recent events in NI haven't just arisen out of nowhere, nor are they all about Brexit and the NI Protocol: they are the result of a complex mix of change, resistance to change, and a deeply ingrained strain of political and social inertia
some things have changed enormously for the better on a day-to-day basis in NI since 1998, but behind that some things have not changed that much, while within our politics much has atrophied as well as it has polarised in recent decades
the current 2 main parties had been more peripheral entities, on the edges of their respective communities for much of the 'Troubles' only to take centre stage in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. There has been some shifts since then in the centre ground
with the rise of @GreenPartyNI for example and the rehabilitation in recent elections of @allianceparty - the political middle is more diversified than any simple binary reading of "themmuns" and sectarian tribalism might suggest
the point remains however that there are huge social issues here in NI not being addressed by the politicians of our time: for example
between 1998 and 2014, more people had died by suicide in NI than the 3600 people who had died during the Troubles, and that devastating statistic just keeps growing. Lack of social and economic opportunity added to by a generation of children of the children of the 'Troubles'
the political inertia in NI since 1998 and the GFA has parallels with the inertia that stalled Reconstruction in the the US in the 1870s that led to a split society and the Jim Crow period (that some on the right are attempting to reinstitute with voter suppression tactics now)
Could things in NI spiral backwards? Yes, they could, if there is no political leadership that is willing to take the forward steps required to stabilise a volatile situation. It should be unthinkable that, at such a time, NI leaders resort to the goading politics of division
But: that's where we are. Abdicating responsibility for the violence & rioting in recent days is precisely Trump's play claiming that "this is what happens" when an election is "stolen" - politicians quick to the airwaves to accuse others are both reprehensible & responsible
NI has never needed better political leadership than right now. It also needs the 2 governments to accept and adhere to their responsibilities as set out int he GFA - because the GFA set out the roadmap to resolve NI's status as we moved out of violence and toward peace
Peace is a brittle entity. Democracy is a daily commitment to hearing and addressing the issues in front of us, as they arise. It requires constant vigilance; it needs tolerance; it doesn't always produce the desired result, so it also requires compromise
But in the GFA in 1998, 71% of NI voted for compromise and the plan for peace that opportunity gave us. 94% in RoI voted for that too. The solution is in our hands already: we worked this out after decades of pain & loss. We still need to implement all of its commitments
since 1998, so much has changed: demographic changes meant that the 2017 Stormont elections produced a changed reality - no longer did Unionist parties hold a majority in NI - but political inertia prefers a vacuum, so a routine of collapsed institutions means progress stalls
Brexit has had a part to play, but only a part. 56% in NI voted to remain in the EU. Perhaps it will be more what happens in Scotland's immediate future that will determine the fate of the Union than what happens in NI. But right now, NI needs leaders that accept our realities
our grave social deprivation and economic disadvantages, our shared peripheral status for decades, but also our changing reality: we are multiple communities (white, black, Protestant, Catholic, neither, gay, LGBTQ, straight, trans, liberal, loyalist, nationalist, neither)
in 10 days, on 18 April, we mark the 2nd anniversary of Lyra McKee's death in Derry. I stood at the vigil at Belfast City Hall along with thousands across NI. We would gather publicly again if it were not for the pandemic to oppose the mess that is being made of our lives
NI does not want to be taken back to its past. That past was a failure: reheating the politics of that past now is an absolute failure of leadership. There can be no future that is subsumed by the divisions of our past. We have seen a better time, but not all of us have lived it
the advantages of the peace we longed for are not a lived reality for large sections of our society - but they could be, with the right leadership invested in making a better difference across NI. Criminal elements still feed off disillusion and division for their own ends
the political inertia that defines our situation means these economic & social problems are not being addressed, which in turn plays into the hands of those happy to keep communities at the mercy of irresponsible and divisive figures who, I'm afraid, haven't gone away you know
the NI people accepted a route forward: politicians of all hues and the Irish and UK govts must now deliver what the GFA set out: a future based on parity of esteem and on consent. The GFA set out the terms for the inevitable constitutional change that is coming
Politicians cannot continue to look away from the realities that plague us nor from the opportunities that are in our hands. Often, when I was growing up, a solution never seemed possible. But it was. And it is founded on the fact that themuns are actually us
our problems are shared across tribal or religious or political lines - and so must the solutions be shared too. Otherwise, this cycle of inertia keeps on keepin' on, producing new generations of disaffected youth who only know they are disaffected but not the reasons why
We already have that shared solution. We made it in 1998. We voted for it in massive numbers. We don't need to reinvent this wheel: we just need to grasp it again to steer us through all of this. Because, without it, we really would be back in deep and dark trouble

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More from @pipmcgowan

10 Jan
There are still plots across the US to attack state capitols as well as the capitol in DC. These are credible threats against America and American democracy. And they are enabled by Republicans like Hawley, Cruz, Kennedy, Rubio et al, the flag bearers of Trump fascism 1/
Each and every individual who played a part, any part, in the attempted coup on Wednesday must be exposed, arrested, charged & tried. No ifs, no buts. Otherwise they will melt away into alt-web cells & networks, continuing their attacks in support of Trump’s fascistic cult 2/
Rounding up the ringleaders on the ground on the day is one thing. But they were activated by senior Republican lawmakers, emboldened by 139 House Republicans and 8 Senators who voted to overturn a free & fair democratic election. These truths are self-evident 3/
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