Young people need better leadership
One of the most depressing aspects of the attack on the Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir at Woodvale Park on Tuesday was the almost complete absence of sympathy for him from his political opponents and the half-hearted condemnation of the assault in which several police officers were also injured. Instead, DUP councillors stressed they had advised him not to attend the park opening and said there was understandable anger in the area as a result of Sinn Fein's stance on the Union flag flying at City Hall and opposition to Orange Order marches along the nearby Crumlin Road.
Politicians throughout the UK are often held in low regard, but in Northern Ireland their actions tend to be highlighted in sharper relief than elsewhere because the opposing views are so black and white. There is an almost complete lack of statesmanship among the political class here with few willing to go in advance of their own most truculent supporters in a bid to create a new, vibrant dynamic for change.
It was therefore all the more pleasing to see one of the younger politicians, new Finance Minister Simon Hamilton of the DUP, say that Mr O Muilleoir should have the right to go to every part of the city as Lord Mayor. That is such a self-evident truth that it would not need to be uttered elsewhere in the UK, but it did need to be said here. Mr Hamilton may risk the wrath of some backwoodsmen but he deserves credit for doing what so few other politicians here do – the right thing.
Many others prefer to provoke or needle or, in the case of the assault on the Lord Mayor, do even worse by saying nothing at all. This behaviour is prevalent right across the political spectrum.
Take the republican demonstration planned for Castlederg, a divided town but one – as our story today shows – where people have learned to live together. The young people interviewed want nothing to do with the battles of the past, but the politicians still appeal to a narrow band of people who cannot move forward. In the meantime those seeking a new future get virtually no leadership at all.