Return without reform is not the answer – By Professor Colin Harvey

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I accept that this will not be a welcome thing to say for many people, given the dominant and overwhelming ‘narrative framing’ of the outcome of the election. But return to the sort of flawed approach to power-sharing that forgot about the values of the Good Friday Agreement on parity of esteem, equality, human rights and social justice will not work, particularly given the post-Brexit world towards which world we are heading rapidly. No one it seems can save us from Brexit; limiting the damage in legally credible ways is our best hope for now. I do not think an election that was primarily (but not exclusively) about Brexit can be recast as a vote for unprincipled and unconditional return to power-sharing government here.

I doubt that is what people want or for which anyone will be thankful. Much better to get this right in the interests of everyone and for the long term. We know solutions to the problems we face are there. We know what the impediments to progressive change are, and how these challenges can be remedied. We know how clarity can be achieved on the major constitutional questions arising as a result of Brexit. As appealing as it may sound to some at the moment, return to power-sharing without delivering the necessary rights-based reforms, and required levels of clarity and certainty, is not the answer. A better way forward is to strive to remedy the root causes of our current problems and acknowledge the need for planning and preparation for the future. Yes, political parties here have their responsibilities, but both governments could and should do so much more.

Rights-based and respectful power-sharing government is possible and there is no conflict between that and advancing work on constitutional change. That is what the Agreement is intended to guarantee. However, taking a shortcut back now will only store up future problems.


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