Northern Ireland's deadline for forming a government has passed. Theoretically this means a new election, but the powers that be (in particular, the 5 parties and 2 governments - Ireland and Britain) are not keen on one, as such, there will be roughly a month or so of extended negotiations.
There are three main sticking points.
The first is language. SF wants protection for the Irish language. The DUP wants any protection also extended to Ulster Scots, and does not want any unique protections for Irish.
Second is legacy issues; many unionists feel that current programs looking at murders during the troubles focus too heavily on the actions of soldiers, and not heavily enough on the actions of the PIRA. SF feels the current process is properly balanced.
The final issue is that of RHI and weather Foster needs to step aside; however due to the inability to get past the first two issues, this issue has not been in the forefront recently.
As I outlined here, negotiations will take time. After watching things I have a few new suspicions on ways things can go, all based on changes to the GFA.
1 - "Permission"
This would be a change that would allow the DUP to sit outside of government, but, offer 'permission' for an executive to be formed. The simplest way to achieve this is for them to agree to a system where they can vote against an executive, but it still is able to take power. The current GFA clearly states the largest unionist party need to agree on an executive; that means the DUP. A new agreement could simply use the current 30 seat 'veto' barrier (for a cross-community vote) become the maximum size of opposition to an executive. Since the DUP only has 28 seats, such a system would allow a new executive to be formed without support of the DUP, but with their unofficial permission.
2 - "Balanced Majority"
This is similar to the above but would go one step further and allow SF to be excluded as well. It's important to note this would require another election. However, should such an election provide a result where the UUP, SDLP, and APNI hold a combined majority (right now they only hold 30 of 90 seats) the system could be changed to allow for this grouping to form the basis of a new government. This would require each party to win roughly 6 additional seats, or, have strong support from parties like the Greens and PBP. However, given the problems the DUP and SF have with negotiations, this becomes a possibility if the math allows after the next election.
3 - "Decapitation"
This would see an assembly (the one just elected) sit, but not form an executive (government) This would be a strange set of affairs, but, technically existed for a week prior to the election. It would allow for a body of elected representatives within NI to express their collective will on various legislation and bills while having official and executive powers exercised by the United Kingdom (likely in consultations with the Republic of Ireland) Should negotiations continue to fail over the long term, this may become a more palatable option. The danger is that should this option be chosen, it could become the 'new normal'
On a more personal level
One problem I have with consistent activity on the blog is that despite the fact I am basically going over things that have happened or will happen, writing is still, at its core, a creative activity. There are periods where I feel creative and periods where I do not and that's likely to continue into the future. The only way to combat that is to have a blog with multiple people writing for it so that the absence of any one particular permission does not go missed, however, this has a number of problems as these people can have clashing styles and ideals as to what an acceptable standard is for a blogpost.
In the past week my problems have been health related. I've always had bad teeth but I had a flare up of a tooth infection. Very painful; despite being on the maximum recommended dosage of Tylenol 3 (codeine) 2 pills of 30mg each, the pain was nearly unbearable. Fortunately, as I was on antibiotics, there came a moment when I literally felt the pain drain away, and it stayed that way. However; this made me realize I need to stop delaying dental care, and as such, have two new holes in my head where teeth used to be. Part of the problem is that these are only 2 of the 6 teeth that need major work done and/or removal.
Add to that the fact that these sorts of things give me immense amounts of anxiety - to the point that I will be speaking with my doctor about a prescription for it when I need see her.
The whole process has been unpleasant and will continue to be so; but in the end I have no one to blame but myself for taking poor care of my health.
Despite only having the teeth in question removed 14 hours ago, I felt like writing. Hopefully this will spark a new period of regular writing for me.