The Coronavirus has forced the people of Northern Ireland to endure through unprecedented days – which have now led into weeks and months. Their response has been truly extraordinary from the heroes on the frontline to the average citizen choosing to ‘Stay at Home’ to protect the vulnerable. Every sacrifice to overcome this challenge deserves enormous credit. Yet these sacrifices must only be temporary – and we therefore welcome the roadmap presented by the Northern Irish Executive to enable a return to our daily lives through a gradual and cautious approach.
It is however concerning that the plan follows neither the strategy of our Union, the United Kingdom, or our neighbours, the Republic of Ireland. The NI Conservatives are incredibly troubled by the lack of a timetable which will only result in further uncertainty for the public and our business sector. It would appear to have only been excluded to allow for ambiguity and maximum deniability – and this decision should be reconsidered at the earliest opportunity.
It is therefore our belief that Northern Ireland should be following the roadmap provided by the Government of the United Kingdom – with as much alignment with our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland as possible. It is hard not to conclude that some of the differences are merely to appease both tribal factions within the Executive who remain divided on constitutional and ideological matters.
The Coronavirus is a national emergency and we should be united in dealing with it - as one United Kingdom - not dividing due to the tribal nature of our politics in Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland deserve strong leadership which offers direction, hope and solid timelines to allow for more certainty in the coming weeks and months. Once again, you deserve better.