Yesterday i went to St Paul's a Sports Bar in Belfast. This was in honour of the activists who campaigned for Sinn Feinn during an election triggered by what has to be one of the most shameless politicians in all of history. Arlene Foster. Now even if you loved the DUP and everything you stood for, you COULD NOT read the details about the scandal where they were just handing money over for a very dodgy heating scheme and causing not only a huge increase in greenhouse gas, but also mindlessly emptying the treasury as if they were sitting on a magical mountain of leprechaun gold which they found at the end of the rainbow - which they never would, because they are madly anti gay.
But, nevermind all the weird other bits of their ideology and belief, that's ok - apart from the obvious sectarianism - nevermind all of that - but when it comes to scrutiny over governance and wasting the taxpayers money, this was astonishing. The whistle blower said that God told him to rat out the head of the DUP and First Minister of Norn Iron - Arlene Foster. She was the Minister for Trade who was incharge of all this at the time. She knew what was going on and yet chose to ignore advise about this issue. If you want to know how must it is estimated it will cost the tax payer the price tag is £500 million dollars. That was at the point it was stopped. If it wasn't stopped - who knows.
So, in any case, this was scandalous. It was ridiculous. As schools were being closed, as hospitals were being squeezed, as people were being questioned by the AWP about whether they were having heartattacks, as infrastructure needed to be replaced, the DUP were handing out vast amounts of cash to their constituents. Then there was the who scandal about special advisers, it just goes on and on and on.
So, you would think that just given the state of things - the First Minister would step down from her role and save the party, save the elected Assembly while the investigation went on. That is what a regular leader would do. But Nooooo. No. No. Of course not. She just decided to tough the whole thing out with her face. Her face, which is almost certainly made from the same substance as the metal used in the bottom of a cast iron cooking pot.
She was stunning. Every excuse in the book was used. I didn't know. Which she did. You are being sexist. Which no one believed. This is a Sinn Fein thing. I see, good governance is a Sinn Fein thing. I have a cold and can't answer questions. It was bewildering, flabbergasting, pathethic and just plain gross, all at the same time. In the face of such agonising and blatant shamelessness, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness collapsed the Assembly and the Secretary of State said, right, we will go into election. The last election was less than nine months ago. So, once again the hapless people of Norn Iron received a Master Class in resilience amidst the ineptitude of their politicians.
It was three very long weeks. During this time, the only riposte which Arlene Foster had to everything was 'the radical Republican agenda' and 'Gerry Adams/Sinn Fein'. The only difference though was that no one buying it. If there is one thing the people who vote the DUP understand better than the radical Republican agenda is the obscene waste of money. And so Arlene Foster decided to, like Samson, collapse the Assembly - with the role of the Philistines so remarkably well played by her own party.
It was quite interesting really.
At first, as the votes were counted, no one could believe that the dog whistle politics had worked. With marriage equality and the pro choice issue swirling around in the background, with younger voters, with fewer seats in the Assembly, it seemed a bit depressing that there were people who could still vote for the DUP and its barefaced lying leader. However, as the day wore on, it was clear that the DUP had now lost its veto in the Assembly. It had FAILED to get the 30 seat majority that was needed. Blood was split. Old timers had gone to the wall, newcomers - promising newcomers, most especially Emma Pengelley - had done the same. Instead they were replaced by the Alliance Party, the Greens and the nationalist vote, nettled by disregard for due process and the constant repetition of the how they were to be viewed as crocodiles turned out and gave Sinn Fein one set less than the DUP. Sinn Fein, the party banned by the British state in the 70s, was now in equal pegging with the hardline Unionists which had Northern Ireland specifically created for them so they could maintain their hegemony. My class asked me only four weeks ago, why isn't Donegal and Monaghan part of Ulster, and i said, because it would have meant that the Protestants would be outnumbered by the Catholics and left it at that, and they looked at me as if i had two heads.
This was the a glimpse of the final thaw after centuries of colonial misrule, abuse, injustice. It was like the White Queen's reign had finally come to an end in Narnia. There were signs of melt.
Sure it had only taken over 4,000 lives and more than 100 years, but sure... maybe, just maybe.
Now the negotiations will begin. And Sinn Fein doesn't care if there is Direct Rule. They don't care. Sinn Fein's long term agenda is a united Ireland. That is what they want.
They don't want to be plugged into some British Institution. To them the Assembly is a means to an end. It is the Unionists interests to have direct rule.
The saddest part of this whole affair? How the British across the water DID NOT CARE about these elections at all. I mean you could say, why should the Southern Irish care about what happens, they aren't the ones who are part of the UK.... but the Brits across the water - they were like, go away, we have our own problems. We are agonising over BREXIT. And here's the thing - Brexit will in all probability precipitate an independent Scotland and a united Ireland. How ironic. The only countries which England will have are Wales... and Cornwall.
Sometimes when i listen to the British Brexiters talk about negotiating trade deals with countries like India and China, suddenly becoming all Commonwealthy, i wonder, do they have ANY idea what is involved and do they think these countries are going to be happy about it? What exactly does the UK have to offer them which is of any interest, beyond the City of London? This bit of the UK doesn't seem to realise that fifty years has passed and the rest of the world has moved on.
How exactly are they going to do this?
So back to St Paul's. The feeling in the club last night was a tiny ray of warmth was making its way through all the fog of the last 500 years. One of the most memorable lines in a short speech last night was real Republicanism is here for everyone. It would be amazing if Sinn Fein would be able to hold on to that radical agenda which was birthed in the turbulence of the 18th century. Where the people all across Europe said, no more. It would be amazing if it could deliver that for everyone here. In the Sports Clubs of West Belfast and beyond.