Sinn Fein must now back police to restore devolution for good. If this move takes place, the DUP would then have no option but to put years of prejudice behind them and do a deal to get the Assembly up and running again.
The mood music sounds fairly sweet. Monday’s IMC report stated that the IRA no longer poses a terrorist threat; however, the issue of policing still looms large.
Alliance published five benchmarks on policing and the rule of law in August and all parties must meet them to ensure sustainable devolution here. We demanded that any party must sign up to and support policing, and do all in its power to end criminality.
Hopefully, now that republicans have been given a clean bill of health, the blame game can end and sustainable deal can be made to deliver decision-making powers to Northern Ireland.
If Sinn Fein sign up to policing, any subsequent deal must be more than just a quick fix between two parties. Alliance believes that wider issues must be addressed to make the Assembly work effectively in the long-run.
The public got disillusioned with politics here long ago because there have been so many false starts in getting devolution up and running. In addition to these false starts, the people of Northern Ireland have been dealt several body blows in the form of rates hikes and unfair water charges. People want to see progress and leadership from politicians here, and Alliance agrees with them.
Alliance has offered the solution to the rates crisis and water charges – a fair income tax based on ability to pay. We are dealing with the issues which affect the everyday lives of everyone. We want to improve Northern Ireland and power-sharing is essential for us, in order to do so.
The Good Friday Agreement contained flaws within in it. A recent survey showed that 40% of people believe in the principles of the Agreement, but said it needed to be reformed.
The Agreement reinforces division in our society due to the Assembly’s disgraceful sectarian designation system. The Berlin Wall of segregation in Northern Ireland must come down. The Agreement, through Assembly designations, added bricks to the top of this wall. Those who don’t recognize the need for Agreement reform are leading Northern Ireland up the garden path again. Agreement fundamentalism will only lead to Assembly failure.
The Agreement has increased polarization and increased the amount of money wasted on segregation. We want to smash segregation to stop sectarianism. To do this, progress must be made on a shared future. This will stop £1 billion being wasted yearly on dividing our society.
Two for the price of one is generally considered good value. We have exactly the opposite here. We have one service for the price of two – two primary schools, to pander to those who want to divide our society, instead of providing one integrated school, which would provide far better value for money.
The final issue which must be examined in St Andrews is giving victims a voice. We have proposed giving people the chance to put their story on record. We have also suggested a memorial to victims and a day of reflection. A day of reflection would enable people to think about the suffering of the entire community. There must be a wider process of engagement to help victims throughout our society. We must remember the past so that we can create a better future.