Hurling bricks in the political glass house – By Brian Rowan

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Who would believe in any new power-sharing government here – believe that under its surface it would be any different in terms of the real meaning of partnership?

On this website, a couple of days ago, I described the political glasshouse of this place and the throwing of bricks, never mind stones.

Just look at Twitter – read it with a sick bucket by your side.

This website has made clear its view on the Barry McElduff Kingsmills video – intentional or unintentional, how offensive it was, the understandable anger, the crassness of the video and the view that a three-month suspension from party activity, meant he got off lightly.

Not just Unionists were angry. That extended into the nationalist and republican community.

When people heard Declan Kearney’s interviews on Monday morning there was a widely-held belief that the political career of the West Tyrone MP was over.

Equally crass, has been the  retweeting by unionists of a Kingsmills cartoon – the running blood lines of the dead used as a blunt  instrument to dismiss the Sinn Fein so called ‘red lines’ or demands for equality and respect.

This is what I mean by the throwing of bricks in the political glasshouse – throwing them and smashing and hurting everything and all around.

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford deleted his tweet after being contacted “by a representative of a family member of one of those affected by the Kingsmill massacre”.



He had been urged by others to remove the tweet long before then.

Take all of this out into wider frames.

The notion that a legacy process can be designed by politicians here is frankly nonsense.

They should not be allowed within a million miles of that.

It should not be a local design, but shaped and delivered from outside of us – and from outside the frame of political point scoring.

Back to my opening question.

Who would believe that any new power-sharing government here would be meaningful and genuine?

Another round of talks is being planned.

The same people in the same rooms discussing the same issues that have been talked about and talked around during the past year.

Give us all a break.

The two governments need to work out the next steps.

That farce on the hill has been indulged for far too long.

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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. I’m ashamed to be from NI.

    Our so-called politicians are incapable contributing anything positive to the notion of a shared future in this benighted place. Instead of that, they hurl insults at the with the sole purpose of stoking the fires of hatred and division.

    There is no point in moderate nationalists and the Alliance Party harking on about the GFA or Stormont House. No matter how well intentioned those agreements were they are dead in the water. Resolution of our differences is at least two generations away.

    In the meantime, let us have the least bad option – direct rule – so that we can educate our children and take care of our sick.

    • But Direct rule is completely unacceptable to the majority of Nationalists. A form of DR with Dublin oversight/input or what ever maybe.

      As for the GFA, it can’t be changed (without referendum) as it’s legally binding.

  2. Brian, I entirely understand your frustration, but do you really think that the British and Irish Governments can resolve the situation over the heads of the elected representatives? I agree that there are fundamental questions being asked across the world now about the whole idea of liberal democracy, but I see few alternatives being seriously discussed, especially in the West. In the same way, no outsider is going to be able to address the issues of the past without the engagement of the people who live here, and they have the same attitudes as those they elect, otherwise others would be elected. What is necessary is not some new set of procedures, but fundamental cultural change. To this extent John Hume was mistaken to imply that in the long run the European Project could prosper with no cultural changes for the French, the Germans, and everyone else. There do have to be cultural changes in Ireland, North and South. We are currently in a period of withdrawal in this accordion-like process of dealing with the disturbed historic relationships between our various communities, and many of the lessons we learnt are being forgotten, for the moment. Twenty years on, getting people back to exploring those questions is what we need to do, and can do. Political fixes and outsourcing our own responsibilities to others who neither know nor care, will not build a peaceful, stable and responsible society.

    • Hi John – Who would have confidence in any power-sharing government established at this time? Stormont is a ghost house – a place with no purpose. On legacy, I think we need a Patten-type approach – an outside team that consults here and reports its recommendations on a take it or leave it basis. A report to the governments – not the parties. We also need to address the question of amnesty. Let’s stop pretending we have a Stormont House Agreement.

      • Brian, I do not suggest that a power-sharing government is possible at this point. However nor are any of the other ‘solutions’ suggested. If outsiders produce a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal, what will happen ? It will be left. The two Governments are not able to force the people of Northern Ireland to agree to get on together. However they can stop playing make-believe and subsidising intransigence. The British Government remains the sovereign Government. The Irish Government is living in a make-believe world if it thinks that simply objecting to Direct Rule solves any problems, and that the result of their objections will be joint authority. This is not the British Government that will take that line. Maybe they are waiting for a Corbyn Government? The question of amnesty could have been addressed years ago, but Blair buckled under the SF refusal to accept that amnesty because it also meant amnesty for British soldiers and policemen. As you will recall the legislation had actually been published and was withdrawn – stupid behaviour. It should have been passed at the time. The Peace Process is over and now the political process of working the system is the only game in town. Endlessly pulling in people from outside to produce unacceptable proposals that will never be worked by the people who actually live here is worse than a waste of time because it pretends there is an alternative to people facing the realities here. SF brought down devolution. The only ways forward are a restoration in some form by agreement; an election;, or Direct Rule, with the Irish Government making suggestions that may or may not be accepted. This is the reality of the way forward.

        • Hi John – I know that you were not suggesting a restoration of power sharing is possible at this point. On another issue, outside help, Patten was not ignored. The reforms began. The leadership of then Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan was key to all of that. So, a similar outside approach on legacy may not be a waste of time. I mentioned leadership. Perhaps this is what is missing in our politics at this time. We’ll have plenty to talk about when we next have coffee.

  3. Unfortunately you cannot force people reconcile their differences, or to come to terms with their loss, hurt, or rage. Given that we as a society have not truly ended the troubles, given that we still offend and assault each other, we have to consider is now really the time to deal with a legacy process? I would like to have seen the local assembly create a annual day of reflection on the Troubles – something like a Poppy Day, or 11/11/11/11 minute if you will. Of course they’re not interested unless they can debate what flags should be flown during it. The extreme parties have no interest in promoting moderation.

  4. The political class here is entirely delusional & mad after years of screaming at each other.
    But let’s not become as mad as they are by believing the the British government want to see politics functioning in a rational & competent manner here.
    Mutual loathing, madness & delusion is the outcome the British have been working to achieve for years.
    As long as we’re screaming at the moon we’re not coming together to demand a full inquiry into the past. As Brian Rowan knows better than most, an enquiry into the past is what the British wish to avoid at all costs because if one were held their dirty war aka ‘collusion’ would be exposed & the whole edifice of British self-righteousness would come tumbling down.
    Better to keep the natives tearing at each other. They do it so well.

  5. The biggest single mistake since the GFA, was the lack of policy and legislation to end sectarianism.

    For example, why was it not included in the hate laws that we’re introduced?

    Answers on a postcard.

  6. Brian,
    A thoughtful piece as always although I disagree with the opinion that

    “The notion that a legacy process can be designed by politicians here is frankly nonsense.
    They should not be allowed within a million miles of that.
    It should not be a local design, but shaped and delivered from outside of us” although any process would require international oversight and input to ensure a delivery which would endure.

    In fact processes have been already agreed in both the Good Friday AND Stormont House papers. The issue, as I see it, has been the failure to deliver.
    A system cannot be imposed without the buy-in of ALL ex-combatant groups, and without their buy-in who will actually source and deliver the truth and other systems?

    I refer you to my previous article on this site and I stick by it, we need to change the language of conflict to the language of conflict resolution and stop avoiding the hard conversations by shouting the odds rather than actually holding to account.

    Kingsmills was not ‘an atrocity’, it was 10 atrocities, just as Bloody Sunday was 14 atrocities etc….
    The loss felt by families and friends differs not one iota no matter what the circumstance of the death or identity of the deceased.

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