Today, the new Stormont executive in N.I. is sworn in.
This agreement between the unionists & republican factions to share power is a truly remarkable precedent which creates the potential for Northern Ireland to move from the “darkness” of decades into a new dawn.
Today the old enemies will sit down side by side and begin the difficult task of working together for the common good of all the people in the province.And there are some major difficulties ahead:
- The omens are fair but the question remains as to whether it will all work in practice.
- Despite the bonhomie, will the executive turn out to be a battle a day once the divisive issues arise?
- Can republicanism and unionism start to build on what unites them, rather than focus on what divides them?
- Will newly sworn-in ministers be up to the job of running their departments?
That said, the positive images which will go round the world today should act as a spur for investment in the province. The war is over, as both the IRA and the UVF have testified, and the creation of partnership government should provide a new climate of peace and prosperity.
The political landscape has changed, but this transformation has not taken place overnight.
It has taken long years of patient diplomacy by many people and as Messrs Paisley and McGuinness enjoy the limelight , nobody should forget the contribution made by David Trimble and Seamus Mallon in the first executive.As everyone at Stormont recognises, political agreement is just another step on Northern Ireland’s journey from darkness to light.
Not until sectarian divisions are erased and all the peacelines dismantled will the new Northern Ireland be able to reach its full potential.
This is a long path to follow with many potential pitfalls.