an exclusive seaside resort in Scotland, the pampered
and over-indulged political representatives of
a prosperous and well-educated people have been
meeting this week to try to agree the formation
of a post-conflict, power-sharing administration.
ceasefires having been in place since 1994 and
the endorsement of a comprehensive agreement by
71 per cent of their electorate in 1998, the political
leaders have failed to work together for any sustained
more than a decade, prime ministers, presidents
and the world's media have danced attendance on
these leaders and their tiny province of two million
people on the western fringe of Europe.
an incentive to political development, a vast
amount of money has been pumped into the local
economy (and has all but disappeared without trace),
but to no avail.
the best that can be hoped for from this latest
round of talks are further promises that an administration
will be formed at some time in the future.
threats to the contrary, this will probably ensure
that the politicians and their constituency continue
receiving the world attention and financial inducements
to which they have become all too accustomed.
are the harsh, unadorned, realities of the Northern
Ireland peace process.
for far too long the real incentive has been to
string out the process, not conclude it.
realise how over-indulged Northern Ireland actually
is, one need only consider the recent history
of similarly-sized Macedonia.
multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and religiously diverse
society, Macedonia has had to cope with the immediate
fallout from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia,
of which it was part.
it remained relatively peaceful during the Yugoslav
wars of the early 1990s, the destabilising effect
of an influx of 360,000 ethnic Albanian refugees
from the Kosovo war in 1999 caused Macedonia to
suffer a period of sustained inter-ethnic violence.
being faced with problems of enormous complexity,
Macedonia's elected representatives have managed
to forge their own political agreement, push ahead
with democratic elections, and form a representative
administration - all without a fraction of the
outside assistance Northern Ireland has received.
realise how, internationally, Northern Ireland
continues to be afforded a political and media
significance far above what the situation here
merits - or arguably has ever merited - one need
only consider some of the real and potential crises
that the world currently faces.
a frightening degree, some of the most unpredictable
(and in a few cases, all but indecipherable) regimes
on the planet now have, or are well on their way
to developing, the means to inflict death and
destruction on a catastrophic scale.
week, the virtual prison-state of communist North
Korea announced that it had successfully tested
its first nuclear weapon. From what we know of
North Korea, it could be modelled on the fictional
Oceania of Orwell's 1984.
by the leadership cult of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il,
its paranoiac and totalitarian regime tolerates
exercises complete state control over all media
outlets, has an estimated 200,000 political prisoners,
and uses torture, public executions and slave
labour to keep its population of 23 million in
Korea also has one of the world's largest standing
armies and is still technically at war with neighbouring
between the nuclear-equipped neighbours of Pakistan
and India have eased somewhat in recent times,
but the dispute over Kashmir that has brought
them to war three times previously, remains unresolved.
yet another nuclear power, exists in a perpetual
state of siege, surrounded by real and perceived
Israeli-Palestinian (and by extension Israeli-Arab)
conflict continues to fester and destabilise the
entire Middle East region.
Israel- and West-hating regime in Iran, led by
the religious zealot President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
is pressing ahead with the development of its
own nuclear programme.
only has Ahmadinejad questioned whether the Holocaust
ever happened, much more ominously, he has also
called for the "elimination" of Israel.
all of these nations possess, or are in the throes
of developing, nuclear programmes is unsettling
enough - that they are currently involved in disputes
of one kind or another with neighbouring states
and beyond is frightening.
a more "conventional" level, there is
no end in sight to the war in Afghanistan or the
almost daily slaughter of innocents and combatants
in Iraq.It is against that backdrop of real and
potential human tragedy on an unimaginable scale,
that Northern Ireland receives special treatment.
It really is time we began to put things in perspective.