For all their vote-gaining powers the main unionist and republican leaders are intellectually exhausted and there is no new talent coming through.A bit harsh perhaps; after all, the superficialities of British "cultural" identity are still important for many of the unionist leaders but apart from that - on a day to day policy basis, what differentiates their regionalist outlook from that of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists?
They are united only by a common desire to despoil the UK Treasury. Dean Swift famously once said ‘Burn everything English except their coals’. The slogan was adopted by the economic nationalist Irish government of the 1930s. Now there is a new slogan: ‘Burn everything British except the cheques from the Treasury’.
The one party which sought to challenge this comfortable regional assumption failed to make any breakthrough; the Ulster Unionists in alliance with the Conservatives (UCUNF) failed to win a single parliamentary seat, though some candidates performed decently.Use of the collective "party" there is misleading. There wasn't/isn't any sense of cohesive and united will within the UUP to truly develop the type of politics that our fellow-citizens in the rest of the UK take for granted - hence the logic, in my mind, of realignment within pro-Union politics; many within the party share not only the DUP's view of Northern Ireland's role within the wider British nation but also their cultural and social conservatism; what then is the point of two separate candidates continuing to stand under two competing banners whilst sharing almost identical versions of Unionism?
The relationship between the UK and Northern Ireland therefore remains pretty much where it was. The local media claims that it wants a modernised system, but reacted violently to the only modernising initiative on offer this time around. The failure to deepen the political relationship between London and Belfast finds its parallel in Dublin’s loss of interest in Northern Ireland as the Republic fights to save its viability as an independent state in the current crisis.A justified dig at the local political media. Heaven knows the attempt to get that "modernising initiative" up and running was strewn with mistakes and miscalculations, but the honest NI hack will also admit that "normalised" or "modernised" politics here is the very last thing he needs for his career and so their instinctive opposition to the project right from the beginning.
Not all bad news though:
The good news for the new British Prime minister is that Northern Ireland as a time-consuming issue is all but over. Whitehall civil servants calculated that Tony Blair spent 40 per cent of his time on it in his first couple of years in office. It will be very surprising if the new man has to spend more than four per cent of his time on the same subject.It would be nice with that stability in place now to think that our politicians would start spending more energy on the bigger UK picture...