NI Facing Uncharted Territory Over Crisis

NI Facing Uncharted Territory Over Crisis

Humpty Dumpty would not be out of place at Stormont. It has long teetered on the brink of a tremendous fall.

Northern Ireland's devolved government was already in the throes of an economic crisis over its failure to agree welfare reform.

The last thing it needed was the allegation that members of the IRA had murdered their former comrade, Kevin McGuigan.

Unionists only agreed to share power with Sinn Fein on the basis of a republican commitment to "exclusively peaceful means".

First Minister Peter Robinson, who leads the Democratic Unionists, said his ministers would resign unless parties agreed to voluntarily adjourn.

Sinn Fein said there was no need for an adjournment. The smaller Ulster Unionist Party said there was no point.

The Irish Government tried – & failed – to persuade the nationalist Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) to back the motion.

With only the neutral Alliance Party on board, the Democratic Unionist Party did not have enough support for voluntary suspension.

Cue Downing Street. Would the Prime Minister step in & suspend the regional power-sharing administration or simply allow it collapse?

It appears not. So the First Minister announced his resignation . Well, sort of. Three of his five ministers have resigned.

Peter Robinson has "stepped aside" rather than stood down & appointed his Finance Minister, Arlene Foster, as Acting First Minister.

But the power-sharing government can't survive long with only one Unionist in office & there in a substitute capacity.

Some predict the return of direct rule from Westminster – others, including Sinn Fein, anticipated immediate elections to a new Assembly.

A political vacuum is not an option in a place where men in masks are still waiting in the wings.

One thing is clear. It won't be effortless to rebuild consensus with elections looming in Northern Ireland & the Republic.

All the king's horses & all the king's men might not be able to put devolved government back together again.

Source: “Sky News”