Editor's Viewpoint: Politicians to blame for keeping us in dark
There could be no more apt metaphor for the state of Northern Ireland than the revelation that some 10,000 street lights are out of order in the province and the situation could get even worse.
We have experienced many dark times in the last few decades but the current lack of light can be attributed entirely to the absence of devolved government, which shamefully has lasted three years and one day exactly.
The Department of Infrastructure says it does not have the money to carry out anything other than essential repairs after its budget was drastically cut. The absence of a minister in that department meant there was no one to argue for a bigger share of the Northern Ireland budget or to determine where the department's priorities lie.
That is not a criticism of the civil servants who have performed a Trojan job in keeping Northern Ireland going and largely solvent. It would be wrong to blame non-elected public officials when it was politicians who refused to do the work they were elected to perform.
What an awful image for this province that areas of it are plunged into darkness. It does little for our reputation as part of what we are told is a burgeoning UK economy, but it is worse on a practical level.
Dark streets are dangerous. They pose threats to pedestrians and also to motorists and can encourage criminality especially on these dark winter nights. We had a similar experience in the past with government unable to fund the cutting of grass verges except in areas where they posed sight problems for motorists.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Northern Ireland is this what the province is reduced to?
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But could there yet be light at the end of the tunnel? As we go to press the political parties are mulling over a potential deal to restore devolution. Even then the other parties apart from the DUP and Sinn Fein were being kept in the dark for a while as they awaited sight of the text of a draft deal.
Of course there are more compelling reasons than restoring street lighting for getting devolved government going again. Today's health workers' strike is the manifestation of an even greater crisis in the health service and practically every other public service can make a compelling argument for greater funding.
Let us hope the light finally dawns on our politicians as to their responsibilities.