Appropriately in Ireland, another vindication of Murphy’s Law was demonstrated on October 23rd when, in accordance with the spirit and intention of the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, assorted weapons, ammunition and explosives were put irretrievably beyond use, supervised under the terms of the Commission on Decommissioning by Canadian General John De Chastelain.
David Trimble, the former First Minister (Ulster Unionist) greeted it with, ‘”This is the day we were told would never happen and it has”.
There are various interpretations of ‘Murphy’s Law’, the one I favour is, “If it can happen, it will” and so it has.
There came the call from Manhattan by Martin McGuinness on a visit to New York and simultaneously from Gerry Adams in a committee room in the former Conway Mill in West Belfast, just yards away from the Peace Line. They made the request on October 22nd, carried by radio and television across world networks, to the IRA that in the interest of saving the peace process they should make a significant move on decommissioning.
And so, the following day – one of historic importance – the IRA announced that they had met this call by putting a substantial quantity of weapons beyond possible use or retrieval. This was later confirmed by General De Chastelain and welcomed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair. He, for the first time I know of, give unequivocal credit to the two Sinn Féin leaders, Adams and McGuinness, for their strenuous efforts to bring the republican movement into democratic politics, another vindication of ‘Murphy’s Law’.
So a further stage on the long long journey back from the ‘long war’ has been reached, albeit just before the deadline set by the Ulster Unionists for their withdrawal from the Assembly. Their leader, and former First Minister, has subsequently announced that on the basis of assurances from General De Chastelain he has renominated his party’s three members to their previous ministerial posts.>BR>
Predictably, from out of the deep bog of intransigent fundamentalism in which he is immersed, the croak of the Ballymena Bullfrog bellows out his bigoted mistrust and doubt of the extent of and significance of the act of decommissioning by the IRA. No appreciation of the action or call for a reciprocal gesture from ‘loyalist’ (so called) paramilitaries from the mentor of the violence and hate of which the latest example on the Ardoyne Road is still extant.
In respect of Ian Paisley, senior and junior, the obverse of ‘Murphy’s Law’ applies., ‘If it can’t happen, it won’t happen’, so until now and into the distant future they are well beyond enlightenment and change, irretrievably encased in concrete as far as the peace process is concerned.
I suppose, perhaps it would be stretching ‘Murphy’s Law’ a bit too far to hope that within the Paisley DUPes there might be some dissidents prepared to run counter to Papa Doc’s edicts (I assume he has agreed to their return to their ministerial posts) when the chips are down and the Assembly is revived again.
If as the result of the jam being broken the system begins to function as designed and politics is shown to be more viable and productive, the ‘King of Intransigence’ will have his powers of persuasion imploded and, metaphorically, die politically, choked to death in the dust of his own rhetoric.
As the door swings open for the fresh opportunity of progress and democratic dialogue within the agreed framework, what must be avoided is any demonstration of triumphalism. And Trimble must also eschew his tendency to mischievousness by the sort of ploy he made at P.M.’s Question Time (24/10/01), assisted by the Conservative Leader of the Opposition, asking what might be the situation when the remit of the De Chastelain Commission runs out in February 2002.
Perhaps he was playing to the gallery to show a macho face to his party’s Council meeting on Saturday 27th October when he hopes to establish support for his renomination to the post of First minister and acceptance of his agreement to continue in the Executive along with Sinn Féin.
I have been critical of the tendency to play political games which put the peace process in jeopardy and hope this period is now past, not to be repeated, so that the real work of reconstruction and reconciliation can begin.
In a way though, I can concede that, judged by the ending of the impasse, it could be argued that the ‘games’ proved that politics does work, more than violence, with a caveat that the underlying fear that full scale violence could return may have played a part. This is the shadow that must be eradicated by using the structures and ensuring ‘parity of esteem’.
‘Murphy’s Law’ will be vindicated if the will to make politics work is strengthened on both sides. It can happen so I hope it will and I’m sure the people in Northern Ireland, my compatriots, feel the same way.