Trevor Ringland: The sectarian headcount is entrenched

Arlene Foster (DUP) and Michelle O'Neill (SF). The two governments cultivated the DUP and Sinn Fein, at the expense of the centre ground
Arlene Foster (DUP) and Michelle O'Neill (SF). The two governments cultivated the DUP and Sinn Fein, at the expense of the centre ground

The political map of Northern Ireland is now starkly divided and polarised.

That is a cause for concern for those of us who care for this place and it gives us pause to think about what we are handing on to future generations.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

It is easy to slip into the politics of hatred and fear, without fully considering the consequences.

The new landscape is a belated outworking of the two governments’ strategy of cultivating the DUP and Sinn Fein, rather than parties that were, at the time, considered ‘centre ground’.

This thinking reached its nadir at the St Andrews’ Agreement, when a sectarian headcount at election time was entrenched in our devolved institutions.

Both the larger parties have changed in pursuit of power, but can we rely upon them to work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland? We will get an answer to that question in the next few weeks.

The DUP, in particular, has an unparallelled opportunity to embrace mainstream politics and use its new found influence at Westminster to make our society and our economy more successful.

If the principle of consent, which underpinned the Good Friday Agreement, means anything, it means that MPs from Northern Ireland can and should aspire to have a say in the government of the United Kingdom.

As to nationalism, it is not for me to say someone cannot aspire to a united Ireland but I can challenge the methods they use to pursue it.

I would expect a similar challenge to my constitutional preference that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom, with great relations with the rest of Ireland and of course Europe.

Trashing this place which we have agreed to share is in no one’s interest and condemns us all to misery and further heartache.

So I would suggest we become more demanding of those who are elected to take responsibility that they do so constructively.

As I have said so often before we are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world and its people have tremendous qualities which are brought to the fore by constructive leadership.

Trevor Ringland, Holywood, Co Down