Talks, eh? Is there a people anywhere in the world that’s done more talking than people here? I’m not talking (that word again) about yarns in the pub or in the back room or on the street: I’m talking about political talks. Who won’t talk to whom, who insists on talks about talks, before they’re prepared to, um, talk, people who talk and then walk away, people who talk and talk because it’s better than war, war.
At present, I’m told, the Stormont talks are in a very deep rut. The DUP are finding it hard to adjust, following the election. Their approved version of the recent past is that Martin McGuinness “pulled down the institutions” (shades of Samson in the Temple) in order to force an unwanted election, because Sinn Féin figured, and figured correctly, that they’d make electoral hay. Now that the election is over, let’s get the Executive up and running, back to business again. The people expect no less.
If what I’m told is true, then the DUP are still trying to process the grief they have suddenly been plunged into. Not over the death of Martin McGuinness, but over the death (or imminent death) of unionist hegemony at Stormont.
Will the institutions be re-established? An Acht na Gaeilge might seem a major stumbling block, since Arlene has said there’ll be no such thing “under her watch” (wouldn’t you think spin doctors would learn to get a bit more variety in their imagery?). But since we know that Arlene and Co have suggested that there could be an Act that’d cover Irish, Ulster-Scots and the Military (no, don’t ask me how that works), the DUP are clearly open to the idea of Acht na Gaeilge: they’re not opposed to the notion, it’s just the form it should take.
Legacy problems (I am weary of the word “issue”, even though it suggests the suppurating sore that the past is) are essentially the problem of the British government: are they prepared to produce the documentation that would tell the true story of the deaths of so many people? Or are they going to go on hiding their private bits behind the threadbare cod-piece known as National Security?
Sinn Féin say all they are looking for is the implementation of previous agreements. The DUP say that the Shinners are marching in with new demands besides. So here’s a way to solve it, lads and lassies: let the DUP and the two governments establish a timetable for the implementation of commitments made in all earlier agreements. With that out of the way, then look at any new demands/suggestions that either nationalists/republicans or unionists have.
Alternatively, let the youthful and ill-equipped Mr Brokenshire call another election: I’d feel reasonably confident that Sinn Féin would emerge from such an election as the north’s biggest party.
As for direct rule: both governments have agreed, some years ago, that if the parties here were unable to establish an Executive, then it would be the responsibility of both governments to run our little North-East Nest. Which in most people’s language comes out as two truly terrifying words for unionist politicians: Joint Rule.