WITH a certain sense of inevitability, we are facing yet another set of crisis talks to save Stormont. We haven’t yet reached the stage of having talks about talks, but give it a day or two.
The negotiations have been played out in the media in traditional fashion, with a few interesting sound bites. There has been tentative talk about closer unionist unity, and speculation about a united Ireland from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
So, with the election done and dusted, what’s the problem this time?
A few ‘redlines’ have been mooted, with Sinn Féin determined that Arlene Foster shouldn’t take the First Minister’s spot before the conclusion of the RHI investigation.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire keeps begging the parties to play nice, threatening to send them to the political equivalent of the naughty corner – also known as another Assembly election.
At least they can keep their posters up for a while to see whether they will need them again.
The Irish Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan, is also begging the parties to form an Executive, sounding increasingly like Mrs Doyle from Father Ted: “go on, go on, go on; ya will, ya will, ya will!”
However, as the posturing continues from all sides with carefully prepped statements in front of Stormont Castle, there is a growing sense among ordinary folk that our politicians are missing the point.
Health. We all wish for it, but it is a fragile thing, as we teeter on the edge of a variety of ailments that can spring up and hit us at any time. And, our health service is, according to most informed sources, close to implosion. Cancer waiting times, A&E treatment targets, planned operations – all missing the mark.
And, that’s not to mention the stubbornly high rate of economic inactivity and Brexit. None of these issues will be solved without a functioning Executive.
At least Philip Hammond threw us a few quid in his latest Budget (120 million of them, to be precise). ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ would be wise not to ask for any thanks from the good people of Norn Iron, though. We have about 130,000 self-employed people in these parts, none of whom will be too chuffed to learn that the Chancellor increased their National Insurance bill.
The Budget was a perfect example of how politics impacts on people’s lives. All we need is a Northern Ireland Executive in place and maybe Stormont can start changing things for the better!