Slugger O'Toole

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“I will work tirelessly with all parties to build a truly shared future for Northern Ireland”

Tue 1 January 2013, 11:10am

From Peter Robinson’s New Year message:

During 2013 I want to see the publication of the Executive’s CSI strategy. Those parties that walked away from the responsibility all politicians have to reach agreement on this issue need to come back to the table. The last few weeks has shown that a party political boycott is not the way to respond to such a significant issue. A worked-up draft is now available. I want political leaders to contribute to moving forward rather than opting out and dodging difficult compromises. I will work tirelessly with all Parties to build a truly shared future for Northern Ireland. A future where everyone’s culture and identity is respected.

In my 2012 speech to Conference I said I wanted to cement our place within the Union and I also pledged “if that means taking tough decisions or abandoning out-dated dogmas, then I’ll do it.” I hope in 2013 others will also stand ready to take tough decisions. Whether it is the reform of the Assembly institutions or Executive decisions affecting health, education or business everyone must be prepared to put their shoulder to the wheel. [emphasis added]

A year and a half after the Assembly election, it is surely time for all parties to find half a dozen policies on which they can work together to make a real difference for all their constituents, while also moving the CSI strategy from a draft paper to real life actions that are noticed and absorbed by civil society.

And yet flags, protests, a unionist forum and perceptions of undervalued culture are top of the agenda, it is hard to see how the space could be created up on the hill to allow politicians to take advantage of the consensus that does exist in the Programme for Government.

Suggested New Year’s resolution for Ministers and MLAs: before making statements or signing up to policies, ask yourself whether you’re acting towards a short term win for your own supporters, or a long term change that benefits everyone.

But then, that’s asking politicians not to be political …

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