Belfast Telegraph

Slow but sure progress made at Stormont

On the anniversary of the Stormont Programme for Government, it is an appropriate time to take stock of what has been achieved up to now.

Given the public's scepticism, there is a temptation to criticise the politicians for their shortcomings, and even a cursory glance at what has been happening, or not happening, at Stormont shows that much remains to be done.

Perhaps the greatest criticism of the politicians has been the very long time they have taken to make the peace process show results. Even the Programme for Government itself seemed frustratingly slow in its establishment, but in a difficult political situation at a time of severe economic setbacks there have been notable achievements which are worth mentioning.

These include the establishment of the Justice department and the cap on student fees, as well as the so-called 'Tesco tax' and the funding of the A5 motorway. The Executive has also taken initiatives in its support for tourism. These include funding for the Londonderry/Derry UK City of Culture in 2013, as well as money to spruce up parts of the North coast area in time for the morale-boosting Irish Open golf championship next month.

However, there is a need for more progress, including the provision of a clear path on selection for secondary schools, and also a tighter grip on the NHS here. There is also an urgent need for the implementation of the crucial Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Strategy to combat sectarianism and to promote a shared society. Nevertheless one of the greatest achievements so far has been in harnessing the collective talents of the formerly bitter political enemies.

This was partly due to the surprisingly good personal and working relationships between Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, and more recently between the Deputy First Minister and Peter Robinson.

It has taken time for politicians to learn how good government operates. The Programme for Government remains a work-in-progress, but the verdict today must be "so far, so good."

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