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Let's learn from failed relationships of the past and not empower those who are filled with hate

letter of the day: political crisis

When you hear Sinn Fein's current complaints about the DUP, it's tempting to say "dry your eyes and get on with it". That's the advice a friend gave me when I complained that the two parties had stitched up democracy in the St Andrews Agreement.

They changed the way that the First and Deputy First Ministers are appointed, so that they can constantly play the sectarian card to their electoral advantage.

Sinn Fein was also in large part responsible for the DUP's rise to prominence. Like many others, I told it that it would have to move on decommissioning weapons or else David Trimble's position would be in jeopardy. It deliberately took the decision to undermine him and a more constructive form of unionism.

The "middle ground" won the broader political argument about Northern Ireland's future, but lost power. If those moderate people did not care so much about this place, there would almost be satisfaction in saying "we told you so" about the current shambles at Stormont.

The vitriol from Sinn Fein and the confrontational attitude of the DUP contain some clues about why Northern Ireland endured almost 40 years of conflict. We should never have allowed those who hate the most to determine how the relationships between the rest of us would work.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have now shown that they are inept as well as hate-filled. It will be disastrous if they are entrenched in Government perpetually.

As a society, we should ask how the bitterness and enmity that they represent arose. We could not have got our relationships more wrong than we did over the past 100 years. There must be constant vigilance to ensure those mistakes are not repeated.

A positive and constructive future is achievable and many things show it is possible, including the potential of some of the younger politicians in all the parties to practise their politics in a way more beneficial to our society.

Friendship is a powerful force, but hatred is equally powerful in a negative sense. We tried hatred before, so we should now try friendship - for our own sakes and for the sake of our children.

TREVOR RINGLAND

Holywood, Co Down

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