Listening to Julian Smith and Simon Coveney, there is now a star over Stormont, and all wise men and women in our Twisted Unhappy Corner (TUC) would do well to hurry there this morning to greet the birth of a new, improved Assembly.
How improved? Well, the document listing the areas of improvement has a sparkly title: ‘New Decade, New Approach’. Which is half-right, since most people accept that once you hit 2020 you’re in a new decade; whether it’s all right to talk about a New Approach, that would depend on people owning up to tricky dealings with the RHI scandal and avoiding calling people reptiles because they want an Irish language act. There’ll be more money for health and education, and money is always welcome, even if it’s only to repair willful damage in both areas. And the DUP will have to give up on using the petition of concern to block anything that might upset the folks living in the Deliverance area.
Will the two big parties agree to form a power-sharing Executive? Of course they will. The DUP are desperate to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves in Westminster, and the hole within a hole they dug in the final days of Stormont three years ago. Sinn Féin need to show they’re a capable and responsible party to their southern electorate, so that the forthcoming general election in the south will go some way to clawing back the unhappy losses the party suffered in Europe and at local elections last time out.
So can we look forward to a thriving, reconciled TUC in the days, months and years to come? Mmmm. Thriving might be a bit optimistic. And reconciled. The DUP can feel the demographic ground shifting under their feet, and that tends to make even the most level-headed of people (which the DUP are not) jumpy and inclined to rush to circle the wagons and call names at the opposition. Sinn Féin in the months and years immediately ahead will be seeking out the Big Fish of Irish reunification. So one of the main parties will be looking increasingly inward while the other looks increasingly outward. A marriage made in heaven? Maybe not. But better than the purgatory we’ve been stuck in for the past three years.
No, don’t bother bringing gifts, guys. Julian and Simon should have those wrapped and ready.