Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Patience is running out over Northern Ireland political stalemate

'Many people wonder how the two major parties can continue to work at council level and take important decisions there, yet refuse to re-enter Stormont' (stock picture)
'Many people wonder how the two major parties can continue to work at council level and take important decisions there, yet refuse to re-enter Stormont' (stock picture)

On this day in 2017, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned, bringing devolution at Stormont crashing down.

And now, having gained the unenviable record of being the country without a government for the longest period of time, the prospects of any imminent return to local accountability seem distant.

Few people would have believed that the impasse could have lasted this long. While devolution, of necessity, requires compromise between mutually exclusive unionism and nationalism, for 10 years we had managed to get the DUP and Sinn Fein to work together. But, as seems to happen so often in Northern Ireland's political history, fates conspired to make repairing the rift almost impossible.

The RHI scandal soured relationships and gave Sinn Fein an excuse for bringing down the power-sharing administration. An attempt to get some sort of deal last year crash-landed, ironically, on Valentine's Day, summing up the lack of love between the parties.

Issues like Sinn Fein's insistence on an Irish Language Act and the DUP's resistance to same-sex marriage are other sticking points which make finding a way back to Stormont very difficult. And the toxic debate over Brexit along with the DUP's pivotal position in propping up the Westminster government have been further impediments to local negotiations.

Yet it is the day-to-day issues which affect everyone's life that have suffered most during the past two years. In November we revealed how 164 vital pieces of legislation are awaiting ministerial decision at Stormont.

While there has been no huge outcry from the public about the lack of devolved government, with only a handful of protest rallies calling on the parties to get into negotiations, there are some stirrings that the electorate is growing impatient with the lack of any movement towards restoring devolution.

MLAs may continue to do some work but few people believe that they are providing value for money, and the politicians would be foolish to believe they can continue to engage in a meaningless blame game without causing long term damage to the concept of politics in Northern Ireland.

Many people wonder how the two major parties can continue to work at council level and take important decisions there, yet refuse to re-enter Stormont. They would like to hear a convincing answer.

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