Stormont has served politicians, not the people


By Suzanne Breen

Amidst the charade that passes for democracy here, one thing is sure. The masses won’t be out on the streets with ‘Save Stormont’ placards.

The commentariat might be crowding our TV screens and newspapers pouring over the potential collapse of the Assembly and the Executive but, on the streets, nobody gives a hoot.

Vox pop after vox pop shows utter indifference to what is happening in the house on the hill. Opinion isn’t divided by religion or ideology. It’s the same on the Shankill as it is in Shantallow, the same in Ballybeen as it is in the Bogside.

Devolution didn’t deliver for ordinary people here. The only folk who have benefited are the politicians and their hangers on in the business and ‘community’ sectors.

This is a crisis for the political class, not the people. Most punters’ only interest in it is whether MLAs will still be paid their salaries. They see Stormont as a ginormous gravy train.

In a different way, it’s as unfit for purpose as it was decades ago. Mandatory coalition, no opposition and petitions of concern rule the day. This isn’t a parliament that any peace process could be proud of.

And opposition to that reality isn’t restricted to those who don’t want “a Fenian about the place”.

Working-class unionist disillusionment with the political status quo is well established. But what has Stormont delivered for working-class nationalists? Zilch.

Every piece of research that exists shows that those hardest hit by poverty in Northern Ireland are disproportionately Catholic - 80% of our 20 most deprived electoral wards are nationalist. Sinn Fein has hardly “put manners” on those who run our economy.

Jobs for the boys and girls in government, and a fast flow of funds into the party coffers, stand in stark contrast to what has been secured for Sinn Fein’s constituents.

That’s why the number of people voting in republican areas is steadily falling and why, among those who do vote, People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll is making significant gains in west Belfast.

And despite the greatly heralded North-South bodies not advancing Irish unity one iota, there hasn’t been a whisper, let alone a howl, of protest from Sinn Fein.

The DUP is equally wedded to Stormont for selfish, partisan interests. The party has only taken the action it has because Mike Nesbitt has forced its hand.

And Peter Robinson standing aside, rather than resigning, as Arlene Foster becomes acting First Minister exposes the farce for what it is.

You’d need a crowbar to wrench political power and prestige out of DUP or Sinn Fein hands.

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