than some of those in politics and governments.

“It is about much more than a timeline and a string of facts,” Dr Anna Bryson told me. “It is about getting to causation and responsibility and to the broader context that underpins all of that…Certainly getting to the why and looking at the context and motivation, that is the much more challenging work.”

In other words, the past is not just about what happened.
It is about why it happened, this the excavation and exploration that many fear.

Politicians and governments have had a decade to deliver a legacy process and have failed.

Will James Brokenshire in the role of talks chair help or hinder a post-election effort to make things better? 

Other thinking should now be heard.

Can politics begin to work again after this election – after the bruising and brutal battles of recent times?

Only if something changes. Only if other help and advice are taken. Only in a working arrangement of proper partnership.

Crocodiles and alligators – perhaps even dinosaurs. 

None of that works.

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