The Tory Manifesto on Northern Ireland:
We are committed to supporting Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom in accordance with the consent principle. We will continue to work for a comprehensive political settlement, based on the principles of the Belfast Agreement. We will not accept any party into the government of Northern Ireland linked to a paramilitary organisation that holds on to illegal weapons and is engaged in any criminal activity. In the absence of devolved government, we will make direct rule more accountable.
The key here is that innocuous-looking final line.
The proposal to have a ‘more accountable’ direct rule may well ensure there is no comprehensive political settlement.
In practice its likely to mean that direct rule ministers exercise executive powers, with the Stormont Assembly hold some kind of scrutiny, and possibly legislative, function.
This may well prove to be more attractive to many unionist politicians than full devolution. They would be able to continue to hold office without having to either share power with nationalists or take real governmental responsibility.
The real decisions would continue to be made by the British Government. This offers nothing to nationalists, whose representatives do want to exercise real political power in order to build an all-Ireland democracy.
While claiming to support the Good Friday Agreement, the Tories are preparing their own undemocratic, unequal alternative.