Editor's Viewpoint: Electorate wants a shared society
Given the current stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP over policing and justice it is easy to portray Northern Ireland as an irredeemably tribal society where politicians and their supporters retreat into their respective trenches whenever they feel threatened.
While there is no doubt that there are a significant number of people who hold extreme views and who regard progress only as taking the scalp of their political opponents, that is not a true reflection of the province. The will for a shared society and an end to the repeated outbreaks of political violence that has marred our history was shown in the overwhelming support for the Good Friday Agreement, the bedrock of the current power-sharing administration.
Sinn Fein and the DUP will point to their electoral support as justification for their current stances, arguing that voters knew what they were getting when the cast their support for the two parties. But the voters' wish was for constructive negotiation and local administration of everyday issues, not simply lurching from crisis to crisis.
Public reaction to the impasse on policing and justice as seen in newspapers or heard on television or radio has been overwhelmingly in favour of a deal being struck and disappointment that once again the politicians have failed to resolve their differences. Those opinions need to be voiced more and more vociferously so the politicians cannot plead ignorance of how the public feels or try to misrepresent voters' wishes.
A vote is a very powerful weapon in a democratic society and ordinary people in Northern Ireland will be given at least one opportunity in the coming months - in the General Election and possibly in an Assembly election if the current administration falls - to express their views in the one way that cannot be misconstrued, by voting for politicians who want to work constructively.