Divisive issues where the two main parties have failed to find any common ground
A draft OFMDFM document on improving community relations was to have been published for public consultation last year. In November 2008, however, Martin McGuinness apologised to MLAs that he and Peter Robinson had been unable to “honour our commitment” to provide the strategy “before the Halloween recess”.
It's still not published, and instead there are now two rival documents in the public domain.
As the Belfast Telegraph revealed this week, outgoing Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde personally wrote to the First and Deputy First Ministers, warning that the ongoing absence of a Government strategy is playing into the hands of extremists.
Unfortunate P7 pupils – together with their parents and schools – now find themselves stuck in the middle of a seemingly intractable political dispute. Sinn Fein Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has pressed ahead with the abolition of the 11-plus, but her party and the DUP have failed to agree on a replacement system. The result is an unregulated mess, with grammar schools setting their own entrance tests and fears of mass legal challenges by irate parents.
Peter Robinson made a high-profile call last week for the reform
of the current mandatory coalition for the Stormont Executive. He argued that a voluntary coalition system would reduce deadlock and energise politics. Martin McGuinness responded by accusing him of spending too much time in Disneyland while on his Florida summer holiday. He has also hit out at “unionist denial” on the realities of power-sharing.
Policing and justice
Devolution of policing powers remains stalled — a situation capable of further destabilising working relations in the Executive.
The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson this week launched proposals for a change in the legal definition of victims. His target is legislation introduced under direct rule that makes no distinction between paramilitaries who were killed or injured in the Troubles and other victims. Sinn Fein countered, saying there should be no “no hierarchy of victims”. The SDLP also rejected the Donaldson proposal, making it highly unlikely that it will succeed.
The prospects for a shared sports stadium at the former Maze Prison site now look non-existent. Instead, it is expected that funding will go to football, GAA and rugby to upgrade their own separate grounds.