14/02/2017 Spotlight


14/02/2017

Hard-hitting investigations on the stories that matter in Northern Ireland. Following the fall of Stormont, Jennifer O'Leary asks if power sharing there can ever really be stable.


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Transcript


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Political drama at the Mont. -- Stormont. I nominate Arlene Foster

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to be First Minister. Today, Sinn Fein will not renominate for Deputy

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First Minister. They will attempt to bring down the executive whenever

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they don't get their own way. Again and again. For our part, we have

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stretched ourselves to the limits to try to keep these institutions

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working. The collapse not only caused a snap election, it also

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raises questions about the fundamentals of our system of

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government. Tonight, in the first of two programmes, we examined

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power-sharing. Has a system designed to manage political tensions in

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divided societies delivered for Northern Ireland? Can it work better

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and can even be put back together after the election? And we go to

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Kosovo to see how power-sharing is working there are.

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In this village, women from across the community meet every Friday to

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meet and chat. Many of them had great expectations for

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power-sharing, but are disappointed at what has happened. What would you

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like to see? Peace. They have to make it work. You have to move on.

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The politicians will not move on and the political parties will not. What

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does power-sharing mean? It doesn't mean an awful lot because they are

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just going against each other. Whether it is health, education, it

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just falls apart. It's not right. It is separated into any Unionist plot

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and the Nationalist Bloc. Which it shouldn't be. I don't know of any

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other way to sort it out. Some hardline rulers don't want to change

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-- Unionist block. Ted Heath agreed with the Ulster

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leaders. To set up a power-sharing executive in Belfast. We want

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nothing to do with enforced power-sharing in any undemocratic

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government in Stormont. The first attempt at power-sharing ended in

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failure. I have never experienced a sad day in my life. It took 25 years

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and the loss of over 3000 lives before an agreement was reached on a

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deal for devolution, the Good Friday Agreement. Power-sharing forced

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unionists and nationalists to work together. All of the major parties

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could enter government and exercise control. There was never any

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alternative to power-sharing, given the bitterness between the parties.

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The unionists community would never have accepted Sinn Fein in the

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driving seat. Or maybe even the SDLP. You had to get everybody

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together in the tent in government together. The rules of power-sharing

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were moulded to fit Northern Ireland's divisive politics. Under

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those rules, every MLA in the assembly has to identify themselves

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as Unionist, Nationalist or other. Laws may be passed by a simple

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majority, but special power-sharing safeguards are in place to prevent

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majority rule. The safeguards ensure that both unionists and nationalist

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traditions are included and neither can act without some support in the

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other community. In short, power-sharing Stormont is an

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invented system of government. You can't have normal politics in a

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divided society, which is artificially put together to get an

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in-built majority. And that's the difficulty. The Ulster Unionists and

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the SDLP topped the first election poll. But they soon began to lose

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ground to parties further from the political centre. There was nothing

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inevitable about power are going to the extremes. It was a mismanagement

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from government. The long way to the IRA decommissioning... As people who

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supported the centrist parties became disappointed, so the only

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ways could punish the government was by not supporting the moderate

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parties. The decline of the moderate parties goes right back to the

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policies that followed in London and Dublin. My good friends and the SDLP

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used to say, why are you spending so much time talking to Sinn Fein? We

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are trying to deal with decommissioning and you don't have

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any guns, so we have to do talk to the people have some influence, so

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there was always that tension. In 2006, the St Andrews Agreement paved

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the way for the return of power-sharing following its collapse

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four years earlier. Key elements included a full acceptance of the

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PSNI by Sinn Fein, as well as a commitment by the DUP to

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power-sharing with Republicans. Tony Blair's chief of staff at that time

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was Jonathan Powell. People say we gave in to the extremes and allowed

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them to rule in Martin Alund. We started off the the SDLP and the UUP

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we ended up with Sinn Fein. That is the way the people of Northern

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Ireland voted. When the assembly returned to business in 2007, it was

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led by the most unexpected partnership. I was up in the

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balcony. I had been sitting in Ian Paisley's office when they were

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telling jokes. I was still completely gobsmacked. If you had

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told me some time ago that I would be standing here to take this

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office, I would have been totally unbelieving. We know this will not

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be easy and the role we are embarking on will have many twists

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and turns. IR firm the terms of the Pledge of office. I affirm the

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Pledge of the terms of offers. It was a feeling of, gosh, they can get

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on. I was feeling pretty good. Power-sharing promise political

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stability. But it has been a bumpy ride at times. We need real talks,

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not pretend talks. We have run out of road. We believe it needs more

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than a sticking plaster of a recess for a couple of weeks. We believe

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you cannot stabilise these institutions by suspending them.

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Despite its challenges, power-sharing is increasingly viewed

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as a means of resolving political conflicts in divided societies. I

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work around the world on conflicts. Normally the answer is some form of

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power-sharing. Stormont is marketed worldwide as a template for

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power-sharing. There is a little cottage industry of trotting around,

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explaining to people how to was done. Usually the accounts that

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innocent foreigners are given are not entirely accurate. This isn't

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really a good thing, but there we are. For some, power-sharing might

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be best practice, but the struggles of making work are not unique to

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Northern Ireland. There are many examples of power-sharing in

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countries where ethnic division or conflict has made traditional

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politics impossible. We travelled to Kosovo, to see how power-sharing

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works in a country similar in size to Northern Ireland. Identity here

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is divided along ethnic lines. Its population of 2 million is mostly

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Albanian, Serbs are in the minority. Street signs are in two languages,

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Albanian and Serbian. The country emerged from the Balkan wars,

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following the break-up of Yugoslavia. Tens of thousands were

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killed in the conflict in the late 1990s, when Serbian forces tried to

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suppress the ethnic Albanian majority is and independence

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campaign. Close to people fled their homes. The legacy of that brutal war

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is still very much alive. In Kosovo, like Northern Ireland, when you're

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driving along country roads, you see small memorials or flowers left were

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some of the thousands of people who lost their lives in 1998 and 1999.

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This is a formal memorial for some of the 1500 people that remain

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missing. And like in Northern Ireland, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton

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played a role in Kosovo's path to peace. Kosovo's crisis now is

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full-blown. But there is intervention in Kosovo started with

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Nato air strikes. Only firmness now can prevent later catastrophe. In

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the capital city, Kosovo Albanians credit Bill Clinton with ending the

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conflict in 1999. In his honour, this is Bill Clinton Street. This

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statue is an expression of their gratitude. The gold that covered the

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statue has faded, but the esteem in which he is held remains. Tony Blair

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to is celebrated by Kosovan Albanians, but not with a statue.

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During the Nato strikes, he visited refugee camps, including one where a

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Kosovan refugee had just given birth to a baby boy. That baby is now 17

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years old. And named Tony Blair. He is studying to become an engineer.

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One of at least nine Kosovan boys named after Tony Blair. Do your

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parents talk about how you came to have the name Tony Blair? Yes, they

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told me. They said I was named after Tony Blair because he said he would

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give the people hope. My father believed that. They named me that

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after I was born. His father told us through an interpreter what the name

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Tony Blair means to him. TRANSLATION: So happy to have the

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name of Tony Blair, the great statesman who helped our country so

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much. I believe you got to meet him? Hello, my name is Tony Blair. He was

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really generous. I think he was really feeling good. What are your

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dreams for this country? My dreams are to have the young people of

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Kosovo have jobs, and make Kosovo are better place. There is a key

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difference between power-sharing Stormont and hear. Positive

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discrimination. Ten out of 120 seat in the assembly are reserved for

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Serbs, ten for other ethnic minorities, mostly former. But like

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Northern Ireland, there are also in-built safeguards. Laws affecting

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minorities require the agreement of a majority from minority

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communities. I have come to meet the director of the Kosovan branch of

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the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to find out

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how power-sharing works here. Up until now Kosovo Serb

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representatives have participated in every government since 2008. We see

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good cooperation on some issues. What are the stumbling blocks? It is

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a new state. It is a state that is being formed, its people are trying

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to figure out what is this creature? So there are a lot of issues there,

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issues from the past, issues about power-sharing. Went to include, how

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to include, why to include. Because of power-sharing deal also

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guarantees that at least one government minister has to be from

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the minority Serb community. One such miniature -- minister is this

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man. Power-sharing should be something that as a result gives a

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better conditions but what we have is mistrust and trust is the key

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word. We are trying to build the trust, trust between the people, two

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different people, Albanians and Serbs. Unfortunately, we do not have

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that, we need peace and we need to work together. Kosovo remains a

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deeply divided society. Serbian, Albanian, Kosovan flags, Serbian

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Orthodox churches and mosques set areas are part and like parts of

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Belfast, interfaith areas are a source of tension. I have left

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Pristina and I am heading north to another city, this remains a flash

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point for Albanians and Serbs. It is literally a divided city. From afar,

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this bridge does not look significant, but instead of

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connecting two communities, it separates them. The minority Serbs

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live in the north and in the majority Albanians in the South. The

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river separates the two worlds. I wanted to find out that the next

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generation believes that the two communities are working together.

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What is the population of the city? It is more than 90,000. This

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remembers any majority Albanian enclave on the south of the river

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and thinks that power is being slowly delivered here. I think there

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are groups here which cooperate with the Kosovan government. I see the

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willingness from some political parties, Serbian ones, to try to

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help the process of integration. Hubble, eager. I am Jennifer, lovely

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to meet you. Either is Serbian and lives on the other side of the

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bridge. Power-sharing as he sees it as yet to deliver. Kosovo

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politicians are talking about integration on an international

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scene but not too ordinary people. You yourself are served living in

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Kosovo, as the government here delivered on education, health,

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employment, things like that, could you recognise an independent Kosovo?

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Emotionally, Serbs will never accept it as a separate country and that

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this something that is very clear. Albanians and Serbs are learning to

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live together, but tensions often spill over in Parliament. There have

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been a number of occasions when a tear gas was set off in Parliament

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and at one stage, a security measure was brought in to prevent the

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smuggling of father canisters. In the capital Pristina, I met

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government minister and detail. Has power-sharing delivered for Kosovo?

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I think in the conditions that we have operated within, it has

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delivered quite well. I think it is rather challenging. However, all

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politicians who want to serve the future of the country understand

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that power-sharing is the essence of functionality and democracy of any

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state, including Kosovo. We have to struggle for consensus and that is

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not easy in any political context. In any society. But what is the

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alternative? Here, in Kosovo, I believe the alternative is conflict.

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And I do not think that conflict is a good thing for any community. As

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in Northern Ireland, growing mutual trust between two communities here

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is slow. The optimism and ambition that came in the wake of PC in

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Kosovo has, it seems, yet to fully emerge at a political level because

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it is still emotionally charged identity politics, characterised by

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a high level of mistrust. And the big question for politicians here

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is, how was it possible to find common ground in the face of

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opposing positions on key issues? Sound familiar? Trust is also a

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major issue at Stormont and it was clearly missing on the day

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power-sharing collapsed last month. But opinions differ as to why this

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was the case. Power-sharing is essentially, if we are ever going to

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make these institutions work. Where I am critical of the two parties

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that have been in the castle for the last ten years is that there has not

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been a mutual effort to build proper trust and that is reflected in our

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community, where the two traditional haves have yet to build trust and

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are looking for leadership to build that trust, and that is the solid

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foundation on which we can build political progress, and it is still

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missing, now 19 years after the signing of the Belfast agreement.

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But to do the problems at Stormont go beyond issues of trust? Is there

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a flaw in the design of our political system that makes genuine

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power-sharing and impossible task which two is it the case, as some

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have argued, that the changes to the Good Friday Agreement at Saint

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Andrews Pond power-sharing into the sharing out of power? After the Good

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Friday Agreement, the DUP, Sinn Fein and the British government got

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together and eroded the principles of power-sharing, that is why they

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are in the situation today. For me, power-sharing is not just some kind

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of construction, where people have to work together, the spirit of

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power-sharing is where people should work together and that is why

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parties like my lawn and other parties on the size of the divide

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want to work together. I am absolutely committed to

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power-sharing and so is our party, we have struggled for a long time to

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get power and put it into place but it has been eroded. Writer Mick

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fealty is the founding editor of one of Northern Ireland's leading

:23:13.:23:15.

political blogs. The system itself is rigid and it has been made more

:23:16.:23:20.

rigid since the St Andrews agreement. What we have is an

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embedding of power and what is now called the Executive office and

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which was OFM, DFM. It invested awful lot of power in the two

:23:32.:23:37.

parties that all two offices. The first and Deputy First Minister 's

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were originally collected by all MLAs. But under a change in the St

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Andrews agreement to are now nominated separately by the largest

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and second largest parties. It has given them no option than to see

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themselves as adverse arrays. The classic phrase from early, early

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days in 2007 was a battle a day. And that has been taken so literally

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that neither of the major parties wants to be seen in the pockets of

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the other one that it has led to complete stasis. The ability of the

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two main parties to block one another has prevented progress and

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has taken away some of the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement which was

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about cooperative work and consensus government. Instead, what we have is

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if we do not both agree, no one moves forward. We must move forward.

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Despite the ups and downs, power-sharing has enabled unionism

:24:39.:24:41.

and nationalism to work together, but some believe it has achieved

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little else and is actually strengthening the divide at a

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political level. Take any subject, with whatever hospital services,

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waiting lists. Out of control and yet, we do not even have a budget

:24:58.:25:01.

from the 1st of April, so we cannot tackle any of these things. This

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Stormont has had its day. No surprise to me, I have always said

:25:07.:25:10.

that one day it would fall because it was built upon sand and I believe

:25:11.:25:16.

that that he might have now arrived. The problem with power-sharing in

:25:17.:25:22.

the North is that it freezes the sectarian situation in the North.

:25:23.:25:27.

The Good Friday talks and all of the rest of it does not consist of

:25:28.:25:32.

establishing a different form of politics that both parties can

:25:33.:25:37.

adhere to, the technology is the difference, it requires the

:25:38.:25:40.

difference in order for it to work. There is no way that you could

:25:41.:25:44.

describe Northern Ireland as a classic example of classical

:25:45.:25:49.

democracy. It was, from the very beginning, a construct. It has been

:25:50.:25:54.

described as having the ugly scaffolding of democracy, and that

:25:55.:26:00.

is partly because it has been an enabling mechanism, it was felt

:26:01.:26:02.

necessary at the very beginning to create this stable condition. Is

:26:03.:26:07.

there something about power-sharing that polarises politics? I think in

:26:08.:26:16.

the terms that we have, it is clearly a polarising, because we

:26:17.:26:21.

have the designation system. What it creates is an incentive for people

:26:22.:26:28.

to flag up the nationalism or their unionism as their primary political

:26:29.:26:33.

quality. So, to some extent, yes, it has copper fastened the tribalism of

:26:34.:26:39.

Northern Irish politics. It was inevitably flawed because it was an

:26:40.:26:42.

entirely artificial form of politics. It was necessary and I

:26:43.:26:50.

still think it is necessary and for a while it will remain necessary,

:26:51.:26:55.

but it is not a natural construct. For some, the collapse of

:26:56.:26:59.

power-sharing at Stormont stems from a lack of genuine effort in trying

:27:00.:27:06.

to make it work. I think the spirit of power-sharing has been lost quite

:27:07.:27:10.

a number of years ago and what we have increasingly seen over the last

:27:11.:27:15.

number of years is a division of power and carving up of power rather

:27:16.:27:20.

than a genuine sharing, where they have shared values, shared ambitions

:27:21.:27:26.

for Northern Ireland society and try to deliver them together. That has

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been exacerbated in some ways by the institutions, you cannot put this

:27:32.:27:33.

down to institutional failure alone, there is the lack of goodwill and

:27:34.:27:40.

generosity. Has it worked within the spirit it was intended to? No, it

:27:41.:27:46.

hasn't, if it had, it would not have collapsed. We would not have seen

:27:47.:27:50.

the arguments that we have seen in the past months. Can it work? Yes,

:27:51.:27:55.

the agreements are the upon which it can work but there must be a change

:27:56.:28:00.

of attitude in terms of how political unionism adapts and works

:28:01.:28:02.

with the nationalist and republican neighbours. Northern Ireland needs a

:28:03.:28:11.

stable government. We, as a party, have done all that we can to

:28:12.:28:16.

maintain government in the Northern Ireland Assembly so that the real

:28:17.:28:20.

issues like health, education and Brexit are addressed. But instead of

:28:21.:28:23.

trying to work with us, as we have done so many times in the past with

:28:24.:28:28.

Sinn Fein Omagh they have chosen to pursue political self-interest. They

:28:29.:28:34.

did not like the election result last May and therefore they are

:28:35.:28:37.

looking to have another go at the election. The collapse of Stormont

:28:38.:28:43.

has coincided with momentous political uncertainty. Brexit has

:28:44.:28:48.

profound implications for Northern Ireland and its border with the

:28:49.:28:53.

Republic of Ireland. Growing political tensions within the

:28:54.:28:56.

republican also cast a shadow over Stormont. Next week, Spotlight asks

:28:57.:29:01.

how and if power-sharing can be put back together, or has the delusion

:29:02.:29:06.

as we know it runs out of road?

:29:07.:29:17.

After the fall of Stormont, Jennifer O'Leary asks if power sharing can ever really be stable here and travels to Kosovo to see how it works there.


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