Real issues concealed by Talks industry in the north

Articles, Political

Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan

The year of 2014 commences with the political class in the north exposed as a laughing stock to any idle international journalist still showing an interest in this place. Terms like ‘dejá-vú’ and ‘groundhog day’ came to mind as we tried to make sense of the surreal society we reside in. Although our divided and unequal society has deep-rooted socio-economic problems it is nonetheless founded on institutional sectarianism that stemmed from the peace process and defines the power-sharing executive at Stormont.

In the political ‘carve-up’ between ‘the orange and green tribes’, not only do the historic causes of the conflict here evade any honest challenge, but the real issues are concealed by the never-ending talks industry. It’s our most successful native industry in the north. The same tiresome rhetoric of reconciliation is propagated as our middle-aged male politicians promise to do their utmost to tackle the ‘disease of sectarianism’, despite their political hegemony depending on the same rotten system!

Even though the sovereign government in Westminster bestow greater executive powers on English city councils, than they award the politicians at Stormont, the self-importance of the political parties and their ‘negotiating teams’ are indulged by an excitable media circus that follows them around in the hunt for every ‘hopeful’ sound bite. It could be argued that the historical record with the Good Friday Agreement 1998; Weston Park 2001; Joint Declaration 2003; Leeds Castle 2004; St Andrews 2006; Hillsborough 2010 and Haas 2013 indicate that our politicians are negotiating addicts who contrive a huge drama every couple of years to remind the community that they don’t need to bother playing an active role in our society.

Furthermore, as with every elite political party negotiation in the world, communities are left outside the door, dispossessed, marginalised and disempowered by

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their ‘representatives’ who better understand ‘the will of the people’ as they speak ‘our own behalf’. The political parties at Stormont are now global experts in this process of disempowerment as well as the political ‘spin’ and management of consent that goes with it which entrenches the status quo. With representative democracy in its worse form, the working-class needn’t do anything apart from stay at home, avoid thinking for themselves, and vote every four years for the tribal leader with the most articulate rhetoric. For more than a generation now, ordinary communities in the six counties have been demobilised by the political classes who are content at widespread apathy, less they face any challenges to their hegemony. Is it a source of surprise, then, that only 38% of the West Belfast community voted in the last election?

Ironically, the latest talks binge came about when political unionism let the ‘genie’ out of the bottle by inciting the loyalist poor against the Alliance party on the flags issue. To add insult to injury, our problems were to be solved by Richard Haas, the uncompromising Zionist hawk from the Bust regime, and Megan O’Suillivan, two budding imperialists who played a central advisory role in the extremist foreign policy that unleashed death and destruction on Iraq and Afghanistan and fostered the deepest problems the world has seen this past 50 years.

The British Government excused themselves from the table this time as they celebrated their official recognition as ‘neutral brokers’ without any responsibilities regarding their colonial legacy in Ireland. They were to praise the two troublesome tribes, and their imperial colleagues for another honest effort on behalf of ‘sustainable peace’. The intransigent ideology of unionism will prevent them from ‘compromising’ on their ‘British identity’ and its associated symbols, badges and flags which reign over our street-names and public buildings. Despite the fact that the proposals enshrine their control of marches, parades, the past and the public displays of British identity in the statelet’s cultural landscape, facts are of little importance when you have a supremacist status to uphold.

In addition, it is interesting that proposals were made to form and resource a range of new state bodies, institutions and commissions to deal with controversial issues such as parades, culture and identity, historical investigations and the contemporary history of this place. A range of ‘high-powered’ bodies, to be self-appointed by middle-aged male politicians, who are undoubtedly far removed from communities who have not the slightest interest in yet another round of futile negotiations. Such deeper levels of bureaucracy will only create even more obstacles in the way of community participation.

What dividend can be felt after many long years of rhetoric, promises and endless talks? This was comprehensively answered by the recent CAJ (Committee for the Administration of Justice) report ‘Mapping the Rollback- the Good Friday Agreement, 15 years on’. This exposed an extensive list of systemic failures regarding the implementation of a whole range of commitments including: legislation on a Bill of Rights and an Irish Language Act; the development of a resourced anti-poverty strategy; the implementation of statutory equality duties and the promise to repeal emergency legislation. It also accounted for the inability to progress equal political participation for women; to provide support for marginalised young people in the communities who bore the biggest brunt of the war; and regression in terms of support services for victims, employment rights for ex-prisoners and the pledge to tackle inequality of the basis of objective need.

The clear lack of progress in the aforementioned issues weren’t discussed because to properly address them would be to challenge the status quo in our sectarian state. Not for the first time, symbolism was prioritised over substance. Fundamental problems such as poverty, unemployment, emigration, and the ferocious assault on the Welfare State were concealed in the unwritten contract between the politicians and its fawning media.

This lack of progress will continue until the state recognises its statutory duty to provide for the active participation and inclusion of those on the downside of power relations. More importantly, however, perhaps the time has come for the community to take ownership of its own future by building and disseminating a new bottom-up politics that is rooted in a participatory democracy that need not depend on the rhetoric of politicians.

Fíor sáinchéisteanna faoi chéilt ag tionscal na gcainteanna ó thuaidh

Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan

Tosaíonn 2014 agus an aicme pholaitiúil ó thuaidh ina cheap magaidh ag cibé tuairisceoir idirnáisiúnta díomhaoin a chuireann suim san áit seo go fóill na laethanta seo. Tagann téarmaí ar nós ‘dejá vú’ agus ‘groundhog day’ chun cinn agus muid ag iarraidh ciall ar bith bhaint ón sochaí osrealaíoch ina mhairimid. Sochaí scoillte, eagothrom le fadhbanna domhain soch-eacnamaíochta ach atá buanaithe ag institidiú an tseichteachais a shíolraigh ón phróiseas síochana agus a shainmhíníonn Feidhmeannas Roinnte Cumhachta ag Stormont.

Sa ‘carve-up’ polaitiúil idir an ‘dá thréibh oraiste is glas’, ní amháin nach dtugtar dushlán macánta do chúiseanna stairiúla na coimhlinte anseo, ach cuirtear na fíorshainchéisteanna faoi chéilt ag tionscal síoraí na gcainteanna. An tionscal dúchasach is rathúla atá againn ó thuaidh. Craobhscaoiltear sean-reitric leadranach an athmhuintearís, agus polaiteoirí mean-aosta fireann ag geallúint go ndeanfaidh siad a sheacht ndícheall gabháil i ngléic le ‘galar an tseicteachais’, ainneoin go bhfuil smacht pholatiúil s’acu spleách ar an chóras suarach céanna!

Bíodh is go mbronnann an Rialtas cheannasach ag Westminster níos mó cumhachta feidhmí ar chomhairlí cathrach Shasana, ná mar a thugann siad do pholaiteoirí Stormont, ardaíteár féinthabhacht na bpairtithe polaitiúla agus a gcuid ‘foirne idirbheartaíochta’ leis an circus Meáin chumarsáide a leanann thart iad ag santú gach blúirín ‘dochais’ uathu. D’fhéadfá a ra go léiríonn an taifead staire le Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta 1998; Weston Park 2001; Joint Declaration 2003; Leeds

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Castle 2004; Cill Rímhínn 2006: Hillsborough 2010 agus Hass 2013 gur andúiligh idirbheartaíochta atá sna polaiteoirí s’againn a chothaíonn drama mór gach cupla bliain chun cur i gcuimhe don Phobal nach gá daofa ról gníomhach a imirt i dtodhchaí s’acu féin.

Go deimhin, le gach idirbheartaíocht polaitíochta pháirtí scothaicme aon áit ar an domhan, fágtar na pobail taobh amuigh den doras, agus iad díshealbhaithe, imeallaithe agus díchumhachtaithe ag na ‘hionadaithe’ s’acu a thuigeann ‘toil an phobail’ agus a labhraíonn ‘ar ár son’. Is saineolaithe domhanda anois iad páirtithe polaitiúla Stormont sa phróiseas díchumhachtaithe seo chomh maith leis an ‘spin’ polaitiúil agus bainistiú comhthola a thagann leis chun an status quo a chaomhnú. Le córas daonlathais ionadaíoch den chuid is measa, ní ga don chosmhuintir aon rud a dhéanamh seachas fanacht sa teach, gan bacadh le bheith ag smaoineamh agus vóta a chaitheamh gach ceithre bliana ar son an cheannaire tréibhe leis an reitric is deisbhéalaí! Le glún iomlán anois, tá cosmhuintir na sé contae díshlogtha ag na haicmí polaitiúla atá sásta le dímhothú forleathan, a fhad nach gcuirtear aon dúshlán rompu. An ábhar iontais é, mar sin, nár chaith ach 38% de mhuintir Iarthar Bhéal Feirste vóta sa toghchán deireanach?

Ar ámharaí an tsaoil, spreagadh an ragús cainteanna is déanaí nuair a scaoil aontachtachas polaitiúil an ‘genie’ ón bhuideál is iad ag gríosadh na mbochtán dílseach in aghaidh páirtí an Chomhaontais mar gheall ar cheist na mbratacha. Mar ábhar grinn, cuireadh Richard Hass ionann chugainn, seabhac Síónach neamthrócaireach i rith réimeas George Bush, agus Megan O’Suillivan, beirt impiriúlach a d’imir ról lárnach comhairle sa pholasaí eachtrach aintoisceach a rinne léirscrios ar an Iaráic agus san Afganastáin agus a chruthaigh na fadhbanna domhanda is doimhne le 50 bliain anuas, chun fadhbanna s’againne a réiteach.

Ní raibh Rialtas na Breataine ag an tábla an iarraidh seo agus iad ag ceiliúradh an aitheantais oifigiúil anois mar bhróicéirí neodracha, gan aon fhreagrachtaí maidir le hoidhreacht choilíneach s’acu in Éirinn. Bheadh siad ábalta an dá thréibh trioblóideacha a mholadh, agus a gcuid comhghleacaithe impiriúla, as iarracht mhacánta eile a dhéanamh ar son na ‘síochána inmharthana’. Ní ligfidh idé-eolaíocht dígeanta an aontachtachtais dóibh aon ‘comhréiteach’ a dhéanamh ar an ‘fhéiniúlacht Bhriotanach’ agus a gcuid siombailí, suaitheantas agus bratacha atá in uachtar sna sráidainmneacha, foirgnimh phoiblí. Ainneoin gur buanaíodh na moltaí smacht iomlán s’acu ar mháirseálacha, paráideanna, an t-am a chuaigh thart, agus taispeántais phoiblí na féiniúlachta Briotanaí ar thírdhreach chultúrtha an stáitín, níl fíricí tábhachtach agus stádas uachtarach le caomhnú agat.

Le cois, tá sé suimiúil go dtáinig moltaí chun roinnt eagraíochtaí stáit, institúidí, agus coimisiúin stáit úra a bhunú agus a mhaoirsiú le plé le hábhár conspóide ar nós paráideanna, féiniúlacht agus cultúir, fiosrúcháin stairiúil, agus stair chomhaimseartha na háite seo. Forais úra ardchumhachta a bheas féincheaptha ag polaitieoirí meánaosta fireanna, atá lonnaithe i bhfad ar shiúl ón chosmhuintir nach gcuireann suim dá laghad i mbabhta idirbheartaíochta eile gan toradh. Tuilleadh maorlathas agus constaicí roimh rannpháirtíocht an phobail.

Cén díbhinn mar sin atá le mothú againn i ndiaidh blianta fada de reitric, geallúintí agus cainteanna leanúnacha? Tugadh freagra cuimsitheach air seo sa tuairisc chuimsitheach a chuir CAJ (Committee for the Administration of Justice) amach ar na mallaibh ‘Mapping the Rollback- the Good Friday Agreement, 15 years on’. Léiríodh liosta fada de theip chórasach maidir le cur i gcrích an illomad coimitmintí maidir le ceisteanna mórchúiseacha ar nós; reachtaíocht ar Bhille na gCeart agus Acht na Gaeilge; straitéis frithbhochtanais a chur chun cinn; cur i gcrích na ndualgaisí reachtúla comhionannais; agus geallúint go ndéantar dlíthe éigeandála a aisghairm. Tugadh cuntas fosta ar an neamart a rinneadh maidir le rannpháirtíocht chothrom agus iomlán a thabhairt do mhná sa pholaitíocht; tacaíocht a léiriú do dhaoine óga ar an imeall ó

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na ceantair is mó a d’fhulaing i rith an chogaidh; an culú maidir le seirbhísí d’íobartaigh, cearta fostaíochta d’iarchimí agus an gheallúint chun dul i ngleic le héagothroime ar bhunús riachtanais oibiachtúil.

Níor pléadh an easpa dul chun cinn ar na ceisteanna thuasluaite mar go gcuirfidh siad dúshlán roimh chumhacht an status quo sa staitín seicteach seo s’againne. Mar b’iondúil, ghlac siombalachas tús áite roimh substaint. Déantar neamhaird ar fhadhbanna ar nós bochtanais, dífhostaíochta, imirce, agus na n-ionsaithe fiochmhara ar an stát leasa shóisialaigh agus iad i bhfolach sa chomhaontú neamhscríofa idir polaiteoirí agus na meáin chumarsáide lútáile.

Ní bhogfar chun cinn go dtí go n-aithnítear go bhfuil dualgas ar an stát rannpháirteachas gníomhach iad siúd ar an taobh íochtar de na gaolta cumhachta a aithint agus a chuimsiú. Níos tábhachtaí, ní mór don phobal seilbh a ghlacadh ar chinniúint s’againne féin, agus polaitíocht úr a chraobhscaoileadh ón bhun aníos atá fréamhaithe i ndaonlathas rannpháirteach nach bhfuil ag brath ar reitric an pholaiteora.

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