We in Northern Ireland live in a representative democracy (albeit an imperfect one) in which we elect our own legislative Assembly to make domestic laws and manage domestic public policy on our behalf.
In that Assembly – the one we elect with our full preferences included within the system – the DUP and Sinn Féin have between them 67 out of 108 seats, 62% of the total.
Im sorry, but far too many people are wasting their time trying, no doubt with fine intentions, to engage in political debate without first considering that quite straightforward point, with its straightforward implication – if the DUP and Sinn Féin agree to something, it happens; and if they (either of them) don’t, it doesn’t. End of!
Frankly, we Progressives can set up all the civic conversations, social media network sessions or academic gatherings we like, we will have no serious effect on public policy in Northern Ireland – none whatsoever – until we face that fact.
We can talk all we like about “Opposition”, or civic forums, or compromise on flags, or devolving tax powers, or reforming education, or funding hospitals… but until we reduce the DUP and Sinn Féin to a minority, we will make precisely no difference whatsoever. We may agree with each other on a fantastic new form of welfare provision, or a wonderful new parades management system, or plans for the regeneration of town centres… but here’s the thing, we have absolutely no influence to *do* any of it!
With a few honourable exceptions, the DUP and Sinn Féin are not made up of reasonable, rational people. One thinks the world was founded 6000 years ago; worse still, the other thinks the IRA’s terrorist campaign was legitimate. Both are engaged in rewriting history, ignoring and even endorsing blatant breaches of the Rule of Law, and generally seeking power for its own sake. Get this people – you are *not* going to persuade them to change their ways by reasoned debate! If you want to deliver an alternative, they must be defeated and removed from power at the ballot box.
No one wants to knock enthusiasm or even exuberance – but they must be well placed. Currently the DUP and Sinn Féin are getting an easy ride because they have 62% of the vote and the remaining 38% (by no means all Progressive types either, by the way!) are divided all over the place and only dividing themselves further.
The *only* task relevant to Progressives currently is to ensure the DUP and Sinn Féin are deprived of their collective majority in the Assembly as soon as possible. Anything which is not a move to that end will only put back the day sensible, competent people actually get to run the place. Is that what you want? Then it’s time to focus!