As we wait for some sign of progress, it appears that there is little hope that the Stormont Crisis is going to be resolved any time soon. The Northern Ireland Government consists of two independent institutions, the Assembly and the North/South Ministerial Council. While claiming to be representing the people of Northern Ireland, four Unionist ministers have resigned from the Assembly a total of 22 times in the past month, being reinstated every seven days so as to not lose their seat. The Unioinist leader – First Minister Peter Robinson has resigned, and it has been over four weeks since Northern Ireland has had a functioning government. The Democratic Unionists say there can't be business as usual due to the murder of a former IRA man in August.
While there are 12 departments in the devolved government of Northern Ireland, four of them are without permanent leadership. The health, regional development and social development ministers have each resigned five times; the enterprise, trade and investment minister seven times. With only three-quarters of the government functioning, there are serious concerns in the health, business and public sectors. While claiming to want the best for the people of Northern Ireland, Simon Hamilton, who's been appointed health minister five times in four weeks is quoted as saying: "We don't want to walk away from the institutions completely because we believe the devolved institutions here at Stormont are the best thing for the people of Northern Ireland.”
This ridiculous act of protest which has caused the Northern Ireland government to cease to function is reflective of a weak Unionist leadership who have been slowly losing ground and spotlight to the Sinn Fein and SDLP nationalist parties. It took a totally unrelated street crime allegedly committed by a former IRA member for the opportunistic loyalists to again try to grab hold of some semblance of strength by drumming up fictitious stories of the IRA being a relevant, current organized group operating in the North. This baseless accusation was immediately transferred through old association onto the Sinn Fein leadership, the strongest growing political party on the Island. Once again the accusations fly, arrests are made, lots of spin and those arrested are released without charge. But of course the Assembly ceases to operate.
The driver of this action is a commensurate Unionist fear of their uncertain position in the future government. With the rise of Nationalist leaders showing the power of numbers in their registered voters, the growth and mentorship of responsible young adults coming out of Nationalist neighborhoods, educated, politically savvy and ready to take the helm is in stark contrast to the vitriolic displays from the loyalist neighborhoods including the low achievement scores of their students in schools receiving the lion’s share of state supplied funds, flag protests, riots during the marching season, antisocial bantering and dangerous bonfires surrounding the annual twelfth of July celebrations… the list goes on.
Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has stated that the US have a ‘key role to play in helping to achieve a resolution to the ongoing difficulties facing the political process’.
"Throughout the peace process, successive US administrations have played key roles in helping bring our society forward.” "I'm delighted that Gary Hart is involved once again and I think all parties should support him being afforded a significant role in the current talks as a recognition of the important influence and support which the US can bring to the table."
Just to put some numbers to this:
Cost for flag protest December 2012 – March 2013: 20 Million Pounds
Loyalist Bands and Twelfth of July cost: Over 55 Million Pounds per year.
So while the days turn into weeks, and the cost of this stalemate is ever rising, we can only shake our heads and hope that this will be over soon. However with no end to the parades and bonfires, the whining and occasional crawling into the closet or under the bed to hide from the truth or the certainty that their loyalist regime is fading, the economic future of Northern Ireland will be hard pressed to look optimistic.
Freedom For All Ireland Chair