Not so long ago, Northern Ireland politics were conducted in a seething cauldron. Today they’re in zombieland. Nobody seems to know what sort of situation is facing Northern Ireland in the forthcoming days, weeks and months.
Your starter for 10. Is it bailout, surrender or just staggering on? At home, nobody can be bothered even to do an informed analysis of the costs of continuing denial. Malachi, like myself no economist, is no better informed but is properly uneasy . In the UK press only the unfortunate coincidence of Peter’s heart attack ( Times £) has given it any prominence at all. Just watch how the local coverage leaps ahead to easy speculation about the DUP leadership.
Not all the zombies are politicians. There is a tacit conspiracy among experts and professional bodies not to rock the boat too hard for fear of toppling it over. Perhaps too there are fears of being quietly dropped from scarce public funding or Executive contracts. Stakeholders chose to fight on narrow fronts in the hope of making limited gains. The campaign to devolve corporation tax was a kind of victory for business. Now it may go up in smoke, together will those hopes for “rebalancing the economy. “ Yet not a dickey bird from any of them so far.
What are the budget figures that matter – £2.8 billion or £500 million? Accepting a £30 million gap in welfare rather than Treasury fines of £114 million a year for failing to balance the budget? Added to which, no Treasury- supported loans to fund generous public sector redundancies.
If Sinn Fein thought they could do an SNP, the results of the election should have disabused them. Newton Emerson has offered a few penetrating reasons why not from West Belfast. Martin McGuinness parrots SNP arguments that might count in a landslide but his brain hasn’t caught up with events. You see Martin, there is isn’t a hung parliament and you have no leverage except the threat of self abuse. Oh and the small fact that you are doing harm to your own supporters. The lack of “Tory votes” is a hypocritical argument, in calling for even more British solidarity, when spending per head is the highest by far in the UK.
But nobody clocks. Ah sure the Brits will pay up in the end. Doesn’t look like it this time. Zombieland in the North is Sinn Fein’s price for holding their position in the South. But there too the odds on success are lengthening. But not all the blame goes to Sinn Fein. At least they put forward a point of view.
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