ColumnistsRichard Sullivan

We lose power sharing at our peril

We lose power sharing at our peril

There are a few signs the summer break has afforded our politicians the necessary breathing space to to re-assess the Stormont stalemate.

I can’t point to any hard evidence that the parties are ready to knuckle down, just a sincere hope there is no appetite to hand power back to London.

The power sharing executive has been floundering like a rudderless ship for more than a year.

And while it has become a cliche in these parts, the political process – or lack of it – is staring down the barrel of a gun.

That gun comes in the shape of direct rule.

Westminster has resisted repeated calls to step in and take control, enforce welfare cuts and haul the troublesome north into line.

In truth David Cameron and Secretary of State Theresa Villers  give the impression of being less than interested in Northern Ireland, and given the Tories’ attitude toward the asylum seekers of Calais, the hardships inflicted by austerity and the clawing back of £2million from our block grant each year will hardly cause a loss of sleep.

Reverting  to direct rule is such a damaging step.  

Not only will we feel the full rigours of the Tory cost-cutting machine, but they will also inflict water charges and hike tuition fees, to name but two.

Stormont is hamstrung by the iniquitous use of petitions of concern which allow 30 MLAs to sign a petition effectively blocking legislation. Because of their numbers  it affords Sinn Fein and the DUP a veto.

The result is stalemate.

Whether Sinn Fein will go along with reform of the system is debatable as it will certainly result in welfare cuts being introduced.

Something has to give. 

The desire to maintain the power sharing executive must be a positive point, getting it to work is something else entirely.

Reform of petitions of concern is a good place to start.