Marriage guidance counseling is not going to save the Stormont relationship

Posted By: February 14, 2019

Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“Members of Congress will find this article from today’s Irish News of Belfast (February 15, 2019) useful in understanding the details that led to the collapse of the Stormont Assembly. The article clearly documents the failures of the DUP: ‘The truth is the DUP had no way of delivering probably the best deal Unionists have ever been handed to their base, and therefore, as we now enter into our third year without devolution, no way of ever delivering a compromise of any sorts.’ The DUP is not capable of leading, only of being led by the worst instincts of its very narrow base… the same narrow base that is forcing Brexit on The North/Northern Ireland. This is no way to build up The Beloved Community— a community of nonviolence, equality, justice and solidarity.” Fr. Sean McManus.

No amount of counseling can save the failed Stormont marriage.
 Allison Morris.  Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, February 14, 2019

Today is a day of celebration for loved-up couples and those hoping to form a union with the still to be won over object of their affections.

Sending cards, flowers, and chocolates in a commercial haze of red hearts, promising everlasting love.

It is also the anniversary of the deal that never was a deal to restore Stormont.

Ah, do you remember Stormont?

A marriage that started with so much promise, a Romeo and Juliet story of two once-warring factions who declared a truce and formed a partnership that at first seemed so full of promise.

One that in the end became the kind of marriage that stays together because one half knows if they call it quits first, they’ll lose the big house and the kids are likely to blame them.

On February 14 last year, Theresa May, a woman with Brexit weighing heavily on her shoulders, flew into Belfast in the hope of securing her own hand of history moment.

Instead, in line with her ongoing run of bad luck, she was witness to yet another political crisis. They must all blur into one at this stage for the prime minister.

Following the collapse of talks, last February Arlene Foster said there was “no current prospect” of a deal to restore power-sharing, claiming the talks failed due to disagreements with Sinn Féin about the Irish language Act.

An act that the draft deal appeared to show her party had agreed to, albeit dressed up as an Irish Respecting Language and Diversity Bill, an Ulster-Scots Respecting Language and Diversity Bill and a random just for good luck Respecting Language and Diversity Bill.

A fudge of an agreement containing three strands of legislation, two of which no-one asked for.

Even at that, even with Sinn Féin saying ‘no return to the status quo’ before signing up to exactly that, the DUP still couldn’t sell it.

Sinn Féin accused the DUP of having collapsed the talks process.

The truth is the DUP had no way of delivering probably the best deal Unionists have ever been handed to their base, and therefore, as we now enter into our third year without devolution, no way of ever delivering a compromise of any sorts.

Sinn Féin on the other hand probably could have sold that deal to their voters, who would have agreed to stumble back into a dysfunctional and redundant Assembly, but for how long?

As we look back at the 12 months since those talks collapsed much has happened.

The RHI inquiry lifted the lid off what exactly that ‘functioning’ assembly looked like and how it operated.

And what an ugly insight that was – it was not a functioning democracy, there was no public accountability or scrutiny, power-hungry special advisers ruling over their ministers like tinpot generals.

Dysfunctionality, wilful squander of public money, a ‘you ignore my failings and I’ll ignore yours’ culture that was not delivering for a single man, woman or child living in this place, unless of course, you were one of the chosen passengers of the Stormont gravy train.

The DUP did Sinn Féin a favor rejecting that deal for had they rushed back in with nothing but a handful of beans and a promise to play nice they would have been guilty by association when the most damning evidence was delivered to the RHI inquiry.

And then there’s been the Brexit debacle of the last year, as Unionists have continued to use their new-found power at Westminster to strengthen their own narrow agenda that involves saving the ‘precious union’ at all costs, financial or otherwise.

How on earth could any party, either Sinn Féin or the other remain parties, have sat in the assembly chamber during all that has occurred over the last 12 months?

To do so would render them complicit in this current crisis, that involves the future of our children and grandchildren.

The Assembly is, for now at least, dead, redundant and largely unwanted.

Unionists have expressed their desire for Direct Rule to implement any outstanding legislation.

Nationalists have switched off to their idea of Stormont, instead of talking about more powers for local councils and for the north-south bodies that underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

We need to stop pretending – counseling won’t work, the marriage is over, it has broken down irreconcilably.

No cards, flowers or chocolates can save it, not now nor any time soon.