Hoping for something to cheer me up after Storm Eleanor kept me awake most of the night, I turned to the newspapers only to find that our political situation is nothing short of catastrophic with a leading politician saying he no longer believed Sinn Fein is even willing to enter fresh talks to restore power-sharing in the near future, let alone strike a deal.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell is a widely respected politician and most of what he says is worth taking note of.
If a successful conclusion is not reached within the next month, then some form of direct rule will be inevitable, he suggests. All this against a background of hospital emergency units, even leading doctors pleading for a resolution to help solve the health crisis. The same is coming from the business sector with leading lights such as Ellvena Graham, president of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, saying that Northern Ireland needed to get out of the “quagmire” and see political and economic change during this coming year. The challenges facing industry, she suggests, are “not helped by the continued absence of a regional Assembly and Executive”.
Northern Ireland’s economy grew by just one point one per cent last year, while Belfast’s expansion is lagging behind other UK capital cities. Life can’t get much worse, meanwhile Sinn Fein is acting like a bunch of children demanding the financial and politically impossible. When they don’t get their way politics comes to a standstill, even though all other parties are willing to negotiate.
Strangely I don’t understand the political establishment at Westminister which, in so many respects, panders to Sinn Fein, who refuse to sit in Westminister. Yet politics continue in London despite this rump of absent members. If the Welsh Nationalists were also to walk out over some non-negotiable issue Westminister would still continue, elections would still be held and results respected.
Yet here, when one party – Sinn Fein – doesn’t get what it wants, everything stops. Why is this? Shouldn’t there be something in our constitution that prevents that happening? Democracy is dead if one party can hold sway over every other party refusing to allow them to continue government as we know it. The unionists, I suggest, have already learned that lesson. What is happening here in Northern Ireland is totally undemocratic yet Westminister appears to tolerate it. None of us wants direct rule – most of us do not have fond memories of it in the past – but we do want government to continue in Northern Ireland even if the results of an election are not to our liking. Meanwhile the Ulster Unionist Party is of the view, according to its MLA Robbie Butler, that it was “vital that all of Northern Ireland’s main political parties are involved in the talks’ process”. He wants all parties included in the talks pointing to the fact they were excluded in the past. Maybe that is the key to it all. I don’t know. Why can just two parties out of half a dozen or so be the ones making the rules about the talks? Mind you, if all parties were included I can just envisage a disastrous scenario with great verbal battles raging around the talks with walk-outs (Ulster politicians are good at that) and cliques ganging up on the other. You can just imagine the mayhem. Talks with all parties would exclude the likes of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who appears to make all the political balls for the SF party in the north. Would Michelle O’Neill wilt under the power of Naomi Long, and that is something Adams fears? Who would mediate in this great battle of wills? Maybe they should heed the advice of Pope Francis, who has advised people to jettison life’s “useless baggage in 2018”. He felt we need to “keep our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism”. I will add to this the unreasonable demands of politicians who need to get back to work.