Belfast Telegraph

Jury still out on Stormont deal

Editor's Viewpoint

As the politicians appeared before the media at Stormont to congratulate themselves on averting another crisis, it might sound like Scrooge to point out that the heralded breakthrough was not a sign of great political maturity but rather another example of the failure of the process and the institutions here.

It took 30 hours of hot-house negotiations at the end of 11 weeks of talks to hammer out some sort of deal but it was only reached after our political leaders were led by the nose by the British and Irish governments and lured by a financial package which may turn out to be something of a millstone in years to come.

Fifteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, politics here remains a game of brinksmanship with envoys from America and government ministers from Westminster and Dublin being summoned regularly to help local politicians reach some sort of compromise - until the next time.

First Minister Peter Robinson has described the Stormont administration as dysfunctional and that still holds true in spite of yesterday's events. Politics here lurches from crisis to crisis and it almost appears that the politicians are addicted to the limelight. They seem incapable of reaching any agreement unless it is after a drama played out in front of the press pack.

But let us leave aside the bah humbug and try to find something positive from this latest deal. Mechanisms are promised to deal with really contentious issues like flags and parades and the past, but this again seems like kicking the can down the road and will do nothing to ease problems this year or next - or for several after that.

A big positive is that corporation tax-varying powers can now be devolved to Stormont and that could be an economic game-changer allowing us to entice more wealth-creating investors to Northern Ireland. And other ideas which this newspaper has championed - the reduction in the number of MLAs and government departments and the creation of a properly financed opposition - may also become a reality by 2021. That could herald a new era in politics here with parties judged on policies rather than a sectarian headcount.

The devil of all agreements is in the detail and over the coming days and weeks we will have a clearer picture if indeed this is a real deal or mere window-dressing, with Westminister giving us some extra money - mostly in loans - to avert an immediate crisis.

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