Belfast Telegraph

Election season kicks off, but does the political squabbling need to stop for Northern Ireland to tackle homelessness?

Charities have called for action to address the growing problem of homelessness
Charities have called for action to address the growing problem of homelessness

The 2016 election season is off and running, with voters south of the border now contemplating just exactly they have done -  was it a mistake, was it daft, and just what were they thinking when they entered the polling booth?

At the time of writing, the prospect of a second Irish general election this year was looking increasingly likely but we’re not going to make any predictions until all the votes are counted.

Meanwhile, back in Northern Ireland, we’ve been rather careless in electoral terms. We seem to have misplaced a constituency!

Well, not exactly misplaced, but rather had one taken away by the Boundaries Commission - which have said the number of Westminster constituencies will be reduced from 18 to 17.

That’s one less MP to worry about, and maybe five fewer MLAs as well, if plans to reduce the number of Assembly reps per constituency go ahead. That could mean 85 MLAs instead of 108…Oh the joy of having a fewer number of politicians to argue about stuff!

But right now, arguing is something Sinn Féin are getting used to in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Indeed, it took numerous machinations for the local party to make nice and throw a FOURTH candidate into May's Assembly contest.

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However, it seems that there is a time when politics needs to step up to the plate, forget the squabbling and actually do something.

How many homeless people do we all walk past every day? Why have four people had to die while sleeping rough for our politicians to be jolted into action?

While Belfast’s Lord Mayor Arder Carson deserves some credit for actually getting relevant organisations around the table to discuss possible solutions, it is shameful that the homeless situation has been allowed to continue.

There have been documentaries, news stories and plenty of media coverage, but efforts seemingly have been in vain so far.

Just who is responsible for supporting these vulnerable people remains a question few can answer. While many voluntary or charitable groups try to address it, this points to the silo mentality at all levels of government. There are those who prefer their management tiers rather than focusing on people.

So, today, when you make your way to and from work, or when on your lunch break, here’s an idea. Stop and chat to any homeless person you may encounter, maybe even bring them a hot drink, then grab the nearest politician you can find and tell them to stop grandstanding and do their job!

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