In his Irish News column on Saturday, Patrick Murphy identified three “explanations for the failure of Stormont”. That’s all he had time for… From the Irish News article
The first is the catch-22 analysis, based on the novel by Joseph Heller. In it, US pilots in the Second World War were deemed crazy to fly any further missions. But if they refused to fly, they were regarded as sane – and therefore fit to fly. The two main parties at Stormont might be viewed in a similar light.
They would be electorally crazy to abandon their long-held (largely flag-waving) principles. So they retain their core values, which renders them electorally sane and therefore fit for power.
But the only form of power available is power-sharing, which if operated fully, would render them electorally crazy by requiring them to abandon their flag-obsessed values.
By institutionalising sectarianism, Stormont has created an inherent contradiction for the DUP and Sinn Féin. They are required to have one message for supporters but the opposite message for their main coalition partner.
Supporters have now copped on, so both parties have taken a step back from their loving relationship.
Of course, they could have used the initial favourable coverage – “No praise was too great. No superlatives were too super.” – and spent some of their undoubted political capital in leading a way out of that particular dilemma. As Patrick Murphy points out
…the role of government is not to look politically pretty. It is to govern – and Stormont has significantly failed to do so.
As for the other parties… Merely offering to replace, as tribal tribune, either of the two current encumbents within OFMDFM – as articulated recently by the SDLP’s Alex Attwood – would be to miss the point. They need to offer an alternative strategy that avoids catch-22.
Unless, as Patrick Murphy suggests
Perhaps not enough MLAs have the necessary skills and knowledge to make Stormont work.