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By now  you would have thought that the politics of this place should have arrived at the next big question and decision about the future of Stormont?

After 14 months lost in limbo, the question that has to be addressed is – has it lost all relevance and purpose?

That obvious question is being avoided.

Instead, the drift continues – further away from devolution and even deeper into the pit of dysfunctional politics.

Has February’s non-deal – the draft agreement the DUP could not sell – brought the parliament on the hill  any closer to some end?

As we watch, there is no suggestion of that but, rather, this shambolic, mismanaged phase of politics, continues.

Would there be any point to another negotiation?

“A complete waste of f*****g time,” is the blunt assessment of one Stormont source.

“It’s not credible at all,” was his five-word summation of the state of our politics – a  standoff now in its second year; and a long-running stalemate that means no government, and little prospect of that situation changing any time soon..

On Tuesday, speaking on UTV’s View From Stormont, MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ruled out the February text as a starting point for any new talks.

Yet that draft agreement was well short of what Sinn Fein set out to deliver – well below its bottom lines.

Donaldson repeated the DUP position of restoring the Executive now and dealing with outstanding issues in parallel.

Such a move was dismissed long before February and most certainly won’t happen now.

Just read the latest blog from Sinn Fein Chair Declan Kearney: “The DUP decision to pull away from the definitive accommodation and very advanced draft agreement arrived at with Sinn Fein…raises fundamental issues about leadership authority, decision making and commitment to genuine power sharing within that party.”

In the fallout, politics is in a worse place now than it was a year or so ago when the late Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister.

There is no suggestion of any better offer to the DUP.

Arlene Foster sees little or no prospect of restoring devolution soon and, on Wednesday, MP Ian Paisley tweeted from Westminster that: “It really looks and feels like direct rule in all but name.”

London is where the DUP has looked most comfortable in recent times.



On Wednesday, the Secretary of State Karen Bradley dodged a question on the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The NIO is a prisoner of the Tory/DUP Westminster arrangement. It is not in a position to produce an initiative that will change things.

In these circumstances, will Dublin be able to achieve a meeting of that intergovernmental conference and, if so, will it have any influence on decision making.

If not, then there is another question.

For how much longer can Sinn Fein and the SDLP tolerate and prop up and be part of this farce that Colum Eastwood called a “deep embarrassment”?

“Stormont is dead – it’s gone,” the Irish language activist and one-time senior republican Jake Mac Siacais said recently.

“Hard to disagree with that” – Sinn Fein’s former publicity director Danny Morrison tweeted.

Neither is elected, but they know the pulse of their community.

Are they saying what others are thinking – and, if so, for how much longer can Stormont survive?

After 14 months, we know there will be no quick decision – just more of the drift, the dithering, the deadlock and indecision that is a deep embarrassment – but who cares?

In the Brexit battle, Stormont has become an irritant, a sideshow, a distraction – a place that will not be brought to any point of decision, not by a government in need of DUP help and votes.

Theresa May made a wrong call with the snap election last June and has been juggling the problems of Brexit, Belfast, the border and the backstop ever since.

At some point, something’s gotta give.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at


  1. Kevin Shannon on

    Thank you Brian. The fact is this state ‘our wee country’ has never been anything other than a basket case. It was never going to work and never will.

    • Looking forward to Leo and Simon pouring Billions of Euros into Northern Ireland and selling that on the doorsteps of taxpayers in Dublin and Cork-but then maybe not

  2. Im quite happy with what is referred to as stalemate-DUP doing the job at Westminster-What’s not to like

  3. You noted that “DUP seem more comfortable in Westminster”, certainly, The real leader Nigel Dodds, can now exercise his authority without having to plod back to the Stormont backwater. He feels important rubbing shoulders with Government ministers. Given that they have access to power in London they don’t currently need Stormont.
    There is another consideration, if the gerrymander of electoral boundaries goes ahead in the next couple of years then the new unionist majority will be available in the Assembly and they will no doubt be keen to get it back and running. Unfortunately, the appetite that SF showed in conceding much in those negotiations to get the Assembly back does seem to be evaporating, the DUP can’t be trusted.

    • DUP can be trusted to act on behalf of all citizens in Northern Ireland-Everyone benefits from extra funding from Westminster
      Sinn Fein-Nil

  4. Charles Quinn on

    The state was set up with a gerrymandered border to give the Unionists a large majority which they abused down the years with the aid of successive Conservitive governments

    • And that large majority is steadily decreasing. It will have disappeared within the next ten years – maybe sooner if Brexit results in a large decrease in wealth. What then? A re-unification poll will have a very good chance of succeeding. Will the unionists accept it, as previously agreed?

    • Actually Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom-it was the 26 county state that broke away from the United Kingdom and proved that Home Rule would be Rome Rule

  5. On the positive note, it took a awful long time for Germany to get a government up and running and they are known as well-organised. Besides, the parties in N.Ireland agree to disagree – that’s a lot more than they managed when I landed in Belfast in 1997. I have a dream, declared the late Dr Martin Luther King. I too have a dream when it comes to the North and I will steadfastly hang on to it! The people of Northern Ireland voted for better and they deserve better!

    • The words you are looking for are Northern Ireland and unlike you I am happy for no executive at Stormont and look forward to Northern Ireland to be governed direct from Westminster where our representatives will play a roll in the affairs of the United Kingdom

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