Divided politicians urged to act for the greater good

The future of the Ulster Orchestra is uncertain
The future of the Ulster Orchestra is uncertain

A former editor of the Irish News, which has been a strong supporter of the peace process, has urged the North’s politicians to get their act together, and warned that their performance at present makes direct rule look like a “golden age”.

Tom Collins, who now lives in Scotland where he works as a lecturer, has written a series of opinion pieces on the current problems facing the Executive, and he has warned that important institutions are suffering “death by infifference and a thousand cuts”.

And in an article which he gave the Derry Journal permission to publish, he urged politicians to put aside their differences for the greater good.

Mr Collins wrote: “I have always believed that decisions are best made by politicians who have high ambitions for their societies, and a desire to make them a better place in which to live.

“Like many, during the eighties and nineties I was frustrated to see a succession of direct rule ministers - many who had little affection for Northern Ireland - making decisions we should have been making for ourselves.

“I naively hoped that the establishment of a Northern Ireland assembly offered the chance of a new beginning - releasing the potential of a community that is creative, imaginative and proud; a community that proved its resilience in tough times; a community that has proved itself capable of transcending division.

It looks like the opposite is happening.

“The political impasse is threatening institutions, initiatives and organisations which have given Northern Ireland a global reputation. The Ulster Orchestra is one such organisation. Today Queen’s - a world-class centre of research and teaching - was warned it may lose as much as £14 million next year, UU too was put on notice that its income would also be cut by millions. Other organisations too are bleeding to death.

“This death by indifference and a thousand cuts, is a slow act of suicide. It would be wrong to tar all our politicians with the same brush. I have known many from both sides of the political divide who cared deeply for Northern Ireland. But the way things are at the minute, our politicians are making the years of direct rule look like a golden age.

“It shouldn’t be that way.

“Politics being what it is, there will always be tensions, arguments and fights. But there are times when it is more important to pull together. This is one of those times.”