You could read a lot into that image of the scaffolding erected at the front of Parliament Buildings.

How this standout place at the top of the political hill has been propped up since the Martin McGuinness resignation as Deputy First Minister in early January.

How, after the subsequent election in March, the focus has been on trying to restore political stability.

And how, after that dramatic announcement in Downing Street on Tuesday, Stormont looks even more vulnerable.

Unsteady, uncertain – unsure of its future.

Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election for ‪June 8 is a confirmation of how far down the list of political priorities you have to read to find this place.

The peace process – the political process here – are yesterday’s news and headlines.

This was Blair’s project. He took it further than John Major and his Government could or would.

David Cameron paid attention only when he absolutely had to, and Theresa May stepped in with that announcement on Tuesday making things even more difficult and complicated.

This place is an afterthought in the bigger Brexit play and plan.

How does Secretary of State James Brokenshire convince anyone that a deal is now possible in the current talks – a deal before Parliament is dissolved at the start of May?

“I’m going to have a boxing match with him ‪tomorrow [Thursday],” one talks negotiator told this website.

One imagines there will be several such boxing matches.

Then what? What next?

“They’ll play this out,” one insider commented – meaning let this phase of talking continue.

In the quiet corridors of Parliament Buildings on Wednesday, there was no hint, or suggestion or talk of an agreement.

So what are the choices?

“Election or park it,” one negotiator commented, meaning a second election – an Assembly election – also ‪on June 8, or the talks parked until after the announced snap General Election on that date.

While Brokenshire has said that there is no appetite for another Stormont contest, a unionist source believes he could yet be “tempted” to use that ‪June 8 date.

This is some of the thinking out that you hear in conversations away from the microphones.

Brokenshire has decisions to make – and not much time to think them through.

Weeks of talking on the political hill have not produced an agreement.

What will an election or elections change? The numbers but not the issues.

That Stormont scaffolding could be needed for some time yet.

Park the talking now and what are the chances of agreement before the autumn?

Weeks of uncertainty will quickly become months of uncertainty.


2 thoughts on “PROPPING UP THE POLITICS OF THIS PLACE – By Brian Rowan

  1. It would seem that the British conservative and unionist party have nothing but contempt for the peace process and the people from the north, i would now hazard a guess that if they can make a break and run from the north under the cover of the Brexit deal they will, remember Margaret Thatcher and the Anglo Irish agreement , or Edward Heath and the abolition of Stormont and direct rule , these where the people who in the past the unionist put their trust and faith in, but i can tell you that Harold Wilson was right when he said that the people off Britain would dump the north if given the opportunity and this might just be their opportunity to do just that
    The Unionist / Loyalist population will need to take their heads out off the sand and ask themselves ,who is it that really cares about their welfare and the welfare of their children , their human rights their farms and jobs so lets be clear brexit does not care about orange or green republican/ nationalist ,unionist or loyalist , protestant or catholic but it does care about the people of south east England but as exposed on Tuesday and the calling of a general election in the mist of our on going talks to try and re establish a executive very little about the north or its people,

  2. I agree with Philip Kelly. The ironic reality is that Theresa May was only too happy to use the Unionist MP’s to buffer her majority in the Commons whilst she was planning to pull the rug from below the peace process and the very Unionists who supported her. Let’s see how much truck she now shows to the NI peace process after the general election when she gets an enhanced majority which I fear would be the worst swing in constitutional politics in the UK that I can remember. The real downside to this mess at the moment is that we see a rise in paramilitarism of different sorts while the wheels are coming off at Stormont. This is all totally unnecessary.

    Talks need to continue with an added vigour, all the more reason. Unionism has little to fear about being in the EU as part of a broader Ireland. I suppose their fundamental identity will be shattered as the Union was always close to their breasts, but in supporting May, they have opened up Pandora’s box as the SNP is thirsting to see Scotland break away. It will be the end of the Union per se. And NI is only a small area of 1.5 million of a population.

    I can’t see May allowing herself to be distracted by an NI administration that clamours for a softer Brexit when she is running head on for a hard one by the looks of it. Unionism needs to sit down and examine its direction of travel. The Orange state is gone, Sinn Féin is on the rise, and it would be better that the Unionist parties took a long hard look at the realities. They could still be part of a ‘Great British Union’ of sorts and enjoys the links that this brings (economic, social, cultural etc). But as I type I can just feel the anathema such a suggestion will bring. It will be seen as outrage, madness, betrayal etc etc. And I appreciate the arguments from those who want to break away from the EU. If the economic basis of their arguments is sound for the long-term then let’s go for it for the greater good. But it will not be good for NI. I’m not so sure that a soft border will be achievable despite current political rhetoric. And therein lies the difficulty around the area of immigration. Will NI become another Calais ?

    But the consequences as I said will be Scotland taking the plunge and NI being treated with continued indifference. Politicians in NI need to get out of their bubbles and grasp the moment for their constituents. But if they are divided, dived they will fall! It’s time for a clean all-out rethink on NI politics. Anything less will turn NI into a grotty, third class deprived non-descript statelet. I would hope our all political parties and politicians have the ‘guts’ to grasp the historical moment for what it is and stop playing at the game of ‘politics’.

    We are looking into the vortex literally of a revolution, or a continued political scapegoating exercise :

    The Laurel and Hardy “Another fine mess you’ve got me into!” comes to mind !

    It’s time to talk, not walk.

    (So looking down through Irish and British history, scaffolding as a symbolism has been used for much more sinister purposes than the renovation of a dormant and empty building.)

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