Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We need stability, not more uncertainty

Editor's Viewpoint

We report in today's paper about the huge slump in footfall across Northern Ireland high streets on Black Friday and over the weekend.

The comparisons with Britain are dramatic, with the footfall down locally on Friday by 7.2% compared to a 4.2% average on the other side of the Irish Sea.

On Saturday the Northern Ireland figures had fallen by 17.3% and on Sunday by 14.9%, compared to 2.6% and 2.3% respectively in the rest of the UK.

Even if the Sunday figures here can be partly explained by different cultural patterns, the figures overall are most concerning.

This is particularly worrying for traders who depend on this period for greater profits to cushion leaner times, and the reduced figures may give a disturbing picture of less spending power.

There are other factors at play, including out-of-town shopping centres, parking fees, and the surge in online shopping.

However, a lack of consumer confidence in a period of pre-Brexit anxiety may also be playing a part.

And our political stalemate is an important contributor to the situation.

It is nearly a year since we have had a working government, and we are caught between the lame administrations in both London and Dublin.

While an election has been narrowly averted in the Republic, it still looks likely that there will be one early next year.

We remain at the mercy of the two main parties here who are unable to agree on a way out of the deadlock, despite having been elected to get on with the job at hand.

Last night Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill spoke at a London dinner hosted by Co-Operation Ireland, and both emphasised the importance of showing respect for different traditions and to work for the better of everyone in Northern Ireland.

They seemed to be in such general agreement about respect and trying to chart a way forward, that most people here will ask why they have not done so thus far.

Mrs Foster again underlined the need for a stable administration, and this is a point on which all ordinary voters agree.

In a time of economic uncertainty, and with pressures on ordinary families and retailers alike, there is no doubt that we need a solution at Stormont - and fast.

Belfast Telegraph

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