Stalemate is the order of the day

While Mark Devenport wondered whether “the governments have the guts to throw down the gauntlet to the parties with a shadow assembly or some other option which might break the deadlock?” [haven’t they already tried the deadline/big stick approach? – Ed] the Sunday Times editorial argues that it’s time for a different approach

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair must exercise caution. Over the past eight years they have been responsible for an erosion of confidence in the political process because, in their desperation to deliver a solution, they have allowed messy compromise and concessions to triumph over principle. That must now cease.

The editorial argues that the eagerness of both governments to secure closure and a settlement here, and arguably a legacy for both the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, has encouraged the stalemate rather than preventing it –

Mr Blair and Mr Ahern may desire closure and settlement, but they must no longer try to force the pace of change. That can only be set by the province’s own politicians. Their failure to reach a point where devolution could resume has been made easier by the knowledge that both the Irish and British governments are so keen for a deal that they will make concession upon concession to the party that behaves the worst.

Rewarding bad behaviour and bad faith is no way to build stability. Rather than intensify their search for a solution, the two governments should instead back away. It is time for Northern Ireland’s elected representatives to demonstrate that they have the maturity and the capacity to reach agreement between themselves.