Friday, July 25, 2008

Quibbling Over Positive News

While it is true that the "peace walls" in Belfast, Northern Ireland still exist--and that Barack Obama may have made a mistake in suggesting that they have come down--the fact remains that things are vastly different for people in Northern Ireland.
"Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together," Barack Obama told 200,000 gathered for his speech at the Victory Column. Only trouble is, that's not the case - since Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, the walls dividing Belfast's sectarian enclaves (known as the "peace line") have been going up, not coming down.

Part of what Obama is saying is true, though, and the changes in Belfast, Derry, and other areas of Northern Ireland have been dramatic. For example, in 1998, the number of sectarian deaths is counted at over 55 for the year; so far this year, there has been one death related to "sectarian" issues. I don't think there is anyone arguing that what is in place is ideal, but it's a hell of a lot better than the years where people were dying every week. The fact that the sectarian violence has virtually ceased and that there are people negotiating through the political process speaks volumes. Obama should have called for the elimination of the peace walls, rather than claim that the vastly improved situation was brought about by their removal. The peace walls might serve a purpose in certain areas, but they should begin to come down, and people in Northern Ireland are saying just as much.

Obama needs to remember that every single item, statistic and term he uses now is going to be parsed and picked through, and that there are people who are blatantly ignoring the whoppers that McCain is spewing every day. A slip like this is going to be magnified by Republicans, and the Obama campaign needs to reduce these incidents wherever it can.


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