Talks on the past, no talks on the welfare deadlock, a border poll? No prizes for guessing what they amount to.

 Government by tweet is a curse as it fends off searching inquiry. Twitter is a blessing for the non-information strategies of government by politburo. I’ve never known a time when it’s been more difficult for political correspondents to do their jobs.  Is Liam Clarke of the Belfast Telegraph right when he fears a slow slide to a snap election? What would that change?  What about a border poll? Yet another ridiculous distraction. At best it’s a sign that  the public would like to get it out  of the way.  At worst it’s evidence of the poverty of political debate about the real issues that affect people’s lives. Will Sinn Fein be punished by the voters for refusing to accept Westminster austerity at a cost only to those same voters?  You bet they won’t. Today George Osborne ups the ante about continuing cuts without the slightest thought  about Northern Ireland politics.

What’s behind the unrest in the DUP? Guilt over their dismissal of Paisley? Personal ambition thwarted by the policy  of rotating offices,  a move necessary in a system which makes a party’s dismissal from office by the voters all but impossible?  I’m obliged to Newton Emerson in the Sunday Times (£) for making an attempt to explain.  As Theresa Villiers has apparently granted Peter’s request  for separate consideration of  North Belfast parading, he feels the DUP  can no longer resist all-party talks on parades flags and the past. Some in the DUP disagree.

Talks maybe, but to what end? We are no clearer. And while they get around to  talking about  the past what about the  deadlock of the budgetary crisis  over welfare? Do Sinn Fein have an exit strategy for their brinkmanship with Westminster? Do they feel they don’t need one as their voters are four square behind them?

Obama said notoriously a few weeks  ago that “we have not yet a strategy” towards Iraq and Syria. They have one now, sort of.  In our tiny theatre can anyone detect the bare bones of a strategy or are we fated to stay bogged down in petty scheming pretending to be politics? My feeling is that they are all in a monstrous sham fight which shows only contempt for the public interest.

While the public  show many signs  of wanting to come together, as voters they retreat to the default  because of their fears and lack of trust of the other side, as expressed  by the political parties. This is an indictment  of our politicians who can’t even plead major public pressure for refusing to work together better. It is a cycle which could be broken. The deadlock is largely  the product of their introverted and self serving approaches  which unfortunately are an unintended  consequence of the power sharing system which continues to defy reform.

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  • Jag

    Northern Irish politics is kinda like eczema, it’s irritating and forever present, sometimes it flares up and you need adopt emergency measures, but there’s nothing you can do about the underlying condition.

    Time, and clear blue water between the barbarity of the Civil War and our present day lives will help. Demographic trends, and the fact there are 40 extra Catholics in Northern Ireland today, and three less Protestants, that mightn’t help, but it will ultimately change the nature of the eczema.

    As for the latest flare-up, Nurse Villiers is applying the salve of talks, which is the Northern Irish equivalent of E45 cream though these ones have the added ingredient of the Dublin and London governments, with a soupcon of the Americans, if the Shinners have their way. Will it be enough, or will the patient demand something stronger (like an election). Who knows, but regardless, you can expect another flare-up a few months down the road.

  • Nevin

    Brian, you’ve overlooked a meeting of the UK minnows.

  • barnshee

    It`s quite simple –really it is

    Theresa(if she will forgive the familiarity)

    1 Calls all the protagonists together
    2 Sets a dead line -say 10 days
    3 Tell them that after 10 days in the absence of agreement “Stormont ” is prorogued
    4 All MLA and “adviser” salaries and expenses are terminated
    5 HMG assumes responsibility until a new assembly is created

    It`s quite simple –really it is

  • barnshee

    An alibi for attending the golf- nothing more.

  • Morpheus

    Most of that I agree with.

    But if I were SoS I would give the same threat to our current MLAs as Paisley was given as per his famous “Plan B” interview, then stop salaries/pensions and expenses. The knock on effect of all that will focus minds

  • danielsmoran

    Jim Hacker quoting Nixon….’when you’ve got them by the short & curlies, their hearts and minds will follow’ this is the dying throes of the 2007 deal which owes it’s existence entirely to Paisley’s desire to be First minister

  • Morpheus

    “‘When you’ve got them by the short & curlies, their hearts and minds will follow'”

    Committing to memory. That is class!

  • Dan

    I’m already looking forward to that Provo standing by the wall of mopey on the Falls Rd guldering ‘how dare they take our salaries, how dare they….’

  • Michael Henry

    HMG are to yellow to stand for Westminster elections in ( Northern ) Ireland- they can’t simply order Elected people about- that day is over-

  • Barry Walsh

    Would the Irish language be compulsory in all schools in a united Ireland?

    I grew up in Ireland, in Cork, and the Irish language made my school days hell.

    My kids are going to schools here in Australia, they are learning a second language and loving it, they started very young in pre-school.

    Unlike Irish, it is a language they will get the opportunity to use. It will also be beneficial for them in the business world.

    In a united Ireland, a second language should be compulsory for all students, but the choice of language should be up to parents to make

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, Michael H, “they can’t simply order Elected people about- that day is over-”

    I’d thought that was exactly what they WERE doing. Democracy may be rule of the people on paper but “representative democracy” is rule of those people who do not vote by standing order, for one day every five years or so. The rest of the time it is rule by Our Masters (elected people”) in whatever chamber they sit, but even here there is a hierarchy of power, the big boys at the core and the “Mickey Mouse” devolved chambers around the edges. And then the ‘elected” party members are told what to do by their leaders, and they in turn told the score by those faceless ones who provide the loans that keep the entire gig going. Please do not tell me that “they can’t simply order Elected people about” when they clearly can. Its what party whips do every day, and in the end, those holding the purse strings are in charge.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Minnows”! I wish I’d thought of that!

    (“You will, Seaan, you will……”)

  • Nevin

    or a meeting of the gnats!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I wonder what it might be like to have some real politics? But I imagine we will never know……