OPINION: 'The clock of progress has been turned back to Dickensian times' - Derry MLA

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SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan here shares his reflections on a New Year wish for the people of the North amid the current political logjam and cost of living emergency.

Recent New Year’s well wishes have been tinged with a degree of pessimism. The usual jovial ‘Happy New Years’ outnumbered by the ‘let’s hope this year isn’t any worse.’

The past month I’ve witnessed ‘life hacks’ on ‘how to heat your home this winter, make your budget go further, battle the Cost of Living and using candles to save on electricity’ trending right across social media and news outlets. The engagement and desperation in the comment sections is palpable. It’s almost dystopian at this point in our history that the clock of progress has been turned back to Dickensian times, that people are struggling to heat their homes and feed their families. Put simply, it’s shameful.

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People only need one ‘life hack’ to combat this crisis and that’s having proper political leadership which delivers on its promises- to create positive change within the lives of people who have placed them in positions of power.

Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Mark H Durkan, Foyle SDLP MLA. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The lives of citizens should never be used as pawns in a game of political chess but we’ve witnessed that game played out within the past decade not just by the Tories but by the DUP-SF leadership here who have pulled down the executive on multiple occasions.

The health service has been utterly decimated and is on its knees. But it’s not just health bearing the brunt of cuts, roads have gone ungritted at the height of winter, the demand for social housing is at an all-time high with nowhere for families to go, children with additional needs are left without the support they desperately need in schools. Housing, homelessness, health, schools, roads; the list goes on.

The return of an Assembly is not a panacea. We know that action could and should’ve been taken while we had one but the Tory implementation of their austerity ideology has strangled public services and plunged communities into crisis.

Where do we draw the line, when is ‘enough’, enough?

This New Year, let’s not have the same old approach. I get the public’s disillusionment with politics, it’s warranted. We need to do better. I want better for my family and for yours, I want better for everyone here. MLAs must get back to work.