The stalemate in Ulster's political life continues - despite attempts by some local party leaders to break it in the wake of this week's Anglo-Irish summit. The Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, who represent a large section of Northern Ireland's 1 million Protestants, and John Cush-nahan, leader of the middle-of - the - road Alliance
Party, have invited politicians representing the province's
half - million Catholics, to return to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In addition, Douglas Hurd, Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, asked all local politicians to think again about cooperation.
But the mainly-Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party declined the offer to enter the assembly. It claims that Unionists still will not give it partnership government, and that the best hope for the future lies with some form of agreed Irish unity.
In short, precisely nothing has changed since the Anglo-Irish summit, which is regarded in Northern Ireland as a political molehill.
Mrs. Thatcher described the meeting with Irish Premier Garret FitzGerald, as ''the most realistic bilateral meeting'' she has had about Ireland. Privately, it would appear that the British prime minister has taken the opportunity to absorb even more of the nuances and the harsh realities of Anglo - Irish affairs.
To this extent the Irish premier made some progress. But he emerged from the meeting apparently empty-handed - apart from the promise of further high-level meetings in the new year.
The reaction in Ulster has been low-key, simply because all sides know that the old arguments and attitudes will be dusted off and presented for the next meeting. The Unionists are predictably elated because Mrs. Thatcher gave no comfort to the Irish over the Ireland Forum - an elaborate series of proposals put forward by the main nationalist parties in north and south for some form of Irish unity with Protestant consent. Mr. Paisley saw this as a rebuff for Dr. FitzGerald. He said that Thatcher had chosen her ground well.
''It is easier to tell off a fellow in your own home than in his home,'' he said.
The official Unionist leader, James Molyneaux, was conciliatory, but without conceding an inch to Irish nationalists. He said that the people of Northern Ireland would not consent to a united Ireland in the foreseeable future.
Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, reflected his party's intense disappointment at the lack of any progress toward an all-Ireland solution.
''If Mrs. Thatcher's thinking is confined to a purely Northern Ireland context, then there will be no solution, because the problem is not just a Northern Ireland one,'' Mr. Mallon said.
Danny Morrison, spokesman for the Sinn Fein (the political wing of the outlawed Irish Republican Army) said with typical delicacy: ''The nationalist people have again been humiliated by a pompous British prime minister who has no right to govern any part of Ireland.''
In brief, the situation in Northern Ireland is one of ''no change,'' with the political needle jammed in the familiar record groove. Predictably, and sadly, the killing and the violence are likely to continue until the politicians and people produce a more harmonious sound.
Significantly, few people seem to be taking the more positive view that Thatcher and FitzGerald showed rare wisdom in not announcing anything dramatic.' Irish poet William Butler Yeats had a word for it: ''Peace comes dropping slow.'' It is still dropping slow in the Ireland of today.