After years of delayed deadlines, the Stormont deal was a last chance for Sinn Féin and the DUP to restore an assemblyby Siobhán Fenton / January 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
Update: the deal was passed subsequent to this article being published. Read on to read Siobhán Fenton’s analysis of its contents.
After three years of deadlock at Stormont, a deal to see the devolved parliament return appears to be finally within grasp. Last night the British and Irish governments announced they have drawn up a draft deal which they are urging the parties to sign.
After many deadline extensions and hours of fruitless talks, the 62-page document, entitled “New Decade, New Approach,” is the last chance for Northern Ireland’s political parties to reach an agreement. Will they take it?
The timing of the announcement was not insignificant: yesterday marked exactly three years to the day since Sinn Féin resigned from the power-sharing coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party. Despite the dramatic events of that day, few in either the DUP or Sinn Féin could have imagined, or indeed wanted, the deadlock to last as long as it now has.
Infamous and oft-repeated red lines by both the parties soon became entrenched: Sinn Féin wouldn’t return to government unless legislation was introduced to protect and promote the Irish language; the DUP wouldn’t return if it was. Both parties became prisoners of their own tough talk and compromise became impossible.
Three years without government in Northern Ireland has seen already struggling public services driven into the ground in the absence of ministers to set new policies or make decisions. In recent elections, the DUP and Sinn Féin have seen drops in voter support, which both have read as a sign that voters’ patience is wearing thin.
The British government has warned them that if they do not reach a deal by Monday 13th January, it will call a snap Stormont election which will likely see both parties punished at the polls.
Therefore, the draft text published last night is a lifeline for both parties to save themselves from the corner they have backed themselves into for three years. It may be their last opportunity to negotiate from a position of strength—and avoid a…