When the Good Friday Agreement was signed, the world watched, and all was clear and transparent. There were no subterranean tunnels where hidden agendas could be carried off and followed out of sight.
Phrases like "tiocfaidh ár lá" and "no surrender" would be robbed of meaning in a new vernacular of hope.
Since then, everyone has profited by peace, but the shadow of the gunman is still hovering in the side streets. Criminality and racketeering are rife and mutterings of bad faith hang over what was a milestone on the road to a new and shared future.
Events of the last few days beg a single question: were we deluded or were we duped?
Only the key players in the process can answer that.
Trust, the cornerstone that kept the political institutions standing, has crumbled. DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has "stepped aside". Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said she would not be suspending the devolved institutions and called on the parties to come together.
There are now only days left to avoid what would be a disaster for all of the people on these islands.
Party mandates were supposed to go into the melting pot of history so that trouble could not be stirred up by one side or the other.
But yesterday, SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell blamed the DUP and Sinn Féin for the impasse.
"We have serious difficulties with the fact that this crisis has been fabricated . . . it didn't need to happen. The institutions stand in their own right," he said.
It behoves the leaders of the Provisional movement to give up the pretence that the IRA has vanished and that all operations have stopped. Equally, powersharing did not come with an off button that the Unionists could press at will. If the North of Ireland is to emerge as a viable political entity, then there needs to be a re-engagement with the realities and responsibilities that a true democracy demands.
Bubbles are pretty at first, but then they burst - and economic booms, as we also know to our cost, tend to blow up in our faces. So we really ought to sit up and take notice when the Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Stefan Gerlach both come along on the same day bearing remarkable news.
Turning normal behaviour on its head in the housing market, people are now racing to get on the property ladder due to spiralling rents. Mr Gerlach sounded the alarm, saying that a dysfunctional property market could plunge the country back into recession.
Meanwhile, Mr Noonan is telling us that spending will not be cut, even though growth is running at 7pc.
Clearly, there are some old familiar patterns here that we ignored at tremendous cost in the recent past.
It cannot be a case of fool me twice when it comes to house prices. A check on spending also seems logical, given the accelerated growth.
Yes, there is an election in the offing, but the mistakes of the past still weigh heavily and we cannot afford any new ones.