Friday, 10 October 2008

Three weeks left for the Assembly

We could be heading for a November election. Apparently, behind the scenes Sinn Féin have told the DUP that the current impasse must be resolved in the next three weeks or they will bring the whole Assembly crashing down. This apparent ‘deadline’ is just another part of the wheeling and dealing, posturing and posing we have all become to familiar with. There is an increasing sense, however, that we might be heading for a(nother) ‘crisis’.

Sinn Féin may well be reflecting today that in light of the UK’s financial woes that Northern Ireland is not going to move any higher up Gordon Brown’s agenda for the next few months or even years. A collapse at this time might just prove terminal. At the very least, ‘the process’ might be put in to the ‘deep freeze’ until after the General Election.

Assembly members should also being getting concerned about their standing with the general public. Generally, the public seem to be irritated by the failure of the Executive to meet and believe the Assembly is not doing any work. The danger must be that increasing numbers of the public will decide that devolution is simply not workable. The combination of self inflicted political stagnation coupled with an economic situation that emphasises the local politicians relative impotence could be a dangerous mix.


DUP Education spokesman, Mervyn Storey flagged up a compromise on post primary education but there appeared to be no response from Sinn Féin. Meanwhile rumours continue to circulate that the DUP and SF have at least reached a compromise solution over the new draft of PPS 14, the controversial rural planning policy.

Peace People continue peace building

Away from the Stormont hothouse, the Peace People continue to do the real work of peace building by bringing bitter opponents together. This week they brought some Palestinians and Israelis together – including some influential individuals and some who were formerly ‘combatants’. Some hard talking against the backdrop of ceaseless rain in Northern Ireland will surely enable those involved to accentuate the positive when they return home to sunnier climes.

UUP conference cancelled

The Ulster Unionists conference was due to that place at the end of the week. The media had a field day when they discovered that the conference had been quietly postponed. The Ulster Unionist leadership blustered but the party was left looking foolish. The Party is now organising three consultation events around the proposed alignment with the Conservatives. Apparently, the aim is to make a decision in November and to have their conference on 6 December.