Interesting analysis from Paul Bew at CommentisFree. He also references Frank Millar’s article in the Irish Times and suggests the Northern Ireland Executive’s current difficulties could be eased by the proposed UUP/Conservative Party link-up.
There is more at stake here than simply electoral calculation. One of the reasons why the Stormont assembly has degenerated into a sectarian stand-off in which executive meetings are postponed month on month is the calculation by Sinn Féin that the Unionist parties need the assembly, so bad is their relationship with London. If that assessment is shown to be flawed, then there is a possibility that the institutions of the Good Friday agreement would work more smoothly and we could have an end to the current strategy of tension which once again threatens the stability of the province.
The Good Friday agreement is the clue to this new development because the Tories and the Ulster Unionists both support it strongly. It has made irrelevant previous sources of Tory-Ulster Unionist division such as Margaret Thatcher’s Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985 but it also stands to be the beneficiary if the Cameron-Empey deal works. The big question is this: the Ulster electorate is now given the choice it has long said it wanted to contribute to the wider issues of nuclear politics. But has it reached a condition of war-weary sectarianism and privatised depoliticisation which makes it unlikely to respond in significant numbers?