So right about now, those who presumed there was always going to be a safety net if the current arrangements failed might just cast a look around at some of the parties who helped birth the Belfast Agreement.
1, the UK administration. James Brokenshire is close to the PM. But the PM herself is currently focused on managing expectations around Brexit (and the febrile economic effects of even the mildest of speculation). Until this week, Slugger understands not one question was raised at the daily morning lobby questions about Northern Ireland in all of the last month. (I imagine that’s changed this morning.) As Jeffrey Donaldson told Morning Ireland this morning, with the Brexit deal coming up DUP MLAs have a larger than normal influence with the Government there.
2, the Irish government. Now’s not a great time for the Irish government. It’s similarly pre-occupied with the matter of where to position itself between the UK’s position (which is politically and economically important) and the centrality of the EU to all its dealings. But it also has this queer situation in which not only is it a minority administration, but Fine Gael are a majority shareholder with independents to manage inside and a supply and confidence arrangement to support. Frustration are running high with its ability to get anything coherent done.
3, the US administration. Despite the centrality of the Clinton administration in supplying senior patronage for the setting up of the Belfast Agreement, when it came to it George W Bush was willing to continue lending time and resources to the peace process during the years of collapse in the early naughties. It’s unclear what capital the Trump administration will bring to any future negotiations. Noises off at the moment suggest that his people are keener on helping the UK extricate itself from the EU than any strong interest in Irish affairs per se.
In short, crashing the powersharing institutions right now is not only unhelpful with regard to the unfinished business of RHI, the lack of progress in budget setting (which, BTW, would have started causing ructions by next week), and now the apparent need to reform the basic tenets of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty