OP ED: ‘Political fracking’ - Foyle SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood . 1301JM03
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood . 1301JM03

Don’t believe the denials. Irish soil has been the victim of plenty of fracking this summer. It may not have been of the fossil fuel variety but the North has seen an abundance of fracking nonetheless.

Politicians have acted as the prime labourers. Across various locations, representatives of the DUP and Sinn Féin varieties, have been digging deep for the flammable fuel which ever lies beneath the surface of Northern politics.

DUP fracking has largely focused on bringing the tensions of parading back above ground. They have attempted to undermine the Parades Commission, have been at best ambiguous around their support for confrontational and often illegal demonstrations and have cried victimhood to any and all who would listen. Theirs is an old song, long sung by political unionism.

Although perhaps more refined, Sinn Féin have been using their own political machinery to engage in the fracking game too. Remembrance is one thing, revisionism is another. Too often in their reaction to unionism’s political fracking, Sinn Féin have painted a picture which sways towards the narrative that the Provisional IRA campaign was popularly supported. It was not; it was entirely against the will of the vast majority of Irish people, republican, nationalist and unionist alike. In particular, Sinn Féin’s contributions amidst the Castlederg controversy veered dangerously close to the promotion of this untruth.

In the context of the North, such sustained political fracking is never without consequence. For it is through these manufactured cracks that the toxicity of our past can once more flow. Repeated acts of violence on the streets of Belfast bear witness and warning to this.

It feels a bit impolite to boast but, thankfully, here in Derry we have been removed from many of the above realities. As Steven McCaffery of The Detail and others have pointed out during the course of this week, this city seems to have engineered for herself an environmentally friendly alternative to the latest bout of political fracking.

As we continue to soak in the happy memories of last week’s Fleadh, this achievement shouldn’t and can’t be lost. Derry’s summer has borne testament that the richness of our culture has the capacity to unite as much as it contains the capacity for division. Such statements often run the risk of only fulfilling bland cliché. However, to any eye, Derry’s growth this summer has been plain to see.

The Fleadh in particular demonstrated that a culture rooted deep in native Irish tradition was open, welcoming and enhanced by its integration of diversity. No better example than the Fleadh’s seamless inclusion of the distinct dynamism of the Ulster Scots musical tradition. I am very cognisant that this natural integration was the product of the hard work of the many organisers involved.

The celebration of Colmcille, the Maiden City Festival and the Fleadh have shown how summer should be. It has stood in stark contrast to the emptiness of violence and its accompanying rhetoric.

So as the hive of political life returns in September, as Richard Haass prepares to engage in all-party talks, the contrast of the past few weeks deserves considered reflection.

Derry’s example, Derry’s summer, has shown a happier model of climate change. It is a model needing broader replication.

Otherwise will we be left in a fruitless cycle, fracking deep into the darker holes of our history?