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Labour conference to hear call for Northern Ireland leaders to end current logjam

By Colin Francis

Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis will tell the Labour Party Annual Conference today that the peace process urgently needs leadership from all parties in the Executive.

In his speech to the conference in Manchester he will call on the rest of civic society to demand an end to the current stagnation.

Mr Lewis will say: "Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have done an impressive job in promoting Northern Ireland globally and attracting significant inward investment.

"The Executive's failure to make political progress on legacy issues, flags, parades and the past, the unionist parties' withdrawal from talks, and the threat of a graduated response to a disputed Parades Commission decision, and ongoing stalemate on welfare reform due to Sinn Fein and the SDLP's unwillingness to move forward, have fuelled mistrust and growing public dissatisfaction.

"My message to Northern Ireland's political leaders is clear.

"Individually and collectively you have done so much to move Northern Ireland forward, it would be a tragedy if you allowed three successive years of elections to cause gridlock." He said Stormont had to start moving. "In post-conflict situations standing still means going backwards, leaving a vacuum too often filled by extremists.

"Working in partnership does not require friendship or even forgiveness for past wrongs, but it does require mutual respect and a willingness to build trust. Good leadership is about mobilising supporters and delivering on bread and butter issues.

"Great leadership requires you to sometimes stand in the shoes of your former foes and say difficult things to your own base about the need for compromise. The Northern Ireland peace process urgently needs great leadership from all parties in the Executive. This leadership will be tested even further in the debate about the nature of further devolution across the UK in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum.

"Northern Ireland is at a crossroads. It is time for the voices of progress to be heard. Faith leaders, civic society, business leaders and trade unionists have a duty to speak up with one voice and demand an end to stagnation."

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