Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: This embarrassing mess drags on ... and there's no end in sight

By Suzanne Breen

Once again, what passes for politics in this part of the world is a major embarrassment.

The first mention of a fresh round of talks to restore power-sharing and our politicians are squabbling like bored children on a rainy summer afternoon.

Except there is no date for them going back to school.

The juvenile tit-for-tat between the DUP and Sinn Fein yesterday - future partners in government - is enough for any sane person to question whether the Stormont institutions are worth restoring at all.

It all started when the Taoiseach announced in Dublin on Tuesday that the two governments intended launching a new talks initiative in the autumn.

That was a red rag to the unionist bull.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she hadn't heard anything about it from her government, and accused Leo Varadkar of meddling.

She also stressed that as far as the DUP was concerned, there would be no standalone Irish Language Act.

A statement swiftly followed from Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill describing Mrs Foster's stance on Acht na Gaeilge as "disappointing".

That was positively polite compared to Mary Lou McDonald, who slammed the DUP's "destructive and reckless agenda".

The Sinn Fein president said the DUP didn't seem to want Stormont back up and running.

Instead it preferred to "hide in Westminster and assist the Tory Brexiteers with an agenda to wreck the Irish economy and to undermine the Irish peace process".

Meanwhile, Mrs Foster maintained that it was Sinn Fein shirking its responsibilities by choosing to "walk away and boycott the Assembly, Executive and House of Commons".

Yet despite the tough talk, all roads lead back to Stormont for both parties. But it won't be anytime soon.

The DUP's current focus isn't on preparing its grassroots for the inevitable compromise with Sinn Fein, but on making Theresa May introduce some form of direct rule so decisions can be made in Northern Ireland.

The desire not to alienate Sinn Fein and Dublin has caused Downing Street to resist the DUP's urgings so far, but expect the party to ratchet up the pressure considerably in coming weeks.

The DUP-Sinn Fein blame game raging at full throttle with a new round of talks at least two months away is a depressing indication of how strained and laborious the future negotiations will be.

The public have every right to be utterly exasperated.

Regardless of which party they hold culpable for the Stormont stalemate, ordinary people across the political divide are united in thinking it is indefensible for MLAs to continue on full salary while this sorry mess drags on with no end in sight.

Belfast Telegraph

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