Leading article

Stormont's broken system on display

When all the acrimony and procedural disputes which played out during the brief recall of the Assembly yesterday fade away, the sad reality is that we are still left with a broken political system.

Our devolved structures may already have been suspended for over 1,000 days but a sitting which lasted for less than an hour simply confirmed that the main Stormont parties are as far apart as ever.

It cannot be a good day for democracy when wide-ranging new laws on abortion and same –sex marriage are introduced without any input from locally elected representatives.

However, it is clear that only a focused and determined effort involving the British and Irish governments is likely to create the conditions in which a restored executive may emerge at any stage in the foreseeable future.

While discussions between Sinn Féin and the DUP have at least been maintained in a fairly low-key way, the evidence is that very limited progress has been made over recent months.

It was extremely regrettable that negotiations collapsed at such a late stage when a deal which had all the potential necessary to produce a breakthrough was on the table in February of last year.

The firm indications at the time were that putting all the elements back together again would be a hugely complex exercise and that has turned out to be the case.

Although DUP figures convinced themselves that they could instead further their aims through what turned out to be a short-lived relationship with Boris Johnson, they found out the hard way that he was not to be trusted.

The DUP must now wait for the publication of the forthcoming report of the public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal with a growing sense of apprehension about the reputational damage which will almost inevitably follow.

All sides at Stormont share some degree of responsibility for the sequence of events leading to the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister in January of 2017, and the priority needs to be addressing the issues which resulted in such a serious breakdown of understandings.

Unfortunately, the sharply contentious exchanges at Parliament Buildings yesterday would suggest that a particularly long and difficult road lies ahead.

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