| 10.7°C Belfast

Old guard can't take us forward

Old politicians rambling on about the future is on a par with a wine-fuelled dad at your wedding strutting his Elvis routine to One Direction - or worse, your granny hijacking a karaoke machine which plays only Lady Gaga.

Old politicians recalling and regurgitating their glory days is just as bad - because those dim, dusty memories merely serve to remind us how long they have been around.

One of the difficulties with our peace/political process is that the key players are still, mostly, old players: old players who began their careers in the early 1970s and who have brought most of that baggage with them into the Assembly. Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, Alasdair McDonnell and David Ford are all in their mid-60s and Mike Nesbitt will be 60 in a couple of years. And even their potential successors are knocking on a bit, having been running around the track for years. We tend not to skip a generation when it comes to political leadership here.

If Northern Ireland is ever to change then it requires a new generation of politicians to lead that change. It also requires new parties. It requires new, articulate, passionate, forward-thinking (rather than constantly looking behind them) younger people who want to build the 'new' Northern Ireland that was promised in 1998. We require them because it's impossible to take seriously the old players, their old clichés and the old promises about wanting to make a difference and "not be dragged back to the bad old days". These guys - and they are mostly guys - wander from one talks process to another and fall over the same old obstacles every single time.

I listened to Alban Maginnis at the SDLP conference. "If it wasn't for the SDLP there wouldn't have been Sunningdale. If it wasn't for the SDLP there wouldn't have been the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If it wasn't for the SDLP there wouldn't be the Good Friday Agreement." Hmm! Sunningdale failed. The Anglo-Irish Agreement has gone. And the Good Friday Agreement, according to the SDLP, isn't working.

That's the trouble with old politicians trying to build something entirely different - it only works if they are capable of letting go of the past.


Belfast Telegraph