10/07/2013 06:28 BST | Updated 08/09/2013 06:12 BST

NI21 Gives a Political Voice to the Normal Northern Ireland

I don't know whether NI21 can 'Change the Face of Northern Irish Politics'. But there is one thing I'm sure of. And it's this: Northern Ireland's newest party, NI21 finally gives a political voice to the exciting, ambitious, global class of Northern Ireland.


I don't know whether NI21 can 'Change the Face of Northern Irish Politics'. But there is one thing I'm sure of. And it's this: Northern Ireland's newest party, NI21 finally gives a political voice to the exciting, ambitious, global class of Northern Ireland.

The class that doesn't care for the politics of green and orange; but for the politics of left and right. For the worldly politics of compromise and pragmatism. Not for the incredibly septic localised and particularised polluted politics of old Northern Ireland that still and forever argues over the past and the exposed-nerve territorial question.

The Stormont Assembly is supposed to be the forum and voice of the people of the province. However since the 1998 peace agreement it hasn't given voice to the mainstream concerns of the normal, non-dysfunctions majority. A majority class who aren't deeply divided but who see themselves living in a global village, sincerely aspiring to get on and live in peace and prosperity.

But no longer will the majority go without representation: the two elected representatives of NI21, Basil McCrea and John McCallister (formerly of the UUP) give very real opportunity to change this.

When youth unemployment and Berlin-imposed austerity hit Greece and the other peripheral European member states its young people burst forth and made protest. When the same happens in NI, the young people and those affected do nothing.

But when a union flag is taken down, an exceptionally delinquent minority of unionists protest and riot for 3 months and cause untold monetary and reputational damage. And the vice-versa applies to exceptionally delinquent nationalists.

If I may call myself of the cosmopolitan, global class, the things I and friends worry about is why on earth there are no jobs for young people? Why there is such a reliance on the old professions instead of the emerging industries and economies? Why the economy is so sclerotic? Why stormont is so dysfunctional? Why there is no effective scrutiny and a formal Opposition? Why there is such a focus on the fringe and irrelevant issues that divide and spread instability?

Educationally, economically, socially and politically, the status quo in Northern Ireland is deluded and detached from mainstream 21st Century practice. The irresponibility and churlish behaviour is top-down.

However this delinquent minority and political class bedded in the 20th century cannot be allowed a maintain a choke-hold and monopoly on the day to day and long-term fate of Northern Ireland.

I've been closely watching the unfurling and development of NI21 in recent weeks (I've compiled a full archive of news and articles here) and I have confidence that Basil McCrea and John McCallister have the potential to really exercise meaningful change and reform to the debate and political practice in Northern Ireland. Basil and John have been the first to articulate with a clear, confident and concise voice a vision and sensibility for Northern Ireland politics.

I could go on and I encourage you to read here, where on I looked at NI21 more closely.

On this occasion I want to wrap things up by going deep on two points.

My first point is on secularism. In Northern Ireland I wouldn't be one to encourage the building of walls: seeing as they are a massive problem, by their purpose dividing Catholic nationals from Protestant unionists.

However to the politicians of NI I say this: build up that wall! The wall between church and state that is. And that's why I'm confident about NI21, because they're the only party in Northern Ireland that I regard as truly separate from the church and religiosity of the 20th Century.

And as the US founding father Thomas Jefferson said to the Danbury Baptists (who were being persecuted in Connecticut) that a "wall of separation" prevented him from intervening in a matter between the church and the state of Connecticut, so we must see a full and proper separation between church and state in Northern Ireland.

Professor Lord Paul Bew of Queen's University Belfast has suggested that the ending of the troubles and the coming of the peace process happened because Northern Ireland no longer believed in religion the way it used to. To this I say: we need more laicite.

My second point is on Northern Ireland's new battle line in the coming Century. That being the line of tension between the old tribal class of the 20th Century (both Protestant and Catholic) and the new "chic", cosmopolitan class (both Protestant and Catholic) of the 21st Century.

I've already said that delinquent and maladjusted in Northern Ireland stretches from the street to the corridors of government. It's top-down. However with NI21, the people of Northern Ireland now have the potential to articulate a political voice that practices normal, pragmatic politics. This could be the start of change. However the change will not come without a fight. And this is where the tension will lie.

Not as explicitly between unionists and nationalists; but between the politics and people of the 20th Century and the politics and people of the 21st Century.

To my mind this comes down to education, aspiration and enlightenment. As people and communities achieve a high order of affairs and become more outward looking and more attached to the goings on in the world, the less they will focus in the polluted politics of old Northern Ireland.