By Connor Daly, contributor
After the international plaudits and local prosperity that followed the 1998 peace agreement, division, tension and stalemate have typified the political set-up at Stormont, as manifested in the failure of last year’s inter-party talks with US diplomat Richard Haass, deadlock over welfare reform and more recently the requested Treasury bail-out.
Every day, front pages of our regional newspapers remind us of the fragility of the political process and the forever delayed Stormont budgetary balancing act. With political fall-outs and walk-outs, however, it is all too easy to overlook the seismic transformation Northern Ireland has underwent since the ‘Yes’ overcame the ‘No’ in 1998. Whereas school leavers of yesteryear recall a past embroiled in conflict, today’s generation embrace reinvigorated local landmarks and international opportunities.
With a draft Executive budget recently agreed, the arrival of Senator Gary Hart and Talks chaired by Theresa Villiers, individuals and groups of all faiths, backgrounds and interests are coming together to show their commitment to the political process and desire to see it work; that is, for our young people, local businesses, and for our communities. Through social media and other means, the ongoing Make It Work campaign seeks to engage the general public, support our politicians and persuade them to keep the political process going.
Signatories of the Make It Work supporting document include representatives throughout our religious congregations and communities, schools, trade unions, members of the mental health profession, the council for ethnic minorities and business sector. The sheer diversity of this group goes just some way to demonstrating the wide-spread desire across the province for effective and collaborative governance.
We continue to appreciate the peace, of course, but our new generation demands a whole new narrative for Northern Ireland: one of genuine openness, prosperity and irrevocable progress. Should the political process fail, a return to direct rule from Westminster looms, threatening an economic deficit unattended to by local representatives and, ultimately, an inescapable political cul-de-sac.
Our transition from conflict to settlement highlights the power of negotiation over stalemate, and in accepting that compromises are essential to approaching a new chapter in our story, Make It Work aims to convince politicians of the benefits of making Stormont work and keeping the political process going.
It is through highlighting our successes, the achievements of our people, academic institutions, businesses and voluntary organisations that those involved with Make It Work intend to persuade the wider public, even politicians, of the impact local government and decision making has had, and can continue to have.
Quite simply, Make It Work seeks to encourage a discussion among the public and to challenge our politicians to revise the status quo. For the political process to succeed we must move away from our traditional narrative of division, exclusion, only shared victimhood, towards pride in our potential and future. We all have something to gain by making the political process succeed, and have a lot to lose if it doesn’t.
This is a campaign based around engaging people, taking pride in how far we have come since the peace agreement, and persuading others of the benefits of local decision making. Supporters seek to influence hearts and minds through social media, events, discussions and workshops across the region. Achievement will lie in the empowerment of civic society, pressure being brought to bear on the political establishment and MLAs choosing to make accommodations for the sake of making our governmental institutions and ministerial departments work.
In 1998, few could have imagined the success of local tourism, the film industry here, and the world’s largest legal, IT and other professional service companies recruiting one of the world’s most sought-after graduate pools right on our doorstep. Likewise, in 1998 social media barely, if at all, existed. Social media is just one element in the campaign’s strategy to changing the attitudes of voters and politicians alike. Supporting the campaign, I genuinely believe that together we can make our institutions work. As one community we must support our politicians in their search for solutions.
To find out more and to lend your support to the campaign:
Visit the Make It Work website: www.makeitwork.today
You can follow the campaign via Facebook: http://goo.gl/v6YILt
And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/makeitworktoday