Underlying politics on this island is always the issue of identity. It is something that goes far deeper than even economic considerations. Our history over the centuries has shown just how profoundly important identity is to every community on our island. The experience of the last forty years has deepened this. That is why things are not always as simple as we would like them to be.
Trying to play three-dimensional chess is one picture used to describe the task of Prime Minister Theresa May as she navigates a way to achieve Brexit. Whatever one’s views on Brexit it is surely proving to be one of the most complex processes imaginable – something that would need the brain of Einstein and the coolness of a poker player to successfully navigate. Into this complexity add the issue of identity that pervades our politics on every part of this island. It is then not just the brain of Einstein but the wisdom of Solomon that is required.
Whether a Remainer or a Brexiteer we can agree that one of the effects of the Brexit process has been to inject a degree of instability into relationships on these islands – between the British and Irish governments, between north and south as well as between the different identities on the island. Unfortunately, this provides opportunities to ferment uncertainty and division for any who thrive on that.
The years since the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement have been chequered, with some dark and bloody times along the way. The journey has been imperfect and frustrating, with some families having had to bear hurt than they should never have had to. However, it has shown us that it is possible to work for political solutions to intractable problems on these islands without having to resort to violence or the threat of it. We refuse to have this as part of how we work out our future, and the rest of the world is a witness to this.
How is the three-dimensional game of chess that is Brexit to be played? It is a game that we may or not wish had to be played. The job of politicians is to find solutions for problems, whether of their choosing or not. Solving Brexit, mixed with our identity politics is the job of our political leaders and the Prime Minister. Complex times indeed.
It is a time for cool heads and calm words from all of us as we face the uncertainties that Brexit casts up. There is much more at stake for us than economic relationships. We give a fair wind to our political leaders as they try to navigate a way ahead. No matter what we say none of us are queuing up for their job. What we do not give fair wind to is any temptation for anyone to use the current circumstances to ferment uncertainty and division