The assembly is back-is some minor surgery required?

Stormont sprung to life this week as MLAs returned from their summer holidays.

Like children who couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom our MLAs submitted motions that allowed themselves to get stuck in to each other.

While I was watching Stormont Today last night, I heard tales from the DUP of ‘Connolly House propaganda’ over the recent trouble during the marching season. While on the other side Sinn Fein condemned the DUP for not acknowledging that republicans suffered any hurt during the Troubles. Yes folks, it was just another day in our provincial legislature.

We often complain in Northern Ireland that our politicians seem incapable of coming together and solving big problems like parades.  Yet watching the assembly last night I wonder if a part of the answer to issues like this might not be staring us in the face.

The assembly is one of the very few legislatures that are not composed of a government sitting on one side of the house and the opposition sitting on the other. The reasons for this are well known and I do not propose going over them in this post. But I just wonder is there not something to be said for making DUP and Sinn Fein MLAs sit together in the assembly chamber.

In Westminster, the Liberal Democrats sit with the Conservatives and in the Dáil, Labour TDs sit with their Fine Gael counterparts. My question is why can’t we do it here?

I would truly find it hard to believe that the display of blame game politics that was on display yesterday would be as likely if the DUP and Sinn Fein had to sit beside each other.

I don’t believe that this would solve all of the problems between the two parties. I just think after more than six years in coalition, they should perhaps give up the ghost and realise that they are in government together.

Alex Kane has pointed out to me before that lack of general interaction between MLAs on both sides and this small change could go some way towards building up relationships between members of the governing parties.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs