Politics stumbles into unknown

Posted By: September 11, 2015

Irish News Editorial. Friday, September 11, 2015

The first minister steps aside, all but one DUP ministers resign and the Stormont institutions hang by a thread. To call the current political situation an unmitigated shambles would be an understatement.

Peter Robinson backed himself into a corner with his ultimatum on Wednesday demanding adjournment or suspension.

When Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists refused to support an adjournment, which some regarded as the least worst option, then the DUP had pinned their hopes on the British government agreeing to suspend the assembly.

Perhaps they thought Theresa Villiers and David Cameron would cave in, despite previously rebuffing the request. In the event, they stood firm and were right to do so.

However, we are now stumbling into the unknown.

Arlene Foster has been left in place, according to Mr Robinson to stop nationalists and republicans taking decisions “detrimental to Northern Ireland.’’

The reality is she is there to allow him to keep his options open and to buy time although what he expects to happen is not clear.

Meanwhile, the man whose arrest precipitated the DUP leader’s ultimatum has been released without charge.

There is no doubt that when the PSNI said the Provisional IRA was involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, it was always going to cause difficulties for Sinn Féin and its partners in government.

But there had been hopes that this issue could be dealt with in a mature and responsible way which ensured the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement was maintained.

However, the DUP, which initially seemed determined to keep the administration in business, was wrong footed by the Ulster Unionist Party’s decision to withdraw from the executive and this week’s moves are more about electoral rivalry than overriding principle.

So what happens next? There are talks on offer and we could yet see the collapse of the executive and an early election.

But what is needed is a genuine desire to make politics work, to ensure good government and a power sharing administration that delivers for every person in Northern Ireland.

Uncertainty and instability will do nothing to help build the better society people here want to see.