Only direct rule can fix the mess our self-serving political parties have made of Northern Ireland
The old saying 'where there's a will, there's a way' clearly doesn't apply to Northern Ireland politics.
Both Sinn Fein and the DUP continue with their blame games, while the Secretary of State, ever the boyish optimist, looks the other way.
There are important decisions ministers need to take which, in the present vacuum, any right-minded Secretary of State would have found the will to do.
But are we seriously saying that a returning Assembly and Executive is going to make right the run-down of our public services and transform our fragile economy when they have, for over 10 years, been the authors of this mismanagement?
It's well past time the Government imposed direct rule, not as a caretaker arrangement, but with the intent of governing for much-needed economic, social and public service outcomes.
We also need a government that is not afraid to tackle the growth of paramilitarism in our communities - something the past Executive was not prepared to do.
Mandatory coalition has clearly failed, and we need the space to ask if it can ever work after 17 years of trial and error. It should be an opportunity to radically address the Belfast and St Andrews agreements and the dysfunctional and costly machinery of government that underpins them.
In this, I include the largely unnecessary super-councils, where sectarianism is alive and well and which have been the seedbed of some of our most damaging community strife.
Our selfish political parties need to realise that more of the same won't do. They have had their chance, failed and do not deserve to return.
In the past eight months, they have sidelined themselves and demonstrated we can live without their self-seeking agendas. They need a lesson in humility - one that only direct rule can bring.
Why are we still waiting?
NI Labour Party must find way to be united
As A Labour Party member, like many others I joined on the back of Jeremy Corbyn's successful leadership election in 2015. Like others, I have been active in various campaigns and backed Corbyn during the leadership challenge last year and have become a committed democratic socialist.
Now, my regional party, the Labour Party in Northern Ireland (LPNI), finds itself in an internal struggle and without a functioning executive due to multiple resignations and the suspension of the executive (albeit temporarily) during investigations into alleged rulebook violations.
There have been internal battles for some time, but it always seemed that the issues were resolved and we were able to move on. But, of late, it has come to a head and many feel they cannot function within the executive.
Having been in regular contact with some of the then executive officers and other people with positions in the party, and after observing comments and debate on social media, it occurred to me that it was, in the most part, due to mistrust and suspicion.
There are some familiar comparisons in the situation with the LPNI and the current political situation with a non-functioning Northern Ireland Executive, yet the LPNI set out to challenge and criticise this impasse and the failings of the Northern Ireland Executive and the Assembly to address the social inequalities in Northern Ireland.
I myself have been guilty of this mistrust and I think all active LPNI members need to look at why we joined the Labour Party to begin with.
We should ask ourselves, are we not being a little hypocritical if we can't find a way round our own impasse and disagreements, considering what we are, or have been, challenging as a party? Isn't it time to build bridges and find a way to compromise with our differences?
This may sound very cliched, but I am reminded of the late Jo Cox MP in her maiden speech, when she said: "There is more that unites us than divides us." Particularly when we are united on so many things, like LGBTQ rights and equality, women's rights and equality, workers' rights, fighting austerity and so many other things.
Maybe it's time we concentrated on these things that unite us, rather than fighting over what divides us.
Surely, the issues that we fight for are far bigger than what annoys us or upsets us?
Christian 'soldiers' are deserting God's army
Soldiers go to war believing in their cause as explained by their commanders-in-chief, preparing to give their all in battle - even if they end up dying to protect their cause.
The New Testament church followed Jesus's example, with the Apostles Peter and Paul being martyred for their faith in Rome, and Stephen being stoned to death in Jerusalem, praying for his murderers.
Christianity today is fighting for its existence around the world with two armies, one actively engaged in campaigns that have witnessed martyrdoms/executions for daring to be a Christian, bombings and imprisonment.
Yet, just as was the case in the early church, many in these persecuted nations are coming to Christ, finding salvation, miracles happening and the church growing - not declining, as is happening in the West.
However, the Second Christian army, based in the west, is facing mass desertions from its ranks, as its commanders, the leaders of the church, seem to have gone asleep, unable to rally their soldiers behind their cause.
The western church, rather than arming its soldiers, has sought to take away their weapons and defences by watering down the Christian message of John 3:16 and seeking to form alliances with those who defy openly God's messages concerning sexual sins, such as homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestism, adultery and fornication.
Add to this the church's silence on abortion and its inability to handle issues concerning gender (eg the future designation of a child's sex when it's born), and it's no wonder soldiers are deserting God's army, the church in the West.
Instead of lining up to do battle for God, we find sections of the army leaving the battlefield to join the enemy camp, turning up to support LGBT events and Pride marches, supporting same-sex marriage and advocating women's choice on abortion.
I make an open appeal to all Christian soldiers in this land of ours: re-arm, take to the field and get behind commanders who believe in the cause of the Gospel and biblical teachings.
The war against Christianity and its truths must be defended at all costs.
PASTOR PAUL S BURNS
Adullam Christian Fellowship