Turning NI into land of opprtunity should be first priority of a functioning Assembly, says Lunn

A platform piece from Trevor Lunn MLA –

Whenever many of the advancements our society has seen happen occur, opponents almost inevitably claim they pose a threat to the fabric of the same society.

Take the movement for integrated education, which is opposed in practice by many politicians but a popular concept within the general population. How can anyone, given our history, not agree our children should be educated together as an important building block to the new society we all aspire to, if their parents, as evidenced by all opinion polls, want it? There is no threat.

Look at equal marriage. Some people say it is an affront to God’s law but what proportion of the population actually believe this, and do they have the right to block what is acceptable to a substantial majority?

Is it a threat to ‘traditional’ marriage? Surely no more than the numbers of couples choosing to live together and raise families or the number of divorces. I admit to being a convert in this matter, like so many others. Maybe other politicians will eventually take note. There is no threat.

For me, a huge issue is the termination of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. Where is the humanity in demanding mothers should be forced to carry a baby full-term in these circumstances? Is it right to turn a blind eye while they endure a traumatic trip to another part of the UK, or should we not act to give them the choice of a termination close to home?

I respect the right of parents to choose and to be given every assistance in making that choice. If abortion law here is to move beyond that, it will be the will of the Assembly that dictates any change. In the meantime, doing the compassionate and humane thing must be right and threatens no one. There is no threat.

And what about an Irish Language Act? How can the desire for Irish speakers for recognition of and support for their language and culture be a threat? The Assembly, if it is restored, will decide what goes into an Act and what it decides will be about opportunity, not compulsion.

Ulster-Scots advocates have a real opportunity to obtain parallel legislation to recognise their culture and they should be pushing for both, instead of opposing because again of a perceived threat to their way of life. There is no threat.

We can see so many things presented as threats can in fact be turned into opportunities – opportunities for people to be educated together, to marry whomever they wish, to express their identity freely, to live free from compulsion when the worst happens and to speak their language of choice.

Turning Northern Ireland into a land of opportunity – a place where everyone wants to live and work – should be the first priority of a functioning Assembly. Losing that opportunity is the biggest threat of all.

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