Belfast Telegraph

Politics in Northern Ireland has become predictable, boring and embarrassing - how I see it as a child of the Belfast Agreement

Hannah Ruth Gibson, who is 19 and from east Belfast, writes a powerful open letter to our politicians

When the initial political thought sparked in my head, I realised that my childhood illusion of politics, as intended for old men muttering about irrelevant high-brow issues to pass the time before death, and using a vocabulary I'd need a thesaurus to dissect, was inaccurate.

Not long after this, I learnt that despite every child's lesson growing up being to respect others, my country was run by a group of people who didn't do this.

I am 19 years old, a child of the Belfast Agreement and I am not here to dredge up the past.

I wish to hold up a mirror to the Northern Ireland Assembly as it stands, dissolving, swallowed by its own ineptness and show it what I see.

Much like Rawls' theory of justice, I have the advantage of some lack of historical context. I have the benefit of being an outsider with the cultural insight of a young woman who has lived her entire life in Belfast.

It used to strike me as odd, how apathetically the world around me looked at politics; this shining vessel of democracy, a chance for a voice in the wind to be captured in a chamber and heard.

Here stood a system of scrutiny and equal opportunity, where the people represented the people, listening to and respecting each other, even if they didn't agree.

Perhaps my idealistic black and white stance that all people are good and compassionate and honest, was naive; perhaps I am Rousseau, full of ideas but completely missing the point.

Several years down the line, politics makes me angry. Does anger come before apathy? Does the revolutionary fire flare and die before we just lie down on the pavement, too tired to bother?

I want to send a message to the Northern Ireland Assembly whilst you all sit in your ivory tower of clashing ideals and hatred, which was handed down to you on a platter with pointed passive aggression; life goes on at the bottom of Stormont Hill.

Continue, as we know you will, but do not dare pretend there's any integrity in your actions.

The RHI scandal is nothing but opportunity for you all to throw your hands up, throw out any reason to do any governing and to point fingers at each other. Again.

The irony is, whilst you make grave remarks about this being the final straw; you have never worked.

Northern Ireland faces an annual soap opera about the passage of budget, abuses of petitions of concern, closures and amalgamations of schools and an overstretched NHS. Every year is like a rerun of an episode of an overly-familiar TV drama, which wasn't clever the first-time round.

As you whine about the other parties' complacency in looking at anything from another's perspective for fear of gaining a little bit of understanding, every single person in this country must do just that.

We all work with people we don't like. It's the way of the world.

Most of us, however, have more maturity than nine-year-old children and can get on without throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the working week and threatening a shutdown of the entire workplace.

It's become boring, predictable, embarrassing.

Look at the electorate. The 2016 election had a turnout of 54%, do you really think another one is going to magically fix everything?

Whilst our elected individuals, paid £70,000 per annum (a budget that always manages to take priority) to get on with each other, to sit down and talk, refuse to do so, the only people that suffer are us; the everyday people who have the displeasure to call you our government.

You all talk about standing for your constituents when the only thing any of us want you to do is pass something slightly resembling legislation.

These grandiose speeches about equality taste quite bitter when all it means is that we're equally ignored.

I know you are still 'getting to grips' with a power-sharing government.

I know that 20 years ago, Northern Ireland was in a state of conflict.

Twenty years to change a world is perhaps asking too much, Rome wasn't built in a day, but 20 years to make some start? To put in some effort?

For something other than this throwing of mud at each other from across a velveteen room, is not an unreasonable request.

The truth is, most of our MLAs stand unfit for the job that they perform, the 'university of life' is not a good enough qualification to run a department and bigoted politics graduates who think that they know it all simply want to follow in the footsteps of their opportunistic, ego-maniac heroes.

We are better than this. I call for the Opposition that has been discussed for the past decade. I call for a shift in system set-up.

Democracy is a beautiful thing; no matter what, I will remain civic minded - I will be angry at politics for as long as I care about it. I love Northern Ireland; I love the history, the culture, the people, the humour, the landscape. I love that we birthed CS Lewis and Seamus Heaney, that we invented the modern agricultural tractor and contributed to Thin Lizzy.

We have this gem of a nation; we're so lucky to live in a country people flee to for safety, and yet, the government lets us down every time.

Tradition alone is never a good enough reason to do anything. Politicians have a responsibility and a privilege to play a role in looking after us.

So, why have I rarely heard my views in your chamber? Imagine daring to do more than the bare minimum? Imagine gaining a small sliver of respect? Imagine taking some responsibility.

We live in a complicated world of game-playing and ambiguity. In the face of it all, I refuse to disbelieve that we are all compassionate beings.

No one is born hating or intolerant, it is something we learn along the way.

At the risk of being sentimental, I beg, I demand to see some glimpse of the unity in a country that represented itself so well in the Euros in the summertime.

I want to see some of that representation in the parliament buildings.

Have some pride in this place and get to work.

Belfast Telegraph


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