By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
It was Mark Twain who coined the phrase “The people have spoken - the bastards”. Some attribute the remark to Dick Tuck, a Democratic Party dirty tricks specialist who said it when asked for his reaction after he lost a California state senate primary in 1964.
Whoever said it first, it’s a refrain that has been on the lips of many of the members of the defeated parties in our recent assembly election.
Obviously the people couldn’t care less what the SDLP or the UUP did in 1973, 1985 or 1997. That only matters to long-suffering members of those parties. Voters are concerned with the realities of 2007 and 2008. All of that you’d expect.
What is astonishing is that there are still commentators who can’t accept that Sinn Féin and the DUP are carrying out the wishes of the voters.
Ruth ‘Deadly’ Edwards, the clairvoyant Kevin Myers and the venerable Conor Cruise O’Brien have all been railing against last week’s events.
O’Brien, who has been completely wrong on everything to do with the north for more than a generation and who even supported Bob McCartney’s vanishing party to prove how wrong he could be, predicted just over a week ago that there would be no agreement between SF and the DUP, indeed that there could not ever be. To be fair, he was writing before the events of Monday week ago.
It’s the other two who are truly astonishing. They were writing after the events.
Edwards has accepted that there has been a sea change, that Paisley has done a volte-face and therefore compares him to tricky Bertie Ahern who spun around within a fortnight. First he castigated Fine Gael and Labour for engaging in ‘auction’ politics and then shamelessly outbid them in his own ard fheis speech.
Nevertheless, she can’t accept that Paisley has done what his voters voted for, which is surely a step ahead of Ahern who is promising the voters something they didn’t ask for and, on Ahern’s previous record, won’t get.
Poor old Ruth: all her heroes have failed or failed her - Trimble, the Orange Order and now Paisley. Still, at least she acknowledges that things have changed even though she finds it impossible to eat crow.
The most amazing of the trio is Myers who, writing the day after the event, can’t believe it, insists that the famous deal on March 26 was ‘an exercise in mutual delusion’.
He thinks May 8 is another final deadline which like all other ‘final deadlines’ will endlessly shift. He says that ‘May 8 now shimmers before us as the last-ever date for the restoration of political institutions. I believe that that date is as likely to see a joint government between Sinn Féin and the DUP as it is to see Dana become world heavyweight wrestling champion.’
The one aspect all three of these writers have in common is their disgust with the form the peace process has taken since the day and hour it began. They strained might and main since the early nineties to prevent any accommodation with the republican movement.
There used to be a fourth member of this cabal, Eoghan Harris, but he has fallen by the wayside.
Harris, who was originally vehemently opposed to the Hume-Adams dialogue, has belatedly come to realise that the accommodation between republicans and loyalists that has taken place is what the people of the north have wanted.
Now, as the parties who will form the executive here amicably allocate the departments a month early and the new ministers prepare to read themselves in, what will Myers, Edwards and O’Brien do as they watch their vitriolic campaigns of nearly 20 years disintegrate in ashes?
The answer is very simple. They will blame the people who voted for Sinn Féin and the DUP. Obviously the voters know no better than to support these dreadful people who will be running the north. In all those years it has never occurred to any of these writers that their position has been fundamentally anti-democratic, that they have consistently opposed the shifts that have taken place in the north in the last generation as evidenced in every election. They seem to agree with Mark Twain and Dick Tuck.