It turns out the Good Friday Agreement is as needed now as it ever was
Comment

It turns out the Good Friday Agreement is as needed now as it ever was

AS I write this it is twenty years to the day since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Now that is by any judgement a momentous day in Irish history and we only need to think about all the people who are alive because of it to applaud it.

In the current moment we are in though the Good Friday Agreement is a very necessary lesson.

In fact I wasn’t going to write about this at all because I only became aware of the anniversary when it popped up in the news.

I was going to write about the Minister Shane Ross’s delight in exclusive fee paying schools in his constituency getting sports funding.

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I was going to write about the terrible class bias of a school with already excellent facilities getting extra funding.

I was going to write that the fact they are in Minister Ross’s constituency, the Minister for Sports, causes such cynicism that it is hard not to be disillusioned.

Hard not to be cynical and disillusioned with the whole political system.

Which is very much the spirit of the time, isn’t it?

I know of a TD in my own area who is spoken of, even by supporters of his own party, even by people I really wouldn’t expect to express such ideas, with such disregard, such cynicism that even I was shocked.

But that is the way we feel now, isn’t it?

We think politics is a joke and a stitch up and a gravy train. We think politics is as far from a noble pursuit as you can get.

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We trust politicians as little as it is possible to do so.

Of course it is hard to oppose that.

The quality of TDs and MPs in these respective islands wouldn’t be something you’d be applauding.

I always remember hearing the ex-leader of the Irish Labour Party, Pat Rabbitte wearily suggest that promises made during an election weren’t meant to be kept.

It was as if even the politician himself was weighed down by his own cynicism.

And, of course, there was Bertie and his unexplained cash and the betting on horses explanation. How was that for cynicism?

If we stop for a minute, though, where does this get us?

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Where does a deep disillusionment with our own political process get us?

Well, a politically disengaged population certainly suits those who don’t want us to ask questions.

It suits those who would rather we voted on Dancing with the Stars or the X Factor than a general election.

It’s worse than that though, isn’t it?

Because a disregard for politics also gets us Brexit and Donald Trump.

It gets Britain leaving the EU because enough people were so fed up, so disillusioned, so cynical that they’d listen to any old bunch of lies if it meant they could, in effect, reject politics itself.

It means people will listen to people as deeply embedded in the establishment as it is possible to be and think in doing so they are rejecting the establishment.

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It means people will elect to the most powerful position in the world a non-politician precisely because he isn’t a politician.

How did we get to this?

Only around a hundred years ago, when this country was striving to establish a proper, independent, democracy, huge crowds would gather at election rallies. And now?

Well, what does the Good Friday Agreement show us in this context?

This flawed and stumbling Agreement in a flawed and stumbling corner of Ireland?

It shows us that politics works and that when it comes to serious matters, matters of life and death, only politics works.

We all know what Bertie Ahern’s flaws are and were, but he will rightly go down in history as a politician who brought peace to Ireland.

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I’m far from a fan of his but that is one hell of an accolade.

The Good Friday Agreement changed how people on this island thought.

It finally put the people of violence into a small, extreme corner.

It stopped people getting killed for Ireland or for the Union. Flesh and blood people walking around today.

Politics did that. The political process. Bertie and Blair. Irish and British politicians.

Be as cynical as you like, but that is the truth. The facts.

We should remember that now more than ever.

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It turns out the Good Friday Agreement is as needed as it ever was. In more ways than one.