There is something of an inevitable reality to Sinn Fein’s welfare reform u-turn, possibly even a perverse honesty.
Anyone who listened to the hype surrounding the Stormont House Agreement should have recognised the “constructive ambiguity” which characterises all the so-called deals.
Likewise any casual observer would have clearly seen that the DUP claims of “welfare reform” and Sinn Fein’s claims of “nobody is going to lose out” were opposites and not similes. Thus the DUP desire to be “mini me Tories” by reducing welfare bills, could never accommodate Sinn Fein’s everyone’s a winner approach.
Even the mortgaging of our futures, to enable Sinn Fein to save some face, could not accommodate the anti-austerity message of our second largest party. The Stormont House Agreement, as with St Andrews and the various Hillsborough accords, was another cobbled together short-term fix built on shifting sands.
Fundamentally the problem lies with the “Executive places by right” nature of our Government. The mandatory coalition, which may have been useful in the initial phases of coming out of conflict, has well and truly run its course.
As our so-called government faces the realities of the current economic realities, the Executive cannot survive with the key parties facing in totally opposite economic directions. Without a genuine, negotiated and agreed manifesto for government, no coalition can survive.
The silo, ourselves alone, approach to Executive membership cannot deliver, it simply creates instability and crisis.
Without institutional reform; the introduction of an official opposition and the creation of a weighted cross community coalition, Northern Ireland will return again and again to the crisis after crisis.
The only real solution is a suspension of the current institutions, a full review of the current arrangements and renegotiations of the present structures.
The edifice that is Stormont needs an overhaul otherwise, like those who don’t learn from history, our politicians will be condemned to make the same mistakes, over and over again.