Obsession with “NI21” unhealthy

I work in Lisburn one day a week and can vouch for Johnny McCarthy as a first-class public representative. I hope his civic/political career is on,ymjust beginning. However, he was in effect an independent from the moment he was elected. His resignation from a party which is as alive as the parrot in Monty Python’s “dead parrot” sketch is not news.

The fact it drew such comment is representative of a worrying tendency to view politics, particularly here, as a soap opera or a sport. It isn’t. Fundamentally it is about how we are governed, about the services we receive, about the society in which we can seek jobs and leisure opportunities, and so on and so on. “NI21”, a one-man party with no policies and no influence, makes no difference to any of that.

There was of course a lesson in the real NI21’s demise that it is somewhat more difficult to set up an influential and electable political party than it looks. That lesson should long since have been learned. I would argue that there is an additional lesson that if anti-sectarian Progressives already represent only 10% or so of the electorate, it is daft for them to split up and fight among each other, particularly when the differences are only of brand rather than fundamental policy or strategy.

Politics requires compromise and it is difficult. The outcome matters to our daily lives. In 2016 it would be preferable if we all moved on from irrelevant side shows, and instead focused on issues around the economy, health, education and infrastructure and how we best influence them for the better. That will require a different focus, and indeed a different form of reporting – but if we can learn to change and focus on the real issues, it may indeed prove to be a happier and more prosperous new year.

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