Time Haass come for real change … turn Maze into museum
(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)
Forget the blame game and the political spin. Every dog in the street knew that if the Executive parties could not reach an agreement on flags, parades and the past by last Halloween, the Ricky Haass talks were doomed.
What party in its right mind a matter of months before two major elections is going to agree to a series of concessions and compromises?
May’s European and new super council polls will be the most crucial since the 1998 Assembly election which gave the fledgling Stormont a distinctively pro-Agreement flavour.
The Shinners will go into the poll in a clearly better position than Robbo’s Dupes. Anyone who believes Big Al’s Stoops can overhaul Sinn Féin’s lead in the nationalist community is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Reality pill number one for the Stoops. Their Euro candidate wee Alex Attwood hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell of snatching back the current seat held by Shinner convicted ex-terrorist Martina Anderson.
To remain a party of significance, the SDLP should adopt the policy of popular Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone and focus on the rural middle class Catholic vote.
Robbo certainly will not want to lead his party into the same electoral meltdown as befell former First Minister David Trimble in the 2003 Stormont and 2005 Westminster polls when the DUP under Big Paisley overthrew more than 70 years of Ulster Unionist domination.
Leaks coming out of the Haass talks confirm that present UUP boss Mikey Nesbitt was spot on when he said the Executive parties were at 80 to 90% at hammering out a workable Haass deal.
The final 10% which proved to be the ultimate stumbling block was how the overall package could be sold by the parties to their respective electorates. Which party would own up to blinking first and agreeing concessions?
Given the dramatic Maze jail U-turn, Robbo clearly does not want to hear the jibe that he leads the Doubtful Unionist Party because no one in Unionism knows where it stands.
So, bin the seven Haass documents and here’s the Coulter One document to consider. Let’s start with the Maze Shrine. It should be developed along the lines of the impressive Museum of Terror which has a prime location in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
The Hungarians have the dubious honour of having lost every war they participated in during the 20th century, costing tens of thousands of lives.
Yet they have no fear of showing off a multi-storey building dedicated to the various conflicts which ravaged the country. Candles and photos of dead loved ones surround the building.
Having visited the Museum of Terror as part of a journalistic trip, I was taken on a highly emotional journey detailing the horrors of the Nazis, the slaughter of Stalin, and the turmoil of the failed 1956 Uprising.
Any visitor, of whatever nationality, is left in no doubt about the suffering of the Hungarian people. Such a Museum of Terror pulled no punches about the depth of that suffering and the real meaning of the word ‘victims’.
Budapest’s Museum of Terror even had cells where people were tortured, died or were executed during the nation’s bloody history, so a restored H Block or prison hospital wing at the Maze Shrine for Ireland is a Sunday School picnic project.
Just as the MLAs were shipped off to Nelson Mandela’s South Africa to kick-start the peace process, my Coulter One document recommends all Assembly members go to the Museum of Terror and let’s once again kick-start the Maze Shrine initiative.
January 7, 2014________________
This article appeared in the January 6, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.