STORMONT: BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THE END – By Brian Rowan

 

 

Twelve months on from that pantomime moment at Stormont that was to hasten the collapse of the political institutions, there is now a recommendation to cut MLA salaries.

A proposal to reduce pay – but still no magic wand to fix what is so badly broken.

British Secretary of State James Brokenshire is testing the mood for another round of talks – but still the penny has not dropped.

The idea that Sinn Fein has taken the ball off the field in some huff, ignores the nationalist vote that welcomed the decision to bring those institutions down, and then the vote in which that community turned its back on Westminster; and, here we are, a year on, no closer to matters being resolved.

My diary note for December 19th 2016 recorded a day of farce and shambles at Stormont.

Arlene Foster made a statement on RHI without the “authority or approval” of then deputy first minister Martin McGuinness; and, during that day of political pantomime at Parliament Buildings,  the then Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described the position of Speaker Robin Newton as very close to untenable.

In the fallout over the botched RHI scheme, Sinn Fein had threatened “grave consequences”, but paused in December last year  – although not for long.

Too much damage had been done.

Within a couple of weeks of those events on December 19th 2016, a republican described “a momentum in the language that could take us over the edge”.

By then, we were just days away from the resignation of Martin McGuinness and the beginning of the end for this Executive.

Two elections – one to the Assembly and the other to Westminster; the Brexit Battle, the Tory-DUP arrangement and a tug-of-war over rights have left the politics of this place in turmoil.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney is now talking about the possibility of decision-making within the frame of intergovernmental conferences.

To unionists this sounds like joint authority. Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann urged the Irish Foreign Minister “to step away from the microphone”, and former DUP SPAD Richard Bullick tweeted this thought.

 

 

Coveney, of course, speaks in a context and not in headlines; a context, that not for the first time, has been ignored.

What is his preferred option? That the Executive is restored at Stormont, but, a year on from all of the play and the farce and the shambles of December 2016, does anyone really believe that if things cannot be fixed on the political hill that this Dublin Government will sit quietly in the corner?

It won’t and nor should it.

In contacts with the parties, Brokenshire has been assessing the possibility and worth of another set of talks in the New Year.

If they are the same talks as the last talks, then they will be a waste of time.

The DUP wants the Executive restored and talks on outstanding issues to continue in parallel.

 

 

This is the penny that still hasn’t dropped.

There won’t be another Executive, First Minister and functioning Assembly unless there is certainty about agreement and implementation on those outstanding matters, including an Irish Language Act, marriage equality and a legacy process.

Perhaps, rather than another set of talks, or a pay cut, Brokenshire should be thinking of shutting down Stormont.

Would the Tory/DUP arrangement allow for such a move?

Coveney introduced the possibility of another election. Brokenshire has that option available to him, but it would be an election back to where we are now – back to that beginning of the end.

The politics of this place have changed completely. Same-old solutions won’t work.

8 thoughts on “STORMONT: BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THE END – By Brian Rowan

  1. The GFA’s provisions are the default position. At St Andrew’s the agreed fix to the 2005-2006 crisis was clearly made with two pointed caveats, contained at sections 11 and 12 and reading: “11. Verification and compliance mechanisms relating to the Assembly already exist, as set out in the agreement between the Governments published in May 2003 and in the Belfast Agreement. The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach are determined that default by any one of the parties following restoration of the Executive should not be allowed to delay or hinder political progress in Northern Ireland. 12. The Governments have made clear that in the event of failure to reach agreement by the 24 November we will proceed on the basis of the new
    British Irish partnership arrangements to implement the Belfast Agreement.”
    That’s what should happen now and it should remain the case until an appetite is there among the two major parties and for renewing an agreed basis for moving forward decisively. We all know what the new realpolitik is. But pennies like peace come dropping slow.

    • One big problem to emerge over the last year is that SF & the DUP are in very different places in relation to those agreements. SF want them implemented. The DUP are saying they never signed up to them. The root of the problem goes back to 2007. Recently someone played a clip from Peter Robinson in 2007 saying those agreements were between others. I reckon the 2 Govts were so surprised at the DUP going into power with SF, that this got overlooked. Now it’s come back to haunt them.

  2. Barney,

    It cannot come back.

    Beyond the abysmal failure to deliver fiscally responsible Government for all in the last tenure, the reality is that there exists a legacy of sectarianism & prejudice that was institutionalised by some via public office.

    There is a consciousness by some MLAs that believes in inequality.

    Some MLAs believe if a person holds a different religion to them then that person is not truly equal.

    Some MLAs believe if a person holds a different sexuality to them then that person is not truly equal.

    Some MLAs believe if a person wishes to speak an ancient indigenous language or expresses that such said language is protected & promoted then that person is not truly equal.

    Some MLAs believe women are chattel and can be marginalysed for choosing what to do with their own bodies.

    In plain language, some MLAs have abused their position in Government or as Ministers to mistreat people and sizeable sections of the population here for some years.

    There is inequality. There are injustices. It has been driven by some MLAs who believe they know better, believe they are better, believe that they are superior.

    They have squandered a beautiful opportunity.

    For future let’s talk honestly about those squanderous MLAs.

    In order to liberate the population of Northern Ireland let’s remove the fear and anger: let HM Government put in place here those Rights that exist in Britain and which some MLAs have consistently denied here.

    As BREXIT negotiations continue let HMG solely avail of the Good Friday Agreement as the foundation stone of its stance on Northern Ireland, and in cooperation with the Irish Govt let relationships between the sovereign Governments and the people of these Western European Archipelago Islands flourish.

    With time, those some MLAs, may come to realise the superb opportunity they squandered. With humility they may even accept they are equal to me, to you, to the LGBT person, to all women.

    • Thoughtful contribution Glen. The cock on top of the dunghill syndrome is the logical extension of British Policy vis-a-vis Ireland and latterly the North of Ireland. Dublin in put is essential to temper British emotional inclination. Really new thinking is required and Foster/Dodds are not up to the challenge. Tcí Dia Sinn.

  3. Barney,

    Measured and very useful piece. What is totally inexplicable is that Sinn Féin/MMcG were content to put out a joint press release with the DUP late last year telling everyone how well the Stormont regime was working at the very same time as matters were coming to a head.

    Also, if SF are so attached to the notion of a British Border Poll in the six counties why do they not put it at the very top of their wish list and at least demand a time limit by which one must be held. The reality is that they have been so committed to “Project Northern Ireland” for the last ten years that many of those who voter for them could not be relied to vote for a United Ireland.

    Any form of joint authority is a very poor second to an All Ireland Republic but infinitely preferable to the circus on the hill.!

    Nuge

  4. The 6 Cos/NI/NoI call it what you will has proved time and again that it does not work as a normal society. Which begs the question – why should it? It was never built to last and was always seen as a temporary measure by its creators and one which was going to be subject to short-term border changes. That did not happen then for various reasons – all of which broke the Treaty which created the place.
    Its time as presently constituted is over. The only question now is – what will replace it?

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