UK political stability increasingly undermined by cosntitutional crisis
ATTEMPTS to form a government in Northern Ireland may be delayed until after the UK General Election on 8 June.
Stormont parties are expected to meet to discuss the possible delay after a call from the SDLP.
Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has extended the deadline for talks to form a power sharing executive until 29 June, after weeks of stalemate between the Republican party Sinn Fein and the main unionist party the DUP.
The Stormont administration collapsed in March, after revelations that a renewable energy heating scheme had been subject to widespread abuse – the so called ‘cash for ash’ scandal – which inadvertently incentivised businesses to waste energy to the cost of £400m to the tax payer.
However, the scandal is compounded by a range of issues to do with the peace process, under which power sharing was initially established, and by the fallout from the Brexit vote. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, which it shares a border with in the Republic of Ireland. Brexit could disrupt trade and travel between the North and the Republic, and also disrupt political co-operation as part of the Good Friday peace accord.
Speaking about attempts to preserve the Good Friday agreement throughout the Brexit process, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said: “We have been working to inform the guidelines for the Brexit negotiations which will be adopted at a Special European Council meeting on Saturday.
“I have been focused, in particular, on making the other members of the steering group aware of the unique position of the north, the fact that the majority of people voted to remain in the EU, and the disastrous impact Brexit would have on the island of Ireland.
“The European Parliament has already passed a joint resolution which calls for no hardening of the border, recognises the unique situation of the north and, crucially, calls for the protection of the Good Friday agreement in all its parts.
“Through the Conference of Presidents steering group I have been building support for the Good Friday agreement, particularly in the face of the attempts to dismantle and undermine the agreement by the British Government and DUP, as well as garnering support for Sinn Féin’s case for the north to secure designated special status within the EU.
“The European Council now needs to recognise the importance of protecting the Good Friday agreement.”
The collapse of power sharing, the stalled talks over forming a new administration and fears that the Northern Irish assembly may have to either operate without an administration or give way to direct rule from Westminster have brought new uncertainty to Northern Irish politics.
In march Sinn Fein came closer to being the largest force at Stormont than ever before, winning 27 seats to the DUP’s 28.
The UK has one of the most centralised political systems in Europe and is famed for its supposed political stability. However, recent years have seen the traditionally stable party system thrown into crisis by constitutional and national questions, and a move away from the ideological centre ground by both the right and left.
The General Election will be the seventh major vote in Scotland in under three years.
Picture courtesy of Jordi Gabarró Llop
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