01 January 2006

EDITORIAL: Looking forward to the new year

Daily Ireland

2005 has been a bruising year and few will be sorry to see its back as we look forward with optimism to a new beginning. The fallout from the Northern Bank robbery, the cold-blooded murder of Robert McCartney, an explosion of Orange madness over a blocked parade, and political stalemate were all peace process low points over the past 12 months.
However, there were high points too. The IRA’s decision to go out of business and decommission its weapons may yet be seen by future generations as the moment when the tide turned inexorably in favour of a united Ireland.
Certainly, it has now made it possible for republicans to posit an irrefutable argument for the implementation of the power-sharing and all-Ireland institutions promised under the Good Friday Agreement.
The year has ended with fighting talk from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Peter Hain. 2006 will tell whether they can match their words with actions.
In the Republic, the wheels threatened to come off the economic wagon with the thuggish approach by Irish Ferries to the restructuring of the company. Partnership agreements were thrown overboard in the rush to drive down wages and working conditions while boosting the bottom line at a company that made profits of €20 million (£13.7 million) last year.
It was an unsavoury chapter in Irish labour relations but the response in the negotiating rooms and on the streets sent out the clear message that economic prosperity must lift all boats. Similarly, surveys that show that Ireland, among developed nations, has one of the greatest gaps between rich and poor sounded a warning signal that government ignores at its peril.
Though beset by internal problems and a lack of strength in depth, the Fianna Fáil-PD government battled on against an uninspiring opposition that seems to bare its claws only when its leaders smell republican blood. This is why the McCarthyite campaigns of Michael McDowell have gone largely unchallenged in the Dáil. Not so, however, in the Frank Connolly fiasco, where the reaction of the ordinary public seems to have put some lead in the opposition pencil.
Perhaps in 2006 that same people power will ensure that the hapless PDs are subject to public ridicule every time their self-important underperformers adopt a position on the peace process that is to the right of the DUP.
The hope must be that political progress in the peace process will be swift in 2006. Those who endure the nationalist nightmare deserve a life free of the worst excesses of Paisleyism.
And, of course, everyone deserves the truth — no matter how painful that may be for Irish or British, unionist or republican. First up should be Peter Hain and Hugh Orde, who tell us, on the one hand, that trust is a prerequisite for political progress but, on the other, that those who have been spied on and informed on for three decades and more cannot have the truth. Both men should be told there can be no trust without truth.

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