Not by the people, not of the people

By Bill Delaney

Around this time last year, you read in this publication three concerns of mine: the failure of the British government to abide by democratic norms in calling an election; the failure of all parties to engage the DUP in any meaningful way; and the failure of unionism to take part in the peace process.

Well, better late than never in regards to the election -- although it took massive and sustained pressure on the British government to deliver on that. The point is now also surely made in regard to the need to listen to the DUP.

But on the last point, the unionist community still appears too angry or too nervous to deal with the nationalist community on the basis of equality. Voting DUP (or for Jeffrey and his men) is a statement, not of hostility, but of extreme defensiveness.

At least in the short term, progress appears difficult. The DUP appears to have surrounded itself with even more unworkable demands and preconditions than the UUP -- although surely everyone is relieved that the `Save Dave' campaign is finally at an end.

How can this be resolved? How can people be encouraged to shed their sectarian instincts and choose constructive political leaders?

People deserve the government they elect, the saying goes. But nowhere does that saying mean less than in the North of Ireland today.

The hard fact is, the northern electorate could return 108 knife-wielding maniacs to fill the seats of the Assembly and it would make no practical difference to their lives.

Direct rule government has continued, untainted by the democratic will of the people. Welshmen, Englishwomen and Scottish hermaphrodites can run the North of Ireland, but not the Irish. No Scots-Irish, no Ulster-Irish, no Irish at all need apply.

And under the tyrannical system of direct rule, the people are under no obligation or responsibility to elect a workable government.

The British government has abolished the concept of democracy in the Six Counties by making both the devolved administration, and elections to that administration, subject to its whim.

The electoral process made a pantomime appearance onto the North's political stage last month. But the people's role has been reduced to that of a cameo character, with no real impact on the plot.

And so the voters -- against their wishes, mind you -- have been liberated from the consequences of their actions.

The strings must now begin to be cut from the butcher's apron.

If certain government functions in the Six Counties started to shut down because there was no government -- like in the rest of the civilised world -- there is no doubt that nationalists and unionists alike would begin to vote for sensible political figures.

The victory of an independent election candidate in West Tyrone, campaigning for the protection of local hospital services, is an indication that the people are crying out for direct influence on bread-and-butter issues. Absurdly, there is forum for Dr Kieran Deeny to now make his case in regard to acute services at Omagh hospital!

Now imagine, as an extreme case, if the hospitals in the North started shutting down because the Ministerial chair was empty? Practical politics would assert itself overnight. Because it is not the voters in the North who are unwise, it is those who still refuse to allow them to govern themselves.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News