Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Our politicians must put up - or shut up

'At least a functioning Assembly and Executive would provide a local focal point where the public could demand action' (stock photo)
'At least a functioning Assembly and Executive would provide a local focal point where the public could demand action' (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

In recent times, political punditry has been more difficult than picking the winner of the Grand National. But unless the polls are hopelessly wrong again, tomorrow may spell the beginning of the end of the toxic Brexit wrangling. Boris may well start to get Brexit done when the votes are counted, and local parties can concentrate on pressing issues at home rather than dreaming of themselves as being international power brokers.

The summary disregard Boris showed for the DUP in rewriting Theresa May's Brexit deal should be a lesson to all parties here that they are tolerated at Westminster, never loved.

Instead, come Monday they will be summoned to begin talks aimed at restoring devolution. Their near three-year absence from Stormont while public services wither before our eyes has finally broken the patience of the public.

The DUP and Sinn Fein must know from their canvassing around the doors that voters have a list of complaints levelled at them and that they want the politicians to either put up or shut up.

No sensible democratic society - however much Northern Ireland tries to defy that description - can continue to tolerate the crisis in the health service, the slow erosion of resources in education, the lack of infrastructure investment which could mitigate against innovative city deals for Belfast and Londonderry, and practically every other public service feeling the strain.

It appears from some of the mood music emanating from the two big parties that they are ready to talk. There is little mention of red lines as they know fine well the crisis in the health service trumps any of their petty disputes and demands.

However, it is painful to realise that it has taken huge lengthy waiting lists, under-resourced and under-paid health workers, and the first ever strike by the Royal College of Nursing to even make the politicians stir from the sidelines, never mind accept responsibility for tackling the problems.

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Of course the problems were brewing even before Stormont collapsed, and the pitiful governance exposed by the RHI scandal should warn us that a return to devolution is no guarantee that life here on day-to-day issues will improve any time soon.

But at least a functioning Assembly and Executive would provide a local focal point where the public could demand action. And maybe this time it would work better than in the past.

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