South Belfast politicians must work together to maximise the potential of South Belfast (May 2010)
As the dust settles on the Westminster elections one thing is more clear than ever. Throughout the North, constituency after constituency, we saw a resounding rejection of anti-Agreement elements.
In fact, around 96% of those voted made it clear that they believed that agreement and power-sharing were the way forward. Voters made it known that they have no wish to return to the failed politics of the past. The message of this election is that politics is working. The people are up for power sharing and partnership politics.
In this respect, voters throughout the North have given a huge vote of confidence to pro-Agreement politicians and also to the institutions themselves. The onus is now on all of us politicians to fulfil the expectations and hopes of those who voted. Politicians and the political institutions need to deliver for all of the voters here. This means ensuring that the Assembly goes from strength to strength and works in the interests of everyone here.
What does this mean on a local level for the people and politicians of South Belfast?
Last week I attended a breakfast meeting along with politicians from throughout Belfast. The meeting was hosted by Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long. Also, in attendance were a number of people who play a leading role in civic society and community groups from throughout the city. The meeting itself was addressed by US economic envoy to the North, Declan Kelly.
The US economic envoy made it clear that Belfast is a city with enormous potential and talent. This will come as no surprise to many readers. However, it was clear from talking to many in attendance that those in political leadership in Belfast were not always singing from the same hymn sheet as each other, and indeed, as those in civic society or working in the community sector. This lack of a joined-up approach ensures that Belfast is not meeting it's full potential.
Similarly, this lack of a joined-up approach has been evident, particularly among political representatives, in South Belfast for some time now.
For too long politicians in the South Belfast constituency have failed to speak with one voice. Whether arguing for community funding, regeneration projects, more social housing, tackling issues in the Holylands or lobbying for a change in Planning legislation, this lack of political leadership has meant that the people of this constituency have not been getting the level of political representation that they deserve. The failure, thus far, of local politicians to stand together and fight for South Belfast is a failure of political leadership.
The politicians in South Belfast need to now step up to the mark and speak with one voice when it comes to the key issues facing South Belfast and its people.
As the dust settles on the Westminster election the challenge facing all of the political representatives in South Belfast is how do we maximise the potential of South Belfast? how do we strengthen the arguments of the people of South Belfast when lobbying on their behalf? And, ultimately how do we ensure that the institutions that the vast majority of people here voted for, work for them?
I am certain that this can be best achieved by all of the politicians in South Belfast finding common ground and working hand in hand with local communities; all uniting in the common interest of the constituency on key issues. This is the challenge for all of the political representatives here. It is a challenge which I, for one, am up for.