Northern Ireland is not meant to have a unified singular political party in control of Stormont. To ensure lasting peace, the largest unionist party and the largest nationalist party must go into power together. The framing of every election as a fight between the predicted largest unionist party and the largest nationalist party is a consequence of our system but it does us no favours. Our system does not mean that we cannot have a cohesive and functional executive that actually works for the betterment of Northern Ireland.
For too long now, we have had the same old nonsense from the main parties at Stormont – from the DUP and Sinn Fein – that deadlock is caused by the intransigence of the other party. That it is never their fault. They claim to want to work for everyone, but they always default to division. Their dithering and squabbling has meant that the Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for a third of its existence. Unsurprisingly, public services – which were already stretched – subsequently dropped off a cliff.
During the last suspension of Stormont, which lasted a massive three years, the number of people waiting more than a year for their hospital appointments doubled from 20 per cent to 40 per cent. This is clearly unacceptable. Party politics should not be allowed to get in the way of effective government. One of the main strands of the Good Friday Agreement was to bring all sides of Northern Ireland closer together. What we have seen in recent times is that many of our politicians are incapable of acting for the overall benefit of Northern Ireland.
We should never have needed to be in the situation where the Westminster Parliament had to legislate to specifically allow the NI Assembly to continue to sit and pass laws without the presence of an NI executive, a First Minister and a Deputy First Minister. This is nothing short of an embarrassment for Northern Ireland and our people. Without an executive, long term decisions on the future of Northern Ireland cannot be made, without an executive we do not have decisive representation for larger matters beyond the borders of Northern Ireland.
This is why, I and other Northern Ireland Conservatives have been focusing on the real issues affecting Northern Ireland. We have chosen our way forward and that is to focus on bread and butter policy: healthcare, public transport, the cost of living and local issues affecting Northern Irish voters. Other parties have since followed our lead and I have hope that the next executive will not let down Northern Ireland in the same way as the last.