Belfast Telegraph

Stormont no nearer to solution

By Brian Rowan

The talk from inside Stormont is still of a "proper crisis"; that recent decisions around the Budget may "kick things down the road". But "there is no hint of a solution".

This is not just about welfare reform. That issue is but one piece in a wider cuts jigsaw.

On the Christmas deal, or Stormont House Agreement, including the package on the past, there is no sense of momentum towards legislation and implementation.

Summer marching is just around the corner and all of this is the backdrop to tomorrow's review meeting involving Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and the Executive party leaders.

Agreements have become disagreements - politics stuck in the mud. There is waiting now for detail on the implications of the next cuts and, in that waiting, nothing, or close to nothing, is happening around those other elements of last December's paper agreement.

"There remains a fundamental challenge for the Executive around welfare protections," Martin McGuinness said on Monday. "But, while we explore a way forward on this issue, the other important elements of the Stormont House Agreement, including the essential legacy mechanisms, should and must proceed."

A senior unionist source says momentum "has very nearly vanished" from the Monday afternoon meetings on implementation. That assessment is supported by another source, who commented that "precious little substance" is emerging from those talks.

That means the Historical Investigations Unit, the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval and the Implementation and Reconciliation Group are all on hold; all still waiting. Nothing suggests the planned Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition is any closer.

The Stormont House Agreement did not move parading issues and disputes any further other than a proposal in principle that powers should be devolved to the Assembly. Now, we are just weeks away from the biggest day on the parading calendar, with no suggestion of political progress or any steps forward on the disputed marching ground. We are into that time of year when usually things political have to wait to see what happens elsewhere.

  • Brian Rowan is a political journalist and commentator

Belfast Telegraph


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