Another politician of ability steps back amid stalemate
Politics in Northern Ireland has seen two more casualties of late.
David Ford stepped down from the Assembly last month, while Steven Agnew is resigning as leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland.
The two departures are not quite the same, in that Mr Ford is aged 67 (Mr Agnew is 38) and so his decision to quit as MLA is understandable, after 20 years at Stormont.
Mr Agnew, on the other hand, is not leaving the assembly entirely, just the leader’s position.
But Northern Ireland can ill afford to lose in any capacity politicians with ability, which both men have.
Mr Ford was a bridge between an older generation of Alliance, which fully supported the RUC and was firmly pro Union, and a more liberal younger generation that is outspoken on social matters and which often sides with nationalists on key matters of policy — as does the Greens.
In this respect both parties are increasingly at odds with the views of most unionists and News Letter readers.
But Mr Ford was no dupe around republicans, and was scathing about failures on either side of the political aisle. In the later stages of his long career he did vital work at justice, curbing the wilder excesses of legal aid and keeping at bay the demands of dissident thugs and their apologists.
Mr Agnew is an intelligent and lively representative from a younger generation that we need involved in politics. Last year he made a surprising but welcome statement about Sinn Fein’s lack of interest in devolution, and he asked if voluntary coalition was now needed. Mr Agnew was too polite to say that that party has been allowed to bring down Stormont via blackmail, a disgraceful move that might cause more people to walk away from politics. All must MLAs suffer due to SF.
This will be no disappointment to a party that does not want Northern Ireland to work. Yet it faces not a word of specific criticism for its conduct from London and Dublin has pushed for its demands such as a language act to be met.