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Monday, February 28, 2005

This is no longer a circus....

The title I used in a couple of past posts made reference to observations from 'the peanut gallery' -- a term familiar to those of us who grew up watching the US kid's TV show, 'Howdy Doody'. The set of the show was originally designed (so to speak) to provide the atmosphere of a circus, and the live audience of little children sat on seats right next to the 'action' similar to those you might find under a 'big top'. And thus the idea of a 'peanut gallery.' It was a great place from which to view the circus.

I am not the only one who regards Northern Ireland politics as a circus -- the local BBC TV show, Hearts and Minds, uses a three ring circus as its theme each week. But I now think events unfolding in Belfast require a different metaphor, for what seemed like a political circus only a couple of weeks ago has now emerged as a true political drama that is likely to have major consequences for the peace process in Northern Ireland. The murdered man's four sisters (with substantial support from their Short Stand neighbors) have become the center of a movement that is directly and very openly confronting the IRA and Sinn Fein and their own turf. They have done so using classic street-level political tactics and have been able to mobilize support not only in Northern Ireland, but at the highest levels of government in Ireland and the UK. Yesterday's protest march against the IRA received major coverage in the top media outlets in Dublin and London.

Anyone who wants to learn about the power of raw democracy would do well to keep an eye on Belfast over the next several weeks.
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