Direct rule will be sticking point
Posted By: January 12, 2017
“It is not just the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal that has caused deep disquiet, although that certainly brought matters to a head, but Nama, Red Sky, Dee Stitt and Charter NI as well as the snub to the Irish language through the axing of the Líofa bursary scheme – all have tested republican patience.”
Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Thursday, January 12, 2017
With the political atmosphere worsening and despite last minute efforts by the British and Irish governments, it seems we are rushing headlong into a snap election, probably in early March.
That said, few had held out any real hope that the power-sharing administration could be restored within a week.
Martin McGuinness’s resignation statement, when he ruled out renominating a deputy first minister by Monday next, was a clear indication that Sinn Féin had decided a poll was the only way to sort out the wider issues that have soured the political landscape.
It is not just the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal that has caused deep disquiet, although that certainly brought matters to a head, but Nama, Red Sky, Dee Stitt and Charter NI as well as the snub to the Irish language through the axing of the Líofa bursary scheme – all have tested Republican patience.
What was viewed as a lack of reciprocation for Mr. McGuinness’s conciliatory overtures, or respect for the equality agenda, cannot have gone down well in Sinn Féin heartlands and the party may have concluded that nothing was going to change and an election was the only option.
A further sign of this hardening attitude came yesterday when the health minister Michelle O’Neill dismissed calls for negotiations with the DUP saying: “What we need is fundamental change.”
This fundamental change will be the focus of political talks after any election.
Sinn Féin and the DUP will return with their mandates, but the underlying problems will still be there.
If anything, a “brutal” campaign, as predicted by Arlene Foster, will cause deeper division and increased bitterness, making it even more difficult to reach agreement in the days and weeks after the voters go to the polls – which means we are, in all likelihood, facing a protracted period of stalemate and suspension while talks aimed at stitching devolution back together again take place.
However, the restoration of direct rule from London will be a sticking point for both Sinn Féin and the SDLP.