Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: A platform to give voters a real say

There is a conceit at the heart of government in Northern Ireland which is undermining public confidence in the fitness of the power-sharing administration to perform its task.

This is most vividly illustrated in the decision by the two major parties in the cross-community partnership - Sinn Fein and the DUP - to pack the committee tasked with finding a solution to the perennial problem of parading solely with their own members. The other parties, along with the population in general, are then expected to endorse a fait accompli.

While Sinn Fein and the DUP can claim the greatest mandate based on their performances in the Assembly elections, theirs is not the only mandate. That has led to a fractious coalition administration where point scoring, rather than policy making, seems highest on the agenda.

It is against that background that a new pressure group, Platform for Change, will be launched in Belfast today. Heralded as a citizens' initiative, it is an umbrella organisation covering virtually every facet of society and aimed at forcing the politicians at Stormont to build positively on the existing shaky foundations of government.

The group argues that Northern Ireland has an opportunity to cement the peace of the past decade - dissident republican violence aside - but that politicians must look to the future rather than remain hamstrung by the legacies of the past.

There is also an argument that a compulsory coalition with no viable opposition is not good for government. To date the result has been a collection of parties, each promoting their own dogmatic policies, rather than operating as a conventional government cabinet. Changing attitudes among the politicians will be a difficult task as there is not an over-abundance of goodwill at Stormont.

Perhaps, however, if ordinary people are given the proper platform they can induce change.


From Belfast Telegraph