The Irish Times view on the return of Stormont: time to get back to work

A successful political revival of the Belfast Agreement institutions will require the constant assistance of the two governments in Dublin and London

The resuscitation of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland, which will commence on Saturday at Stormont, is long, long overdue. In truth, the democratic institutions should never have been mothballed by the DUP – just as they should not have been abandoned by Sinn Féin in 2017. The losers have not just been the people of Northern Ireland who have seen their problems unaddressed and their priorities ignored, but the whole idea that the North’s democratic politics can work.

The political and governmental arrangements of Northern Ireland, so painstakingly constructed during the negotiations that led to the Belfast Agreement more than a quarter of a century ago, are contrived and complex, and alien perhaps to the winner-takes-all political cultures of both the rest of the UK and Ireland. And there are questions to be asked about how fit the North’s institutions and arrangements are for a society that has changed from being a binary, majority-minority system to one inhabited by three minorities – nationalists, unionists and “neithers”, those whose political identity is more complex than the old certainties.

The imperative now is that the parties work together to make self-government for Northern Ireland work. That will require patience, compromise and a willingness by the parties to appreciate that the task at hand is to deliver good government for all the people. It will require the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and his ministers and MLAs to display some fortitude in the face of what will no doubt be a shrill campaign against them by the rejectionist wing of unionism.

It would also be heartening if Sinn Féin demonstrated a willingness to help Donaldson, rather than make things more difficult for him. Michelle O’Neill, who is taking the historic step of becoming the first nationalist leader of Northern Ireland, has insisted that she wants to be a First Minister for all the people. Let’s see if she means it.

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A successful political revival of the Belfast Agreement institutions will require the constant assistance of the two governments in Dublin and London. Relations have improved since their Brexit nadir, but the sense of both governments working in lockstep has not yet returned.

The row over the UK Troubles Legacy Bill has clearly damaged relations. And the statements in the deal published this week abandoning any responsibility of the UK to take account of the interests of the all-island economy will have been noted in Dublin.

Many difficult days no doubt lie ahead, especially as the North adjusts to the reality of a stuttering British economy and consequently tight public finances.

Nonetheless, it is a day to hope for a better future, and to wish those who would work the politics of Northern Ireland a fair wind.