You have to be a certain breed to sign up for politics. For our local politicians they will not be thinking solely about the 12thDecember and the count that night and the early hours of the 13th. They will be planning for the negotiations that are coming directly afterwards.
And these negotiations are going to be different to the previous ones. The DUP will be re–centering their axis of attention. No matter who English people vote for, the DUP’s jolly, acting like a dog with two tails, is over. After the election the DUP will be coming home, and they will be back focusing on the Assembly. And they will know what is required to get local power back.
The British Secretary of State has said there will be no further extension to devolution after 13th January 2020 and wants negotiations on the restoration of the Executive to begin in earnest. Sadly, the Irish government has said nothing. These negotiations cannot be in the hands of the British government whatever colour it is.
So we are set for more huddled press conferences at the bottom of those steps in Stormont. (Is there no way to shake that format up a bit, even the flowers on either side of the stairs look bored).
If that sounds like we have been here before and nothing has changed then that isn’t the case. Last year there was a general narrative that there was a post-Stormont feeling in nationalism. This year that has shifted. The nationalist and republican population is regularly articulating the view that they want our representatives exercising its power. And that they want that to be on this island. And that means Stormont. To balance the caution and worry about that there is a strong view that no matter what happens Stormont will be different to what had been in place before. Irish citizenship and identity will be asserted and demand to be respected. They will not wait, and will not be expected to wait. But that needs to be tested. Only restoration of local government will allow for the testing of that.
The Irish government needs to grow up and no longer act as a silent junior partner regarding our Peace Agreement as it has done since the St Andrews Agreement. It needs to be as vociferous in defending the GFA in Belfast and London, as they have been in Brussels.
Of course, there are no guarantees. The DUP is a partner of bad faith. It has shown little evidence of respect or playing by the rules. The outrageous attempt of abuse of power in Stormont over abortion was a sickener. But, there have never been guarantees in the history of the peace process. We need to have confidence in ourselves, in our peace agreement and in the power we have gained since 2017. “No return to the status quo”, the compelling words of a dying leader, cannot be a safety blanket to hide behind. They need to be a guiding light as power is taken and asserted, and our community utilises law and the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts. They can guide all those with influence as Brexit happens, as the Unity debate takes a momentum and as we face up to the challenges of the crises in health, education and the economy.