On Dec 9th in 1973 the Sunningdale agreement was signed, setting up a power sharing administration in Northern Ireland.  It was followed by a unionist backlash, a general strike and a breakdown in public order.  The agreement did not survive for six months.

As a result of the collapse of Sunningdale Northern Ireland, and the Mainland UK, were to suffer 25 years of tit for tat violence and terrorism.

In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed, introducing a power sharing administration.  It was nicknamed “Sunningdale for slow learners”.

There is a lesson here for policy makers who are attempting to resolve conflicts between polarised interests.  Before any peaceable agreement can be implemented it must be sold effectively to both sides.  In particular it must be sold to the hard line extremists.

Moderate interests are always focused on the solution.  Hard line extremists focus on their positions, rights, entitlements, traditions.  They worry about symbols such as marches, flags, badges and language.  When finding a solution that includes the hard liners the devil is in the detail.

For any solution to work requires the hard liners to engage in the the process to find the solution.  If they are excluded from the process they will simply undermine any solution that emerges.

In many situations the Hard Line interests are operating outside of the sphere of legality.  They are often labelled as criminals and are wanted by the police for terrorist activity.  Any negotiation process must begin by recognizing the right of these people to be present at the negotiation table.  This in itself is often anathema to other interests.

Building agreement is a delicate choreography of acceptance, inclusion and negotiation.



Parents:  by Paul Durcan

A child’s face is a drowned face:

Her parents stare down at her asleep

Estranged from her by a sea:

She is under the sea

And they are above the sea:

If she looked up she would see them

As if locked out of their own home.

Their mouths open.

Their foreheads furrowed –

Pursed-up orifices of fearful fish –

Their big ears are fins behind the glass

And in her sleep she is calling out to them

Father, Father

Mother, Mother

But they cannot hear her:

She is inside the sea

And they are outside the sea,

Throughout the night, stranded, they stare

At the drowned, drowned face of their child.

Why America needs Communism


One of the greatest victories in history is that of Capitalism over Communism. But by defeating Communism we have re-opened the door to the exploitation of labour by Capitalism. Communism kept Capitalism honest, in check, restrained. The Capitalist system had to prove why it was better as long as Communism offered a genuine alternative.

The great weapon of Capitalism was the middle class lifestyle, the American Dream; the property owning working man and his wife with a car, all mod-cons, educated kids, an annual holiday and a turkey on the table at Thanksgiving. This is the image that defeated Communism.

Communists could not own their property. They huddled in jerry built soviet flats, slogged to work through icy streets, squeezed into crowded trains, they queued for meagre supplies of bad quality food and waited on a list for two years to get a bad TV.

As long as Communism existed as a viable solution there was pressure on Capitalists to demonstrate that their system offered significant advantages to the workers.  Once Communism was defeated this pressure was removed from Captialists. They don’t have to ensure that the American Dream is there for everyone. Why should they? Why should they be short of another racehorse, or Ferrari, just so their workforce can upgrade their car this year? Those workers have nowhere to go, no ideology to follow other than Capitalism. So Capitalists can now take what they want.

This is exactly what is happening in the workplace. Jobs are being “hollowed out”. Instead of employing an expert on $100,000 p/a you break the job down to components. The expert is replaced by two “graduate trainees” each earning $30,000 for a huge saving to the employer. In the same way that 19th Century carpenters were replaced by single task operators we now see high skill middle class jobs simplified into tasks that are filled by inexperienced hires with one weeks training.

A family can live the American dream if one spouse earns $100,000 p/a. Reduce that to $30,000 and the dream is over. You need both parties out working, and maybe a second job to pay for childcare. Suddenly the college fees for the kids become a problem. But so what, they won’t find high skill jobs when they qualify in any case!

Best of all, if they do go to college, the banks will tie them into student loans that will enslave them to the Capitalist system for the rest of their lives. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 21st Century Serf, the post-modernist Peasant, the indentured servant of the Capitalist System.

So the paradox is this. If you really value Mom, Apple Pie & the American Way you need to fight hard to protect it and to promote it. The best way to save the American Dream is to defend the very things you reject, Anarchy, Communism, Socialism, Nationalisation of industry, Public Ownership, hard line Unionisation. By defending the rights of the socialists you ensure that the Capitalists compete for hearts and minds by delivering the benefits of Capitalism to the masses and not just to those at the top.