REJOICE! The Protocol is dead! Long live the I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Protocol!
All eyes can now immediately return to the matters of health and education and economic prosperity.
Or maybe not. Nope, our eyes do not immediately turn to the work that needs to be done, because we have to ensure that the babies in the DUP have a dummy that is exactly the right size and the right colour and just right, in case they start a temper tantrum and throw it out of the pram, again.
Instead of talking about the DUP’s potential role in building peace, stability and prosperity in a shared government, we are of course asking ourselves about the different quantifiables that may influence their decision to resume their jobs for which they are paid.
Are they weighing up whether Mr Angry Allister might take a few votes off them in the local elections, thereby losing a couple of marginal council seats? Undoubtedly.
Are they weighing up whether Mr Myself Alone policy/law/community advisor Bryson can agitate on the local airwaves enough to reinforce the divisions in unionism? Most certainly.
Are they thinking about the leverage provided by the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the desire of Dublin, London and Washington to have a good news story from Belfast? I would be shocked if they were not.
It would tear the soul clean out of you.
Those in the DUP who want to claim a victory of sorts, who want off the hook and to reestablish the Assembly need a quick, positive decision. The longer the delay the more the Windsor Framework will be fatally unpicked leaving the DUP with no options and no strategy.— Danny Morrison (@molloy1916) March 1, 2023
Our peace agreement was never meant to be about egos or vying for a photo opp in Stormont, or being more extreme than the next person. Our political sphere was intended to be transformed so that sharing power meant we were greater than the sum of our parts, creating a win for everyone.
In the narratives since the signing of the Windsor knot, peace building was rarely mentioned at all. The threats of violence from loyalism, who promise to “wreck the place” if they do not get what they want, and the ongoing threat from dissident republicanism, who last week moved into shooting PSNI officers as well as those they target within our own communities, were indicators of the vacuum created by politics not working. Some will choose to seek power through violence and when there is no accountability for violation, wrongdoing or the threat thereof, the environment of impunity will facilitate further rhetoric and escalation of said threats.
The lesson of this peace process is that there are individuals and groups that benefit from chaos and uncertainty, who continue to foster the conditions that continue their relevance. They do not contribute to our future but create myths of the past. This week could, if courage prevails, be a step away from that.
For nationalists and republicans though there was an extraordinary lack of space for consideration of the implications of the Windsor agreement for our own community. We are expected to be happy with our lot. Dragged out of the EU against our will, with an 'agreement' compounding the unionist veto in the form of the Petition of Concern which has been used so detrimentally since 2007, and yet expected to give an unconditional thumbs-up. While that space may not be available this week, expect us to have to come back to that another day.
Courage requires honest assessment and progressive engagements with all of the implications. Mature communities and representatives will do that.