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2019 needs to see politics working for benefit of all

A new year is a time when we look forward, make plans and resolve to reach some of the goals that were missed in the previous 12 months.

Unfortunately, 2018 was a year of missed political opportunities that will have a profound impact on all our lives.

In purely local terms, the failure to restore Stormont was a major problem, leaving us further mired in a political no man's land.

Crucially important decisions are piling up while no one is taking full control of a rudderless government.

It is an unacceptable situation yet the public seems largely apathetic, which is hardly surprising given the deep unease over initiatives such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Social Investment Fund (SIF).

While huge sums were being channelled into these schemes, school budgets were being squeezed and patients faced shockingly long waiting times for treatment.

Given the questionable conduct brutally exposed by the RHI inquiry, it is little wonder the public has become cynical about politics in general and disillusioned about the effectiveness of Stormont.

However, it is still preferable to have locally elected representatives taking decisions on behalf of those who elect them in a fully functioning power-sharing government.

If Stormont is restored this year, then it cannot be as it was before.

There must be proper accountability and openness, the highest standards need to be maintained and parties and politicians should commit themselves to work for the benefit of all citizens.

However, if a jaded Northern Ireland public looked to Westminster in the past year to provide a model of competence, authority and good governance, then they would have been sadly disappointed.

The shambolic negotiations over Brexit and open warfare within the Tory party, with Labour also divided on its response, has provided an alarming spectacle over the past 12 months.

It has been an unholy mess and with the official date of withdrawal from the EU looming on March 29, we are no clearer on whether the UK will leave with a deal or without a deal, if the deadline will be extended or even if there will be a second referendum.

It beggars belief that with just 88 days to go, the British government cannot tell people what sort of Brexit they can expect and plan for.

Businesses which rely on organisation, forward planning and a well-run supply chain are having to make contingency arrangements based on guesswork.

MPs are due to vote on Theresa May's beleaguered Withdrawal Agreement later this month.

Rejection will raise the prospect of a no deal, which would be disastrous.

It is not just Jean-Claude Juncker who strongly believes it is time the UK got its act together.

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