Last week citizens from the four corners of our nation, in all our diversity of creed, colour, and opinion, joined together in a spirit of community to commemorate the life of the late Labour MP Jo Cox.
In light of recent tragedies and terror attacks the central message of ‘More in Common’ is more important than at any time in our recent history.
However, it is a matter of grave concern that, contrary to the spirit of the ‘Great Get Together’, key figures in Sinn Fein, Labour, and others of the ‘Progressive Alliance’ appear to be preparing a cynically divisive campaign aimed at scuppering any agreement between democratically mandated members of the Democratic Unionist and Conservative parties.
While concrete details of any possible agreement remain absent, the liberal-left of British politics appear content to confine the main thrust of their attack to misrepresenting, caricaturing, and downright fabricating elements of the DUP’s stance on social and moral issues.
Nevertheless, given that any DUP-Tory deal is likely to focus on economic issues, including greater investment for Northern Ireland infrastructure, the critics have already dropped several important hints about their plans for opposition.
Labour’s shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, for example has recently written the Treasury to state that the cost of exempting Northern Ireland’s airports from air passenger duty would pay for “2,000 firefighters”; the implication being that citizens of Northern Ireland would benefit from a DUP-Tory deal only at the expense of citizens living on the British mainland.
While it is true that Northern Ireland’s budget currently depends on an annual block grant from Westminster, it would behove John McDonnell to reflect on the historical causes of the current dispensation.
In particular, he should reflect on the 30-year effort made by his Irish republican ‘friends’ to spread terror, death, and economic destruction in our Province.
It is clear then that the Northern Ireland economy is emerging onto the world scene with a significant debility. It is equally clear that, if Northern Ireland is ever to escape its reliance on the British taxpayer, the local economy must grow; and to grow we require investment.
As such, increased strategic spending on the Northern Ireland economy and infrastructure is the only sound mid to long term policy, which will allow local companies to recover from the legacy of conflict, and to contribute more fully to the wider UK economy.
Framing the public debate in a manner which sets the people of the United Kingdom at odds with each other is not only immoral, but it also places sound economic policy second place to party political interests, and threatens to undermine the long-term peace and stability of Northern Ireland.
Let us all hope that, in these trying times, cool heads prevail and economic common sense checks ideology.
Philip Lynn, Gracehill, Ballymena