“Crisis” is a term that’s never far away in Northern Ireland, but the current storm in Stormont is building up more quickly and more ominously than usual. The Democratic Unionists have defied their new leader, Edwin Poots, and refused to back his nominee, Paul Givan, as the new first minister.
The NI assembly did install Givan as first minister, and Michelle O’Neill as deputy first minister, so the executive can function, but it remains in danger of collapse after so many DUP assembly members insisted Poots stall the nomination of Givan. Poots, freshly elected as the party leader, resigned after just 20 days in power; his successor will find themselves in exactly the same impossible position.
If things carry on deteriorating at the present rate, Northern Ireland could find itself with the unwelcome distinction of being the most undemocratic state in Europe, or at least this side of Belarus. If the power-sharing executive collapses (again) then the province will, in effect, be governed by civil servants and ministers in the Northern Ireland Office. With much of its trading rules and relations run by Brussels, and the arguments about Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol being conducted between Brussels, Dublin and Westminster, and above the heads of the people of Northern Ireland, the average voter there has next to no say on what happens to them.
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