If you’re feeling the need of something to depress you, troll on over to the website of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and download the six PDF sections of the third Peace Monitoring Report. Written by Dr Paul Nolan, it is an extremely impressive piece of work — and a welcome counter to the witterings of the peaceprocess feelgoodistas who are so prominent on 2RN these days.
If you would prefer a summary, here is Liam Clarke’s account in the Belfast Telegraph, and here is his commentary; Tomboktu and others pointed to some problems with the headline on the first piece, but I’m more concerned that the focus on education in the headline on Clarke’s account may distort perceptions of what the report and, indeed, the rest of Clarke’s article are really about.
The report uses indicators grouped into four domains:
- the sense of safety
- cohesion and sharing
- political progress.
I didn’t find much that was cheering in any of them. Nolan lists ten key points:
- The moral basis of the 1998 peace accord has evaporated
- The absence of trust has resulted in an absence of progress
- There has been some increase in polarisation
- A culture war is being talked into existence
- The City of Culture year presented a different understanding of culture
- Failure lies in wait for young working-class Protestant males
- Front line police have been the human shock absorbers for failures elsewhere
- The rebalancing of inequalities unbalances unionism
- At grassroots level the reconciliation impulse remains strong
- No one picks up the tab.
Only the fifth and ninth offer any good news. But, from a waterways perspective, I was struck by the complete irrelevance of the proposed reconstruction of the Ulster Canal, the Clones Sheugh, to solving any of these problems. Yet Waterways Ireland, around whose neck this dead albatross has been hung, is the largest of the cross-border bodies and the sheugh is the largest capital project proposed to be undertaken by any of them. If the Irish government wants to do something to solve the real and continuing problems of Northern Ireland, as outlined in the Peace Monitoring Report, couldn’t it find something more useful to do?
Incidentally, I have not been able to find coverage of the report on the websites of the Irish Times, Irish Independent or Irish Examiner, although that may reflect poor searching on my part rather than any lack of interest on theirs.