Time to end NI political deadlock

 

Sir, – Once again, Northern Ireland is faced with a crisis as to how we can succeed to have all our political institutions re-established.

Cast aside your constitutional ideology of whatever hue. Concentrate on what we as individuals will lose out on if the Northern Ireland Assembly fails to reach an agreement on forming a devolved administration and direct rule is reimposed.

This failure would lead to a worst-case scenario for each worker, every business and all of the families and communities who depend upon public services and a sustainable income.

You may not agree with some of the policies enacted by the previous Assembly or indeed the demands of political parties presently in dispute – but coalition government, which we have in Northern Ireland, demands compromise.

This is how democracy operates across many nations – but it does not operate under direct rule.

Any analysis of the policies implemented by the Westminster government in England and Wales will illustrate the huge disparity in socio-economic policies that do not apply in Northern Ireland, such as the bedroom tax, university fees, trade union legislation, water charges, and rampant privatisation of healthcare and social services.

The above issues prove that the Assembly can work for the benefit of all.

On the other hand, we can expect a very nasty type of direct rule that will negate all the benefits listed above. This is happening already through decisions made by direct rule ministers who are not accountable to the people.

An allied threat is the loss of additional funding from the deal between the DUP and the Tories.

Such funds if used strategically could mitigate the effect of cuts in the health and education sectors; ensure funding for institutional, sexual and physical abuse victims; and pay public servants higher wages than those being capped by the Tories.

Whichever Brexit process is imposed on the people of Northern Ireland, it is imperative that our politicians influence the content of that process for our common good.

Our politicians cannot opt out of having a joint Assembly policy to ensure the greatest economic protection for workers, businesses, farmers and the youth of the future.

Devolution can build further on the creation of a secure sense of identity for those who see themselves as British, or Irish, or Northern Irish. Furthermore, devolution properly operating is crucial to hold the peace process together.

I appeal to all political parties to enter into the spirit of the Belfast Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement, and to reach an agreement for all in our diverse society. – Yours, etc,

PETER BUNTING,

(Former assistant general

secretary of the Irish

Congress of Trade Unions),

Civil Society Network,

Belfast.