Respect is a word we have heard often recently in Northern Ireland.
However as a quality which is about due regard for the feelings and rights of others it has been distinctly absent from the world of our politics.
The Good Friday Agreement signed up to in 1998 by the vast majority of the people of Ireland emphasised that there would be parity of esteem and full respect for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.
In the last ten years ,since DUP and SF have been at the top of government, their language and actions have prevented that full respect, increasing the sectarianism and polarisation of our society, exemplified in glorification of violence on one side and appeasement of paramilitary behaviour on the other.
The acceptance through the Good Friday Agreement that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK, until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland wished otherwise, should have encouraged all of our political parties to overcome the ‘them and us’ mentalities which divide our communities.
Since the constitutional question stands in abeyance waiting for change in mindsets and circumstances, the focus of political leadership should then concentrate on co-operation, working together on the positive development of our civic society and the economy. The outcomes of continuing confrontation and division are clear – no government, no budget, deterioration of our health service, increasing difficulties in resourcing our schools, the weakening of voluntary organisations, loss of young people to emigration, no united voice on Brexit.
The failures of positive political leadership by DUP and Sinn Fein both at Local council and assembly levels are denying hope for the future for all of the people of Northern Ireland.
It is time that DUP and SF reached conclusion in negotiations and entered into the proper power-sharing systems required by the ideals of the Good Friday Agreement.
It is time that all voters demanded of those parties the good governance that they require as was demonstrated in the recent protests about proposed cuts in health services. True respect
will only flow from fair treatment for all sectors of our society, emanating from all political parties.
Rosemary Flanagan, Drumclay, Enniskillen