Belfast Telegraph

589 days of limbo boil down to one thing: Northern Ireland needs leadership

Editor's Viewpoint

The Stormont politicians have created the unenviable record of surpassing Belgium for the longest period of not having a sitting and working Assembly.

The Belgian impasse lasted 589 days and tonight marks the same length of time since Stormont collapsed. It is absolutely disgraceful that the politicians on all sides are still taking their handsome salaries but without doing the job they were elected to do.

Have you been affected by the Stormont impasse? Let us know what do you think should happen next - by emailing newseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

However, there appears to be no sense of guilt among our Stormont representatives, who seem determined to brazen it out.

What is even more depressing is the way in which the two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, continually blame each other for a lack of progress, but people are not putting up with such arrogance.

We can see through these pretensions, and it does not take a political genius to understand that both sides are to blame. To claim otherwise is clearly to add insult to injury.

For many weeks now people on all sides have been pointing to the many extra problems caused by the deadlock at Stormont. The lack of decision-making is stalling any progress in dealing with the huge challenges in the NHS, education, infrastructure, heritage-related issues and in many other areas where movement badly needs to be made.

So, effectively, we are leaderless.

One example of individual frustration at the political impasse is that of the hotelier Bill Wolsey, who says he will not invest any more money here until Stormont provides some degree of stability to Northern Ireland. However, until now there have been no large-scale protests from voters on all sides who are sick and tired of our politicians sitting on their hands rather than sitting at Stormont.

People are entitled to ask why the population here is not demanding good government, which is a basic human right for everyone.

The politicians have been living in such a bubble, and getting away with it, that they may no longer want to face up to the reality that they are failing their people, and taking money which they have not earned.

The situation is further complicated by the Brexit negotiations, and there is evidence that the main parties here do not wish to make any decisions until they know the outcome.

This is a dangerous policy that allows others to take advantage of a political vacuum.

Senator George Mitchell, one of the major architects of the Good Friday Agreement, warned of those dangers when he visited Northern Ireland last week.

So where do we go from here? We are now moving to the end of the summer holiday season when most people, from schoolchildren to professionals, commercial leaders and others, are literally getting back to business.

Is it too much to ask our politicians to do the same? The absence of an Assembly at Stormont is impacting on our lives in all sorts of ways, not least economically, where experts talk about a possible £230 million shortfall, which we can ill-afford.

We are now coming to a crucial phase in Brexit, with its enormous ramifications for all of us.

Therefore it is imperative that the Government tries to establish if there are any grounds for political progress here and, if so, there should be talks immediately.

If not, then there is a strong moral obligation on London to put in place new arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland so that the welfare of all our people can be safeguarded.

Belfast Telegraph

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