You won’t find a leading politician in Northern Ireland who doesn’t want to resume power-sharing government. It’s been almost two and a half years since the assembly and executive in NI were suspended after a row over a failed renewable heating scheme. A falling out between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party that still simmers away today.
This afternoon there’s another attempt to get talks about resuming power sharing up and running. To a large extent the politicians have been stung into action after the senseless killing of Lyra McKee last month. The 29-year-old journalist was shot during a protest in Londonderry. She’d been observing rioting which had broken out on a housing estate in Derry. The hunt for her killers continues.
As one political insider put it to me yesterday “Would the parties be back around the table if Lyra McKee hadn’t been murdered?” It’s blunt point which carries a lot of truth. To a degree the parties simply have to be seen to be doing the right thing in response to a death that has shocked everyone across political divides. A violent glimpse of a past that the vast majority do not want to return to.
So will today lead to a breakthrough and compromise between NI’s largest parties? It would need courage and vision to see past the issues that still block the way back to power sharing. Rows over the Irish Language act, which Sinn Fein proposes and the DUP rejects, and same-sex marriage are still bitter cultural differences. What incentive is there for compromise from any party ahead of the European elections? A softening of a stance could anger core support.
There is a financial incentive to get the Executive back to work. The UK government today announced £105 million for the Londonderry/Derry region, no coincidence on the timing. That money would be match funded by the Executive, if it was up and running. Northern Ireland’s politicians therefore have a chance to pump more money into one of the most deprived areas, if only they can find a way forward. Many would want a peaceful solution to be the response to the dreadful violence and tragic death of Lyra McKee.