Here’s why there won’t be a Stormont executive before 2022

Posted By: December 05, 2018

There has been no executive at Stormont since January 2017 – and we shouldn’t expect one before 2022

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, December 5, 2018
THERE is talk of talks beginning in January – January 2019 that is – about getting a local executive up and running.

There may be talks but no executive, certainly not before this time next year, and probably not then either. Here’s why.

First, there can’t be an executive before the RHI inquiry reports. There are several reasons that are a milestone.

The inquiry report is likely to be very damaging to the DUP in general and Arlene Foster in particular.

Her own evidence—memorable not least for the show-stopper, “I am accountable but not responsible”— demonstrates that she couldn’t run a tombola [a game in which people pick tickets out of a revolving drum]stall at an Orange fête.

Her selective memories, her cop-out for her lack of understanding by denying she had read the legislation, of being too busy with other matters, all invite serious censure.

If the report is very bad, she won’t survive as leader. Sinn Féin can’t go into an executive with this cloud hanging over Foster.

Secondly, the inquiry will cut through the DUP special advisers [Spads] like a scythe.

Given their own evidence of the back-biting, the ignoring of the legal basis for allocating Spads, the jiggery-pokery with emails, the jobbery, corruption, feuding, how can any of them return as if nothing had happened?

Third, the inquiry is bound to make recommendations about the role and status of Spads, their relations with ministers and most importantly, their relations with senior civil servants.

They will no longer be a law unto themselves so that no Minister can ever again say, “I am accountable but not responsible.”

The North’s senior civil service will not escape unscathed. They showed up as incompetent time-servers, watching their backs, craven towards Ministers and Spads alike, committing the mortal sin of a bureaucrat of not taking notes.

You would have thought at least they would have kept private personal notes to cover themselves. Resignations are likely.

Now, in view of all that, the pathetically inadequate and risible arrangements in last February’s abortive Sinn Féin/DUP deal for reforming the way business is done – or not done – at Stormont will no longer suffice.

There can’t be a new deal without taking on board the RHI report recommendations for governance, and they will probably require legislation. So there can’t be a deal before the report.

All that is without even considering the politics of a new deal.

The first political requirement is that a new executive deal will necessitate as a baseline where Sinn Féin and the DUP left off in February.

Sinn Féin cannot accept less; what they were prepared to accept then was pretty thin gruel.

There’s no indication that the DUP, despite Peter Robinson’s advice about Acht na Gaelige being “such a small thing,” is ready to move one iota, not only because ‘iota’ is Greek and might have a kinda Catholic sound about it.

Finally, there are local government elections in May.

Can you see either the DUP or Sinn Féin cutting a deal just before Easter – April 21 – that their supporters might not be entirely delighted with, then going around the doors asking for votes?

In view of those council elections, the DUP would need to know the likely date of the RHI report since it is going to be so bad for them.

Selling a deal is one problem but taking stick on doorsteps because of the revelations and findings in the Coghlin report is quite another.

We have not even mentioned Brexit and the DUP propping up this utterly useless British government, so bad that historians can’t even dredge up a shambles of a Cabinet to compare it with.

Shamelessly, and to the economic damage and financial detriment of people here, the DUP will still be keeping the Conservatives in office next year.

Why cause an election when they’ll never have the same power again?

What that means is that, in any talks, the British government will be just as shamelessly biased in favor of the DUP as the DUP is in hanging onto their one-sided arrangement at Westminster.

People say there’ll be no executive until Brexit is over. That won’t be before 2021.

However, the reality is there’ll be no executive here until after the next British election, and that’s 2022, thanks to the DUP.