Time to break the sectarian consensus

Statement from the Alliance Party Youth Wing, Young Alliance:

For too long now our sectarian political system has delivered nothing but bickering and blame game. Now it is time for the politics of hope.

The four-party sectarian consensus has had a stranglehold on our politics and on our society for as long as any young person here can remember. This consensus has delivered nothing by political instability, economic stagnation and social backwardness. As the Irish Republic has entered an era of unparalleled prosperity, our ‘peace dividend’ has delivered nothing but bickering and blame. It is up to us to break that stranglehold.

Small wonder so many people are not even bothering to turn up at the polls. Yet one need only glance across the border, or at the new, young, fresh democracies of Eastern Europe, to see that it can all be so different. For how long will our people meekly accept a sectarian consensus unable to deliver? For how long will they accept second-class citizenship, where labels are more important than people? For how long will they accept a political system which delivers nothing?

This sectarian consensus thinks the solution to every economic problem is to demand ‘more funding’ – without explaining where the money should come from; it believes the solution to every social problem is ‘more resources’ – while presenting no ideas on how such resources can be delivered; it excuses everything by talk of a post-conflict society while throwing

millions away dealing with made-up problems that do not need to be dealt with. In short, this sectarian consensus has put billions of pounds of UK and European funding straight in the shredder, with no concrete results to show for it. It is time for grown-up politics – and it is up to the younger generation to deliver it.

Young people here see a political system which abjectly fails to tackle the real problems they face: lack of adequate leisure facilities; spiralling debt caused by tuition fees and unaffordable house prices; removal of after-school clubs; cutbacks on youth counselling services despite mounting suicide rates; the most dangerous roads for new drivers

in the UK, with insurance costs to match; and growing social segregation.

It is time for real answers; for a new, liberal, progressive and anti-sectarian agenda; for positive, responsive and responsible politics. Young people expect proper leisure provision, abolition of tuition fees, resources for after-school activity, adequate provision to tackle suicide and mental health problems, safer roads, and decreasing segregation. These

can all be delivered – but the sectarian political system is holding us back from delivering them.

Only the Alliance Party offers a message of hope. It plans to abolish segregated public services while promoting integration of housing, schooling, leisure facilities and health centres; and investing the savings on providing the services and facilities young people expect and deserve. Alliance is a party big enough to count, yet small enough to care. No one claims to have all the answers – but at least the Alliance Party is answering the right questions.

Today’s new generation is the most politically motivated ever. They are turned off by the sectarian carve-up, but not by the matters that count – opposing racism, ending poverty, protecting the environment. Young Alliance offers a forum to everyone – regardless of religious background or national affiliation – to debate all those matters, and find the right

answers on issues that affect young people here. Those seeking to develop political ideas, political ambition and political vision will find a natural home with us.

We in the youth wing of the Alliance Party are proud of the party’s heritage in opposing – without condition or excuse – all forms of violence, sectarianism and fundamentalism, whatever their source. Now, more than ever, is the time to promote a new agenda and a new vision based on those principles.

There is a different way. Together, let us break the sectarian consensus.


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