11 October 2002

What lies behind Assembly's collapse?

AS WE go to press, it seems almost certain that Northern Ireland's Executive and Assembly will collapse this week. New Labour's Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid will probably suspend the institutions in the hope that they can one day be resuscitated.

Each side of the sectarian divide is loudly denouncing the other as the culprit. According to Sinn Fein the problem is that Unionist politicians (and their allies in the British establishment) really do not want "any Catholics about the place". Many Catholics accept this argument.

The evidence is however that a narrow majority of Protestants reluctantly lined up behind UUP leader Trimble and initially gave the Agreement a chance. The reality is that most Protestants are now against the Agreement and Trimble's room for manoeuvre has consequently long gone.

According to Unionist politicians, the problem is that Sinn Fein have not broken from their past and remain wedded to the dual strategy of bomb and bullet. Most Protestants accept this argument.

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