So, on Thursday, those of us who are eligible to vote in Northern Ireland, had the chance to have our say and, now that the votes have been counted and verified and the political commentators have, bleary-eyed, got to go back home, Northern Ireland politicians prepare for battle once more.
I wonder what would happen if, come Monday, the politicians made their way once more to Stormont, only this time? They made decisions that genuinely put the people, and not the politics, first.
The people of Northern Ireland, politicians included, like to put a lot of emphasis on how great ‘our wee country’ is. Well, if that’s the case, why don’t we work to create a place that is safe and genuinely loving, not just for the now, but for the next generation of voters too?
There have been a number of times, over the past day or two when, in despair at being exposed to yet another live election broadcast, the occasion has arisen for our girls to declare, ‘Do we really have to watch this?’ which has then spurred on a number of questions regarding political parties (FYI not a pass the parcel in sight!) and, this has been quite an interesting challenge in a way. Why? Because we want them to understand (ok, well, let’s face it, can any of us really and truly comprehend all of what is going on?) but, nevertheless, to make them aware that people have different views while, at the same time, not making these differences a way of marking one person against, or better than, the other.
It’s fair to say that, in our house, we haven’t always seen eye to eye politically but, does that mean we love each other any the less? Not at all. It simply means we accept that no two people will ever be in total and complete agreement about everything, and we move on. Now, I am not suggesting that I expect our party leaders to all declare their love for each other but, if I could have their attention for just five minutes of their time before proceedings start on Monday, this is what I’d like them to hear and, indeed, listen to:
New Members of the Local Assembly,
You are all here because you have received enough votes. Perhaps, you got those votes because people feel strongly about your political stance; perhaps, because they were voting tactically and thought of you as of a way of trying to keep another party out. Maybe you received enough transferred votes or, simply because, yours is the party they have always voted for. What am I saying? Don’t go polishing your ego, just yet. As the well-known male grooming brand slogan reminds us: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Yes, you’ve got the support that’s got you to where you are, but what are you going to do about it?
We can’t see the future, but I reckon most of us can and probably have, made a prediction or two. I pray that you, the people chosen to lead us, will have, at your hearts, the goodness of all people and not simply the will of your party.
How wonderful it would be if you were people whose words and actions we could direct our children to as we teach them the importance of learning how to deal with those who have different views to us; how consideration and compassion are marks of the government chosen to lead us, dealing with differences of opinion in a manner that doesn’t encourage bitterness.
Please, put aside hate and hurt and anger; it’s time to create a wee country that is a secure place for the next generation. We don’t want to live in a spirit of fear and unrest. What about more compromise, and less criticism?
Our time in this world may only be a speck in eternity, but imagine if, in that time, our own interests and personal political motivations weren’t top priority? Trying underhand tactics, dishonesty, manipulation and heated words hasn’t worked in the past. So why not try the honest and genuine approach? It can’t hurt, can it?
Could you find it in your hearts to find a new way forward, to pave a way that is as smooth as possible, not an attempt to leave obstacles on the path to try and trip each other up? We’ve all had enough of the bickering and resentment. Imagine if the new assembly was known for its grace, trust and mercy? What a true sense of pride we could all genuinely have in ‘our wee country’ then!
So, ladies and gentlemen, please remember, this isn’t just about you. You have been given this great power and it does come with great responsibility but, just like the razors we so easily associate that slogan with, your words and actions will either remove unwanted irritations or, simply cut up this wee country once more. It’s time to move on; it’s time for a fresh start. It’s time to be accountable to one another and to lead this country in a way that shows everyone they matter, regardless of their political standpoint. Challenge the doubters, lead us forward and make this new assembly one that works because you see real people, not just political prejudice.
We pray for you each day as you lead our land and we teach our children to do the same. Our circumstances may be ever-changing, but we trust in a God who never does and I pray, that the mercy He has shown to each of us would be something that, under your leadership, we would learn how, in practice, in this broken time and place, with the help of your living example, to show to each other too.