Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Unionism must give leadership - over Ardoyne and the welfare cuts

Declan Kearney is Sinn Fein's national chairman
Declan Kearney is Sinn Fein's national chairman

There was considerable relief that the Twelfth passed off without widespread disorder. The nationalist and unionist community of the Woodvale, Crumlin Road, Twaddell and Ardoyne deserved this respite.

Everyone is entitled to live free from sectarian harassment. The fact that graphic examples of bigotry were still in evidence during the last week demonstrates how much work needs to be done.

Political unionism has shown the influence it can exert over events on the ground. The leadership it provided clearly restricted the ability of extremists to inflame tensions.

This was a positive development. Now it's time to build on that example.

The parading impasse at Ardoyne will not be resolved without proper dialogue. Leadership is required to resume talks between the Orange Order and residents. That is the engagement which really counts.

Political unionism walked away from the talks table two weeks ago. It was a pointless stunt.

The only question which arises is not whether the DUP and UUP will come back into talks, but when and to which format.

That should be an incentive for the Irish and British governments, with US support, to put the correct framework in place to address all outstanding issues.

The political process and institutions have taken a hammering due to the absence of real engagement.

There is no alternative to pro-Agreement politics; Good Friday Agreement principles; process; power-sharing itself.

Political unionism should give leadership and unite with all other parties in addressing the challenges we face.

They include permanent resolutions to contentious parades, eradicating sectarian and racist hate-crime, agreeing compromises needed to deal with the past, and leading a popular fightback against neo-Thatcherite welfare cuts.

Tory welfare cuts put parades into perspective. They will adversely affect the lives of all citizens – regardless of religious, or political, affiliation.

United leadership is now required from every party against welfare cuts.

Declan Kearney is Sinn Fein's national chairman

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