Poor reviews for Christmas talks panto
Poor reviews for Christmas talks panto


Public support for Stormont politics has reached a new low following the collapse of talks to restore the North’s local power-sharing institutions.

Despite some indications that DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was ready to commit to ending his party’s long boycott of the Six County Assembly, a poster campaign warning of a “DUP sellout” appeared enough to derail the push for a pre-Christmas deal.

The failure came despite an increased £3.3bn financial package offer by British Direct Ruler Chris Heaton Harris to ‘level up’ the North’s ailing public services and provide long-delayed pay increases for public sector workers.

Donaldson had appeared to finally accept that a ‘moment of decision’ had arrived for his party’s multi-year campaign to renegotiate the implementation of Brexit. However, that momentum appeared to fade following the appearance of the posters outside his party offices.

There then followed a bizarre series of claim and counter-claim over whether the negotiations were truly over, with Donaldson insisting that they were, even after Heaton-Harris insisted they had concluded.

Even the most pro-establishment journalists voiced their exasperation at the dysfunction. The pantomime exchanges came across as almost self-parody to the despair of both nationalists and unionists.

There have been calls for a genuine deadline for holding a long-delayed Stormont election, and/or the termination of Assembly salaries and the removal of state funding for rejectionist politicians.

There have also been pleas across the political spectrum for a more durable governance solution in the form of joint authority, a form of power-sharing between Dublin and London.

Donaldson still appears determined to achieve a party unanimity which commentators believe is not possible. The sectarian Orange Order and the violent loyalist paramilitary organisation have also opposed the trade regulations arising from the Brexit deal they originally supported.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said it is now clear that negotiations on Brexit are over.

“So it’s over to the DUP and Jeffrey Donaldson, who, by the way, himself acknowledged some days ago, a week ago, that the tipping point had arrived, that it was now a moment for a decision, that we have this window – and we are simply asking the DUP to step through that window now, make that right decision,” she said.

She added: “Because public sector workers will strike again on Friday.

“They’re looking for fair pay, pay parity.

“They’re entitled to it. The money is on the table.

“It’s unconscionable that we go into Christmas and beyond and leave those workers and others in the lurch.”

Party colleague Conor Murphy told the BBC that the new financial package on offer to a returning Stormont executive needed improvement.

“That, as we have always argued, is better done from within an Executive where you have a First and a Deputy First Minister and ministers all on the same script talking directly to Whitehall rather than going through a conduit of the Secretary of State.

“We have never said that holding out for this is something which should keep an Executive down.”

He urged the British government to call time on its “endless” negotiations with the DUP and said tens of thousands of workers have been left high and dry, facing uncertainty over pay rises as a result of a failure of leadership.

“Teachers, health workers, transport workers and civil servants will all be forced to take to the streets in the depths of winter over the coming weeks to campaign for fair pay,” he said.

“This could have been avoided, and workers given the fair pay rises they deserve and are entitled to this. Instead, the DUP have left workers high and dry on Christmas week. This is heartless.

“We should be meeting tomorrow to restore the Assembly, form an Executive and get local ministers back at their desk taking decisions on people’s future and to fix public services.

“The DUP is attempting to wash its hands of responsibility for these crises at a time when people from all sections of society are crying out for political leadership. They should end their blockade now and get back to work.”

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