On the 2nd March 2017 Northern Ireland will go to the polls to elect a new assembly. Whilst many would consider this to be an illustration of the current difficulties being faced, what needs to be put into perspective is just how far the country has come in the past fifty or so years.

The descent into conflict

The decision to hold new elections was in response to what the BBC called a "botched green energy scheme". The Renewable Heat Incentive scheme was the catalyst as it is likely to cost the taxpayers 490 million pounds sterling. As a result of this the deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned.

Whilst obviously such a situation is a problem and a nuisance, we must apply context and appreciate the enormous progress that has been made in Northern Ireland. Between 1968 and 1998 there was immense conflict over the constitutional status over the country. On the one side were the unionists who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom (UK) and on the other were the nationalists such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland. It was a "territorial conflict, not a religious one", the BBC stated. As a result of the disagreements, what followed was the "long war" as the IRA were uninterested in any form of amicable solution with Great Britain, who had intervened in 1969 as a result of the situation.

It was so bad that in 1972 the British government suspended the Northern Ireland parliament.

Peace finally achieved

The IRA saw war as the "only option" and as a result launched a series of coordinated attacks as a result. As stated on the Reuters website, in 1974 a coach carrying soldiers and families in northern England were bombed by the IRA causing twelve fatalities.

In December 1983 the IRA bombed Harrods department store killing six. In May 1990 a soldier was killed by a car bomb in Wembley and in April 1992 there was a huge car bomb outside Baltic Exchange in London which killed two people. However, by 1996 it was clear that such a way of living could not continue. A combination of "political realism and war-weariness" paved the way for negotiation, the BBC stated.

With involvement from the then US President Bill Clinton, what was eventually agreed was the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which "marked a seismic shift in Northern Ireland's political landscape". As a result of the peace deal reached, self-government returned to Northern Ireland.

Remember where we have come from

The point of what I have stated is that although there is concern at the current political situation in Northern Ireland, we must not forget how far the country has come. Great strides have been taken, peace has largely been achieved and the political landscape is now much, much better. We must never forget this as the nation goes to vote in March.