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Hope for our future lies with the centre ground

The Belfast Humanist Group is as relieved as anyone else that a deal has been struck between the DUP and Sinn Fein. We prefer to see the political system functioning, rather than jammed in deadlock.

When the political system stops working, the terrorist gangs begin to scent an opportunity. Their ideology is crude and sectarian, but harks back to tribal certainties and a few violent bigots will always be ready to stoke up flames of hatred. So it is a relief to see the Assembly has not collapsed.

But a doubt remains: is this a real step forward towards a lasting peace, or is it merely a stop-gap measure to keep the cogs of the political machine turning for a while, until the next deadlock?

That doubt is confirmed by the fact the talks only involved the DUP and Sinn Fein. None of the other parties were included - even though they represent a bloc of voters which outnumbers either the DUP or Sinn Fein.

Northern Ireland will never get out of its sectarian rut while its political system is dominated by sectarian parties. How can we hope to transform this society while the main political parties are founded on sectarian tribal identities? We need a coalition of the centre to outnumber the extremists. If the SDLP, UUP, Alliance, Greens and Independents could put aside minor quibbles and form a coalition, they could lead this province in a new direction.

Just going on as we are is not a strategy that offers much hope. The extremes can only give us deadlock and confrontation.

Trying to find an accommodation in the centre ground is the sensible way forward.

LES REID

Chair, Belfast Humanist Group

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