Political news

John Manley: There is little incentive to transform to power sharing

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill clashed over identity earlier this week. Picture by Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

We've known since for months that mid-October was the deadline for reaching a deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The timing is dictated by the requirement to put a regional budget in place that can be scrutinised by either the assembly or Westminster, depending on whether we have devolution or direct rule. If it doesn't happen in the coming days then the whole approach to devolution will need to be reconsidered, including the possibility of going to the polls once again.

But a minor spat about identity between Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill notwithstanding, the mood music in recent days has been slightly more positive, though this could merely be the result of the 'no running commentary' policy that's been in place during the latest round of talks.

The absence of various talking heads emerging from the negotiations to restate their party stance for the cameras may have fuelled a degree of optimism but equally it could simply have lulled us into a false sense of security. The tone may have softened yet the bottom lines remain as firm as ever.

And if they do manage to cobble a deal before the window closes, how sustainable can it be?

In the 11 months since the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal began undermining Stormont's already weak foundations, relations between the 'big two' have deteriorated greatly in the absence of a power-sharing executive to temper any mudslinging. If the restored institutions are to last, there needs to be a change of attitude on both sides with mutual respect seen as a priority.

To simply reinstate the executive in order to carry on where they left off would be a waste of time but with no indication that a hardening of attitude has turned off the electorate, there appears to be little incentive to transform politics.

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