Thursday 14 December 2017

The peace process has turned into an endless conveyor belt of concessions

Agreement in the North was achieved on a nod and a wink, says Eilis O'Hanlon, but that way of business only works among people of honour

Gerry Adams, Albert Reynolds and John Hume
Gerry Adams, Albert Reynolds and John Hume

Ellis O'Hanlon

Man needs things bigger than himself in which to believe. Once it was God. Now it's the peace process, which has gone from being a phenomenon that can be discussed, dissected, and, if necessary, dissed, into an inviolable good. That was never more evident than in the obituaries of Albert Reynolds, the former Taoiseach whose role in bringing the IRA in from the cold now seems to be regarded as his greatest legacy.

In a way, that's understandable. Had the IRA not ended its campaign, hundreds more people would now be dead. That's a good thing. But to argue that the peace process had negative consequences as well, and that it may be too early to type 'The End' onto Ireland's troubled story, is not to be sorry that bombs are no longer going off regularly in the North. It's simply to acknowledge that most events in politics have a mixed legacy and that history doesn't stand still.

The thing about the peace process is that it wasn't so much a mutual agreement on the way forward as a sleight of hand whereby the republican movement was offered an easy way out of the dead end in which it found itself and then went through the charade of pretending that it was some intricately thought-out undertaking forged in Provo HQ.

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