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Editor's Viewpoint

NI politicians need to work together



First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill


First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

As is its wont the Northern Ireland Executive spent almost a week in ever more angry discussion over what to do next in the against coronavirus. The five parties left it to almost the last moment before a compromise deal which seemed to please no one except the DUP was passed.

It was yet another example of the dysfunctional nature of politics at Stormont and left the already confused public further bewildered as to what really went on behind closed doors. Many were asking the simple question - was the deal arrived at yesterday worth days of wrangling and deadlock and the use of a procedural device by the DUP to thwart the other four parties.

Ultimately what was arrived at was a deal which was not backed by any nationalist party - Sinn Fein voted against and the SDLP abstained - and suggestions from inside the Executive say Alliance and the Health Minister, who is a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, were unhappy but felt they had no option but to back it, otherwise the current restrictions would have ended without any official backing or guidance on the way forward.

What is clear is that the new deal - close contact services and unlicensed premises can open from next Friday with licensed premises and hotels opening from November 27 onwards - does not follow the medical and scientific advice given to the politicians with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser wanting the current restrictions to continue for the next fortnight. With another 15 deaths recorded yesterday, hospitals running at capacity with intensive care beds filling up, and staff under intense pressure the medical advice seems well founded.

Looking forward the daily number of positive tests for the virus, the number of admissions to hospital and the number of deaths will be carefully scrutinised. These all need to fall and remain down if the hope for anything approaching a normal Christmas is to be achievable.

When politicians returned to Stormont at the beginning of this year there was some optimism that perhaps this time the devolved administration might work positively.

That seems to have been a vain hope as this week's debacle at Stormont shows. For a country that needs to win new friends post-Covid and post-Brexit it is depressing to see them continue to snipe at each other from their respective silos. As the centenary of the foundation of the state approaches next year the politicians are still playing out their pathetic version of the 100 year war.

Belfast Telegraph