Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's voters need only look in the mirror

By Brian McClinton

The word 'crisis' is repeated so often in local politics that it induces a severe dose of semantic satiation or mental fatigue, where it ceases to have any real meaning at all.

The current impasse, like so many others, is ostensibly over the existence of the IRA, but that has only served to postpone an even deeper crisis over welfare reform.

The truth is that the Stormont Executive is inherently dysfunctional and will remain so while it is dominated by two parties at opposite extremes of the sectarian divide.

Of the 13 ministers, nine are from either the DUP or Sinn Fein. Many were surprised when these parties agreed to form the bulk of a power-sharing coalition in 2007, but it has been a sham marriage.

The fact of the matter is that the DUP and Sinn Fein are light years apart in aims and ideology.

The former is essentially a right-wing Protestant party that supports the Union, the monarchy, a conservative social morality and the UK Government's neo-liberal economic policies.

The latter is essentially a left-wing Catholic party that wants an all-Ireland workers' republic and promotes a more liberal social ethic.

It is a bad situation when the more moderate parties become a pale imitation of the extremes.

The UUP's decision to leave the Executive over the alleged IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan was less a message to Sinn Fein and more an attempt to score points against the DUP.

Meanwhile, the SDLP's rejection of the Taoiseach's plea to support an adjournment was not so much an attempt to save the Executive as an act of deference to Sinn Fein.

We whinge and complain about politicians' inability to "get on with it" - conveniently forgetting that 57% of voters elected either the DUP or Sinn Fein the last time.

It is not good enough to say that people deserve better. If that is the case, then let the people themselves prove it by voting for something better.

  • Brian McClinton is director of the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph