Belfast Telegraph

Courage is needed to keep the whole show on the road

By Liam Clarke

It is hard to see the Executive surviving this - as hard as it was to imagine the Syriza Government in Greece doing a U-turn and accepting austerity.

A similar volte face could make things work here. One option would be for David Cameron to formally accept that Northern Ireland needs another £600m a year to maintain a more expensive system of welfare, and leave the bill largely with taxpayers in the south of England.

Not much chance of that, as the Chancellor made clear in reply to DUP MP Sammy Wilson. It could eventually lead to a reversal of the economic policy that led to Mr Cameron's Commons majority. Other UK areas would demand the same treatment.

Another option is for Sinn Fein or the SDLP to change course. That could happen, as there is some wriggle room in proposals put forward to the SDLP. Sinn Fein could also do a Syriza-style flip-flop and accept harsher measures than before. Both options would take courage, as cuts are expected on a rolling basis.

Finance Minister Arlene Foster has again spelt out the dire consequences of the new cuts announced by George Osborne. At times she and Sammy Wilson sounded almost as gloomy as nationalists about the effect on claimants.

Mr Wilson has warned that this could be the death-knell of power-sharing, while Mrs Foster called for the parties to settle things to avoid running up "hundreds of millions" more in debt.

There is no sign yet of that happening. Stormont carries on towards the cliff like a car out of control as people struggle for the wheel, and hurl insults at passers-by. There is always the hope that people will take responsibility at the last minute. They know the collapse of Stormont over a budgetary matter would mark the failure of a generation of politicians.

They were given a lavish, subsidised administration - all they have to do is keep it between the hedges.

There are no excuses for failure.

Belfast Telegraph


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