Time for Sinn Féin and DUP to show their hands – By Kellie Armstrong

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This week we should be seeing the re-energising of the entire talks process, with efforts to restore devolution intensified.

In reality, the process of drift that infected things has recommenced from exactly where it left off before the summer.

This was encapsulated by the call last week to restart the main talks process this week. Why not last week? Why even have a break at all?

Alliance has been engaging in bilateral discussions over the summer, as well as meetings with various stakeholder organisations, since the formal suspension of talks in July.

There is certainly a question as to the commitment of both the larger parties to the process as a whole and reaching a sustainable outcome from it.

It is clear both the DUP and Sinn Fein are currently playing cynical games with the future of devolution, which is a dangerous ploy – not just for them but for everyone.

While they talk in public about their commitment to talks and devolution, their actions belie these rhetorical pledges.

With alarming regularity, DUP MPs from their Westminster pulpit are urging the implementation of direct rule.

Of course this would play directly into DUP hands given the power and influence they currently enjoy holding over the Conservative Government. Effectively they could end up managing Northern Ireland through the backdoor.

Sinn Fein meanwhile are seemingly content to continue to ride several horses – they keep open the option of pursuing their wider, and legitimate, constitutional aspirations, happy to see Northern Ireland becoming perceived as a failed state under Tory rule and a hard Brexit chaos.

Little if any effort is being made by Sinn Fein to find any cross-community consensus on what a special deal or special status under the impending Brexit could look like.

Furthermore, they are trying to distance the absence from an Executive from the ever-growing crisis in our public services, running contrary to the clear logic of the situation.

In the midst of all this, Brexit is hurtling its way down the tracks like a runaway train with no clue as to its destination or how hard it will hit.

Brexit has undoubtedly put the constitutional question back on the table, making it much harder to create and sustain any sense of the common good needed to maintain coherent and effective government in the process.

Locally accountable devolution is the only viable form of government in the divided society and contested space that is Northern Ireland. In particular, the need for self-government answerable to people here is brought into sharper focus on an almost daily basis, with the current proposed in-year health cuts the most pressing issue, and our voice going unrepresented in crucial Brexit negotiations in which the fate of Northern Ireland and the Irish border are at the top of the agenda.

Leaving aside everything else, we should not even be in the position in which we find ourselves. The talks should not have broken up in the first place, so we should not have to be talking about resumption at all. We are where we are.

The two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein need to prove they are genuine about wanting to see the political institutions restored and convince the rest of us that neither of them is working towards ‘Plan B’ either in word or in deed.

They can start this through energising an inclusive talks process without any further delays. Lives are literally dependent on it.

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  1. Laurence Rocke on

    Apart from all you say, with which I agree, Brokenshire is a huge problem. If he had any interest at all in this place or any backbone whatsoever, he would be saying something like this to the parties – “if you want to be a part of government in Northern Ireland, then turn up and take your seats in the chamber next Monday. If you don’t, the ministries will be apportioned to those parties who do show up and you will be left out in the cold. Oh, by the way, your salaries and expenses payments will stop forthwith until such times as you decide to return!”

  2. Marie Connolly on

    Nationalists have lost faith in the Executive and the DUP appear to have no interest in sharing power. The problems we currently face did not appear in the last few months but rather have been years in the making. It does beg the question about what exactly has been achieved in the last 20 years? We suffer from chronic under investment in Health Education and Infastructure Brexit will ensure we remain a social and po.itical backwater for the foreseeable future while politely parties are content to score cheap political points for short term political gain

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