Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Forget the border and EU and let's unite on the real issues we face

So David Cameron's referendum on the EU seems to come down to this - do you want to stay in? Do you want to go out? In, out, in, out, y'shake it all about. You do the HokEUy CokEUy and y'turn around, and that's what it's all about!

I imagine that for a lot of people, the above makes about as much sense as everything else they've heard about Europe. How on earth can they propose a simple yes or no, in or out choice?

Europe, by definition, is complicated. For most people there are things they like - easy currency on holiday, ease of travel and work, sense of being part of a bigger world, human rights laws that seem to protect workers better than the local ones used to. There are things people don't like - decisions made by people we don't know in far-off cities, money spent on massive bureaucracy and ridiculous laws that want to straighten our bananas and make all our quirkiness illegal.

How does that come down to an in or out?

If it's the economic problems with the Eurozone that are making some people want to leave, can I just point out, we're not in the Eurozone. And what does getting out mean anyway?

We can't take our islands and move them away from mainland Europe. We are here and they are close, like it or not. The fact that the system doesn't work perfectly is surely no reason to just dump it entirely.

Perhaps a debate about Europe and an attempt to change the bits that don't work for us would be useful. Perhaps that's what DC really wants.

But seriously, is this the most pressing issue of the day?

Similarly, a border poll in Ireland. Really? That's important at the moment? Stirring up even more sectarianism at a time when decency is struggling to maintain the upper hand?

Where do these politicians get their ideas from? SF call for a poll and the DUP respond by saying, "I know, let's call their bluff and go for a poll too!" Call their bluff? This isn't a game of poker here! This is real life where most people are struggling to keep going and they're wasting breath with out-dated crap like this?

The ironies are just falling over themselves this weather. Sammy Wilson finds he's got 47-odd million to spare and berates departments for not doing enough to spend it because the economy is in such dire straits, and yet his party happily stirred up the flag issue which has led to the biggest economic disaster here for years - a disaster he's now having to find money to pay for in compensation and ad campaigns encouraging people to come to Belfast!

How long do we want to go on with sectarian politics like this? Recent events are showing that for a lot of politicians here, normality is only a thin veneer. Scratch lightly and you'll find old silo thinking very much alive and well. Them and us. Orange and green. Blah, blah, blah.

We won't have imaginative solutions to our problems if we don't have imaginative people. And imagination is fostered by diversity, difference, challenging the status quo, trying, testing and experimenting with unknowns. It certainly isn't found in yesterday's men and woman spouting yesterday's slogans.

The power to create is in our hands. Never mind the polls and referenda - at the next election, just vote.

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