Belfast Telegraph

Voters count cost of bigotry

By Conall McDevitt

It is time to renew the politics of Northern Ireland. To bring forward a new generation, energetic on the ground, in touch with workers and families and dedicated to making this region work.

People are being let down by old IRA men and a generation of hard-line unionists who wanted power but cannot work together. They know the DUP-SF coalition isn’t working. Thousands are losing their jobs and good companies are being put to the wall.

Truth is, the current coalition is also built on inequality.

That a nationalist will never be able to hold the justice ministry because Sinn Fein negotiated away their right to do so is not just a denial of the SDLP’s mandate, it is an act of outstanding political and social discrimination, the epitome on inequality.

This inequality is also evident on the streets. It fuels the prejudice that boiled over last summer in naked racism.

It’s in the flags that are flown every year on our roads. It was on the streets of Belfast this Christmas and in the internet hate groups.

It’s in the gerrymandering of the constituency boundaries and the privatisation of education.

We still spend £1.5bn a year servicing sectarianism. That’s £10,000 out of all our pockets to accommodate the bigotry the DUP and Sinn Fein rely on.

When Sammy Wilson comes looking for water rates, we need politicians in the middle ground reminding voters that he should be tackling the cost of bigotry. It is time to offer voters something better then the DUP-SF coalition.

Cooperating in the interests of this region is not a denial of identity; it is an expression of confidence and ambition for the north and this island. It’s real patriotism, not partitionism.

Over the next year, nationalist politicians who are interested in making this region work can show the electorate that we have a |future. We can challenge unionism to come to the table and talk about the issues that matter. Their future is not in Hatfield House talking to English Tories; it is here in |Ireland talking about how we can make this region and this |island work.

Conall McDevitt is an SDLP MLA for South Belfast

Belfast Telegraph


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