If SF can stipulate terms for Stormont’s return, a mediator is pointless

Morning View
Morning View

The government is considering bringing in a Stormont talks mediator in Northern Ireland.

Karen Bradley told the House of Commons yesterday that she was “actively considering how and when external facilitation could play a constructive role in efforts to restore political dialogue. This will form part of my discussions with the parties”.

This will please Sinn Fein, among others. But what is the point of such a mediator?

It has become more clear than ever that there cannot be reward for republican blackmail.

They brought the institutions down. They have said it was because of ‘respect, equality and integrity’, and have cited RHI, gay marriage, Arlene Foster and an Irish language act.

This is such an abuse of the system of mandatory coalition that they must be treated as the wreckers that they are.

We cannot have a situation in which all parties bar one are keen to get back to the work they were elected to do, but must first wave through demands such as an Irish language act.

If that is rewarded in this coming talks process, then it will just happen again and again. Stormont will be inoperable.

Ms Bradley, instead of thinking about a mediator, who will then act as if “all sides” have to compromise (ie move towards the Sinn Fein demands), should be preparing to move beyond the one party that puts itself outside the goodwill upon which a system as unusual as mandatory coalition is dependent.

If Sinn Fein wants to operate on its own terms, then it removes itself, not everyone else, from the political process, in the same way that by boycotting the House of Commons it is losing its own seats, not other parties’ seats.

The obvious short term measure is direct rule, but if the government is too timid to do that, as it is (weakness that Sinn Fein will have registered), then the obvious next step is to have MLAs scrutinise decisions taken by civil servants.

If SF boycott such a process that is between them and their voters, but at least other MLAs get a role in our governance.