November 21, 2013

Fintan O'Toole - Folly of sectarian 'solutions'

The Good Friday Agreement is a dual purpose document that seeks to do two things. One, stop the IRA and other paramilitaries from killing people. Two, it was supposed to be a founding document that would allow Northern Ireland to move from sectarianism into a new world.

In 2005 Fintan O'Toole wrote a fascinating article on the peace agreement on September 13 2005 in the Irish Times under the title, Folly of sectarian 'solutions'. He said on the second plank of the agreement:
"[The agreement is] supposed to be a kind of constitution. It defines Northern Ireland as a political space and seeks to do so in a genuinely radical, exciting way. It is, indeed, perhaps the boldest constitutional document ever agreed between sovereign states. It creates space that is not ultimately claimed by any state, defines national identity as potentially both mutable and multiple, and rests sovereignty, not on history and geography but on that most complex and fluent of things - the collective mind of a majority of the population."
On the first plank of the agreement, Fintan O'Toole explained:
"[The agreement] built the internal architecture of Northern Ireland's governance on a static notion of "two traditions" which were to be appeased and given "parity of esteem". The hope was that even though sectarianism was built in to the power-sharing system by the requirement of simultaneous majorities on the unionist and nationalist sides, the experience of working the new institutions would in fact diminish it. But there has been no momentum, and the division have been formalised, entrenched and deepened."
We need to achieve what the founders intended, diminish sectarianism. This requires a break with the negative feedback loop of mutual hatred, loathing and recrimination. It needs a break from management and towards vision.

Read Fintan O'Toole from 2005 in full here.

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