NI Executive forced back to table

North parties must move on from narrow sectarian agendas says Lowry

The Workers Party have said that too much praise is being heaped on the parties in the Northern Ireland Executive for doing what would be considered normal business in any other legislature.


Workers Party Belfast Chairman John Lowry said Northern Ireland Secretary of State Shaun Woodward was totally wrong when he described the deal done between the DUP and Sinn Fein to restore meetings of the Northern Ireland Executive, as an historic day for Northern Ireland.


Said Mr. Lowry, “Such extravagant use of language illustrates all that is rotten about the current political set up at Stormont and just how much language has been debased by those who spin about the alleged achievements of the DUP/Sinn Fein coalition”. 


“The truth is that pressure was growing on the two sectarian parties. People looked on in bewilderment as the DUP / Sinn Fein stand off continued whilst the rest of the world faces up to the growing economic crisis and its impact on peoples daily lives”.


“Pensioners gathered at the steps of Stormont to demand help with winter fuel costs, help denied to them by the refusal of the DUP/Sinn Fein to meet because of their differences over the devolution of justice and policing powers. That they are now meeting again is to be welcomed and we must hope that the Executive and Assembly can apply their minds to doing something to alleviate the economic hardship facing the citizens of Northern Ireland. Unlike Shaun Woodward however, The Workers Party will not be showering undeserved plaudits to those who continue to play out their own narrow sectarian agendas”, Mr. Lowry said.


“The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland cannot understand the refusal of the Executive to meet in the first place. Many are left to reflect on the quality of the local assembly we have. It is a long way from the euphoric and optimistic days of the referenda North and South which overwhelmingly endorsed the Good Friday Agreement. Let there be no mistake. Things are undoubtedly better today by virtue of the ending of the terrorist campaigns. That people are not been killed on a daily basis is a major improvement. But we rightly expected more than just the ending of violence important as that was. The Agreement held out the possibility of a transformation of Northern Ireland society, of a leaving behind of the past and the failed politics which were the cause of all our problems. We have not had that. Instead we have a continuation of sectarian unionist and nationalist politics by unarmed means”, stated the Workers’ Party spokesman.


“Recent sectarian rioting in the Short Strand / Newtownards Road and the debacle surrounding the British Army homecoming parade in Belfast city centre demonstrate just how raw sectarianism still is. No attempt has been made to address, let alone eradicate, sectarianism. But why should we be surprised at the persistence, indeed the growth in sectarian division throughout society when the political institutions themselves are built upon those very same sectarian fault lines. The Workers Party expressed our concern at the time that a major and potentially fatal flaw in the Agreement was that it was built upon and would perpetuate sectarianism”.


Said Mr. Lowry, “Unless there was a serious assault on sectarianism and its manifestations we said, then in reality very little will have changed. The D’Hondt system of electing the Executive, the requirement to nominate as either unionist or nationalist and the myriad of voting procedures in the assembly which are all based on the existence of unionist and nationalist voting blocs, were all temporary measures which could be replaced as soon as our new political dispensation matured and confidence grew. The opposite has happened. Sectarian extremism has grown and the centre ground of the SDLP/UUP/Alliance has been eclipsed. It is time to dismantle these sectarian aspects of the Agreement. Unless we do so we are faced with perpetual sectarian polarisation as represented by the DUP/Sinn Fein”.


“The SDLP/UUP/Alliance cannot sit idly in the Assembly whilst the extremes of unionism and nationalism destroy the hopes of a new beginning which thousands of people throughout these islands thought was possible. There is one political institution of the agreement which has been totally ignored and sidelined, the Civic Forum. It is time that those in civic society were given a voice and a role other than to act as cheerleaders for those in the Assembly”, said John Lowry.       


Issued 27th November 2008

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics