John Manley: The election is a tantalising prospect for some but it will further destabilise the north

A June 8 election means the gates of Stormont are likely to remain locked. Picture by Mal McCann

It's likely June 8's general election will give Theresa May the hefty pre-Brexit mandate she desires.

But in calling the snap election, she has inadvertently created all sorts problems on this side of the Irish Sea, not least for her cabinet colleague James Broksnshire.

The secretary of state had been hoping to broker a deal that would see Stormont's devolved institutions restored.

The potential for success was slim but now it's super slim, as the participants shift their focus to campaigning.

For Stormont's two biggest parties, the Westminster election provides a useful distraction.

The eagerness of both to strike a deal has been questioned in recent weeks.

Now they need not shoulder the blame for refusing to compromise and can point the finger of failure at Mrs May, who has clearly prioritised her own political survival above that of stabilising Northern Ireland.

The election also offers the DUP and Sinn Féin the opportunity to further damage their respective electoral rivals.

However, while the Ulster Unionists are effectively there for the taking, the DUP would appear reluctant to deliver the fatal blow this time around and will instead seek to co-operate with its shrinking rival to maximise unionist representation at Westminster.

For new UUP leader Robin Swann, it's Hobson's choice. Despite initially downplaying the prospects of a pact with the DUP, his options are limited and securing two MPs is arguably the only way Mr Swann's party can ensure it maintains a credible profile.

Sinn Féin will likely be more ruthless in its treatment of the SDLP.

Last month's assembly election gave republicans a taste for blood and eclipsing their nationalist rivals in Foyle and South Down shows that a change of MP in both constituencies is a distinct possibility.

Sinn Féin, like the SDLP and Alliance, will also be looking for voters to register their loud opposition to Brexit ahead of the forthcoming negotiations between the UK government and the EU.

So while the election may be a tantalising prospect for some, surely from the north's perspective it can only be regarded as bad move that will further divide and destabilise the region at a time when calm is needed.

And who's to say that we won't be back at the polls again before the year is out?

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