Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Debate is the norm

I've just got back from my first trip to Italy in 20 years. It was brilliant, but more of that some other time.
One great thing about getting away from it all is the space you have to think about bigger issues, and it occurred to me as I sat enjoying my 2nd cappuccino of last Friday morning how angst-ridden politics are in the North of Ireland. On bad days it seems like whatever one side says will be felt by the other as a knife in the ribs. Republicans see themselves living under a big cloud they think will only lift the day Northern Ireland is annexed to √Čire. And Unionists feel they've their backs up against the wall with nowhere to go, watching their heritage being eaten away bit by painful bit.
So much for single-issue politics. (As an aside, maybe we should welcome mainstream British and √Čireann political parties to Northern Ireland).
The rough-and-tumble of political debate is normal and healthy in a democracy. Sometimes I think we see it as a necessary evil that will be slain like a dragon the day one side wins the partition battle for good. But that isn't so.
Debate is necessarily an uncomfortable process but can be made easier and more pleasant if participants are prepared to change their minds - or soften their stances - in response to cogent cases. Do your favourite politicians want to win at all costs, ultimately presiding over a trounced and bitter enemy, or do they want to engage confidently and find workable compromises?
If it's the latter they'll need to soften their stances from time to time on issues that are important to the other side. Political considerations, of course, always mean that softening is never admitted openly lest one's standing be weakened, but I want to encourage it nonetheless because it'll get us further faster than playing our grandparents' broken records.
The Big question for today is: do you regard the noun 'compromise' as desirable or as a sell-out?


At 12:01 p.m., Blogger funbundle said...

Dear John,

compromise is a very necessary part of today and yesterday. It's one that needs to be taken seriously as without it much less can be achieved. Winning implies that the other loses, if both can win that's surely the best.


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