Belfast Telegraph

Compromise vital to restoring devolution

Editor's Viewpoint

She may be only in the job a short time, but already Secretary of State Karen Bradley has shown a greater determination to resolve the political impasse at Stormont than was often evident from her predecessor. As talks begin today in the latest attempt to restore power-sharing devolution, she had made it clear that she wants the discussions to be intensive and relatively short lived.

Ms Bradley remains optimistic that a deal can be done, pointing out that the two main parties have made much progress which should not be wasted. Yet the comments of Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein's northern leader, indicate the main sticking points remain.

However, all the protagonists say they want to see devolution restored and we have to take them at their word. A lot of toxic words have been exchanged during the past year but perhaps the presence of the two governments and the other main Northern Ireland parties will produce an atmosphere more conducive to reaching a deal.

It is imperative that the Secretary of State does not allow the intensity of the discussions to wane, as history tells us that local politicians are adept at dragging negotiations out almost endlessly.

The perilous state of public services across virtually the whole range of government departments at Stormont means that time is of the essence if important budgetary and policy decisions are to be taken.

Quite rightly, Ms Bradley says that she does not want to be the person to take those decisions, nor can the responsibility of running Northern Ireland continue to be heaped on the shoulders of civil servants whose job is to advise not devise policy.

The Secretary of State says that she has no intention of providing a running commentary on the talks and that again is a wise move. Any deal that is finally agreed will have to involve compromise by both the DUP and Sinn Fein and neither will want to alarm supporters before they draw up a strategy for selling it to them.

Edwin Poots made it clear recently that any compromise would be difficult to sell to the supporters of both parties, but that is what has to happen if devolution is to be restored.

The nature of the discussions as outlined should ensure that the two governments will soon realise if a deal is possible. If the outlook is further impasse and timeless talks then direct rule will be the only realistic option and should be imposed to restore certainty to governance.

Belfast Telegraph

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