Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Stormont must heed its people

It has been evident over the past 18 months or more that those who are democratically elected to govern Northern Ireland are so divided on a range of issues that political stalemate is the norm.

We have witnessed the inability of our politicians to reach consensus on the Education and Skills Authority, a bill of rights, a shared future, academic selection and major infrastructure projects.

Outside of 'normal politics', we have been confronted with significant paramilitary activity. We have seen a rise in inter-communal tension rooted in the flags protests, contentious parades and the legacy of the past.

There is no doubt that those involved in these protests are motivated by strongly held principles. The trade union movement is not opposed to such protests, but the rationale must never be to cause offence to others, or to increase tensions.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) met Richard Haass and supplied a submission to the panel of parties. The failure to agree a way forward on the topics involved was not a surprise to us.

The Executive is structured to ensure that all Stormont executives are coalitions. In Westminster, there is a coalition government that is functioning quite well. (So well, in fact, that they have managed to impose a suite of austerity policies and welfare reforms with little, or no, internal disagreement.)

But the people of Northern Ireland did not vote for these policies. In fact, many of our political parties actively oppose them.

What is needed is a collective, collegiate and coherent Executive that will take a stand against welfare reform and fight the attacks on public-sector workers.

I urge you all to attend the Peace, Progress & Equality – A Demand for Action rally in Belfast on Friday, January 31 (1pm). We further request that employers facilitate the wishes of staff who wish to support this initiative.

This current Assembly has two years to run. The voters who elected it are being punished by decisions not being made in it.

It is time to demand action from our political parties.

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