Morning View: When All Trust Is Gone, Where Should We Look to Rebuild It?

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), October 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Morning View: When All Trust Is Gone, Where Should We Look to Rebuild It?


AT MIDNIGHT THE ASSEMBLY WAS formally mothballed, for however long it takes the politicians to resolve their differences and face up to their responsibilities. And so what is different in Northern Ireland this morning? What has been achieved, and what has been sacrificed?

Martin McGuinness is no longer Education Minister, nor Bairbre de Brun the Minister for Health, which will please many unionists no end. David Trimble is no longer First Minister, which may satisfy many hard-liners in the same community who, for reasons best known to themselves, regard him with the same kind of distaste they normally reserve for republicans.

Assembly committees, on which sat representatives of every party from the DUP to Sinn Fein, from the Women's Coalition to the Progressive Unionist Party, are silenced.

Gone is the involvement of Ulster's politicians in the everyday issues which affect us all, like health, education, agriculture, investment, transport, planning and the environment.

No wonder there was a palpable sense of gloom at Stormont yesterday morning as people awaited Secretary of State Dr John Reid's inevitable announcement that the Assembly, for the fourth time around, was to be suspended.

It was hard to find a smiling face, for even many of those who support suspension do so ruefully, and with considerable misgivings.

If it hasn't exactly set the world alight, the Assembly, warts and all, has achieved much in the last four years, and everyone involved knows that there is much more to be done.

Dr John Reid's team of ministers will do their best, but it is not an insult to them to say that direct rule by Easyjet ministers is a poor substitute for the real thing - which is good government by locally-elected and accountable politicians. The months ahead are likely to see a pronounced deceleration of the pace of change, which is in no-one's interests.

Thus the sacrifice is plain to see. In years to come, we may look back on this difficult period as a blip on the radar screen of progress, but for now, it presents a clear danger. Northern Ireland has suffered before in political vacuums and it would be folly to allow the democratic deficit to drift. …

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