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Stormont's 'fresh start' - A positive, if imperfect, accord

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 18/11/2015

It may have taken 10 weeks, and a very important issue has been left unresolved, but many people will welcome the fact that a deal has been struck that will allow the power-sharing administration at Stormont to get back to work.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail, but first impressions are that the agreement reached contains positive advances.

The new principles directing politicians towards the disbandment of paramilitary organisations, a task force bringing together police, tax and crime agencies on both sides of the border, an additional £160m for the PSNI and a resolution to the welfare reform impasse are all welcome developments.

A cynic might say that the DUP and Sinn Fein have both found a formula to get themselves off their respective hooks, which threatened the existence of the administration, but in reality they had to find an agreement as there was no plan B if power-sharing failed.

That would have been disastrous publicity for a province in dire need to demonstrate to the outside world that it is open for business, especially in light of recent haemorrhaging of jobs. Cutting corporation tax rates from 2018 will help attract investment in the longer term.

The deal and attendant financial packages mean that there is now financial stability at Stormont, although the public purse will still have to be spent prudently if essential services are to be maintained at a satisfactory level.

But there will be one group of people who will feel, yet again, that they have been let down by their civil leaders. They are those who were bereaved or injured during the Troubles as the legacy of the past continues to be a task too difficult for the politicians to resolve.

The issue of victims is a complex one made more difficult by the fact that all sides to the grubby conflict have secrets which they don't want to reveal.

The victims must wonder if this is a riddle that will never be resolved, but simple humanity demands that some mechanisms must be devised to give them at least partial closure, if never justice. It would be to all our eternal shame if victims are simply consigned to a few lines each in books like Lost Lives, or to fading photographs on the sideboards of their still grieving relatives.

What everyone wants now is for the politicians to knuckle down to the day-to-day work and consign their differences to the past.

Belfast Telegraph

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