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Our politicians were not elected to extinguish hope for the future

By Alf McCreary

On Sunday Sinn Fein, led by a resurgent Gerry Adams, pulled the plug on the Stormont talks and thereby dashed the hopes raised at Martin McGuinness's funeral, and attended by Arlene Foster, that there might be a softening of approach.

It seems that the Shinners already had their minds made up to ditch power-sharing, and that a triumphalist Adams and his colleagues are now aiming to exploit Brexit and go for joint authority, or even Irish unity, never mind the unionists and others who do not want either development.

This is a dangerous ploy, because there is no-one in Sinn Fein, or among the unionists, with the negotiating and bridge-building skills of the late Mr McGuinness. Big trouble looms ahead.

The second truly major event this week was the triggering of Brexit, in my view a catastrophic decision, but as an old Bessbrook friend said to me "Sure what can you do?"

He is right. We have to accept the consequences, like them or not.

The inter-denominational Corrymeela Community has nobly offered to host talks with the politicians, but I doubt if the offer will be accepted.

Most of the politicians are too determined to beat "the other" side, rather than caring for all the people of this province.

They remind me the comment of an ace London reporter who covered the Derry riots in 1969. He shook his head sorrowfully and said to me: "Both sides still want to win. No-one wants to give in."

Corrymella was the brain-child of that remarkable Presbyterian minister the Reverend Dr Ray Davey, a spiritual prince in his time, who survived in the Italian and German prison-of-war camps and saw the need for reconciliation, a quality that has been noticeably absent from Stormont since the start.

Most of the DUP and Sinn Fein absolutely loathe one another, so we wonder how these people can work together for the good of all.

They remind me of the Billy Goats Gruff who refuse to give way on the bridge.

This children's story applies to the hard-faced, grim politicians whose "not an inch" politics cause such despair for the rest of us.

The Churches have tried their best to pour oil on troubled waters, and their leaders have been far too kind in offering an ecclesiastical carrot, when a stick might work better.

In all fairness the bridge-building between the Churches at all levels has been heartening.

There will never be structural Church unity but the members of congregations on both sides of the divide have shown countless times how ordinary Protestants and Catholics, and those of no obvious faith, can live together in peace and respect for one another.

The people are far ahead of the politicians, who continue to behave disgracefully, with the Shinners now grimly out-doing the "not an inch" unionists.

Therefore all you and I can do is to live with respect for our neighbours and to show our appalling politicians how far out of step they are with very many of those who voted them into power.

Of course we must take the blame for electing the two biggest sectarian parties, but we deserve better than the current mess we are in now.

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