Politicians need to show maturity
On the very day when Scotland's voters went to the polls on probably the most important political issue they will ever face — whether to opt for independence or continue within the UK — the difference between democracy in action there and in Northern Ireland could not have been more starkly demonstrated.
The Scottish poll was the culmination of two years of vigorous, healthy and informed |debate. But in Northern Ireland the opposing political parties could not even agree to sit down to discuss a different burning issue, parading.
The background is uncomplicated. The |Orange Order return march past Ardoyne shops on the Twelfth has been banned for the past two years.
The Parades Commission signalled that there should be a one-off inquiry to try to find a solution to the impasse between |demonstrators and nationalist and republican residents. It was an entirely sensible |suggestion which this newspaper supported and which unionists and the Orange Order, to an extent, have bought into. Sinn Fein |yesterday, however, ruled out such an |approach.
Both sides accept that talking is the only way to resolve the impasse. They have been given the opportunity to engage in dialogue but have spurned it in the case of Sinn Fein, and in the case of the DUP have set preconditions. These are not the actions of mature politicians who are determined to find a solution, but rather the politics of passing the blame. Sinn Fein, which backs dialogue between the Orange Order and residents and which also supports the Parades Commission when its |determinations fall into line with the party's attitude to a contentious parade, has no excuse for ruling out talks.
The DUP has wrongly aligned itself with a ragtag and bobtail group of fringe unionist |interests, limiting its own room for manoeuvre and also issuing threats, albeit non-violent ones.
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, who backs the idea of an inquiry to solve the |Ardoyne impasse, should keep her nerve and press on with her proposals.
Northern Ireland's politicians must learn that throwing their toys out of the pram when confronted with a difficult issue is not the |response that the vast majority of people here want or deserve.