Is outsider Hartthe lifeboatmanour listing shiprequires now?

You don’t have to be a skilled sailor to understand that a vessel launched into seemingly calmer waters but always likely to run into choppy seas buffeted by strong winds capable of blowing it off course needs united leadership with a clear sense of how to reach the desired destination, attention to sea-worthiness, the commitment of a focused crew and contented passengers.

If the officers are navigating on different courses, pilots who might provide assistance have difficulty steadying the ship, subversive crew members are likely to mutiny or go AWOL if the journey is not to their liking and the ship is hitting obstacles which results in damage below the water line, it may be time to send up the flares, ‘ man the lifeboats’ opt for a refit or choose a new means of transport.

Think or talk about what to do too long and staying afloat as buoyancy is compromised, may no longer be an option.

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Parallels with the Northern Ireland Assembly only go so far but close enough to alert to the nature of the problems and dangers being faced, a point referenced in the recent nautical comments of Naomi Long MP of the Alliance party.

Politicians and the members of their parties need to decide whether or not they wish the NI Assembly to continue and determine what it is they must do to make it work better.

The blurring of democracy and the corrosive nature of inter-party relationships, particularly, but not only, between the two biggest parties runs counter to the wishes of the voting and non-voting electorate.

But, politicians seemingly anaesthetised to public apathy and disapproval, continue on their embittered co-existence.

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They cannot handle power without causing turmoil and in addressing reconciliation, do so with a loaded agenda without any fixed point of consensus.

Serial negotiation and point scoring around hardened communal positions and closed thinking runs like a fault-line through politics, education, finances and social wellbeing. It has produced a litany of failure and stalled progress.

Can Gary Hart and the British and Irish governments come to the rescue? This country understands fully the tragic consequences of a rescue vessel failing to arrive on time.

Should the members of the Assembly require this? The scaffolding and architecture of the Agreements needs reform but those elected, committed to implementing the process did so in the spirit of working for all. This may be the best place to start again. A rising tide can raise all boats.

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