Stagnation at Stormont

There's an atmosphere of stagnation at Stormont as Sinn Fein and the DUP continue to fail at governing

As we face a new term in the Northern Ireland Assembly it is understandable that much of the public will be switched off and tuned out.

Wrangling over budget monitoring, a crisis in the health service, major decisions on education, economic development and welfare reform have been delayed, postponed or abandoned. This has all contributed to the atmosphere of stagnation as the two main parties continue to fail at governing.

In 1972 the SDLP published a document called 'Towards a New Ireland'. That document outlined a vision for a future that was, at that time, unimaginable. It envisaged an Ireland that would understand, respect, and celebrate the differences between the Irish and British traditions in Ireland. That work and subsequent efforts to enshrine the principles of justice, fairness and partnership in an agreed Ireland through the institutions we have now has been an immense achievement.

The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement were never meant to imprison us in a state of creative paralysis. They were designed to allow positive and practical policies to be developed. This has sadly not been realised. We have two parties at the helm of the northern institutions who, while accepting the structures of power-sharing, refuse to embrace its spirit. The subsequent stagnation in policy development has resulted in people losing faith in the institutions and the parties that serve in them.

The SDLP want Northern Ireland to work. We want it to work in a way that allows every citizen to reach their full potential. We are not prepared to sacrifice good governance now in the hope of achieving a pipe dream version of a united Ireland in the future. In fact, we believe that a strong functioning North, with increased co-operation and integration with the Republic, will inevitably lead to unity – a better kind of Irish unity.

It is obvious that people don't believe that Stormont works for them. Our job as elected representatives is to show that the institutions can work and can be used to deliver positive change for our people. Power-sharing – its practical out-working and its spirit – needs to be at the heart of any change.