Belfast Telegraph

Public vote could cure our crisis

By Steven Agnew

I hesitate to write that the political crisis continues, because crisis seems to be the norm. I, for one, am crisised-out and would like to get on with constructive work, such as bringing forward my Children's Bill, which will have real, positive impact on families here.

Those same parties that caused the crisis are being entrusted to resolve it. The most recent talks strikes of an example of doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, which, as we know, is the definition of madness.

We need compromise on all sides, but we also need to recognise the failures of both Haass and the original Stormont House talks. Those talks failed because - in both cases - a compromise was reached behind closed doors. A document was produced and the negotiators could not sell the proposals contained to their parties.

We have political parties that are constantly watching their backs for fear of being outflanked, fearful that their opposition will somehow steal a march on them.

We need to find a way around this, and the best course would be to engage with you and everyone else in Northern Ireland through a referendum.

This is not a new idea - the Good Friday Agreement was agreed after a referendum, and while it was not perfect, it still created hope and provided peace and relative stability in Northern Ireland.

Seventeen years on, we now need to review reform and revitalise the Good Friday Agreement. We need to move from an agreement for peace to one for good governance.

A referendum would help the parties who must compromise to bring stability back to Stormont.

It would give them the legitimacy of saying, 'We made tough compromises, but this is the best we can achieve, and we ask that you, the voters, the people we represent, accept it (or not) and let us all work together to take Northern Ireland forward'.

It is only through having that wider civic engagement that Northern Ireland, as a whole, can move forward to become a less divided society.

Steven Agnew MLA is leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph


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