Sinn Fein budget tactic is wrong
Only in Northern Ireland could doing nothing be seen as political progress. For that is the effect of Sinn Fein giving conditional support to Arlene Foster's so-called fantasy budget. Even the republican party admits that it is merely kicking the can further down the road, as it couches its decision as giving space to allow the parties to resolve the impasse over welfare reform.
The immediate effect of Sinn Fein action's is to allow the administration to continue. If it had blocked the budget Bill, a senior civil servant would have to step in to take over spending powers, threatening the very future of the Assembly.
It is difficult to know what is to be gained from Sinn Fein's tactic. How will the chasm between the parties on welfare reform be closed, and in the meantime we continue to give back much-needed money to the Treasury in fines? But then republicans and Martin McGuinness are past masters at brinkmanship. Remember the 1994 IRA ceasefire which ended with the spectacular Canary Wharf bombing 18 months later and then resumed in 1997? The party also stalled over the Good Friday Agreement and helped undermine the first power-sharing Executive. Support for the PSNI came in 2007, six years after its formation.
Perhaps gains made by the party since those days have emboldened them to continue with the tactic, but it seems patience is running out in the power centres that matter - London, Dublin and Washington.
As Senator Gary Hart said in this newspaper last week, influential US investors are looking at Northern Ireland with increasingly jaundiced eyes as we continue to fail to balance the books. Who would want to invest in a place where stability cannot be guaranteed and where a much sought-after investment lever, the lowering of corporation tax, may be withdrawn?
Amazingly we still have something to offer. Randox and Ulster Bank have created several hundred new jobs, our universities are about to pour out more high-class graduates, and Department for Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry is doing much good work in further education despite having to fund the sector from a diminishing budget .
In the run-up to the general election we highlighted how the parties here continue to avoid taking the hard decisions and called for action. We are still waiting for that to happen.
We need to show that Northern Ireland is open for business and that politicians can put aside party interests for the common good.