Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

For now we're the default Opposition

The description of this newspaper as being the default Opposition at Stormont is one of which we are proud and we take the statement from influential lobby group, Platform For Change, as a compliment.

 We regard ourselves as being a critical friend of our administrative structures, being there to point out things we believe are wrong, providing platforms for debates on important issues and, indeed, giving praise where praise is due.

That, we see, as the proper role for the national newspaper of this province.

We are ideally positioned to perform that role without fear or favour.

We do not support any one party and feel it right to question all politicians if they appear to be failing in their duties. Both in press and digitally we have cross-community appeal .

The ideas put forward by Platform For Change find a resonance with views expressed in these columns on many occasions. Reform of the administration at Stormont is overdue, as even former Secretary of State Owen Paterson advocated before leaving the province.

We believe in a plurality of voices in local politics and a formal opposition as with every mature democracy. We understand why the current arrangements were established and we accept that a return to any sectarian bloc assuming control would be an echo of the bad old days, treating us all as cannon fodder.

Yet we remain frustrated on occasion at the snail's pace of government initiatives which is an inevitable consequence of the present political set-up. Any policy which is contentious in the slightest way stands little chance of seeing the light of day because of the need for cross-community support on legislation. Even our views don't always find favour with politicians who can be notoriously thin-skinned when criticised.

Perhaps if there was a formal Opposition – which must emerge at some stage – we could have a more robust, and fruitful, political dialogue.

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