Time for an end to political soap opera

David Ford will say: “We welcome the opportunity for engagement in all-party talks, and the Government’s stated aim of a fully inclusive process.

“People now see the political process as little more than a bad soap opera. It is up to us to address that.

“For real progress to be made, political leaders must be prepared to stop shirking responsibility on key issues. Republicans must address the outstanding issues identified in the IMC report if they are to have any sort of credence. Unionists must recognize the reality of ongoing and developing north-south cooperation, and its potential benefits to everyone. The Governments must put an end to any hint of a process based on side deals. Anything else is a recipe for constant instability.

“An inclusive process in itself will not be enough. The outcome must be a political settlement which is based on our common interest, and on power-sharing rather than power-dividing. To achieve this, the Government needs to move the ‘Shared Future’ agenda to the centre of the process – when dealing with community relations, human rights, victims and survivors, equality of opportunity and, of course, the devolved institutions themselves.

“Specifically, we recognize that work towards genuine reconciliation and integration is meaningless unless we address our severe economic deficiencies. The Government has set us an economic challenge to redress the employment balance between private and public sector. We are prepared to meet that challenge. We need to be creating wealth, not creating dependency. Therefore, we are calling for an all-party roundtable to develop an economic package that will genuinely address these deficiencies.

“Our proposals contained in our document _Agenda for Democracy_ are now two years old, and they are as relevant now as they were then. That shows how little the process has moved on. This failure indicates that the sectarian political system, no matter who heads it, cannot deliver the political and economic results the people of Northern Ireland need and deserve.”


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