March 27, 2017
Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
Over the years we have seen in Europe increasing difficulties in forming a government, be it on a national level or regional level. We have more minority governments, more party fragmentation, and the call for devolution of power seems more prevalent than ever.
In Northern Ireland, it is Brexit and a homemade political crisis that has led to political limbo. It left the region without a governing body since January, and now it looks like they won’t even have one at the moment when the British government triggers Article 50.
Sinn Fein pulled out of talks yesterday, just a day before the deadline for talks to find a cross-party governing agreement elapses. James Brokenshire, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, may yet decide to extend the deadline for talks, but it is unclear whether there is the willingness of the two main parties for this.
Behind the conflict there are some concrete issues the two sides disagree on, such as the official recognition of the Irish language. But there is also utter mistrust. Sinn Fein accuses the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) and the governments in London and Dublin of failing to fulfil their responsibilities. Sinn Fein triggered the elections after walking out of budget talks in January over a public spending scandal involving the DUP leader and first minister Arlene Foster. In the elections Sinn Fein got significantly more votes, coming only one seat short of the DUP. During the talks afterwards they made it clear that there will be no return to the status quo ante. If no solution can be found, new snap elections will follow. Alliance Party leader Naomi Long appears to have taken on the role of arbiter to find a solution in the current talks, saying new elections would just be a vanity project.