Northern Ireland Assembly elections have been set for 2 March, and the current the governing body at Stormont, elected just eight months ago, will be dissolved 26 January.
The Assembly will be reduced to 90 seats, or five member for each of the 18 constituencies, from the current allotment of 108 seats, or six representatives per district. The reduction was previously planned.
“Stamina will be required for a campaign in which many issues will be raised, including (the renewable energy scandal known as) “cash for ash”, Brexit, health, education and jobs, but, as usual, Orange versus Green will dominate,” Gerry Moriarty writes in The Irish Times.
Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has commissioned an independent assessment of paramilitary organisations and organized crime in the six-county province.
The move is aimed at averting the collapse of the power-sharing government at Stormont. The 18 September announcement immediately convinced two unionist parties that had walked away from the government to rejoin negotiations with nationalist parties.
“This assessment will be independently reviewed and checked by three individuals who I will appoint,” Villiers was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph. “This assessment will be published by mid-October and will be available to inform the parties’ discussions and conclusions in the cross party talks.”
The Irish Times offers this “key questions” piece on the political situation.
Bill Shaw shrugged when asked about the latest crisis at Stormont.
“It doesn’t matter what they are doing at Stormont,” he told Irish Network-DC 10 September. “The peace process was birthed by community workers. It’s community activists that are taking the biggest risks, not the politicians.”
Bill Shaw. Photo by @IrishNetworkDC
Shaw works at 174 Trust, a Christian-based social justice organization that has been “building peace and promoting reconciliation” in North Belfast for more than 30 years. He has been the director since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.
The organization is located inside a remodeled former Presbyterian church on Duncairn Avenue. Groups and activities range from A.A. and Aspergers support to a Boxing Club and an Older Peoples Group. There are after school programs and pregnancy care. There are plenty of art exhibits and performances, even an Irish language class.
“We are finding common issues that will bring people together,” Shaw said. “People don’t stop being Catholic or Protestant, but they go back to segregated communities as changed people.”