I have spent the last 6 weeks reassessing the important aspects of life in an attempt to give me some direction post-uni. A week was spent early April in Athens Greece with a group of University students researching and attempting to understand the political, socio-economic and cultural developments in Athens. Obviously my love/hate relationship with NI politics sprung a comparison between development in Athens and NI. Only in the last 10 years or so with Greek ascension into the EU has the country started to act as a regional and progressively more global player. Traditionally insular and mistrusting of foreign investment the Greeks have finally woken up to the responsibilities and realities of the 21st century. Two defining moments propelled NI and Greece into the eyes of the world for the right reasons. Perhaps not an obvious comparison at first but the effects of the Peace Process and the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics have created similar certainties and uncertainties for both nations.
As I've said the comparisons are not obvious at first but both events have had the effect of demonstrating to the world that both nations have matured and are beginning to embrace society in the 21st century. After the two defining events NI and Greece began to see a steady stream of foreign investment begin to reshape the nations economically and culturally. Of course development has not been uniform, sustained or in anyway straightforward due to the bureaucratic/sectarian nature of politics in Greece and NI. Of course blame for faltering development can be placed at the door of the bankers but just as guilty are the politicians and nature of politics of both nations.
Street rioting and homegrown terrorism are an all too familiar feature of life for the people of Greece and NI. Until such a time as political parties can claim to work for all members of society and set aside tribal or party political slandering such as the infamous "SF Scum" comment by the leader of the UUP the problems are not going to improve never mind go away. People will naturally grow more resentful and dissentful.
I concluded my case study on Athens by suggesting that more fore-planning for development would have maximised the potential for successful development. The same can be said for NI. It's about time political parties pick a direction and walk that line til the end. It seems that the only party at the election past to stick to its principles was Alliance. Of course I am not suggesting that change is bad. Change is often good but uncertainty is one of the greatest threats to stability in NI as the past has shown time and time again. This is yet another tactic (deliberate or not it is hard to say) which the rIRA, cIRA, OnH etc thrive on. They create tension in communities through uncertainty.
Uncertainty was in the air again post-elections with the visit to Ireland by the Queen and the President of the USA. Questions being asked ranged from will the Queen apologise for years of abuse on the Irish or will the dissos get her first? Would Obama be embraced as Irish and more importantly would he knock back a pint of the Black Stuff? In the end there was no uncertainty. These visits were very much a signal that the Peace Process has run its course and as some commentators have put it we are now entering the maturing of the Political Process. By laying a wreath to the IRA men of the Easter Rising and visiting Croke Park the Queen didn't have to give a speech. It was the most poignant message that the past is the past; it won't be forgotten yet it won't be relived either. Obama echoed this view that history defines us but we define our future. SF and the UUP should take note from a man with more wisdom than the combined brain cells of these men and women who constantly harp back to the past. It was shit for everyone so try and let it go - move on. I'm no fan of Edwin Poots but by finding the funds for the new radiotherapy unit at Altnagavin he is showing willingness to plan 5 years ahead.
As Obama observed it is the youth who will define our future. Rather than spending millions of pounds on enquiries such as those of Rosemary Nelson and Bloody Sunday to tell us something we already know and create unnecessary political, financial and emotional strains I suggest we stop living in the past and put some thought into development for the future.
I have now finished University and with that I have some planning and development to do myself. This will probably involve somewhat of a globe trek. Hopefully I'll come back with a tan and perhaps more wisdom. Maybe one day I can use that wisdom and knowledge of different cultures to bring some real honest progressive politics to the Assembly. Then again who knows because after all I'm certain the future is uncertain.