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How can we prevent the Stormont crisis snuffing out candle of peace?

By Alf McCreary

Published 12/09/2015

Walking out: DUP leader Peter Robinson decided to step down as First Minister over the current crisis
Walking out: DUP leader Peter Robinson decided to step down as First Minister over the current crisis

Few people outside the circle of politicians, and many insiders as well, have a clue how the chaotic mess at Stormont arose. Fewer still seem to have any idea as to how to get out of it, but one thing is clear - the vast majority of people on all sides in this province do not want it to collapse, because, if it does so, the situation may become much, much worse.

This is a time for clear heads and wise choices.

The case for reason, patience and perseverance was well made this week by the former Methodist President, the Rev Harold Good, and other leading cross-community figures.

As he spoke outside the Stormont Buildings there was a certain poignancy about this man who had experienced in his ministry so much of the hurt of the Troubles, and who had gone out of his way to help.

As a former senior Corrymeela figure, he worked at grass roots level to build bridges, as a Methodist President he used his office to underline the same message, and in his later career he was one of two trusted Church figures who were asked to verify the Provisional IRA decommissioning of arms.

Harold Good has impeccable credentials for fairness, as well as the hard-won authority of a man who has been through the thick of it during the Troubles and who has never wavered in his quest for peace.

In that sense, he represents thousands of ordinary people who know what the bad times were like, and who also dread the possibility of what might happen if the politicians lose control and allow the men and women of violence to fill the void once again.

The Rev Good is not alone in his quest for peace. During the Troubles, the Churches have been working hard for better understanding, and if they had not done so, the situation would have been a great deal worse.

Many people are sick and tired of the politicians blaming each other and in each media interview they dig themselves deeper into the ditch that may some day suck in all of us.

The basic problem at Stormont is a lack of personal trust and respect between the politicians who were elected to serve the people. Instead, many have opted to play cynical political games to achieve their own agendas, and also to pander to their electorate to make sure that they keep their seats.

This is a political cancer that has eaten to the heart of Stormont, and until it has been eradicated there will be no true peace or lasting solution.

Harold Good's close colleague was the remarkable Dr Ray Davey, the Presbyterian minister who had the vision to establish a cross-community visionary group even before the Troubles broke out.

From his incarceration in prisoner of war camps during the Second World War, he saw under duress the need for greater community harmony, which inspired him to start building bridges when he came back home.

Corrymeela has always, always taught that "it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness".

This society managed to light that candle in the Good Friday Agreement, and it would be an utter tragedy if the darkness of the present political impasse were to snuff it out again.

There is no alternative to talking, however difficult it may be. Failure to agree will lead us back into the wilderness, and I hope that this stark reality will speak to the hearts of the politicians, as well as to their heads, during this crucial weekend.


'This is a time for clear heads and for wise choices, too'

Belfast Telegraph

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