27 Oct

A Wry Eye – It’s spooky up in Stormont…

Hallowe’en is nearly upon us. Suitably, here in NI, we find ourselves beset by a plague of zombies.

Shambling through the corridors of Stormont, groaning incoherently on the Nolan Show, they might look like the living dead, but they’re actually our MLAs. With no Assembly sitting, they’re robbed of constitutional purpose but still – as if animated by some cruel magic – stumble inexorably onwards.

Of course, in the olden days Hallowe’en marked the end of the harvest – and this year it could bring a political harvest. All Saints Day follows 31st October and it also marks another important calendar event – a deadline!

Come November 1, the parties need to have a deal or the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, will impose a budget on Northern Ireland. This wouldn’t be direct rule – but it would be a significant step towards it.

We, the voters, surely don’t want to be ruled from Westminster. The political parties claim not to want it. Yet somehow here we all are… You reap what you sow?

In any case, our zombie plague would be bad enough were we not simultaneously dealing with a haunting. That’s right, Northern Ireland is haunted by the spectre of Brexit.

Huge and looming over us, Brexit has brought great uncertainty to us all – though we’re yet to see any ectoplasm…

We in Northern Ireland face hugely complex issues – even by the standards of Brexit – due to our unique history, and due to the border.

Finding a way to address these issues will be difficult. It’ll require political will, patience, talented negotiators, and a clear plan.

“A plan should be no problem!” you might say. “We’ll simply ask the elected Executive of Northern Ireland what they want and – oh, wait…”

The fact is that the first stage of negotiations is due to come to an end in December. Yet, throughout the entire first stage we’ve had no NI Assembly to speak up for Northern Ireland – and this situation doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

With no Executive to make our case we are essentially dependent on the goodwill of those outside Northern Ireland towards us. Fortunately for us that seems to be forthcoming so far.

However, it would still be nice to have a voice in the negotiations – without it, we may as well just rattle some chains and wail.

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