Belfast Telegraph

Good idea that's really worth a try

By Brian Rowan

For years Harold Good played a quiet role in the peace process. The former Methodist president is known as one of the Church witnesses to the IRA's decommissioning a decade ago. But he was speaking to people long before then; people that others ran a mile from.

The churchman understands the importance of quiet conversations, and what can be achieved. And he knows the mess that Stormont is now in. Politics, he said, is at another crossroads. And he has an idea.

"There are good brains in our society," he told this newspaper. "I'm talking about the business community. I'm talking about industry, construction, economics and academia. They should be sitting with them."

By "them" he means the Stormont Executive, politicians working with others to find a way out of the welfare and finance maze.

"Ideally, the Executive should invite them and say to them: 'We have come to an impasse. We have shared concerns on the vulnerable in our society, but we cannot agree in the present economic climate on a way forward. Can you help us?'"

What is there to lose? In recent days politicians have been queuing up to tell us how deep this crisis is, that the institutions hang by a thread.

"It's a shared responsibility, society as well as political leaders and no one has all the answers," Rev Good added. "They should be in the room together and for as long as it takes."

Aaro Suonio spent years here with the IICD, the decommissioning body. In a recent blog comment he wrote: "Money is in short supply all over Europe, but where, after a long conflict, new generations need to be brought up to work together in the spirit of peace, special attention should perhaps be paid - in sterling."

His argument is that in a peace process money is needed. Harold Good has been down roads before on what some would have considered impossible missions and things have happened.

He doesn't speak to fill air time or newspaper columns, but because he sees the real danger of Stormont falling.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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