Leading article

Action rather than words needed at Stormont

While the opening Stormont statements at the weekend from our newly elected first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, were measured and reasonable, both politicians will know that they are going to be judged on their actions rather than their words.

The public will be expecting early progress in key areas like the economy, education, infrastructure and above all health, and will not be impressed by any hint that the attitudes which brought down the last administration are still exerting an influence at Parliament Buildings.

A number of factors on all sides contributed to the previous collapse in confidence, but the overall approach of the DUP to both practical and symbolic issues linked to the Irish language had a particularly negative impact.

It will have been noted that Paul Givan, the communities minister who abruptly dropped and then restored the Líofa Gaeltacht bursary scheme in January, 2017, has been left on the backbenches on this occasion.

Sinn Féin's former acting deputy first minister John O'Dowd also remains outside the Executive, indicating that his decision to stand against Ms O'Neill for the party's vice-presidency last Autumn may not have been entirely forgotten.

However, the focus has to be on the new team of ministers which, despite the frustrations of the last three years, has been handed a huge chance to deliver results on a range of fronts.

Events have developed with considerable speed since this newspaper reported on December 10 that the Irish and British governments believed the opportunity to restore devolution was finally in place.

Voters sent out a firm message to the main parties through the UK general election two days later, and there is nothing to prevent the sense of momentum which has been created from being maintained.

There were valid arguments for establishing a proper opposition within the Assembly but it did not prove effective and it is appropriate that power is once again to be shared between the DUP, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists and Alliance.

At the centre of the structures will be the relationship between Ms Foster and Ms O'Neill. If it prospers, the credibility of the political process can only be enhanced.

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Leading article