Belfast Telegraph

Monday 3 August 2015

It's time for politicians to bring focus back to where it should be

By Colum Eastwood

Published 01/10/2013 | 10:23

'The campaign to save the DVA services in Coleraine showed where our priorities as politicians should really lie'
'The campaign to save the DVA services in Coleraine showed where our priorities as politicians should really lie'

As the Haass talks get underway and divisions between the DUP and Sinn Féin become increasingly stark the focus of politicians has been taken off what really matters – the people.

There has been one recent event that has provided some hope for the future. The campaign to save the DVA services in Coleraine, led by my colleague East Derry MLA John Dallat showed where our priorities as politicians should really lie.

The DVA is under threat with proposals to move the services to an already over stretched office in Swansea, downgrading the service for motorists here and threatening the livelihoods of over 300 workers. John Dallat in close co-operation with the workers brought focus onto this issue and sought and received support from SDLP Minister Mark H Durkan and his predecessor Alex Attwood. Yet, John in conjunction with our SDLP colleagues knew that a single party approach was not enough. The workers needed and deserved cross party support.

When the workers travelled to Stormont to see their future debated last week, John Dallat told them that their campaign was our campaign. So it was, when the Assembly voted across the parties to approve a cross party motion calling for DVA jobs to be retained in Northern Ireland.

The sight of DVA workers crowded into the Assembly gallery reminded us all why we are here and what we can achieve if we set aside narrow political self-interest to all work together. There is no evidence that talking up a crisis works for the people. There is no evidence that fighting over the airwaves works for the people. There is no evidence that posturing works for the people.

On the contrary. The success achieved for the DVA workers shows that politicians working together in a cooperative, conciliatory and consensus based manner is what works for the people.

The fight for the retention of DVA is far from over. I know that my colleagues John Dallat and Minister Mark H Durkan will continue to lead on that fight - but in the knowledge that it is only by working on a cross party basis with the workers that anything will be achieved. Now is the time for the government parties to put their party self-interest to one side and begin to work for all the people. It is time to bring back our focus to where it should be.

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