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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Brendan McAllister is Director of Mediation Northern Ireland, based in Belfast Image of Brendan McAllister

I think that we have to appreciate how difficult this whole thing has been. At the heart of our government has been a coalition between erstwhile opponents, indeed enemies. Now we have expected these people to coalesce in government together, and we mustn't underestimate the difficulties they're labouring under with regard to their view of each other's past.

It might sound a bit emotive, but I think it's fair enough to observe that at the heart of the working of the government, of the Executive, has been what I call 'the suspension of disgust'. Republicans have had to suspend their disgust with what Northern Ireland has meant, their view of Unionists and Unionists' intention. Unionists have had to suspend their disgust with the Republican past and indeed, as have nationalists. But this suspension of disgust within the Unionist community, those who could not enter government, in a sense were unable to suspend their disgust, and that has been the difference between pro- and anti-Agreement Unionists.

But one thing that seems to unite Unionists is their unwillingness to suspend their disgust about the apparent present and future intentions of Republicans, and equally there have been times when the capacity of Republicans or indeed nationalists to suspend their disgust about the other side's intentions has been strained as well.

So the suspension of disgust has worked for a time, but is no longer operating, and we need to appreciate the sincerity with which everybody comes to the table and disagrees with each other in TV Studios. That's the shortcomings of public debates - I think now there needs to be a lot of private space created for people where they can listen to each other without worrying about sound bites.

That's one of the problems, isn't it?

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