(Repeats story from Sunday)
* Many young people say politicians locked in "The Troubles"
* Say sectarian bickering stifles progress
* Frustration has led to voter apathy
* Young generation sees no breakthrough in March election
By Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries
BELFAST/BESSBROOK, Northern Ireland, Feb 12 The
sudden collapse of a power-sharing agreement that ended decades
of violence in Northern Ireland has angered a younger generation
who feel robbed of their future by the failure of politicians to
get over the sectarian prejudices of the past.
After bitter compromises over paramilitaries and policing,
the province's cross-community government finally imploded over
farmers abusing a green-energy scheme, forcing an election on
The confrontation has exposed the frustrations of younger
people over what they say is a breakdown in trust between
Catholic Irish nationalists and pro-British Protestant unionists
that has stifled job creation and economic prosperity.
While there is no sign of a return to the violence that
killed 3,600 people, the political crisis looks set to paralyse
government in the province for months at the same time as
Britain's exit from the European Union threatens shockwaves to
its economy, constitutional status and border with Ireland.
"People are frustrated because they can't agree on anything.
They can't compromise," said Carlos Barr, a 16-year-old student,
referring to the older generation of politicians. "If one side
says something the other side has to object."
While it is impossible to quantify the impact of sectarian
disputes on economic growth, many young people complain they
have scared off foreign investment, delayed reforms and deepened
a culture of dependency on the state in the two communities.
"CORPORATES PUT OFF"
"People don't come together enough to make it work," said
Henry Joseph-Grant, 33, a Northern Ireland-born entrepreneur.
While jobs are disappearing in older industries like farming
and manufacturing, Northern Ireland and its politicians lack the
entrepreneurial culture to create new ones, he said. "A lot of
the big corporates look at Northern Ireland and are put off."
For swathes of the under-30s, the dominant feeling is the
violence of the 1970s and '80s still casts a long shadow over
"The frustration that young people speak to us about (is
that) whilst they are working hard to ... overcome barriers and
deal with legacy issues, they feel that this doesn't always
happen in mainstream politics," said Chris Quinn, 39, director
of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.
The political crisis came to a head when Democratic Unionist
Party First Minister Arlene Foster refused to step aside
temporarily to allow an investigation into the green energy
scandal and Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
said he had no option but to resign.
McGuinness, a 66-year-old former Irish Republican Army
leader, was replaced by Michelle O'Neill, 40, whose father was
jailed during "The Troubles".
McGuinness had a frosty relationship with DUP First Minister
Arlene Foster, whose police reservist father narrowly avoided
being killed in an IRA shooting when she was a child. The
incident, along with a later IRA attack on her school bus, "is
part of who I am", Foster recently told an interviewer.
SEARCHING FOR A FUTURE
Two decades after the British army dismantled its garrison
in the village of Bessbrook in County Armagh following the Good
Friday Agreement that brought peace to the troubled province,
31-year-old Darren Matthews says he struggles to see a future.
"The old people, who are the bitter ones, keep us going
round in circles," said Matthews, a construction worker who
commutes daily to Dublin and is planning to follow friends in
seeking better pay and opportunities outside Ireland.
"If people were not so focused on the (Protestant) orange
and (Irish nationalist) green, people would be getting a lot
more work done," he said.
Like most of Northern Ireland, Bessbrook was transformed by
peace: checkpoints were demolished and helicopter landing pads
that supplied military outposts were dug up for farmland.
The nearby Dublin-Belfast road was upgraded, bringing
tourists from Ireland to visit Belfast museums and landmarks and
pose for photos beside murals in once no-go areas.
But in many areas Northern Ireland badly lags behind its
neighbour, with half the tourists per head of population. Dublin
has 150 flights a week to the United States. Belfast has none.
Many complain jobs are often of lower quality. Average
annual wages are less than in Britain as a whole and Ireland.
There is a steady outflow of school-leavers and graduates
seeking their fortune abroad. "Of the guys I grew up with, a lot
are scattered around the world" from Australia to Canada,
Matthews said. "If the politicians were doing their jobs, more
people would stay."
"NO BREAKING ICE"
Few people see the election in March as delivering a
breakthrough. "It's that frustration of the inevitability of the
election being this big thing to promote change but it
definitely won't," Matthews said.
"It's going to be very difficult to have an election of a
less sectarian flavour," Jonathan Tonge, Professor of Politics
at the University of Liverpool. "I don't really hear the sound
of breaking ice."
Early signs are that this election will follow a well-worn
pattern, with election posters bearing colours of the Irish or
British flag for the two main parties and each side focused on
the threat of domination by the other to bring out their base.
Political apathy amongst the younger generation reflects a
feeling that older politicians are locked in the past and refuse
to engage with issues that they care about. Gay marriage, backed
by 84 percent of under 34-year-olds, according to a recent
survey, was blocked by the governing Democratic Unionist Party.
Ten of 12 young people questioned by Reuters in a straw poll
in Belfast voiced deep frustration with sectarian bickering.
They listed funding for mental health, integrated education and
reform of power-sharing as issues they wanted dealt with.
Five said they would vote for non-aligned parties, which
have made slow progress in recent years, taking 12 of 108 seats
in 2016 elections compared to six in 1998.
Voter turnout has fallen consistently from 70 percent in the
first Northern Ireland Assembly elections in 1998 to 55 percent
last year, with a half of under 22-year-olds voting compared to
two-thirds of over 65s.
At Belfast's modern Victoria Square shopping centre, there
was little sense the tide would turn any time soon. "It's the
same people arguing over the same things, it's the same names,"
said Maggie McSparron, 27. "They are flogging a dead horse."
(Additional reporting by Padraic Halpin; writing by Conor
Humphries; editing by Peter Millership)