Belfast Telegraph

Politicians finally giving us grounds for hope at Christmas

Editor's Viewpoint

It is said that a week is a long time in politics, and it has been a long week since Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny walked out of Stormont talks last Friday.

It seemed then that the local parties were getting nowhere, and the atmosphere over the next few days was grim. However, the mood music seems better this weekend, and the parties have agreed to proposals that will hopefully break the deadlock on welfare reform.

Political negotiations at this level are generally complex, but a key statement was made by the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, who said that the Government was looking very seriously at a paper submitted by the five parties.

That may not be exactly the green light from London, but the colour may be moving from red and on towards a shade that will have the acceptance of politicians on both sides here, and across the water as well.

Our politicians have taken much criticism recently, and rightly so. But they deserve credit for sticking to their task this week, and inching forward towards an agreement. When Martin McGuinness refers to a "step change", it does seem that some progress has been made.

But the Government is right to hold its fire on committing more money just yet, and the Westminster politicians will need to look very closely at the fine details of the proposals coming from Stormont.

The Government will not want to commit itself until it senses the possibility of substantive progress on the other major issues at stake - including parades, flags and emblems and dealing with the past.

On the positive side, the situation does seem to have improved from this time last week, but the Government will need to have a reassuring roadmap about the future here before further large funds, and new taxation powers, are committed to Northern Ireland.

Most importantly of all, the latest developments give us some grounds for hope, and there is no better time for hope than at Christmas. The future may just be a little brighter now.

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