Leona O'Neill: It's time for our zombie government to get back to work

As recession bites and the cost of living spirals, Northern Ireland still does not have a functioning government. It's time our politicians got back to working our behalf while we need them most, writes Leona O'Neill...

Stormont – currently closed for business. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire.
Leona O'Neill

ON SATURDAY, the three letters I got from the postman were ones telling me that various long-standing and necessary bills are going up, again. I went grocery shopping and paid twice as much for the food in my trolley than I did maybe six months ago. When I came home our electricity meter was singing the song of its people and demanding that we feed it again, for the third time this week. In the next week I have to buy three sets of uniforms, shoes and school supplies and I've already spent most of that money on the things we need to survive as human beings.

I work full time. When all my taxes and contributions are taken from my wages, and my car, house, power and priority bills are paid, I have very little left to take a family of six over the month.

We're in summer now and I haven't put oil in my tank for a few weeks, but I know that particular necessity, as well as all the other ones screaming for attention, is barrelling down the line at me. I have to pay hundreds of pounds per month just to get me to work. And the news tells us that prices and interest rates are going to go up, yet again. Oh, and there's a recession on the horizon too. More joy awaits.

I know I'm not the only person struggling. The stress of trying to keep our family afloat in these mad times is intense. Coming on the back of a two-year stressfest that was the pandemic, it is doubly challenging. The winter is looming and there are real fears that families are not going to be able to heat their homes and afford to meet their ceaselessly increasing bills. And a recession will mean many businesses will now go to the wall, forcing unemployment up.

These are hard times for us all. In hard times we look to those in power to try to make things better – to unlock money that could help people, to challenge the energy providers to reduce their costs and make basic living affordable, to help families fight against spiralling costs, to fight their voter's corners, to help cushion against a recession.

I absolutely refuse to believe that the cost of living crisis is impacting everyone except DUP voters. That it is making the lives of everyone else, except them, more stressful. That everyone, bar the DUP voters who are backing the stagnation of Stormont, is wondering what fresh financial misery the winter will bring. That all other members of the community – except those who are clapping and cheering as our elected, paid politicians do absolutely nothing in a zombie government – are fighting to keep their heads above water, keep their jobs, feed their families, try to keep their business going with the threat of a recession looming.

If you sit back and think on it, Northern Ireland – probably more than other places facing the same challenges is completely broken and we, in allowing our politicians to get their wages while not doing their jobs, are enabling it. Every single day that this government sits dormant is another day when they are not helping us. You. Me. Your family. Mine. It's simply inexcusable for elected representatives to abandon their voters in their time of need.

I'm angry. I hope you are too. Some of our politicians are taking us for fools. All of us. They are simply not doing the job that they are being well paid to do while you and I worry about if we are going to be sitting in the cold come October, how far we can make what little money we have stretch or how much longer we can afford to go to work.

Perhaps your feelings over the protocol or a republican First Minister will keep you warm this winter. But I'd imagine that fire will soon fizzle out when the temperatures drop.

Hard times are here and they are going to just get harder. How much longer are we going to let our politicians take us for fools?

This should not be as good as it gets. We have been through enough in this place, we deserve more than what our elected leaders have given us these last few years. We should not accept this ceaseless negative circus that is our politics here.

I've said it before, I'll say it again – get back to work and make this place work.