“Power-sharing… in the North is still the right thing” – By Brian Rowan 

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This half-sentence extracted from a speech by the Sinn Fein President on Saturday evening needs some further explanation.

It does not suggest an easy or a quick return to the Stormont political institutions.

Indeed, speaking to this website, a senior DUP elected representative dismissed the Sinn Fein emphasis/focus on restoration as being for the “southern optics”; in other words, having more to do with the party’s political project in the republic.

That DUP source has no sense of movement towards any in-depth talks or negotiations between the parties – certainly not yet.

So, we may still be as far away from devolution as in January last year when the late Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister.


The issues have not changed since the failure to close the draft agreement of  February 2018 when the DUP walked away at the very last minute – Arlene Foster and her negotiating team unable to deliver.



“And so the two governments must act now to deliver on marriage equality, to address the legacy of the past and to deliver Acht na Gaeilge,” Mary Lou McDonald said in that speech to the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday.

There is no sign of such a move from the two governments; one of them incapable of moving because of the Westminster numbers and the confidence and supply agreement with the DUP.

In these circumstances, Dublin has been unable to get agreement on a meeting of the intergovernmental conference or on some joint initiative.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made this clear in a recent interview with UTV deputy political editor Tracey Magee.

The NIO “departmental core narrative” is a broken record stuck in some stale briefing note. Where is the evidence of redoubling efforts to achieve a restoration of the Executive – the negotiations to achieve such, the introduction of the type of facilitators who will be needed?



There is no evidence and, in the waiting, Brexit, RHI and legacy are becoming ever larger and more problematic.

“Whenever Brexit is settled they [Sinn Fein] can dismount that particular hobby horse and get back to real politics,” that senior DUP elected representative told eamonnmallie.com

A few days before the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis convened in Belfast, party councillor Seanna Walsh tweeted about “advice on the doors” – that advice,  not to even think about going back into government with Arlene Foster.

Sinn Fein did think about it in February, but only in the context of the advanced draft agreement then on issues including Irish language and separately a legacy agreement with the Northern Ireland Office including a five-year funding package for legacy inquests.

That bar is not going to get any lower. Indeed, the longer the DUP wait, then the higher the jump they will have to make if Arlene Foster is to be first minister.

Sinn Fein will take the pulse of the community before any decision.



From this political vacuum and limbo, we are watching an unstoppable tide. You see it in the Repealing the Eighth referendum and hear it in the message – “the North Is next”.

Power-sharing – proper partnership government – is the only workable process here.

It is the right thing – but, it seems, we are still in the wrong time.

Will there be a government by January 2019 – two years on from the McGuinness resignation?

Who would bet big money on that?

No one is suggesting any serious negotiation until Brexit is settled, and how that is done will determine whether there is any mood for yet another effort to make Stormont work.


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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 and contributed chapters to 'Reporting the Troubles' and 'Brexit and Northern Ireland: Bordering on Confusion'.

1 Comment

  1. I do not think the DUP should go back into Government with Michelle O’Neill
    The so called Equality and Respect agenda is geared to the political demands of Sinn Fein
    Hopefully no Executive will be restored and Westminster Direct rule-without Coveney or Varadkar involvement will follow.The good years of Administration were from 1972-1997
    Political commentators wishing for a devolved Stormont to comment and reort on are doing us all a dis service.
    Time for boring politics without stunts from Ms O’Neill and her party

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