Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Parties are more in the mood for a new deal

'Secretary of State Julian Smith has warned that if there's no agreement by January 13, he will trigger an Assembly election'
'Secretary of State Julian Smith has warned that if there's no agreement by January 13, he will trigger an Assembly election'
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The two governments launched a fresh round of negotiations to restore power-sharing following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in April.

Despite there being a dead body on the streets, that dialogue was never going to succeed. There was nothing in it for either the DUP or Sinn Fein. Arlene Foster's party was ruling Westminster - or so it seemed anyway - as kingmaker. It was in no hurry to make the necessary compromises to return to Stormont.

Sinn Fein also calculated - probably correctly - that it had more to lose than gain by returning without a full-blown Irish Language Act. Fast forward seven months and both parties are much more in the mood for a deal.

While Lyra McKee's death couldn't succeed in engendering a spirit of compromise, a loss of votes is another matter entirely - Sinn Fein is down almost 7% and the DUP 5%. That will concentrate minds like nothing else will.

So what about that Irish Language Act? The big two will find a way round it soon enough that gives them both cover to sell the deal to their respective communities. The DUP and Sinn Fein are first and foremost parties of pragmatism, not principle.

Secretary of State Julian Smith has warned that if there's no agreement by January 13, he will trigger an Assembly election.

If last week's Westminster results were repeated, both Sinn Fein and the DUP would lose seats. Alliance has the most to gain from a Stormont poll, and leader Naomi Long wasn't shy yesterday about calling for an election if the paralysis doesn't end by next month.

Sign In

Boris Johnson is retaining Julian Smyth in Northern Ireland and that increases the chances of a deal. He's the best, wisest and genuinely most committed Secretary of State Northern Ireland has seen in a long time. The current NHS crisis also provides the DUP and Sinn Fein with political cover to make and sell a compromise to their grassroots. Any flak is likely to be limited for Sinn Fein which manages its base far better than the DUP does its own.

Those loyalists who put up banners to help increase the DUP vote in North Belfast, North Down and South Belfast, and turned out in force at the Ulster Hall, will surely be infuriated. But I reckon the DUP will slowly move onto the unionist middle-ground in coming weeks for reasons of self-preservation.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph