Petition of Concern reform key to progress

It will take some time to determine exactly where we are on how we can restore devolution, or indeed any sort of government, in Northern Ireland.

The key is reform of the Petition of Concern. Anybody serious about progress (and it remains to be seen who is serious about it and who is not) would recognise that.

Many of the current stalling points – the Irish Language Act, same-sex marriage and so on – would be solved by reforming the Petition of Concern. The key point here is that there will inevitably also be sticking points in future – and those too will be solved by reforming the Petition of Concern.

It is simply not possible to deal with such issues on a straight black versus white basis. That is what we have the Assembly for – assessing the grey and reaching compromise. Once that compromise is reached, has an Assembly majority, and does not impinge on anyone’s equality of opportunity or constitutional rights, then it should be carried through.

That is how democracy works. We should try it.

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