THE merry-go-round of talks has begun once again, with parties invited to another sit-down at Stormont Castle by the Secretary of State, James ‘what did I do to deserve this’ Brokenshire.
During the last set of negotiations, there was dismay among some at the lack of proper structure to the talks. But fear not; this time there will be an agreed agenda and regular roundtables.
Whether they will get anywhere this time remains to be seen. Mr. Brokenshire believes there is a “small window of opportunity” to find agreement. The problem is, the window isn’t big enough to squeeze in all of the massive egos!
Throughout the course of the negotiations, we can expect regular statements about how ‘them uns’ are useless and ‘us uns’ are trying to be reasonable. All the while, the real-life impact of the political deadlock is being felt.
Voluntary groups are looking anxiously at their bank balances, hospitals are fighting swelling waiting lists, and don’t get us started on the economy.
Remember the Executive’s plan to attract more investment by cutting Corporation Tax in April 2018? The Department of Finance admits that that cunning plan “may now slip”.
Not that the Stormont officials left in charge aren’t doing all they can to steady the ship. Rumour has it that David Sterling, the Permanent Secretary at Finance, has been tucked up in his office since last week, slowly pulling his hair out, as he tries to stretch our thin budget as far as possible.
With direct rule still an option, there is a greater sense of urgency reverberating around the latest round of talks. Let’s hope they can bang their heads together, thrash out an agreement and get some Ministers in place. We’ve had just about enough of this particular merry-go-round.