Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Infantile politics at Stormont sapping our will

The power-sharing administration at Stormont is well past its infancy, but the parties at the heart of Government continue to act like children
The power-sharing administration at Stormont is well past its infancy, but the parties at the heart of Government continue to act like children

The power-sharing administration at Stormont is well past its infancy, but the parties at the heart of Government continue to act like children, throwing their toys out of the pram at the least provocation. The on-going row over budgets is a stereotypical example of this behaviour.

Sinn Fein has refused to back welfare reform cuts – without putting forward any compelling evidence to support its action – and the DUP is now retaliating with dire threats of what the consequences will be.

Like spoilt children the two parties point accusing fingers at each other while claiming that any impending doom or gloom is not their fault.

What this points up is the lack of proper mature leadership from the province's two major parties. They are the pivotal partners at Stormont, but while a residue of historic enmity can be understood, their inability to show real collective responsibility is destabilising the administration.

The threat by two DUP ministers to exceed their budgets can be interpreted in several ways. It may point to some sort of internal party power struggle, but is more likely to be a fairly blatant attempt to pin the blame for any service reductions on Sinn Fein for failing to sign up to welfare reform. The most worrying interpretation is that it could signal a DUP exit strategy from this power-sharing arrangement.

It is clear that relationships with Sinn Fein are at a very low ebb and the constant bickering has been going on too long to be easily repaired.

Of course, these parties contain many veteran politicians who never had to exercise real power until entering Government together. Their usual tactic when confronted with unpalatable decisions was to warn of serious consequences and then stand back and wait until real adult politicians, either in Dublin or Westminster, stepped in and solved the problem.

But this time they may find that the grown-up politicians have tired of their infantile squabbling and will insist that they dry their tears and sort out their own problems.

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