Politics

What’s the point in another Northern Ireland election if devolution is dead?

It’s Albert Einstein’s classic definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

A second Northern Ireland Assembly election might produce a slightly different picture but the end result will be the same.

Unless there’s a solution to the Brexit trading arrangement, there still won’t be a power-sharing government at Stormont.

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What’s the point in re-running the May poll, at an estimated cost of £6.5m, if devolution is already dead?

Well firstly, the UK Government hasn’t much choice. The legislative deadline for forming a new coalition has passed.

Secondly, the Northern Ireland secretary may be crossing his fingers and hoping for a breakthrough on the Protocol.

More on Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol created an east-west Irish Sea border to avoid a north-south border on the island of Ireland.

But Unionists view that UK/EU Brexit compromise as a threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

They want it scrapped but Rishi Sunak doesn’t want a trade war with the EU, hence the stalemate at Stormont.

Without compromise, power-sharing could be over for good before next year’s 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP blames the Protocol but others view the trading arrangement as the consequence of Brexit, which the DUP championed.

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‘Clock is ticking’ for N.Ireland

Brexit was always going to have a greater impact on Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.

It’s the only part of the UK to share a land border with an EU country – the Republic of Ireland.

But whether you blame Brexit or blame the Protocol, the future of Stormont now hangs in the balance.

Read more:
Sunak must deal with Northern Ireland Protocol to restore Stormont, DUP warns
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to address DUP party conference for first time as leader as huge decision looms
Hopes for ‘nil-all draw’ in NI protocol negotiations as mood improves to resolve row

Sinn Fein’s exit from power-sharing over the DUP’s handling of a botched green energy scheme mothballed devolved government from 2017-2020.

The DUP’s exit from it leaves a political vacuum at the height of a cost-of-living and energy crisis.

And that begs the obvious question – has the system of government devised by the Good Friday Agreement run its course?

Under mandatory coalition, the largest Unionist and Nationalist parties are obliged to share power of there is no devolved government.

Read more: Why is there still no assembly and what does Brexit have to do with it?

The middle-ground Alliance Party, which doubled its representation in May’s election, says it’s time for political reform here.

There is another option – Northern Ireland being governed from London with a greater role for Dublin – and that’s the DUP’s worst nightmare.

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