The warning signs are already clear, the well-rehearsed arguments are converging and the battle lines have been drawn. We are facing a very difficult, and potentially very dangerous 12 month period.
Politics in Northern Ireland are dominated and divided by nationalism: pro-British and pro-Irish versions: both are toxic and both are destructive
In recent days we have seen protocols, polls and policing, used to fuel claim and counter claim, building on existing division and further polarising and dividing the community.
The pro-British nationalism of the DUP, and others, using ill thought out, but confrontational, strategies to hype up the threat to the union, and the appalling, unapologetic arrogance and contempt of Sinn Fein, have set the ground rules for the coming months and for the run in to next year’s Assembly elections.
We are now beginning to see the outworking of those strategies taking shape in the form of riots and street violence. The fear must be that worse is yet to come.
In the face of the basest forms of tribal politics, and the potential threat they pose, the need for a united, coherent and focussed working class response has never been more urgent.
In a little over twelve months’ time there will be an Assembly election. Much of the recent tribalism, political posturing and grandstanding is aimed at laying the groundwork for that election campaign. When that spills over into the streets in the form of riots, disturbances and attacks, as we are already witnessing, it will not be by accident but by deliberate design.
The nationalism of the DUP, Sinn Fein and others demands that the tribal stakes are constantly raised and raised again. If that means some teenagers and young people from working class communities end up in prison, injured or worse then so be it. Of course, both parties will be the first to condemn the violence, the bloodshed and the community strife, while in the same breath calculating how much they had gained from it and how much further they need to go.
The only response to this deadly and downward nationalist spiral is the collective voice and action of a united working class, committed to and focused on a political and social agenda which will drive a progressive wedge into the heart of political life here.
That measure must involve trade unionists, working people, progressive and anti-sectarian elements, principled parties of the left and, importantly, forward thinking members of the media and other professions. It is not too late to openly reject the politics and consequences of nationalism. Nor is it too late to call them out. However, the day for howling at the moon has long gone.