There is more than a touch of farce about the ministerial shenanigans at Stormont. As one minister steps out, another acting (no pun intended) minister steps in — and then it’s switch your partner, one, two, three and start all over again.
All the grace and dignity of we Andytown boys negotiating the Waves of Tory on our first day at the Gaeltacht college céilí class back in the day.
But to prevent this farce descending into tragedy, people of goodwill from all sides need to step up to defend the historic compromise of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it has brought.
That means speaking out against the criminals who have brought murder to our streets over recent months and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice by the PSNI — even as we deplore bad policing and ham-fisted attempts to link Sinn Féin to those crimes.
But it also means refusing to give any ground to those who would use those killings to tear down our powersharing Executive and the all-island institutions. The vacuum created by political collapse would swiftly be filled by the violent ‘No’ men on the extremes.
Opponents of change who have never accepted the right of nationalists to be in power — and every week I sit across the Stormont chamber from political leaders who refuse to say as much as “good morning” or accept that my name is Ó Muilleoir and not Miller — speak of “punishing” Sinn Féin voters. Sadly, we hear words like ‘renegade’ and ‘rogue’ used to describe partners in power.
Would that those using those terms could bring as much energy and focus to ensuring that Stormont delivers for all our people.
However, the response of all of us who refuse to give into the language of division is simple: We will continue to do our very best throughout this unfolding crisis to foster reconciliation, heal the wounds of the past and promote equality and social justice. That’s the spirit of problem-solving and generosity we will bring to the talks at Stormont tomorrow.
Today was BackToChurchSunday and I was delighted to be invited into the heart of East Belfast to celebrate service with the Methodist community at the Skainos Centre.
Tomorrow is BackToTalksMonday. If we can bring a scintilla of the spirit of welcome and bridge-building I encountered at Skainos to Stormont, I am confident the peacemakers will prevail.
I am sure that some powerful fraudsters breathed a sigh of relief when they thought this week that the political institutions were to fall — bringing with them the Assembly Finance Committee’s investigation into the NAMA scandal. As it turns out, we are very much still on course and resolved to shine a light on the “dirty scheme” at the heart of the biggest-ever property sale in the North of Ireland. These clips from our Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday past show chair Daithí McKay illustrating the difference between the materials we have received from NAMA and from the Department of Finance and my own concerns about the need for maximum openness.