Health, education, transport, jobs, social policy, social care and the cost of living were all in turmoil before the Assembly was collapsed – and they will remain in crisis if, pending a resolution of the Protocol problems, a new Executive is formed.
Sinn Fein and the DUP have failed to deliver on the expectations evident at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement – not by mis-management, but by design.
Between them they have carved out and consolidated two sectarian power blocs.
There are many, including the supporters of both parties, who will not want to hear that. However, the evidence continues to stack up.
How else can the deliberate side-lining of integrated education and integrated housing be explained? Why is it that we have more walls dividing the community today than we had twenty five years ago? Why are the election strategies of both parties based on tribal confrontation? Why have cultural identity, tribal symbols and community background been given precedence over jobs, health and social progress?
The answer to all those questions is ‘because that’s how you build and maintain a sectarian power base’, and that is the strategy that Sinn Fein and the DUP continue to pursue.
The Good Friday Agreement was the only show in town at the time, but it was, and remains, fundamentally flawed because of the manner in which it structured the Assembly, and institutionalised sectarianism. Sinn Fein and the DUP have been exploiting that ever since.
If issues around the Protocol are resolved and the Assembly and the Executive restart, only major reform of the way it works will offer any chance of progress and the opportunity to pursue class politics.
The Assembly’s structures are no longer fit for purpose. Sinn Fein and the DUP have made sure of that. The starting point for effective devolved government has to be
Getting rid of the sectarian and inoperable structures that the two main parties, in particular, continue to use, abuse and hide behind.
A move from mandatory to voluntary coalition,
Abolition of the Community Designation requirements
Reform of the Petition of Concern to ensure that it can never again be used to veto social or equality legislation.
Then, and perhaps only then, can the sectarian power blocs be exposed and challenged and the Sinn Fein / DUP stranglehold begin to be loosened.
Of course, refusing to vote for them would work too!