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Politicians have much to work on and clock is ticking

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 24/10/2015

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt

The UUP annual conference is taking part this weekend at a time when its profile and credibility have been raised by recent events.

Its leader, Mike Nesbitt, will concentrate on some important issues, and he will underline his earlier calls for more help concerning mental health treatment.

He is very aware of the pressure facing families and individuals who suffer from depression. It is also extremely worrying to note the continued increase in suicides across the province.

On the wider political front, the recent electoral pact between the UUP and the DUP helped both parties, not least in Fermanagh, but it is important that the electorate continues to be given as wide a choice as possible.

The situation is slowly changing, and recent research suggests that the DUP may have peaked in terms of its electoral popularity.

If so, Mr Nesbitt and his colleagues may have an opportunity to make some ground, but much depends on the long-term strategy of the differing unionist parties.

Peter Robinson, despite his difficulties, has shown deft political management by engineering a return to office by the DUP ministers, but he still has to convince people that he can produce a lasting solution despite the claims about the connection between the IRA Army Council and Sinn Fein.

Much also needs to be done about the deadlock on welfare and other matters, and the future of Stormont is not yet secure.

Whether or not Peter Robinson is correct in claiming that the politicians have only two weeks left to hammer out a final agreement, almost everybody knows that talking cannot continue indefinitely.

Mike Nesbitt, on the other hand, has taken a principled stand which has focused on the role of paramilitarism and politics, but he may also find that principle is one thing, and pragmatism is another.

Politics is always the art of the possible, and its practitioners require determination as well as a great deal of skill in making things work.

They say that even a week is a long time in politics, and this is particularly true in Northern Ireland at this crucial period.

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