Sunday, March 9, 2008
Good Guys Finish Last - Lessons from the Irish
The retirement of Ian Paisley as Northern Ireland’s First Minister last week brought forth a series of homilies in praise of Dr. No and his amazing political journey. From hardline Unionist rejectionist to the sharing of power with republican Sinn Fein, his is, to be sure, an extraordinary story. But whether it should be held up, either by the misty-eyed or the more devious, as proof positive that “good things come to those who wait” – in this case to those who truly sought an end to persecution and division in Northern Ireland – received a proper slap round the cheeks by Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian newspaper.
Jenkins’s argument is simple enough. It is, in essence, that the real visionaries, like moderate Nationalist John Hume, and the real risk-takers, like moderate Unionist David Trimble, were smashed by the extremists – Paisley’s DUP and Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein – and that they were aided and abetted in this by the political establishments in London and Dublin.
Here’s David Trimble, asked for his thoughts on Paisley by the Irish Times this weekend: “One thing we can be sure of is that without Ian Paisley, there would have been a political settlement in Northern Ireland a generation earlier. And if Tony Blair had kept his promises to me at the time of the Good Friday Agreement [in 1998], Paisley’s political demise would have come a decade ago.”
And with that demise, presumably, peace.
Anyway… what do you think? Does conflict resolution mean talking to everyone, including the extremists, in an effort to bring them into the fold? Is that the simple truth of how lasting progress is made? Or is it a fatal compromise to speak to the hardliners ... with the price being paid by those seeking to build bridges?
ABOUT THIS BLOGNews and observations on the threats to international security and the challenges posed by terrorism to societies around the world. From breaking news to background stories, from serious analysis to casual asides, if we think it's interesting we'll post it here.