Déjà vu all over again

A Letter From the Road

a Chairde,

The word of the week is tautology. Tautology is saying the same thing twice in different words.

I’m in Washington this week, meeting with Labor, Irish American, and Congressional leaders to brief them on political developments in Ireland. I found myself saying that, “it feels like Groundhog Day again”. I stumbled onto a tautology. The “again” is not needed. We have been here before.

Politically we have been reliving the same day for the last year. The DUP hints that it will remove its block to government formation and return to power sharing and the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Then there is speculation on a deadline that is never met, and the denial of democracy continues. All at a cost to our people, economy, and confidence in the political institutions.

Over the past year, it has been speculated that the DUP would move after the signing of the Windsor Framework in February, then again after St. Patrick’s Day, then again after the local government elections, then again in the Autumn, and then again before Christmas. Here we are in a new year with the same old problem.

The next deadline is January 18th. If the institutions are not formed by that date, under law, the British Secretary of State has to call an election. But then again, the British government can and has changed the law to suit its interests. We are back in Groundhog Day again with a deadline that may not be a deadline and no movement from the DUP.

Commentators have said that the DUP needs time and space to come to a decision. The decision comes down to whether they support the Good Friday Agreement, power sharing, and democracy or not. It is not a difficult decision to make. The British Government is on record as saying that the negotiations are over. They have also said that they are continuing to meet with the DUP.

That is the problem. The British Government has indulged and facilitated the DUP.

Deadlines have come and gone and they are now considering changing the law to prevent an election. All of which has brought the process no closer to a resolution.

As Einstein is believed to have said, “The true definition of madness is repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result.” It appears that this British government is no Einstein.

It is past time to take stock. If the DUP cannot or will not make a decision, a new approach is required. The two governments must bring forward a plan to progress the work of the North/South Ministerial Council. In the absence of working devolved institutions, the two governments must determine a new partnership to administer the North. Direct rule from London is not an option. These contingencies can operate until the DUP wants to join the other parties in functioning institutions.

The next week will tell if the DUP will again ignore the wishes of the people and bust another deadline. If that is the case, the British government must acknowledge that the DUP can no longer hold the process to ransom and work with the Irish government to protect the functioning of the GFA while the institutions are suspended. Anything else would meet the definition of madness and condemn us to Groundhog Day again and again and again…

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.