We need to face the reality of hate

If there were a prize for naivety it would go to the chairman of the Community Relations Council.

Maybe Peter Osborne’s apparent naivety is really the optimistic spin he feels is expected from him, but either way it’s unrealistic.

Mr Osborne says the target set by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to remove peace walls by 2023 needs more resources and funding to make it happen. It doesn’t. On our present course it isn’t going to happen no matter how much money is spent on it and no matter how desirable it would be.

We’re more likely to need funding for more peace walls. Northern society is split from top to bottom. We even have a form of political apartheid at Stormont. Wouldn’t we’d be better to face reality?

There’s no point in kidding ourselves. More funding for the Community Relations Council is like sticking a plaster on an infection.

We need to recognise just how sick we are. The peace process has destabilised the North much more than the troubles ever did. The old stalemate was actually a comfort blanket for many. People didn’t feel threatened by change, as they do now which means that the problems of sectarianism and racism are getting worse.

And, the institutionalised apartheid at Stormont isn’t saving us.

Why should people behave in a respectful way when their politicians set an appalling example of disrespect?

Many on the unionist side delight in having no understanding of nationalist perceptions. When ignorance is bliss for politicians, why should anyone bother to be wise?

Take, for example, last week’s bid to suspend Gerry Kelly from Stormont over the “Gerry on the jeep” incident. Everyone accepted the Belfast MLA was trying to calm the situation but for unionists it was time to grandstand with penalty kicks against the high profile Shinner.

Naturally, it was as boisterous and ill-tempered as possible. It was “a pantomime” said Alex Maskey. It was the usual play-acting to impress the gullible. Of course, a petition of concern was always going to ensure that it would only be play-acting, just as it was the other way round in 2012 when there was a similar attempt to exclude the DUP’s Jim Wells. It might be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Meanwhile, there’s more heat (in the form of flags) than light on every available lamppost. As if that weren’t depressing enough, politicians who ought to be giving a wiser lead, queue up on the on radio and TV to encourage even more flag waving. What about the tricolours or Union Jacks in such-and-such an area is their futile refrain.

And, there’s no realistic prospect of progress on parades or the past.

We’re trapped in tribalism. It’s working for the benefit of the political chattering classes; not for the people.

How can we escape from the snare?

It can only be done by getting a significant number of people to change their mind about the age-old national identity issue. Yes, that gives us a political mountain to climb but there’s no other way. Thankfully, we do have some politicians who are giving a lead. They’re already in the foothills. It may take a sustained charm offensive, even longer than the long armed offensive, but there’s no other way. Violence, in any form, makes a bad situation worse.

If we could only resolve the big identity issue why would religious differences matter? Of course many will consider that view even more naïve than the Chairman of the Community Relations Council’s view.