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Work must start to rebuild trust

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 11/09/2015

As Secretary of State Theresa Villiers pointed out, this is a crisis in relationships. What was always an unlikely marriage between Sinn Fein and the DUP is now a hostile battleground
As Secretary of State Theresa Villiers pointed out, this is a crisis in relationships. What was always an unlikely marriage between Sinn Fein and the DUP is now a hostile battleground

Peter Robinson executed a neat body-swerve yesterday that George Best would have been proud of. He completely wrong-footed political opponents and commentators alike by just avoiding the collapse of the Assembly and, thereby, buying valuable time for the parties to attempt to resolve what is still a crisis at Stormont.

His decision to step aside - but not resign - from the post of First Minister and to leave Arlene Foster in charge of both the Department of Finance and the Office of First Minister was something of a masterstroke, but only if there is a genuine desire among all the parties to restore a working government.

As Secretary of State Theresa Villiers pointed out, this is a crisis in relationships. What was always an unlikely marriage between Sinn Fein and the DUP is now a hostile battleground.

On Wednesday Prime Minister David Cameron pleaded with the parties to recapture the spirit and the courage that had enabled them to forge the Good Friday Agreement and eventual power-sharing.

It seems there is little of that spirit remaining. Yet on Monday the parties will yet again be asked to thrash out some sort of working relationship which will save devolution.

The reality is that there is no other show in town. The British and Irish governments, through their insistence that the Assembly should not be suspended, effectively have told the parties that they must sort out their differences. No outside power is going to ride to the rescue with a magic formula.

While all the political manoeuvring was going on at Stormont the three men who had caused this latest tipping point - including senior republican Bobby Storey - were being released unconditionally from police custody where they had been taken as part of the investigations into the murder of Kevin McGuigan. The Chief Constable may believe that current IRA members were involved in this killing, but we have yet to see any corroborative evidence to back up his statement which helped ratchet up tensions between the unionist parties and Sinn Fein.

Rebuilding trust between the parties will not be easy but the only option is for ministers to get back to work as soon as possible. There was an overwhelming majority in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. By not sticking to that spirit parties are betraying those hopes.

Belfast Telegraph

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