A former Deputy First Minister and Good Friday Agreement negotiator has said that Stormont is in need of fundamental reform as the DUP and Sinn Féin keep collapsing the Executive.
Next week voters in the north go to the polls to elect a new Assembly and the polls suggest an electoral earthquake is on the cards; unionists have become increasingly disillusioned with the DUP because of Northern Ireland protocol and a noticeable chunk of its support has defected to the uncompromising Traditional Unionist Voice.
Sinn Féin is forecast to win the most seats and in theory would be entitled to nominate Michelle O’Neill as First Minister.
However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party will refuse to go back into government unless there is fundamental reform to the Northern Ireland protocol.
“The protocol must be replaced with arrangements that protect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom,” Sir Jeffrey said out on the campaign trail in East Belfast.
For Mark Durkan, a former SDLP leader who supports the protocol, it is yet another example of Stormont dysfunction.
“We could do worse than go back to the factor setting of the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Durkan told The Anton Savage show.
“Go back to the idea of joint election by the Assembly which doesn’t assign the nominating rights exclusively to two parties just depending on the seat numbers that emerge.
“Because that formula at St Andrew’s is exactly what was used by Sinn Féin to keep the Assembly in abeyance from 2017 to 2020 and it’s now exactly what is being used to hold everybody else’s mandate to ransom.”
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In both London and Dublin there is widespread fear that - whatever the result of the election - it could prove extremely difficult to get power sharing back up and running.
“The institutions of that peace agreement [the Good Friday Agreement] are perhaps more under threat now than then have been at any point in that 25 years,” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney admitted.
"That's something that I and others need to address with calmness and intelligence given the complexity of some of those issues."
Main image: DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson is seen at an event in the Law Society of Northern Ireland in November 2019. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Archive/PA Images