Leading article

Bernadette McAliskey's blunt verdict

FORMER Mid Ulster MP Bernadette McAliskey was characteristically blunt at the weekend when she said Stormont had failed to protect the human rights of the entire population and deserved to be “bulldozed”.

Speaking at a conference to mark the first civil rights march which took place between Coalisland and Dungannon, Co Tyrone, 50 years ago, she said our political structures had entirely failed to address not only sectarianism but also racism and concluded: “We deserve better.”

There will be widespread agreement with Ms McAliskey’s negative assessment of the overall performance of our elected representatives and there can be no doubt that the prospects of the devolved administration returning are presently remote.

The fallout from the Brexit debacle and the consequences of the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal, with the likelihood of further disturbing revelations when the public inquiry resumes, have all contributed to the growing sense that the institutions may be beyond recovery.

Indications that the DUP was at last prepared to reach out to nationalists were seriously undermined last week when the party was unable to find a single representative who might be prepared to be anywhere in the vicinity of the visit to Dublin this weekend by Pope Francis.

Given that the late Martin McGuinness accepted the symbolic and practical necessity of meeting Queen Elizabeth both in Belfast and at Windsor Castle outside London during his term of office as deputy first minister, it all represented a depressing state of affairs.

However, while the tide of history cannot be ignored, it is still too early to completely dismiss the possibility that our power-sharing arrangements are capable of being revived.

While Ms McAliskey was right to highlight the sectarianism in our society, which has been unmistakable during the appalling bonfires organised by extreme elements linked to loyalism in Belfast and republicanism in Derry over recent months, there is still an outside chance that our main parties can reach a consensus for progress.

The ugly gestures which have been all too evident across the board during the summer demonstrate why it is worth making a further determined push later in the year for a breakthrough which can only be based on mutual respect for all traditions.

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