European convention the key to unlock Stormont impasse, says Nesbitt
A former Stormont minister has spoken of his "anger and frustration" at the political situation in Northern Ireland, and accused unionist politicians of failing to learn the lessons of 50 years ago.
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Dermot Nesbitt, a former Ulster Unionist Environment Minister, urges politicians to consider the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as a means of overcoming the political impasse here.
"The convention is part of international law. The idea behind such law is that certain fundamental rights have a higher status than ordinary laws and should not be subject to bargaining among the parties involved," he writes.
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"Among the rights in the convention is the right of a minority to maintain and develop its culture, preserve essential elements of identity, including language, and participate in public affairs.
"Balancing these rights, the convention makes clear that there must, in turn, be respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state and no engagement in any activity or act contrary to these principles.
"Herein lies the problem: refusal by unionism to agree to certain rights while republicanism, by word and action, refuses to respect the state."
Mr Nesbitt said he had spent the past two years trying to win support for this approach - but to no avail.
"I have approached privately the leaders of unionism, two key interviewers in the broadcast media and both Irish and UK Governments.
"Frankly, all efforts were a waste of time. This is a real and immediate challenge. We can but live in hope."