Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

US becoming frustrated at stumbling Stormont

On the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement it is significant that senior politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are commenting about the progress which has been made in the peace process, or the relative lack of progress, since that breakthrough day in 1998.

There is no doubt that it was truly historic moment which brought new hope to so many people on all sides. Since then the progress, though welcome, has not matched the expectations of 15 years ago.

The statements today from such major figures as President Obama and the US Secretary of State John Kerry give due credit to those who made possible the breakthrough which has changed the political face of Northern Ireland in a way that many people at that time thought would be virtually impossible.

Nevertheless there is a hint of a growing frustration in the US administration at the lack of progress on the 'shared future' strategy which seems to be stalled at Stormont.

President Obama states clearly: "There is urgent work still to be done, and there will be more tests to come". Secretary of State John Kerry says bluntly that "the promise envisioned by the Agreement is incomplete".

The US administration, which until recently had a hands-off approach, is now keeping a close eye on developments in Northern Ireland, which has been receiving the wrong kind of worldwide coverage due to the Union flag protests and the continuing attacks from dissidents, and threats of more to come.

Nearer home Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has also underlined that political stability is important to inward investors and that community togetherness is a crucial part of building economic prosperity, including bringing more help from London.

The importance of Stormont having a strategic vision for the future is clear to all of us if we are to move forward and reap the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement. Sadly, our politicians should not need senior US politicians and the secretary of state to remind them of this.

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