Dangerous tribalism resurrected - The possibility of an election

AS the last few days have underlined, it is far easier to criticise politics than it is to participate in that circular, often degrading melee. 

It is far easier to offer an opinion, however irrational, than it is to sacrifice the huge slice of a life needed to bring positive social change.

Despite that acknowledgment, the practice of politics on this island, in these islands, and in Europe and America has become so unsettling that many of those sane, positive, and good-hearted people who might have a valuable contribution to make now look elsewhere, wondering what vacuous evasion dressed up as policy or power grab disguised as principle comes next. The tribal knock-and-drags that animate politics are dangerous, probably far more dangerous than we can immediately imagine.

In an age when technology becomes ever more sophisticated — one thinker has already suggested that humans will either become livestock or pets to our AI masters — it is as if we are trapped in the legacy of the Williamite Wars and cannot shake off atavistic tribalism.

Last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster pointed to how distressing it was that IRA terrorism was cheered at the Sinn Féin ard fheis. Mrs Foster’s view, on that issue at least, is shared by the majority in this Republic. She and her party must realise that but the tone, the theatrics, of this weekend’s DUP conference suggest an indifference to that commonality.

The stridency was disheartening — even if the DUP believe they are besieged by crocodiles. The rousing reception given to Theresa May’s emissary Damian Green hardly augurs well. He insisted there will be no Brexit border in the Irish Sea, a position echoed by DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who harrumphed that if the EU insists on border checkpoints in Ireland “that is a matter for them”. Such Brookeborough-grade disdain is provocative. That it reflects of the culture war weakening Britain by the day deepens the tragedy.

This, however, may not be the best moment for Irish politics to cast the gimlet eye at unionism’s determination to live in a time warp. Tragically, our political caste is trapped in one too. Frances Fitzgerald’s suspicious performance on McCabe may have lit the fuse but those who would light it were waiting for an opportunity, any opportunity to strike their Guy Fawkes match. A change in leadership and the adoption of a policy long-regarded with anathema — being a junior coalition partner — in Sinn Féin may have teased some in Fianna Fáil to dream the headiest of dreams; a return to power. So intoxicating is that prospect that it is not hard to imagine that some of the very greenest Fianna Fáil deputies are, unknown to Micheál Martin, already practising the two-step with Sinn Féin.

All parties are to blame that this donnybrook has moved from shillelagh stage to DEFCON 2 in days. At the moment Brexit talks reach a defining point and when all-powerful EU tax rules are being decided, they are indulging in base civil war politics. This might be described as the lunatics taking over the asylum but, in reality, the lunatics have broken out of the asylum and are putting prosperity and security of this country in jeopardy. What have we done to deserve this?


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