‘GHOST HOUSE’ – By Brian Rowan


That two-word description above was a reference to Stormont – the words chosen by an MLA to describe the corridors of Parliament Buildings that he walked a few days ago.

He was chatting on the phone afterwards; a conversation in which there was no suggestion of any likelihood or possibility of an agreement to end the now months-long standoff on the political hill.

Rather, the conversation was about other options; another election if only to avoid all-out direct-rule or the two governments producing their way forward.

“This RHI stuff is coming back soon and that’s going to cause problems – the reminder of it all,” he said in a reference to the public inquiry.

On Sunday Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O’Neill called for a formal resumption of talks on August 28th and said they should be focused and time limited. Two tweets from Simon Hamilton set out the DUP position:


Also on Sunday Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said if Sinn Fein “red lines” remain in place it is “difficult to see how progress can be made”.

Nothing has happened in the months since the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister to suggest that what is broken can be fixed.

Not easily. Not quickly.

A close watcher of this Stormont play – not a politician – offered this assessment: “No impetus. No energy. No drive.”

He asked: “Where’s the backlash?” In other words the public fallout after these many months of nothing.

Writing on this website in recent days, two MLAs used a few words that summarised this continuing stalemate.

Green Party deputy leader Clare Bailey said there had been “no meaningful negotiation” for months and therefore “no point” in her being at Stormont.

Instead, her focus has been on work within her south Belfast constituency and on the rights issues that are key to fixing a broken Stormont, including marriage equality.

In another article at eamonnmallie.com, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood wrote:

“So as far as the Stormont talks go, the summary reads – we are where we are and we are where we were.”

In other words, nothing has moved. Still stuck – frozen and no sign of any thaw.

“I don’t see this Assembly going anywhere in the short term,” another source commented.

He spoke about “drift” – “no enthusiasm”.

So, what does all of this suggest?

That politics is lost in a type of spaghetti junction. No map. No directions. No vision.

The talks battles will continue on those issues of Irish language, legacy and marriage equality, but not just these matters.

Brexit and RHI are part of this political stew – part of what has turned Stormont’s Parliament Buildings into this Ghost House.

7 thoughts on “‘GHOST HOUSE’ – By Brian Rowan

  1. I’m coming to the conclusion that an opportunity in time, generational time, has been lost.

    Post GFA & St. Andrews there has been a fundamental failure by Politicians here that Government (devolved or otherwise) has a duty to ensure that its citizens (all of them equally) needs are met. In addition, Government must ensure that it is fiscally responsible and that all of its activities are carefully monitored and sustainable in the long term.

    None of these things happened / happen.

    Instead, most of society sees a sizeable bunch of individuals from most Parties behave in word & action as if they are a privileged class.

    An arrogant sense of entitlement oozes from Stormont. Many have become comfortable taking salary & benefits in the belief that their failure to deliver Government will always be camouflaged by the greater desire of society for “the peace process”.

    Yet Stormont has failed to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland: the population. It is failing so many in society & the electorate: It’s evident almost daily.

    We have a saying “you need brought to earth with a bump”. As someone who wants Government to work here, I take no pleasure, in proposing I think it all needs to end.

    I think the titles, the salaries, the benefits, the availability of Parliament Buildings, the funding of resources for Government all needs to stop.

    Perhaps when they are ordinary Citizens again our Politicians will realise what a wonderful opportunity they had to serve in Public Office for Citizens?

    Perhaps they’ll realise what they’ve lost and a sense of working sustainable, practical politics (and policies) fit for 2017 & beyond will prevail?

    Perhaps we’ll hold another election in 2-3 years time & perhaps we may secure a Government that wants to do the job it is handsomely salaried & benefitted to do?



  2. Devolution, as set up by the Good Friday Agreement, has been doomed to failure from Day One. I realise that these arrangements were agreed by 72% in a referendum (I voted “No”) but that did not make them any more workable. The result was obtained frm a weary electorate staring down the barrels of IRA and UVF guns. By institutionalising sectarian division the GFA has left Ulster society more polarised than it ever was. Violence has reduced but still stalks our streets. Paramilitaries of all hues still control significant areas of our country. Devolution has been an unstabling disaster throughout the United Kingdom. It is time to begin the process of dismantling these failed experiments. From now on let there be one Parliament for all of the United Kingdom.

    • Paramilitaries of all hues still control significant areas of our country.

      Of course they do, in N Down and E belfast, in thrall of the DUP.

      From now on let there be one Parliament for all of the United Kingdom.

      Preferably under a Labour Govt

    • There is the peace process & there is the political process.

      It’s the political process at Stormont which is failing Citizens here.

      With or without Stormont the Peace Process regarding this disputed small piece of land will continue.

      Direct rule from London whether pre partition (for Ireland) or during the various 32 years since 1973 for Northern Ireland has never worked: our poor utility infrastructure a damning indictment of Westminister belligerence to the people here.

      However, I agree, there is no point funding politicians who refuse to put Citizens (all, regardless of faith, creed, ethnicity) first.

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