Here’s how it is. Following the latest fudge deal, the Procrastination Committee at Stormont is back in business after a four-month break. In fact, our leaders reckon the Executive is going to have weekly meetings to get its backlog red up. This will of course come as a great relief to the pundits who have been calling for the Executive to be restored so it can deal with the economic crisis, although what Stormont can do in this global situation is unclear. Perhaps they can look into the threatened job cuts at UTV, as the proletariat risks being deprived of Logie, Frank and Tina Arena.
Honestly, it’s not like we really missed them that much. Apart from Conor Murphy and Michael McGimpsey merrily running around spending money they don’t have, most ministers have been more or less invisible.
So, what’s the deal? Well, the important point is the devolution of policing and justice. The DUP have agreed that this will happen at some point in the unspecified future. And the minister will possibly be Alliance, or maybe SDLP if Alliance can’t be wooed. Plus, the joint presidency are minded to appoint an Attorney General. Wahey!
There’s also been some movement on the Irish language. The DUP haven’t dropped their opposition to Gerry’s beloved Acht Gaeilge – nor has Gerry told us yet what the Act would actually do – but there’s a vague promise of more “minority language” provision. I guess this means another handout to the Ulster-Scots lobby, although even now the Boord o’ Ulster-Scotch can’t spend the money it already has.
There is also the promise that the Brothers Grim, accompanied by Nigel Dodds (just to lighten the mood) will lobby Gordon Brown for an economic stimulus package. Robbo also reckons he’s going to settle the civil service equal pay claim, assuming the Brits agree to pony up the cash.
But has this changed the underlying situation? Basically, there were two reasons for the political stalemate:
a) Robbo is scared of Jim Allister. Admittedly, the Prodiban are organisationally weak, and have attracted more than their fair share of wingnuts. But Robbo knows that there are enough wingnuts out there to damage the DUP electorally, and he has his eye on next year’s Euro-election. In that situation, Mullah Jim will be the incumbent, and while he’s not what you’d call charismatic, he is a formidable campaigner. More to the point, he knows exactly where the DUP’s bodies are buried.
b) Grizzly reckons that Robbo is playing silly buggers with the peace process. Moreover, although he doesn’t have much to fear from the likes of Éirígí or the IRSP, he is a great believer in protecting his flank, and he reckons the best way of keeping nationalist punters happy is to keep devolution rolling on.
You will have noticed that both of these conditions still obtain. What are the odds of another breakdown before June, just in time to help Robbo in the Euro-election?