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It’s a picture that speaks a thousand words.

Those barriers on the Stormont steps a striking image in a place where obstacles, obstructions, blocks and impediments stand stubbornly in the path of progress.

With the focus on Brexit, Stormont has been relegated to something of a political afterthought.

There is no suggestion of any negotiation any time soon and there is a clear assessment that any rescue package will require a February-plus agreement and only after the pages of the RHI Inquiry report have been fully assessed.

This will take us well into a third year in this Stormont standoff and, in the waiting, who knows what else will spill out from the Brexit negotiations.

As things stand, which argument from here has been heard and understood in those protracted and complex talks?

Just listen to the analysis that special and unique status has been achieved and the question answers itself.

The DUP fears a break-up of the United Kingdom and, already, cracks are appearing in that party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservative Party – the deal that props up the government.



Cracks, but it has not yet collapsed. This breaking news tweet on Tuesday from Rodney Edwards of the Impartial Reporter an indication that both parties are still trying to protect that Westminster arrangement.

It may not be possible, and the fallout of the Brexit negotiation could make a Stormont rescue mission all the more difficult.

The DUP is looking like and sounding like it has been struck by a political wrecking ball; in its thinking and words, let down by a Prime Minister who clearly doesn’t listen.

So, it will be a while before Stormont is given any serious attention and, if we get to that point, then there will be questions.

If the February draft agreement – obtained by my colleague Eamonn Mallie and published in full elsewhere on this website – proved too high a jump for the DUP, how then do you achieve February-plus?

There is nothing to suggest that the DUP would be prepared to take a negotiation into that territory.

Nor is there anything to suggest that Sinn Fein would negotiate back from February.

Can Stormont be saved?

“I don’t think it’s too late,” one source told me.

That said, February changed everything.

Next time – if there is to be another negotiation – nationalist expectations on what needs to be delivered will be high, higher than they were nine months ago.


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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. Chris McCarthy on

    Can’t see SF going back to Stormont with Foster as 1st minister,especially after RHI report issued. SF has mandate to boycott government here after treatment of Nationalism here these last few years.Crocodiles have long memories and the days of insulting Irish people with no comeback are over.
    How can SF negotiate with DUP with any confidence when at a whim they can deny/negate any agreement. As far as I’m concerned Stormont is dead in the water and will stay that way until there’s a major sea change from Unionists!

  2. You cannot have a Government where there is no trust & the 2 leaders (Foster & O’Neill) despise one another. Sound bites when they’re together is ok for optics but body language indicates a whole sub level of hate.

    We then have the PoC – consistently & sustainably abused to deny Rights. You cannot have a Government where public servants vent personal religious zealousness to marginalise / mistreat sizeable sections of our Society.

    We then have the regulatory “border” in the Irish Sea. That line that prevents some in public office from extending legislation in place and valued in Britain from being extended to Society in Northern Ireland.

    Finally, we have RHI. That catalyst in a succession of highly irregular & questionable scandals, which indicates that a Minister failed in all duties to protect the public; that SpAds appointed are not there to be cautionary gatekeepers acting in the Public interest but Party Puppets or in some cases the Puppet Masters!

    A wonderful opportunity to deliver fiscally responsible Government in an equitable and equal manner for all in Northern Ireland was truly squandered.

    I think Stormont needs prorogued for 18months at least. Salaries / privilege / benefits stopped for all. During that time the 2 Governments should review items like the PoC which has been so disastrously abused with an outlook to eradicate it or at very least change the mechanism. Appointment of SpAds also for review so that never again can Party come before People. Once the systemic overhaul has taken place, call all Party talks with the sole aim of establishing a fiscally responsible Government commited to delivering quality of life improvement to all the peoples of our diverse society.

  3. Time The SDLP / UUP / Alliance/ Green Party and People Before Profits Gerry Carroll & Independent Unionist Claire Suggdeon. Got Together as A Voluntary Minority Coalition. They Would Deliver for Northern Ireland. Unlike The Carve up Of DUP & Sinn Fein.

  4. Ah James
    I have thought about this myself but I included Sinn Fein in the mix as it was not sinn fein who destroyed Stormont it was /is the bigots In the DUP .
    You must remember martin mcguinness spent years trying to reach out to the loyalist / unionist community but as you know to dance you need a partner who is on the step , that was not the case with the DUP who only political aim after Paisley was to destroy the power shearing government just as they did in 1974 with Sunningdale with the SDLP and the UUP , ALLIANCE PARTY SETTING UP A POWER SHEARING GOVERNMENT the UUP did have some people who lived in the real world and knew that change was needed to get Catholics on board for their precious union as Arlene calls it having said NO NO NO to every move towards equality and a modern society they now wish to draw us all back pre 1969 etc
    anyway the only way to change these things is ti isolate the DUP and form a government with all others and never again let then near money or any department which has control over any scheme that has money to spend , never again let them rob the people / taxpayers

  5. Gearoid Mac Siacais on

    Back in February when Arlene Foster tweeted away the hope. I wrote on this site:  “If we are to avoid the scenario of a disgruntled and betrayed unionist minority marooned on the Island of Ireland, what we need is a determined, decisive and enlightened unionist leadership which can negotiate a unionist future on this island in ways which benefit us all. Given Arlene and her colleagues’ performance it is clear that at present they are not fit for task. The challenges remain and will have to be faced sooner rather than late” Ain’t heard anything since to change that.

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