How Stormont sustains division and structurally disables the middle ground…

Denis Bradley has an interesting piece in today’s Irish News suggesting that in order to arrive at timely decisions in Stormont, the two governments should draw tighter lines. The Irish Examiner’s leader takes another view and suggests the caucusing of MLAs as Unionist and Nationalist tribes is one of the least desirable outworking of the Belfast Agreement. It also, they argue, accounts for the last three years in which nothing of any significance emerged from the joint offices of OFMdFM run under the aegis of the DUP and Sinn Fein. It argues:

It is disappointing that, after such a very long time, those two parties have not devised a process to reach agreement in a reasonable timeframe, without the intervention of the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister or the occasional White House envoy.

These politics of the impasse, the deadlock default, are rooted in arrangements that now seem bizarre but when they were put in place they were a welcome change from the terror that cost so many lives.

This formula was reached to prevent a majority take-all system returning, as was the case from 1920 to 1972 when the unionist majority so abused their mandate. Under this system the votes of those who have not registered as either unionist or nationalist do not count when it comes to deciding if cross-community consent has been secured. This represents a barrier to moderation as there is a systemic disincentive to parties that want to bury the hatreds of the past.

It may be time to ask whether the structures established on Good Friday 1998, and enhanced by the St Andrew’s agreement of 2006, will ever work

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