Unless an agreement is reached it looks like we’re back to quasi direct rule on Wednesday. As a Conservative I think this is no bad thing. The Conservative government controlled NIO will essentially run the departments, keep cash flowing and, hopefully, our local MLAs will eventually cease to draw a salary – thereby saving quite a bit of taxpayer money (may be tokenism but it’ll go some way to reducing Northern Ireland’s vast fiscal deficit).
But this period of direct rule could also be useful in cutting devolution here down to size. Our sectarian party political system is not fit for purpose. James Brokenshire could make himself useful by restoring quite a few devolved powers back to Westminster – a sanction by the mother parliament for an unruly and undisciplined child. He could go further and essentially make Stormont a glorified county council. That’ll kick any future RHI schemes to touch.
Interestingly, the Shinners seem remarkably cool about the potential restoration of direct rule (although they’ll, no doubt, play the ‘British are tyrants’ card). Perhaps they don’t want to be seen to be doing the dirty work of imposing ‘Tory cuts’. Instead they can moan about how the Tories are wrecking everything, imposing Brexit and walking all over democracy (overlooking the fact that our weird version of democracy has unworkability wired into it).
The extent of the (very recent) set of SF ultimatums would seem to imply that this is the case. But, not to worry, few people are that hung up on an Irish Language Act or same-sex marriage legislation. But Brokenshire could, at least, do something about our dreadful (lack) of abortion legislation.
So, onward and upward. Over to James.