Belfast Telegraph

Quick fix no good for Stormont

By Brian Rowan

Try to picture Stormont on a kind of political Zimmer frame. In the here-and-now of crisis, the challenge is to keep it moving and mobile; trying to direct it into the examination room and then through a process of mending.

There is not much time to make things better. The fallout of the past week, when Assembly adjournment was resisted, prompted the signalled ministerial resignations.

And, now, Stormont is staggering, stumbling and looking more of a shambles. It needs help but, first of all, needs to think about how to help itself.

For now, the suggestion of suspension has been pushed away. But it is still an option. We might even get to an early election.

But an election to what, Peter Robinson asked. The answer to that question would be back into the mess of the moment.

Over the past couple of years, each negotiation has brought a different and growing agenda; flags, parades and the past, into the welfare and budget crisis and now the earthquake of paramilitary activity and structures.

The idea that things can be sorted in a few weeks of intense and focused negotiations seems fanciful. Challenge one remains getting everyone into the room. Challenge two is to keep them there. And challenge three is how to do that and keep the political institutions in place.

It is a job of work just to keep the see-saw balanced. Twenty-one years after the IRA ceasefire, and 10 years after it ordered an end to its armed campaign, a security issue is once more at the top of a talks agenda. There is also a new - and impossible - demand: that Gerry Adams must accept the Chief Constable's assessment and admit that an IRA structure exists.

This is not going to happen and finding a way off that particular hook is one of the many tasks still to be addressed.

If things get moving, it will mean a monitoring process of some description, a report after the Chief Constable's homework has either been copied, or marked.

So that report, if it is commissioned, will produce something close to what has already been said. Will that make things better or worse? There is no quick fix. It is going to take time. And politics doesn't have that luxury.

Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

Belfast Telegraph


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