Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents ready to step into vacuum as our leaders fail us

Editor's Viewpoint

The latest potentially murderous attack on members of the PSNI in west Belfast is an indication yet again of what may lie ahead if our politicians at Stormont fail to reach an agreement, which seems to be a distinct possibility.

Nature hates a vacuum and paramilitary dissidents are sure to do their utmost to fill a huge political vacuum if and when the latest attempt at power-sharing ends in abject failure.

There are so many issues still unresolved at Stormont that the outcome hardly bears thinking about.

As this paper has pointed out so often, the NHS here is in crisis, there is a shortage of funding for education and major infrastructure projects, as well as huge job losses in an economy which cannot afford any such developments. There are also the complex legacy issues which have still to be handled properly.

The uncertainty about Brexit casts a dark shadow over everything, and at a time when Northern Ireland desperately needs its political leaders to represent us at the negotiations, not a single one of them has stepped up to the mark.

It looks as if direct rule is the only option, and when that happens, the blame game between the DUP and Sinn Fein will begin in earnest.

The politicians pay lip service to the people who elected them, but they obviously do not care about the protests from those who want a solution and are fed up with their representatives who continue to benefit from large salaries without working for them.

Clearly these politicians have no sense of shame, and no concept of their public duty to represent the whole community. The patience of the public has worn thin to the point of being threadbare, and more and more people are resigning themselves to direct rule, if only because they believe that it would be better than the current deadlock and paralysis at Stormont.

This is a country which is obsessed by the grievances of the past, which cannot deal properly with the present, and which is unable to look forward to any possibility of a shared future.

Time and again we are mired down by issues of flags and emblems, by marches and counter-marches, and by the celebration of past victories which have nothing to do with the modern world.

Equally depressing is our ability on both sides to nurse the grievances of the past, and to recreate them anew each day, with all the political poison and community sectarianism that this inevitably brings to the surface.

There was a time, not so long ago in historical terms, when the people in both communities had some hope, after some four decades of murderous and bitter conflict.

The Good Friday Agreement took an agonisingly long time to bear fruit, but the breakthrough engineered by Martin McGuinness and the Reverend Ian Paisley encouraged the majority of people to look to better times.

Sadly, both men have died, and it now appears that the hope of a better future has died with them.

In a land obsessed by anniversaries, sadly it is worth nothing that this month marks the first anniversary of the visionary Declaration of Intent by Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster.

We are all entitled to ask, why have things gone so badly wrong in such a short time?

This is a question which the historians may be best placed to answer, but in the meantime the ordinary people are left to pick up the pieces and to reflect sadly on what might have been.

Belfast Telegraph

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