Devolution at Stormont has helped deliver peace and stability in Northern Ireland

A letter from Councillor Brian Pope:

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 1:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 1:48 pm
Letter to the editor

Owen Polley describes devolution as the Achilles heel of unionists (‘Devolution is a disaster for the Union and has always been,’ August 16, see link below), but what he fails to do is define what unionism means today.

I am a proud member of the Alliance Party. I support the Belfast Agreement and the principle of consent.

So, sometimes I wonder, is there much difference between my view on this specific issue and that of a mainstream unionist voter, or indeed, a mainstream nationalist voter? Probably very little.

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However, there is a gulf — as wide as Lough Neagh — between my views and those of political unionism and political nationalism.

I know this because I am not preoccupied by the constitutional question, and like an increasing number of Northern Irish people, my priorities are those of hospital waiting lists, a healthy economy and good jobs, the environment, improved infrastructure, social cohesion, and (as recent opinion polls indicate) more integrated education.

The growth of the centre ground at successive elections also indicates that a shift is occurring in local politics. Is it possible that the Good Friday and subsequent agreements have created a watershed moment in the definition of unionism and nationalism?

If a border poll does happen in the future, and I believe it will at some point, the debates will be progressed, and everyone will have their say at that time.

But, for now, I don’t share Mr Polley’s view that self-government is misplaced and exists purely as a bargaining place between two sides.

For all its faults, devolution has helped deliver peace and stability and for that we are truly grateful. It also has the capacity, and potential, to deliver on all the every-day domestic issues that are so badly needed here in NI.

Brian Pope, Councillor, Alliance group leader, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

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