The news that the Health Minister, Robin Swann, is to appoint a mental health champion is extremely welcome and not before time. The position was first proposed by the Ulster Unionist Party nearly five years ago and was greeted with scorn by the-then health minister, who said she was the health champion. If that was the case, she failed spectacularly.
Things have never looked so grim for the Northern Ireland Health Service. Waiting lists are at record levels, exceeding 300,000, and there are over 7,000 job vacancies, which include over 2,500 front line staff: nurses, carers, doctors and pharmacists. These figures are creating real hardship for many in Northern Ireland.
The image of masked men in paramilitary-style uniforms firing a volley of shots over the coffin of a terrorist, or at a staged event before or after a funeral, is something we in Northern Ireland thought we had left behind.
On June 5, 1976, terrorists attacked the Rock bar near Keady. This incident took place against the backdrop of some of the most sustained and brutal violence of the Troubles and came just a few months after the Kingsmill Massacre, which took place a few miles away. The past has become the latest theatre of operations in the political battlefield as republicans and their supporters try to rewrite history and seize control over how the past is remembered and understood.
As Armistice Day approaches, there will be some who may ask could we do it all again? Does the country have the moral fibre to fight another protracted war, where every last one of our nation's efforts, from the home front to the battlefield, would be co-ordinated and dedicated to military victory?
We live in a vibrant, eclectic and culturally rich part of the UK. My identity and culture are proudly represented by the Union flag, God Save the Queen, Ulster and Ireland rugby, Gaelic games, the shamrock, Guinness, St Patrick's Day, Derry and Londonderry, the sash my father wore, poets and authors, actors and artists, and Ulster-Scots and the Irish language.
If Sinn Fein are upset by my words, let them be upset. I would much rather they were upset and offended by the execution of 10 innocent men at Kingsmill, the burning alive of 12 people at La Mon, the murder of innocent shoppers on the Shankill Road 24 years ago, the fact that the IRA butchered Paul Quinn - unfortunately the list of human rights abuse carried out by the IRA goes on and on. And all condoned or excused by Sinn Fein.
Time and time again political parties set the agenda on sectarian lines. Supporting or opposing policies not on their individual merits but simply to act in a contrary manner to their opponents. Instead of engaging on often nuanced, complex matters through debate and development of policies, the win/lose mentality drives political output.
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