Tuesday 26 September 2017

North's Bash Street kids will never wise up to ink a New Year Agreement

Richard Haass will fail to broker a new deal as long as Northern leaders play silly buggers, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

DEJA VU: Richard Haass, along with Meghan O'Sullivan, is attempting to broker a deal on the North’s contentious issues of flags and parades. Photo Paul Faith/PA
DEJA VU: Richard Haass, along with Meghan O'Sullivan, is attempting to broker a deal on the North’s contentious issues of flags and parades. Photo Paul Faith/PA

Eilis O’Hanlon

They felt the spirit of Christmas on their shoulders. But unlike former Prime Minister Tony Blair, participants at the latest round of talks in Northern Ireland didn't have the glory of turning their interminable chinwag over flags, parades, and all those other "legacy issues", into a Christmas Eve Agreement to set alongside the Good Friday Agreement. So back come US diplomat Richard Haass and Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan this weekend for another go.

What is happening in Belfast right now is another manifestation of the North's revolting solipsism. Everything must stop whilst the world focuses on plucky little Ulster, struggling to sort out those uniquely intractable problems which have foxed the greatest minds of a generation. At least that's the self-important narrative the place tells itself. It's as if they missed being the centre of attention and had to invent some new reasons for the Americans to take notice once again. They've now been at it, on and off, since July, and this weekend they're pondering draft five, spurred on by the local collective illusion that someone else can fix this problem, that wise men and women will turn up on camels at the Stormont stable, bearing gifts. But what if they turn out to have feet of clay too? That's effectively what happened when leaked proposals showed terrorist organisations were being treated in the talks as if they were Non-Governmental Organisations, rather like the Red Cross. There goes the hope of omnipotence.

Whether that was a slip of language, or part of a wider attempt to sanitise the IRA, didn't ultimately matter. The point is that no stranger can solve the North's problem as long as those who lost behave as if they won and those who won behave as if they lost.

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