The Suspended Assembly

“Men, once enemies, are now jointly governing in Northern Ireland. And although there have been several hitches, by and large it’s working well.”

Betty Williams

January 9th 2017. Over two and a half years ago and still the days go up. Northern Ireland has had no assembly since then. It is the second longest suspension in the history of the assembly although it has a long way to go yet of beating record of four and a half years. Northern Ireland is a troubled country but when Betty Williams made her quote which I have used above, it was true, it seemed to be going well. There was functional governance in Northern Ireland.

It is the unfortunate legacy left behind by Martin McGuinness prior to his death that the Assembly was suspended. He resigned his position as Deputy First Minister over the RHI scandal but the issue has bloomed into being more than just the RHI scandal. It has exposed fundamental divisions between Sinn Fein and the DUP which while have always been there were kept to the background for the good of Northern Ireland. As of writing, despite many efforts made by different politicians from the UK and Ireland there is no hope in sight for restoring the Assembly. Leaving the running of Northern Ireland to their civil service and with all funding having to be approved by Westminster leaving the situation extremely close to Home Rule. A situation that however dire no party within the current impasse wishes to reach.

Given how the executive of Northern Ireland was established, a power sharing executive, an early election will not break the deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Fein. It would be likely the parties would be the largest two and therefore the parties placed within the executive but neither will agree to currently work together. With the next election set for at the latest May 5th 2022, it is hoped that a solution could be found.

However given the deep differences between the parties this seems increasingly unlikely. The situation of Brexit and the Northern Ireland border has not helped matters entirely as Nationalists feel it threatens the Good Friday Agreement and Unionists refusing to be separated from the United Kingdom in any shape or form.

It is difficult to see a way out of this and the more time is spent without a functional assembly the harder will be become to put it back together. However those living in Northern Ireland while without politicians to make decisions at least have the civil service to keep it all ticking over until this great political spat is resolved one way or another.

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