Secretary of State should have acted long ago over deadlock

Robin Swann
Robin Swann

The second anniversary of Stormont’s collapse marks two wasted years with a total abdication of political responsibility by both Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Where the Assembly could – and should – have been working to deliver jobs, delivering for our health service and delivering for our children’s education, instead we have seen the DUP and Sinn Fein engaged in a zero sum game, where the people of Northern Ireland are the losers.

The only way to get this place up and running again is for five party talks to take place. For the negotiations surrounding the Belfast Agreement, parties were invited to take part. Those who wanted to be involved were involved and those who didn’t, self-excluded.

The Secretary of State knows what needs to happen and she should have done something about it by now. Instead she seems obsessed with making sure that the DUP and Sinn Fein are satisfied with everything before they get round the table.

That approach simply won’t work.

In the absence of devolution, the Secretary of State should be bringing in direct rule. The people of Northern Ireland deserve government and they deserve accountable and responsible politicians. If that’s not going to be from Stormont, then it’s going to have to be from Westminster.

In recent days we have heard rhetoric from both Sinn Fein and the DUP which indicates that they seem intent on transferring the dysfunctionality of their scandal-ridden Executive to local councils and sectarianising the forthcoming local government elections.

They are feeding off each other in a race to the bottom. That should not be allowed to happen because Northern Ireland and its people both need and deserve something better.

Local Government served all the people of Northern Ireland through some very difficult and dark times. That role should not be threatened by those who only seek to serve themselves.

• Robin Swann has been leader of the UUP since spring 2017. He was writing to coincide with today’s second anniversary of the collapse of Stormont, brought about by the resignation of Martin McGuinness