Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

MLAs must find a way through Maze

The decision to go ahead with a conflict resolution centre at the site of the former Maze prison was always going to be a political hot potato.

 In a province where the definition of victim cannot even be agreed, Troubles legacy issues always raise the temperature. First Minister Peter Robinson, faced with dissent from other unionists as well as police and prison officer bodies, is keen to reassure them that there will be no shrine to terrorism on the prison site.

While no one realistically expects him to pore over every detail of what will or will not be included in the new development, his statement in this newspaper today that he will have to agree to any proposal before it can go ahead is symptomatic of the logjam that exists in politics here. Nothing can progress unless both major parties agree to it and there are bound to be problems over this project at such a symbolic site.

When the project was announced, this newspaper predicted that it would become mired in dispute and political wrangling for years and nothing we have heard since, including from Mr Robinson today, makes us feel any different. Our politicians simply cannot agree on a shared path into the future. The DUP and Sinn Fein, in particular, are quite content with the present arrangements and will continue to muddle along putting off the really difficult tasks until forced to take action. We saw yesterday how the report into shared education produced a fudge which doesn't meet the demand for greater integration of schools.

Instead of tackling these legacy problems in a piecemeal fashion, the politicians should knuckle down and produce a comprehensive shared future policy which would provide the framework within which contentious issues can be tackled effectively. Without such a framework the old grudges and community divisions resurface and find an outlet among sinister figures on society's fringes.

No-one says that the politicians' task is easy, but their job is to help create a better future and they need to work more purposefully in that direction.

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