Countenancing a political future?

My response to Alan Ruddock’s piece in Management Today, and printed in this month’s hard copy issue.Alan Ruddock paints a grim but accurate picture of Northern Ireland’s economic crisis. That a crisis exists after thirty years of conflict is no surprise. What is disturbing is the depth of the hole, and the apparent lack of political will to countenance never mind tackle its root causes.

During the 1980s Tory direct rule minister Richard Needham boasted that by conserving high levels of public expenditure he’d saved Northern Ireland from the Thatcherite revolution. It was a revolution that in its Irish form helped lay the foundations of the Republic’s current economic blossoming.

Much of this seems lost on Northern Ireland’s current political leadership – effectively now the DUP and Sinn Fein. Both are consumed in endless rounds of ‘political chicken’, which prioritises the sectional interest of each community over the other. It’s a game that has been handsomely rewarded at the ballot box. But ultimately it adds up to a lack of confidence both in politics and in the future.

Northern Ireland has several innate strengths, including good transport and telecommunications infrastructure and high educational achievement. Yet if it is to leverage these advantages its political leaderships must put a premium on the future, and allow the turbulent past to rest in peace.