Stormont Parliament building where the politicians have been refusing to meet for 18 months to govern Northern Ireland.
A Poem for Northern Ireland
Sadly I see your future:
supervised political arrangements
but, introduce your politicians
and the will isn’t there.
They have problems with fixed mindsets,
Every move is guarded,
They bicker, and are bloody-minded.
The problems you face are vast,
but you can’t step into the future
because you are rooted in the past.
15 August 1999
from Kosovo War Poetry, 2000, Saxon Books
I wrote this poem about an agreement between the Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs, but I remember I had in mind what was happening with the new “Good Friday Peace Agreement” in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly a step in the right direction but some people have a real talent for disagreeing. Thankfully most people and most of the world do not behave in this bloody-minded way.
Note for non-UK residents about the background to this poem
Northern Ireland is a separate province of the United Kingdom and has its own parliament (Stormont).
For several decades up till 25 years ago there was a bitter and violent disagreement between two factions:
1. those (mainly Catholics) who believed that Northern Ireland should be combined with and governed as part of Ireland,
2. those (mainly Protestants) who believed that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom.
For a long time the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland were discriminated against which led to deep-seated anger.
Each side was so convinced they were right that they formed militarised groups (often funded by criminal activities) and set about killing opponents. Over 3,500 people were killed and 47 thousand were injured before 1998 when a peace agreement was reached and politicians with opposing opinions agreed to work together and form a government. The agreement was called the Good Friday Agreement and was signed 25 years ago this week, on 10 April, 1998.
It was clear that not everyone could resist violence. The call to give up and hand in weapons was resisted by many. Killings have occurred since the agreement but have been greatly reduced and for much of the last 25 years Northern Ireland politicians from a range of political parties have met at Stormont to govern Northern Ireland.