Danny Morrison warns of slim prospects for Stormont’s restoration

Posted By: August 26, 2017

Danny Morrison said relations in the executive began deteriorating when Peter Robinson pulled the plug on the Maze-Long Kesh peace centre.

 John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, August 26, 2017

SINN Féin’s former director of publicity believes Stormont is facing an “existential crisis” and there is little prospect of Republicans returning to an executive in the near future.

Danny Morrison’s bleak assessment of the potential for restoring devolution comes as efforts to revive the Stormont talks process resume.

Since March’s snap assembly election there have been two rounds of unsuccessful negotiations.

There is an expectation that the two governments will bring the parties together in the coming weeks for a short but intense period of talks.

But according to the man who in the 1980s coined the ‘Armalite and ballot box’ phrase to describe the republican movement’s strategy, the prospects for a restoration of devolution are slim.

Mr. Morrison told The Irish News that Sinn Féin’s support base had become disillusioned with power-sharing because Unionists failed to reciprocate outreach gestures from the likes of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The one-time Mid Ulster assembly member said relations began deteriorating four years ago when Peter Robinson pulled the plug on the Maze-Long Kesh peace centre.

“It’s about the DUP either unintentionally or deliberately misconstruing Republican efforts at outreach as weakness,” he said, citing other examples including the withdrawal of Irish language funding by communities minister Paul Givan and the row between the parties over welfare reform.

He said the Sinn Féin leadership had sought to remain in the Executive even after the RHI scandal had gathered pace and other parties were calling for Arlene Foster to step aside as the First Minister.

“It appeared to me, even at that stage, that Sinn Féin was still trying to preserve things but I believe the base had shifted,” he said.

Mr. Morrison claimed the republican movement had made many compromises since the Good Friday Agreement but Unionism had not responded in kind.

He warned that if there was no substantive change in attitude then Stormont would remain suspended for the foreseeable future.

“It may well be that we’re at the stage where the Unionists – in the guise of the DUP – can’t make this leap,” he said.

“And if they can’t make this leap then Republicans have the power to deprive them of power – and that’s what’s going to happen.”

He noted how earlier this week Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill had called for an immediate resumption of talks.

“Presumably that was to test the water and to see if there’s be a change in opinion over the summer but they were immediately rebuffed,” he said.

“I can’t see the thing being put back together again.”

The former An Phoblacht editor, who said he is neither a Sinn Féin representative nor spokesman, concedes that if the talks are unsuccessful then the direct rule will inevitably follow but argues “You shouldn’t baulk at making the right decision because of an unfavourable consequence”.

“For me, the right decision trumps the consequence – it’s more important that a marker is set down for the DUP and this is it,” he said.

“And you have to ask why Sinn Féin would go back into an executive when the DUP has a disproportionate influence on the British government?”

He added: “It’s a huge crisis and the DUP don’t even see it.”