29 June 2006 Edition
The recent schisms afflicting both the coalition partners reflect a government that has lost its way. More importantly though it shows us the real nature of establishment politics and the motivations of those involved.
Let us take each case in point. In the case of the PD leadership battle there was absolutely no ideological issues involved. It was an opportunistic grab for power by Michael McDowell for power's sake. The sense of entitlement and ego of a man who should have resigned ages ago was the driving force behind this rift. At a time when public services are in chaos and public perception of crime is becoming more alarmist, this is his response, Mary I was born to rule.
Now let's take the gang of 16 who have suddenly discovered a lack of democracy within Fianna Fáil and a dislike of PD policy. Again pure, self-serving opportunism. For nearly ten years now they have failed to express any discontent. Now that an election looms and the polls are looking bad they have suddenly discovered their party is out of step with the people. I would appeal to people not to be fooled by this conjuror's trick.
The Labour/Fine Gael alliance is equally unprincipled and opportunistic and ultimately they all sing from the same hymn sheet. Anybody remember Enda Kenny's lizard like stance on the Rossport Five? Sinn Féin remains the only party in Leinster House comitted to real political, social and economic change.
Media's flawed analysis
An irritating aspect of political media coverage in the Six Counties is that it is often underpinned by a fictional and outdated 'one side's as bad as the other' analysis, rather than an objective perspective on events. There are two clear examples of this- the establishment of the Executive and contentious parades.
Why are we continually told that 'the DUP and Sinn Féin need to agree to share power with each other' when it's abundantly clear that it is only the DUP who is refusing to share power?
Regarding contentious parades, why are we being told that 'both sides need to agree to talk to each other' when it is quite apparent that it is only the Orange Order who are refusing to talk to residents' groups?
The key question is why do the media feel the need to provide unionism with cover for failing to acknowledge their nationalist/republican neighbours as equals? One clear example of this was BBC's Mark Caruthers' interview with Tom Hartley on 19 June regarding Sinn Féin's views on the Parades Commission's decision to allow a 'restricted' parade on the Springfield Road. On numerous occasions Caruthers felt it necessary to counter Hartley's arguments from the perspective of the Orange Order. I wonder would he have been so enthusiastically defensive of Sinn Féin's perspective, if it had been the Orange Order he had been interviewing?
Caruthers went on to say that nationalists 'don't want a parade, and the Order wants to parade, so this is the best of both worlds'. This analysis lets the Orange Order off the hook, placing it as an equal party to the dispute. Surely Caruthers knows residents groups have not said that they don't want a parade, they simply want the Order to engage in dialogue.
Why do many journalists continue to perpetuate such a flawed analysis? Are they content to act as a cog in the machine of political stagnation here? Whatever happened to professional integrity in journalism?
Ard Fheis motion
I write in support of the letter on 15 June regarding the motion passed at this year's Ard Fheis calling for a special conference to debate the merits and viability of the Good Friday Agreement to advance our struggle.
In the eight years since the agreement republicanism has done well more than its fair share of comprimise, and many of it has been outside the terms of the Agreement. Despite this there is still no Assembly. Is it likely then in the next few months that circumstances will lead to restortation of the institutions by November 24? I think not. And if it does at what cost and what more compromises are to be made? The DUP, are totally anti-Agreement.
It's apparent that no matter what republicans do, the Brits along with rejectionist Unionists will just raise further obstacles.
The Irish government recently made a huge fuss over the passport situation with the Six County soccer team as it is anti Agreement, but shows little interest in the failures of the so called new policing service and continued existence of the Special Branch, not to mention the introduction of newer, more lethal plastic bullets.
While the very reasons that republicans signed up for this Agreement are continually watered down it is essential to have this debate among the wider membership.
McDonalds and fathers
The advert by McDonalds in the newspapers On Father's Day last Sunday, setting up a Mum's Panel epitomises how far fathers are down the food chain. The ad states that customers and their ever changing needs are very important to McDonalds. Given that the term "McDonalds Dad" has become synonymous worldwide with separated fathers making the most of the limited access periods with their children it seems a no-brainer that McDonalds should also seek feedback from these revenue generating customers.
There's no commercial reason for McDonalds to actively marginalise fathers, so the only explanation I can come up with is that this is a further example of how the perspective and experiences of fathers is simply "beneath the radar" in terms of the whole spectrum of family policies and research.
Liam Ó Gógáin,