Welcome to Northern Slant, a new platform seeking to showcase a new Northern Ireland and facilitate debate. We want a Northern Ireland that’s ready for real consensus, open for business and genuine prosperity.
It is quite fitting then that we launch Northern Slant when just last month Northern Ireland’s largest political party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), through two very different moves summed up our start-stop way of doing things here. It is a kind of politics which has long dictated the slow pace of change within and between imagined communities.
In a historic address at a Cooperation Ireland event First Minister Peter Robinson extended the hand of friendship to the Gaelic Athletic Association, emphasising the need for equality and respect. A media storm followed, this time over GAA stadium names, which distracted attention from the DUP leader’s significant and once “unimaginable” speech. It also relegated news that his DUP colleague Edwin Poots failed in an attempt to appeal a High Court’s decision to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland. This episode cost the public purse almost £100,000. Earlier that month a judge described Poots’s decision to maintain a lifetime ban on gay men donating blood as “irrational”. As one DUP minister moves forward another goes out of his way to keep things as they are and at any cost.
Every so often moves have been made by nationalists and unionists to step outside their respective comfort zones, like Robinson’s praise of the GAA for instance, but more must be said and done on every day issues like education, healthcare and welfare reform. The past has played a significant role in the election of many of our politicians, but all too often a lack of leadership and vision has led to spectacular u-turns and sluggish danders down political cul-de-sacs. The squandering of £18million of European Union funding and Poots’s expensive attempt to prevent UK laws being implemented here are just two examples. A new generation in Northern Ireland is beginning to demand more of their representatives whose personal preferences or religious beliefs have tended to dominate decision making, shrug off facts and dispel hopes of rational politics.
Northern Slant is a shared space for bloggers to facilitate a conversation for a new Northern Ireland. We care about the future of Northern Ireland, about every day issues like the economy, education and equality. I would encourage likeminded readers to get involved, to share their thoughts and analysis on Northern Ireland and the world around us.