Stormont: it is a theatre of politically spun shameful and divisive failings – By Terry Wright.

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We are all going to have to live with the consequences as the immediate financial crisis at Stormont is apparently resolved but is it just another release valve on the pressure cooker that is the nature of politics in Northern Ireland until pressure and tensions rise again? Procrastination on the tougher decisions alongside populist policies and the proximity of elections suggest we may not have long to wait.

Until all the parties commit to using and embracing the spirit of the existing political structures and availability of discourse and communication facilitated by the various governments we are unlikely to see resolution of those issues which act as an impediment to cohesion and sustainable progress. Condemned to witness the out-workings or old and outdated quarrels we see only stalled, tortuous and disjointed expediency.

This is not in keeping with the context of electoral support that gave approval, with all its moral and political risks, to the various Agreements within which politics in Northern Ireland operate. It was not to be about political attrition and war by another name. Rather was it to be centred on transcending party mandates to build a better future not least by addressing those difficult issues that could not be fully addressed at the time. Not everyone can get everything that they want. They will not and cannot protect their interests and preferences by destroying everyone else’s. This is a flawed premise.

It is self-evident that brinkmanship, blinkered posturing and denial, and point scoring erode trust, damage relations and demean politics and politicians. The consequence is that of diverting from the journey towards reconciliation and transformation that is still incomplete. It militates against cohesive and strategic decision-making in all areas, not least the economy, health, education and justice, social and otherwise. Actions, so framed, are characterised by over costly and failed or abandoned procurements and financial commitments, wasteful in time, energy and resources produced by delays due to lack of resolve and co-operation and an inability to manage power other than in the interests of narrow constituencies. This drains public morale and aspirations.

It is a betrayal and abandonment of the moral imperative of making politics work for the benefit of the whole community in deference to the wishes of the vast majority of the electorate and the sacrifice of those who needlessly lost their lives or who live with mental and physical injuries resulting from years of unwarranted political and sectarian violence. It is a betrayal of the hopes and ambitions of well-educated and skilled young people coping with career uncertainty. It is a betrayal of many public workers who are about to lose their jobs and income at a time when the private sector is not producing the required number of vacancies. It is a betrayal of the need for considered strategic development of the infrastructure necessary for the encouragement of investment and a sustainable economy.

Of course the austerity policies of the coalition government at Westminster have had an affect. But where is the evidence of long term planning put in place and the ethical accountability of the administration at Stormont? Where is the courage to take the hard decisions over the raising of revenue and to explain to the electorate why these have to be taken? Where is the courage to address the continuing and crippling costs of segregation and sectarian strife?

Why the easy option of Treasury loans, cuts, job losses and hospital closures? Instead of competence we are subjected to piecemeal decision-making and the smug and asinine antics of a well-paid double-jobbing MLA/MP indulging in calculated insults towards a rich language and literary culture. No money worries there.

We are told that the Budget decisions have secured the future of the Assembly at Stormont. It is well for some that their future is secure. It is becoming a scarce commodity for an increasing number of people in need of employment, healthcare and a progressive society with modern infrastructure in present day Northern Ireland.

There are those who describe Stormont as a political pantomime. They are too kind. With some notable exceptions, it is a theatre of politically spun shameful and divisive failings.

Happily, the audience of spectators within the community and civic society content to observe is decreasing rapidly.



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