In the stalemate prior to the Stormont House Agreement, there was pressure from numerous quarters on the various political parties to strike a deal.
Among those who urged progress was the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), who signed an open letter asking the politicians to resolve “some of the very difficult issues facing our community”.
This sounds very noble, and implies that the said politicians might in the absence of such urgings be less noble than the signatories to such letters.
But it only takes a moment’s reflection to see the problems with the approach taken by the ICTU and others.
Imagine that you were passionately of the view that Sinn Fein was the obstacle to such a deal, or that you were of the opposite view that the DUP was the obstacle.
If you were to listen to the ICTU or others in the campaign such as the Good Friday Agreement lobbyist Quinton Oliver’s Stratagem company, you would have to abandon such principles on the assumption that compromise is necessarily better than adherence to a particular principle.
But it turns out that even the ICTU does not have such high ideals.
Because, in an almost comical twist, the union which joined these non-specific demands for an agreement is now railing against the agreement that came to pass.
And why? Because it doesn’t like the specific details of this agreement, which might lead to modest job losses in Northern Ireland’s public sector.
In other words, the ICTU is among those who self-righteously demanded agreement, without specifying how such agreement can be reached, and then rails against the agreement that is actually achieved.
This is akin to those who rail about having no-one to vote for in Northern Ireland, and yet who reject every new political party that comes on the scene in Northern Ireland. It is incoherence hiding behind self-righteousness.