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No one embracing Nesbitt vote pledge

Editor's Viewpoint

There is a certain logic to UUP leader Mike Nesbitt's pledge to give his second preference vote to the SDLP candidate in his home constituency in East Belfast.

After all, he is trying to sell the idea that a UUP-SDLP partnership government would be a better option for the future than the current DUP-Sinn Fein nexus. So how else could the two opposition parties get into power, unless they can woo voters across party lines?

The flaw in his strategy - if that is not too grand a description - is that he obviously did not flesh out this idea with his own party first of all and then with the SDLP.

He has won no support from party candidates for his decision being replicated in other constituencies - indeed a councillor has resigned in protest - even more disappointingly his ground-breaking offer has not been reciprocated by the nationalist party.

This all goes to show that almost 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement and the admittedly improved atmosphere in Northern Ireland, politics still remains tribal.

If it was otherwise, this and all elections would be about the real issues that affect everyone on a daily basis - the meltdown in the NHS, education, the RHI debacle and addressing the legacy of the past, particularly the shameful and continuing disregard for the enduring pain of the bereaved.

Of course, the parties will pay lip service to these issues, but election promises continue to melt away when the parties get into power. The difficult issues invariably are kicked down the road.

But there is little purpose in railing against the politicians. Everyone knows what they stand for and they continue to be elected on those platforms.

Perhaps they truly reflect the deep-seated, but rarely articulated, feelings of the population at large, who are educated apart and in large numbers live apart.

No matter how often it is repeated that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is decided, it is an issue which is in the very DNA of politics, awaiting only the right trigger words from political parties to inject another dose of tribalism into voters on the way to the polling booths.

We may aspire to get on better together as a society - and in relative terms many people do so - but like all aspirations it can be swept aside when there is any threat to the status of either community.

Voting across tribal lines is an idea whose time regrettably does not seem to have come.

Belfast Telegraph

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