Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Economy still the only game in town

Having stirred up a hornets' nest with the divisive flags issue, Sinn Fein now wants to hold a border poll. What possible benefit would accrue from such a poll is unclear, to say the least.

All it would do is ensure that a contentious political campaign would take place, stirring up old hatreds and causing people to retreat into tribal camps. The only certainty would be that a border poll would not show a majority in favour of Irish unity. At best it would be a distraction from real politics, at worst a step backwards in community relations.

Both the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England and the Secretary of State's office yesterday made clear the priority task of local politicians. It is to address the economic plight facing the province.

Unlike other parts of the UK, we all really are in the recession together in Northern Ireland. This is not a matter of tribal politics or trying to whip up backwoods supporters, but of harnessing the available talent in the public and private sectors to create jobs and economic stability.

The flags issue - so badly mishandled by the politicians - has further destabilised the employment market here and caused concerns that investors may be turning elsewhere to create jobs. Opportunistic political manoeuvrings such as flag-flying or border polls do nothing for those who cannot get a job, or for those who will have to emigrate for a better life, or for whose who see their businesses going into meltdown.

Our politicians do not take kindly to lectures from outsiders, even though they are keen enough to blame others for some of our ills.

They will not regard the words of Mr King or the NIO with kindness, but they cannot deny that they are sensible and outline clearly the agenda all the parties should be talking about.

In the unforgettable words of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, there is one overriding issue here - it's the economy, stupid.

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