Tenth anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement yesterday. I have ended up with conflicting views of it. Through the last ten years of grinding movement towards peace, it survived all challenges and remained the ‘only show in town.’ People who might otherwise have died are alive today because of it. But it was deeply flawed. It strengthened the extremes at the expense of the centre – when one might have expected it to marginalise the extremes. Gary McKeone, writing in today’s Independent, has a sharp piece: ‘The lesson of the peace process: terror works.’ His thesis is that the Agreement empowered those political parties which brought to the table the implicit threat of violence.
I have long understood that political agreements tend to be made by politicians of the right rather than by liberals. That’s partly because those politicians make it impossible for more liberal politicians to do the deals because they are always being attacked from the right. So now we have what are known in Northern Ireland as the ‘chuckle brothers’ – Paisley and McGuinness – apparently content to work together. The irony is that the strongest conviction politicians on each side are the ones who seem prepared to make and operate an agreement based almost entirely on pragmatism. A very strange world.