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Devolution experiment is one massive failure and if the Assembly falls it must not be revived

letter of the day: rhi scandal fallout

The ongoing Renewable Heating Initiative (RHI) dispute at Stormont would be amusing were it not for the huge sums of taxpayers' money at risk and the consequences for essential services.

Since the scheme was put in place when there was a five-party coalition in the Executive, it follows that all five parties and their leaders at the time must take their full share of the blame alongside the minister responsible, now-First Minister Arlene Foster.

But what the ongoing scandal has taught us is that we can no longer ignore the elephant in the Assembly chamber and we must recognise the devolution experiment has abjectly failed.

The stifling effects of mandatory coalition, petitions of concern and other anti-democratic measures make any real decisions by Executive ministers impossible.

As your columnist, Alex Kane, recently pointed out (Comment, January 3), one single MLA, the Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, is in a position to bring down the whole Assembly, should she decide to resign for any reason.

That a member of the Assembly can wield such power due to the "we've got two communities and never the twain shall meet" attitude of the 'Big Five' Assembly parties shows the basic instability and unworkability of the system.

While I suspect that MLAs will cobble together a solution to keep the system limping on wearily until 2021, should this not happen and the Assembly falls then it must not be revived. (I do not advocate a return to direct rule, though that will be inevitable as an interim arrangement for a few months.)

There is only one way forward now for both Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom: the full integration of the governments of England and Northern Ireland and the start of a process to persuade the Scots and the Welsh that now is the time to recognise the failure of devolution.


Lisburn, Co Antrim

Belfast Telegraph


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