Saturday 24 February 2018

Maurice Hayes: SF decision puts at risk all its good work in North

Maurice Hayes

Maurice Hayes

WHAT is it, many will ask, that impels an able and intelligent man who is doing a good job in an important executive position, to enter a hazardous race for a non-job which he is unlikely to get and which is devoid of power and authority?

Martin McGuinness has been one of the success stories of the unfolding political developments in Northern Ireland. In forging good working relations, first with Ian Paisley and then with Peter Robinson, he has contributed more than most to the stability of the administration and to breaking down barriers between the communities. He has shown a commendable ability to appreciate the concerns of his political opponents, and the need to accommodate these in the language of political discourse and in practical policy initiatives.

He has grown in office, and in his conduct as deputy first minister, has scarcely put a foot wrong. Why should he give it all up -- especially since the building of public confidence in the North in the political process is still a work in progress? The structures are there in embryo, but it is still far from being a fully functioning political system. There is much work to be done in building confidence, on reaching compromise, not only on the way forward, but crucially on how to deal with the past. There is a particularly testing time ahead as a nascent regional administration, which does not have taxing powers, and which is inordinately dependent on the public sector, is about to experience recession and swingeing cuts in public expenditure in common with the rest of the United Kingdom.

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