Talks must be given time limit


Politicians should beware of what they wish for - or not, as the case may be!

No matter how much Peter Robinson and his band of placemen pretend; the last thing that he or they want is an election. Obviously going to the electorate on a platform of “keeping NI moving forward” would be laughable. Even funnier would be a slogan alluding to stability and progress.

Let’s face facts, the Northern Ireland economy has benefited little from Stormont and even less from the Executive. Like the emperor’s new clothes, devolution under the DUP and Sinn Fein has not ushered in a new era, for all the press conferences and all the photo opportunities, the DUP and Sinn Fein-led executive has been an abysmal failure.

Regardless of your views of the reasons for the current impasse, what is not in dispute is how useless the current situation at Stormont Castle is.

No amount of trade missions or junkets can hide the fact; the current First Minister (once removed) and the current Deputy First Minister have delivered little for the community at large, they have failed to deliver progress and as examples of how bad things are, our health service and our education system both are creaking and on the verge of collapse, interestingly both DUP/Sinn Fein ministries.

They can’t take the tough decisions and, strangely, pragmatism, compromise and tolerance are words totally missing from their dictionaries.

Regardless of what way one regards Northern Ireland in 2015, it doesn’t live up to the promise it had in 1998, nor does it measure up to “new day for the children of Ireland” that Ian Paisley spoke of at St Andrews in 2006.

The DUP with its self-indulgent Ulster nationalism and Sinn Fein with its hankering after the whiff of cordite mean no progress is possible. The population at large despairs, as increasingly they believe that corruption and criminality may be at the heart of our so-called democracy and, even if it isn’t, there are too many dogs on the street who think so..

So the way forward? Peter Robinson should do the decent thing – he should resign, not step aside, but resign and retire. The secretary of state should suspend the institutions for a specified time and cut MLAs salaries for the duration.

Time-limited talks on the reform of Stormont (including welfare reform) and mechanisms for dealing with paramilitarism should be held.

If no agreement comes in four weeks, the Assembly should be closed and all MLAs should be debarred from office for period of seven years. Local government powers should be increased and policy should be driven centrally from London.

Otherwise, these talks will be interminable and the same tired old politicians will come up with the same tired old solutions to the same old problems.