“HOW good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in this province,” declared Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland’s first minister, when the Stormont Assembly was reopened in 2007 after nearly five years of direct rule from Westminster. And how long ago that now seems. On November 15th Northern Ireland’s annual budget was passed—but in London, not Belfast. It was the first time in more than a decade that politicians on the mainland had set the budget. Some in Northern Ireland described it as the first step on the road back to direct rule.
Westminster’s reluctant intervention was caused by the fact that Northern Ireland has lacked a government of its own since January. Back then the late Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s leader in the Assembly, resigned from his post as deputy first minister in protest at the “crude and crass bigotry” shown towards his fellow republicans by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with which Sinn Fein was sharing power. Without a republican deputy first minister in place, the devolved…Continue reading