Ahead of the likely suspension of open party political
hostilities briefings to the media for the summer, the News Letter’s Sam McBride has an interesting piece in search of a Sinn Féin strategy. [There’s a strategy?! – Ed] Just tactics…
From the News Letter
Long forgotten are the days when Martin McGuinness warmly recalled how he and Ian Paisley had agreed that they could run their own affairs and didn’t need English ministers in Belfast.
Sinn Fein is now warning the government against implementing direct rule, despite the fact that there has been no budget and no democratic oversight of the civil service in Northern Ireland for three months.
But creeping direct rule began two months ago when Westminster legislated for a devolved matter by passing the The Northern Ireland (Ministerial Appointments and Regional Rates) Act 2017.
Sinn Fein made no criticism of that at the time – and it would have been difficult to have done so, given that the legislation was necessary to allow for rates bills which bring in the money to pay for public services – and yet it was a hugely symbolic act which demonstrated Stormont’s inferior position to Westminster.
Now there is the prospect of a far more substantial piece of legislation – the Stormont budget – being passed at Westminster if Stormont does not return rapidly.
If that happens, it will undermine Sinn Fein’s argument about the significance of Stormont as an institution.
And yet, having declined to take up their places in the Stormont Executive, how could Sinn Fein denounce a British minister for fulfilling a duty for which their MLAs are being paid but are refusing to undertake?
The danger, for both the DUP and Sinn Fein, is that with a weak minority government in Westminster the passage of a Stormont budget through the chamber may no longer be a formality.
MPs could seek to recoup some of the £1 billion secured by the DUP or seek to change Stormont policy by inserting lines into the budget.
A fortnight ago Gerry Adams said that he wants Stormont back because “strategically that is the way to a united Ireland”.
If that is genuinely his thinking, for all Sinn Fein’s tough talk the party’s choice would appear to be either going back to Stormont without getting all of their demands or sacrificing the strategic route to a united Ireland.
Read the whole thing.