OPINION: Reform of Stormont critical to improve economic balance

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In this article, Foyle SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin addresses the widespread frustration among the public and, indeed, politicians over the ongoing stasis at Stormont.

The ongoing stalemate at Stormont and the ability of one party to exercise a veto on government here rightly causes intense frustration among many of the people I speak to on a daily basis, writes Sinead McLaughlin.​

So, too, does the continued economic neglect of our city, alongside the lack of virtually any corrective action to address the discrimination and abandonment that this region has faced.​

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SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin.SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin.
SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin.

Yet, far too often, these two issues of reform of our institutions and economic imbalance are viewed as separate problems.

This silo neglects to acknowledge the clear finding of research that areas which have truly “levelled up” across the world did so in part due to the financial levers they were allowed to use and the stable, democratic institutions that facilitated the hard work of correcting economic imbalance.

Put simply, properly correcting decades of economic imbalance requires conditions that the current Stormont dysfunction simply does not create.​

It is essential that we reform institutions so that they cannot be collapsed at will.

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Of course, this cannot be a pre-condition of getting Stormont back up and running.

I, like all my SDLP colleagues and a majority of MLAs across the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber, would be back in Stormont on Monday morning if only we were allowed.

However, neither can we neglect or ignore the pressing need to change the rules of the game so that it is no longer rigged in favour of the cavalier attitude of the largest parties to ransom politics.​

In the past twenty-five years, our institutions have operated successfully around 40% of the time.

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It is clear that, if Stormont gets back up and running, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way.

Indeed, given our track record, I am sure many will expect another crisis to come along sooner rather than later.

It often seems that the big parties believe it is in their interests for catastrophes to frustrate good governance.​

This toxic environment puts in constant jeopardy the necessary work of tilting the balance of investment towards places that have been left behind, attracting jobs and investment and building the university of size that we were promised.​

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Moreover, the risk of constant chaos and collapse undermines our ability to chart a different course for our economy than the strategy that has failed Derry over recent decades.​

Derry deserves better for its economy.

I’m ready to do the hard work that our city deserves.

I believe the solutions that we need are on the table.

We just need to be allowed to get back to work in stable institutions to put them into practice.

It’s for this reason that I believe the reform of Stormont is vital and I will play my full part in making sure that it happens.

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