Last week my youngest child got ready for her new term in school. As we walked out the door the early autumn air filled our noses and made our skin slightly prickle. She starts Rang 6 with all the confidence being one of the oldest in a small school gives a nine year old.

The air immediately reminded me of my own days of going back to school. Far more than the 1st of January, the 1stSeptember has always prompted new resolutions. September brings the forgiving reassurance of a fresh start and a personal recommitment to working better. As a parent the new school year commits me to always having pristine uniforms, polished shoes, and inspected homeworks. Like all resolutions I succeed in some and do less well in others, and by June I’m very happy if the socks they wear going out the door are at least the same shade as each other!
As the kids get older September’s rededication gets more complex. I know for me as I entered my senior school years and university a challenging year up until June saw me in September acknowledge the need to learn lessons when I had not done so well, make change in practice when I was working but not getting results and sometimes even repair important relationships when these were failing. It sometimes took a bit of humility, it often took significant work and most of all it entailed recommitment to the end goals. But September brought the promise of possibility and the hope of doing better. And when harnessed with my class mates’ own renewals the new energy made anything possible.
Life and time is forgiving and this September here I am with lots of new resolutions and a stationary station on the kitchen table which will “definitely” resolve all of the logistical issues I have run into in the past. (Well, at least I’m trying!)
Stormont also starts a new term this week. The autumn sharpness in the air also sees a political maelstrom dominating the environment. None of us really know what will happen in the coming weeks. But it seems to me that there are lessons (if you will forgive the pun) we can learn from our young schoolchildren. Individual dedication and renewed hope working collectively are the best and only ways to see us through.
If I hear “country before party” again I might scream! It’s a lie to suggest that compromising political institutions, and peace itself, before the hard work of intensive negotiation is putting anything other than party interests first. Indeed it is lazy and irresponsible. But that is one, small, party. The DUP and Sinn Féin have huge mandates. Despite all the sniping from the bitter sidelines, their respective mandates have provided sustained and stable government. And peace. A peace which means our children can expect to walk to school in safety and their school will be safe. The very least they should expect from us.
So this first week of September let’s reflect the hope and dedication of our young people and allow that promise, instead of cynical party interests to infect the political sphere.

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