Stormont farce

History sometimes does repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. That’s what forcing a crisis over the latest Stormont stand-off amounts to. The parties became spoiled by the over-reverent attention paid to them during the Blair-Ahern era. Now we’re down to the monkey antics before the organ grinders enter the ring. The circus is hotting up. Exasperating as the cat-calls are between the DUP and Sinn Fein, somebody has to hose them down. But British and Irish ministers should have asked publicly before now: Why do parades have to be sorted before devolving J&P rather than as part of the package? What’s so great about a Christmas deadline? And what would an emergency election solve? It was a mistake to keep nervous silence for so long as the gulf widened. These guys aren’t bloggers who can afford to disappear up their own fundaments with sophistical arguments. No issue of fundamental importance divides them beyond the basic willingness to engage. A breakdown would be a betrayal of public trust. The governments should remind them sharply that times have changed. A flea in their ears rather than kid gloves would be more appropriate from the premiers.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London