Is it good enough for David Ford only to hold the ring?

The dissident threat and the Newtownabbey riots prompts me to ask: what impact is David Ford making as Minister of Justice? The conclusion would seem to be a modest one, compared to the massive controversy over devolving the justice and policing functions. I can’t help feeling that big issues are being ducked: viz:

  • Are the PSNI in shape to deal with the dissidents, UVF left-overs and the legacies of paramilitarism generally?
  • Is an agreement in sight for dealing with the past?
  • When if ever will something else replace the Parades Commission, still not devolved?
  • What will replace the International Monitoring Group which is likely to be stood down soon, along with the de Chastelain decommissioning commission?

Any omissions are much less Ford’s fault than the built-in constraints of the job itself. The big issues are bound to be for the Executive as a whole, in particular the two leading parties who cancelled themselves out for the job. Politically he is a quasi-neutral figure between the blocs, conducting a holding operation. The role of any justice minister was always going to limited whoever held it,  as some of us observed when the hue and cry over devolving J&P powers was at its height.

The minister cannot directly influence the response to that threat as MI5 is responsible for gathering intelligence on dissidents and the chief constable is operationally independent. What he can do is lend his support to calls for greater funding and resources.

The goals have been brigaded under five broad themes; reducing offending and dealing with its consequences; building safer communities; increasing access to justice; supporting justice in a shared future and resourcing and supporting delivery across the justice system

 (When a word like ” brigaded” passes into the public domain, you know the civil service is in charge).

Ford’s main task so far has been the bureaucratic if important one of introducing the Justice Bill to implement reforms mostly trailed and specified already.

As well as the offender levy proposal, the Bill proposes the issuing of fixed penalties fines for a range of offences and the creation of new Policing and Community Safety Partnerships to help tackle crime at a local level.

Although it’s early days, it would help to know more about the expected outcomes of these reforms. Were complaints about too lenient sentences reasonable or not? Did the former District Policing Partnerships fade away due to indifference or background intimidation and will their replacements perform any better? The conclusions could be crucial in focusing public support for combating new paramilitary and gangland threats.

David Ford’s neutrality between the blocs is accepted but has he been effectively neutered as well? Is that the price to be  paid for taking the job? What will be the Justice Department’s destiny after the May elections, Ford Mark 2 or something completely different? In this age of austerity, does it still make sense to keep on a Policing Board with its minority lay element, when a new department exists, accountable to the Assembly?

 

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  • Alas Brian you may scratch to be further disappointed in what our politicians are doing for us.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont think it was part of Fords agenda for two years to be actually DOING anything.
    The agenda was merely to get his backside on an Executive seat.
    Mission accomplished.

  • pippakin

    Is it not a bit early to be making a judgement on his success or failure. Hopefully his is looking closely at what needs to be done and get the support he will need to make any changes.

  • Mark McGregor

    For the first time ever I agree with Pippakin.

    While I don’t expect Ford or any other Minister in the glorified council to ever make a real impact – he is only in his chair 6 months.

    What can he be expected to have achieved when legislation takes years to travel from thought to consultation to implementation?

  • pippakin

    Mark McGregor

    Oookay, I’m going over every word to discover what if anything I have done to deserve such agreement, and if possible change it.

  • Alias

    You could give him the benefit of the doubt if he had actually any proposals for changes that you could be doubtful about – which, incidentally, he hasn’t.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Well,he could start by finding out,just who did order Jean McConvilles,brutal abduction amd murder !!!

    Awk,hello El Beardo………….how is baby Jebus,and the tree hugging going ?? …………….

    queue numerous posts about a famine zzzzzzzzzzz
    1916……zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    eternal whingers zzzzzzzzzzzzz
    2016…………………hehehe 🙂
    and,last,but by all means least………….the LOL……lol……..if you get me ??? lol 🙂

  • Seymour Major

    David Ford’s neutrality between the blocs is accepted but has he been effectively neutered as well?

    It is important for the media to get a proper understanding of the Justice Minister’s role. In your post, you have answered some of your own questions. Of course the big issues are for the Executive.

    The Justice Minister has a massive “in tray” I can think of reforms that I would like to make myself, such as changes to the divorce system but I absolutely agree with commenters who have said that it is too early to judge

    In fairness to him, he did set out his prioritities when coming to office

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8676140.stm

    The Introduction of the Justice Bill is a few weeks later than estimated but lets not get worked up about that.

    “it would help to know more about the expected outcomes of these reforms”

    In fairness to Ford, he did explain the objectives of the bill to the media

    http://www.u.tv/News/Justice-bill-to-put-victims-at-heart/2d5dc896-e70f-4571-8e1d-ee31717fc48c

    As to your specific questions, is it not the role of opposition spokespersons to ask those questions in the Assembly?

    There’s a job for Basil

  • “The minister cannot directly influence the response to that threat as MI5 is responsible for gathering intelligence on dissidents and the chief constable is operationally independent.”

    Hmmm. Some would tell you that MI5 are responsible for that threat. And that does beg the question … “Where is their intelligence” …. if that is the best that they can do in this Age of Cyber Communication and Remote Control Neuro-Linguistic ProgramMING.

    Get your pathetic act together, Mr Evans, for England expects …. better and AI Betas. FFS, what do you think Loughside is for? How about some enlightened leadership? A novel experience, I grant you, but well worth the effort I assure you, for every man willing to do his duty.

    It is here that I can’t help thinking of monkeys and peanuts, and the perils of incestuous hierarchies and in-house promotional infrastructures, for that which is being delivered to the province has certainly nothing to do with brains and new challenging ideas.

  • cynic47

    Davy was kind of brill in “opposition”. He had lots of ideas and solutions but the bright spotlight of becoming a minister has blinded him. Sure we always knew he was just a paperweight.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    In fairness to David Ford….everybody is brilliant in opposition. Not so brilliant when your civil servants are handing you briefing papers with damage limitation measures.
    Grown up political analysts accept that Ford cant personally be held responsible for screw ups over Donagh or people walking out of jail as a result as a mistake….any more than McGimpsey can be held responsible for screw ups in Northern Health Board or Murphy over NI Water.

    But as always political agendas come into play. And the culture of damage limitation takes over.
    Immature analysts (like me for example) take great personal pleasure in the holier than thou David Ford being fully immersed in the culture of damage limitation about which he lectured others for years….in opposition.

  • Turgon

    fitzjameshorse1745, has it exactly right. Ford may have had some ideas in opposition. However, the problem is that now he is in government he efferctively has to toe the party line to an even greater degree than any other minister. SF and DUP ministers may have to support their own side’s decisions but not the other parties and the UUP and SDLP can be pretty independent (such is the bizarre nature of our mandatory coalition).

    Ford, however, owes his position entirely to SF and the DUP. As such he cannot afford to do anything to antagonise them and thus far had succeeded by doing precisely nothing: though as said by others it is fairly early.

    None of this will matter to Ford. He is right where he wanted to be; the exact place he said it would not be when he was claiming Alliance would not take the justice ministry.

    Ford’s snout is bang on target right in the centre of the trough and he (and his snout) are clearly enjoying it.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Clearly if the ministry does not have sufficent powers then all parties should campaign for them – starting with Dee Davey himself.

    Turgon,

    Although I think Wee Davey’s posturing – pre-appointment – when he spent most of his time trying to obstruct progress was pretty appalling – by taking the job, even if for unwholsome reasons, he has faciltiated a deal between SF and the DUP and should be given a fair chance to prove his worth.

  • cynic47

    And the buck stops where?

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst I think that Brian poses some very useful questions about Justice in NI, some of you are obviously not capable of standing back from your own biases, a pity for we get into the same old,same old (FJH esp predictable).

    But leaving aside the key issues/questions, I can assure you that if David Ford was directed by selfish interests, people like me in APNI would have sussed it out and self interest is one of our mortal sins. The Justice job and the inmplications for APNI should we be offered it was discussed inside and out over a considerable period at all levels of the party.

    Anyone would find the Justice job one of the most complex,sensitive and intellectually challenging going in the Assembly. Change to such a massive system was always going to be incremental. I have seem nothing to alter my confidence in DF. This is not just loyalty, I honestly believe in DF as the person for such a difficult job.

  • Alias

    Folks are forgetting that he didn’t get the job because of his plans for the office or because of an electoral mandate but simply because his party is designated at “other” (i.e. not nationalist or unionist) and as the DUP vetoed a nationalist from the office on the basis that they were not fit and proper people to hold the justice portfolio, the Shinners agreed with the DUP’s sectarianism on the condition of reciprocal sectarianism, i.e. that unionists weren’t fit to hold the office either. Of course, Alliance are actually a pro-union party so the taigs got screwed on that one.

    When the basis of his appointment was dysfunctional sectarianism, why would anything be expected from him other than playing honst piggy-in-the-middle?

  • Turgon

    Alias,
    Well playing a pretty dishonest piggy in the middle in view of his claiming he would not take the post in the first place.

    However, very pig like in that his snout sought out the trough with unerring accuracy

  • Turgon

    If he is the man for the job why did he claim that he would not do it in the first place?

    Then again when the trough was prepared for him what snout can resist?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well in fairness the idea of an Alliance leader putting his selfish interests ahead of his party is not exactly unknown……Cushnahan ended up as a MEP in er Munster for…..er Fine Gael.
    And Alderdice shafted Close to be Speaker.
    Not that I would accuse Ford of being in the same league in any sense.

    In a fair world, Ford would indeed be given the benefit of the doubt and Time. But thats a commodity thats never allowed to any politician by his/her opponents.
    So its obvious that Ford will be given no such luxury. Unfair but still amusing to watch him squirming.

    And it also has to be said that “Justice” is the Department which must conform to “procedures” more than say Health or Agriculture. So Ford is even more a prisoner of his advisors and the system than any other Minister.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The reason Wee Davey gave for not taking the ministerial seat was becuase he said that Stormo was dysfunctional and that ridicolously he couldnt be part of an executive which was divided.

    In other words a party which was formed to bring the communities was going to obstruct progress becuase the communities were divided.

    By good fortune for Norn Iron and the Alliance a deal was reached otherewise Alliance would have contributed to the collapse of Stormo. Wee Davey is lucky man to both get the job he is in and that he doesnt have that as his political obituary.

  • cynic47

    Are the Alliance Party pro union?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Apparently they are agnostic.
    But as can be seen that declaration is pretty meaningless. A few years back individual members changed their designation without blinking an eye.
    Predictably Alliance members and apologists will say this was an amazingly principled act in the best traditions of AP working for the greater good.

    As any AP member will tell you……they are very very principled.

  • Granni Trixie

    I consider this not to be a principled act (dislike that much misused word) so much as pragmatism.

    2 points of information:

    1. John Cushenan left NI reluctantly because he needed to earn a living (with wife and children (possibly 5?) as dependants as there were scarce political opportunities here (and APNI had little income to employ him). Bob Cooper had to make a living in a quango for same kind of reasons. They each loved politics with Alliance (I know this from personal discussions with them).
    By my values it is admirable to put your family responsibilities above your own wishes to prioritize a party or job, not something to criticise someone for.
    Such priority contrasts I know with that in many Republican accounts where putting ‘the cause’ above all else is what is valued,even if it means neglecting your children (think Brendan Hughes for instance – look what happened to his son).

    2. You are also wrong in assuming that APNI did “not blink an eye” when changing designation. The prospect caused
    much internal wrangles but consensus was reached that we should do so for reasons and circs which we understood. Once but not again.
    When the subject was revisted at an Alliance Council forum through time, a policy was agreed upon stating that we would not under any circumstances change our designation again.

  • Turgon

    Granni Trixie,
    Not bad spinning but remind us what “principle” forced Lord Alderdice to elbow Seamus Close out of the way so he Alderdice could become speaker?

    You present Alliance and Ford as principled. Well maybe but principle and Ford’s need to get his snout into the trough seem rather closely linked for comfort. So principled was Ford that he had to abandon his previously stated position and sink his snout into that trough. Is it actually the principle that Alliance have to be in government, just as they had to have positions on Quangos and the like?

  • Alias

    If you’re not anti-union then you’re pro-union since the union is the status quo. There could only be a neutral or ‘agnostic’ political position if both of the other constitutional positions required action to obtain. Since one position is already obtained, it requires no action so inaction is the default pro-union position.

    Of course, legally they’re all pro-union since all of them have signed up to the legitimacy of that constitutional position. That wasn’t the case prior to the GFA. Since it wasn’t necessary to endorse partition, it is nonsense to claim that those who chose to endorse it in 1998 only chose to endorse it because they actually oppose it.

    That’s like claiming you only married your wife because you wanted to divorce her….

  • Damian O’Loan

    Has everyone forgotten that Ford’s condition for accepting the post was progress on the Shared Future agenda? The CSI strategy produced as a result of the same talks is an insult to the idea of progress and completely called Ford’s bluff. I had a lot of respect for the Alliance Party until it failed, completely, to play its hand on its very raison d’être. At this point, it is meaningless and its only chance for survival is the anti-democratic liberal consensus enduring. It now has as many ideological contradictions as a Catholic Republican party, a steep decline for a once admirably positioned group.

    Nevertheless, it is equally meaningless to judge Ford so early on his ministerial performance.

  • madraj55

    Shocking cynicsm, FJH. Can’t help agreeing though. Ford, like the cars they used to make has been a poor starter. Anyway, all this business as at Hillsboro will have to be revisited again in a sort of groundhog day in 2012 when theplanes will be busy shuttling ministers back and forth, as they attempt to staunch the dam from bursting on the whole stormont debacle.

  • madraj55

    cynic. I think ‘pointless’ sums him up, and he only has himself to blame for that unfortunate remark.

  • Granni Trixie

    Turgon: I and most people I know do not try to defend the actions of SC or JA in striving to get the Speakers job.
    You cannot hold the APNI responsible for thawarting one persons personal ambitions. To be fair however as time passed most agree that JA was good in modelling how the role ought to be conducted.

    As for CSI – Alliance accepted in good faith an agreement to progress CSI. The document produced is disappointing but it puts a shared future on the public agenda again making it more difficult to park this ambition.

    Experience shows that Alliance is damned if they do and damned if they dont. I prefer to take decision which are risky because experience shows that most of these have move things on,sometimes in the long run. People would have criticised APNI for not taking responsibility for Justice when the opportunity arose just as you are sniping now because we did. I can live with that and actually,you know, it seems our voters do too.

  • Granni Trixie

    I probably need to clarify (where is that preview?) :
    APNI played no part in having JA appointed or indeed to thawrt SC’s ambitions to do so.

  • madraj55

    ‘Ford, however owes his position entirely to SF and the DUP’

    Yes turgon. and not only that but both parties owe their salaries and expenses entirely to Pailey’s decision in ’07 to wait until the votes were safely in before deciding to let Stormont be set up again.
    Hardly an auspicious start to what has been a dispiriting and meagre version of democracy these three and a half years. They shoould close it down, since , as ford himself said, If they can’t or won’t make decisions on budget, just hand it back to the SoS. and retire from the scene, permanently.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I am not sure that I agree with this cynical exposition of politics which suggests that nothing can ever get done differently and that everyone is ultimately at the mercy of the civil servants. This is demonstrably untrue in UK and Irish politics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitzjameshorse1745, has it exactly right. Ford may have had some ideas in opposition. However, the problem is that now he is in government he efferctively has to toe the party line to an even greater degree than any other minister.

    It’s deeply ironic to hear a TUV supporter lecturing us about how those in opposition have the luxury of being principled.

    Ford, however, owes his position entirely to SF and the DUP.

    And SF and the DUP owe their position entirely to Ford. Alliance accepting the policing and justice role is the only reason why power sharing did not collapse early this year.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You haven’t answered my question from a wee while ago. Given your view that SF have the power to force the British government to make decisions by threatening to collapse the assembly, why aren’t they making that threat now over the British budget cuts ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    And Alderdice shafted Close to be Speaker.

    That’s what Seamus wanted people to think. He never did get over losing the party leadership to Alderdice way back when.

  • Comrade Stalin

    A few years back individual members changed their designation without blinking an eye.

    There actually was a lot of eye blinking, And a lot of phonecalls from Washington, Dublin and London.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If you’re not anti-union then you’re pro-union since the union is the status quo.

    It may shock you to discover it’s possible not to have a strong, or fixed, opinion on something.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon, I see Torrens Knight is in the papers again today. No doubt a few principled TUV members will be writing in letters of support. After all, nothing which is morally wrong can be politically right.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Experience shows that Alliance is damned if they do and damned if they dont.

    Experience is worse; it shows that no matter how much you take pains to explain things, the same old people will come out with the same old anti-Alliance soundbites.

  • madraj55

    Ever the self publicist, Knight is revelling in his noteriety on the 17th anniversary of his slaughter of innocents at Greysteel.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I agree.
    It was JA who played the most significant part in having JA appointed.
    And it was JA who thwarted the ambitions of SC.

  • Greenflag

    As Pippakin said above it’s too early to say but apart from the ‘lunatic fringes’ on either side of the political divide I would say that Mr Ford has done well and is gradually building support for what can only be a thankless task at the best of times . I’m sure the British & Irish governments and the NI Assembly will continue to give him all the support he needs .

  • Comrade Stalin

    “thwarted the ambitions” ? Alderdice put himself forward for the job. The Brits selected him over Close. What’s the problem ? Ah, I forgot. Alderdice is a Prod and Close is a taig. Therefore it must have been a conspiracy to discriminate – rather than the sad playing-out in public of a rivalry that had been going on for some time.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin,
    I think youre wrong as Granni Trixie has already informed us that the Alliance Party is above that sorta internal division..
    And a bit below the belt to suggest that I favour Close over Alderdice on religious grounds.
    As I made clear on another thread I much preferred Neeson (“taig” as you would say) to Close (another “taig” as you might say).
    For the record Id put forward that I preferred Cooper (who I knew in his post AP days) to Napier (never met the man but my mother didnt like the look of him which is good enough for me).
    Glass to Anybody.
    Anybody to Cushnahan.
    Long to Most People.
    Most People to Ford.

    I base my likes and dislikes on all kinds of lunacy but sectarianism isnt one of them.

  • Granni Trixie

    NO, Granni has not “informed us” any such thing. Perhaps I communicated badly but I thought from what I said about the Close and Alderdice case and about conflicts in other , posts that APNI has indeed internal conflcts. Far from being a weakness, I believe that working through such human failings and differences is ultimately a strength (not nice at the time though).

    Have to say that I never conceived of the Close/JA case as anything to do with their perceived background and I doubt if most people (including on this thread) do either.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think youre wrong as Granni Trixie has already informed us that the Alliance Party is above that sorta internal division..

    My interpretation of what she pointed out was the truth, namely that the Alderdice/Close speaker thing was nothing to do with the party, and therefore cannot be classified as internal division. So we’re talking across purposes.

    I was pondering this during today and I suspect what the party lacks (or lacked – the problem may be fixed now as the appointment of Ford as JM had to be approved by the party council) is a rule in the constitution which forbids elected representatives from taking appointed jobs without the approval of the party. That would have made the whole thing an internal matter and it could have been properly dealt with then. The whole debacle spun out of control because the NIO mistakenly informed both Close and Alderdice, more or less simultaneously, that they were in line for the job; that couldn’t have happened if the NIO knew that it would have had to have been cleared through the right channels first.

    It’s not true to say that APNI has no division; Granni has also hinted at some of the internal division that did exist, such as over the redesignation matter. All parties have internal division, some are very good at hiding this by deploying relatively extraordinary means to keep it quiet.

    And a bit below the belt to suggest that I favour Close over Alderdice on religious grounds.

    Shortly after you began contributing here, I think it was a year or so ago, you proferred the theory that Alliance was unionist in flavour because Catholics in Alliance tend to get shafted, citing the cases of Sean Neeson and Seamus Close.

  • Granni Trixie

    CS: what a memory! FJH also seems to salt away many items so I await with interest to his response. I will be disappointed however if your memory is not ‘false’ in some way, we all do it. We all also pass remarks we regret (especially on this site,personally speaking).

  • Granni Trixie

    PS

    CS: I would be astonished if there was substance to the claims that Catholics in APNI tend to be shafted or passed over.Infact I personally would be doing something about it – wouldn’t any member worth their salt?.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Granni, the claim is completely without substance. As a significant proportion of all such claims are – if there was any substance then we would have heard about it in court – but that doesn’t stop some people from mischief making.

    And I distinctly recall FJH making those remarks, and I donated quite some time to responding to them.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    On the last point first…….I might well have proffered that theory. But its certainly my belief that Neeson was shafted by Matthews and Close was shafted by Alderdice.
    On the other hand Cooper was overshadowed and marginalised by Napier.
    Im certainly glad that AP members are prepared to come round to the not very novel theory that they are just like every other party……with cliques and divisions. There is of course no real downside to Longs election as a MP (hooray) and Fords appointment to Justice (boooooo) except that AP is now a grown up party …..as Ford would say on 7th May the Media have to recognise that there are FIVE Parties.
    AP members must therefore accept the fact that its no longer tenable to project itself as JUST a “nice” party with JUST “nice” people. It wont be tenable to merely dismiss every in-house dispute as exaggerated, untrue, mere personality, and the fault of the NIO.
    Re-visiting 1998 and the Speakership is interesting. NIO “offered” the Speakership to two different members of the same Party at roughly the same time.
    Thats interesting.
    As I recall, the general opinion at the time was that the AP would get a seat in the Executive and that they would pick up the Speakership as a consequence of being just about the only Party acceptable to all. No mean achievement in itself and one to be applauded.
    But frankly 1998 was a bad election. A defeat. They failed in the objective under Alderdices watch of getting that Executive seat.
    Now certainly youre right that the mess…..and I wouldnt lay ALL of the blame at the door of the NIO……should have been sorted internally. How it played out was NOT the finest hour of the Alliance Party.
    Alderdice who had led the Party to a lesser result might well have felt he should resign. He didnt. He took the Speakers chair, and already a Member of another Legislature he was certainly not worried about Double Jobbing.
    Of course he resigned from AP to be (neutra) Speaker. AP lost a powerful member. Close was shafted.
    And did not ever get the Leadership of the Party as a consolation.
    Not a good days work.
    It would have been better if AP had backed Close for Speaker and had the weight of Alderdice as Leader. Actually Alderdice shafted the entire Alliance Party.
    Several years later around the time Close was making an eejit of himself over gay rights, I was advised that Close was actually more popular OUTSIDE Alliance than inside it.

    That might be a more accurate observation than the carefully cultivated image of JUSt “nice” people. I for one am heartened by signs of normality.
    As to what I said in January when I rejoined Slugger under this name after about a year in the wildnerness….I said a lot of stuff.
    So did you Comrade Stalin. You outed me as an embittered SDLP politician rejected by the electorate in North Belfast.
    One of your Alliance colleagues reminded me how he had had been brought up reading my newspaper column.
    A third Sluggerite thought I should write under my real name.
    Yeah we all say stupid things dont we?

  • Comrade Stalin

    With respect to Brian’s main article here, there is a bit of a problem with the perception of the Justice Minister’s role, and it’s something some of us did take pains to highlight during the year or two of debate that ran up to the powers being devolved.

    Not only does the justice minister have no power over MI5 in terms of it’s national security brief within NI, he has no power over the police. It is the Police Board to whom the Chief Constable and the police are directly accountable. The Board and the DPPs are the organizations that set up policing plans and priorities etc each year. It is largely the Police Board which shapes the direction that day to day policing takes.

    It appears that there are still some people who believe that David Ford can call the Chief Constable into his office and order him to pick his game up, or to go and do stuff. That’s not the way it works. It’s very deliberately not the way it works, as all these layers of accountability, and separation of operational policing matters from politicians, were key requirements for policing reform here.

    Another detail that should be brought out here is that Ford’s neutrality allows certain things to get done that otherwise might be very difficult. For example the negotiations conducted with Republican prisoners a few months back that led to them standing down their protest. It is hard to see how a DUP or an SF minister would have been able to authorize this if the proposal landed on their Minister’s desk. This is an example of the kind of deference to pragmatism that is only straightforward for Alliance to pull off.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If Comrade Stalin distinctly recalls it….he will have no problem finding the quotation. Ive tried (as a help its probably January or February) and I post a lot of rubbish but Id like to see the quote and context.

  • Granni Trixie

    FJH (with ref to your comments not yet published on Slugger but which has reached my mailbox).

    It is so frustrating having to repeat oneself.But I will give it a go whilst I have energy:

    1. “nice people” in “a nice party” are identities based on
    your stereotype not ours. Our unique USP is that we attract cross community support so ofcourse this adds to the diversity in the mix so ofcourse there are internal wrangles.
    Where do you get this idea that we deny this? On Slugger I I have often commented on such patterns in political parties as being par for the course.

    2.Alliance ought to have “sorted out internally the Speakership”. A mistake you make is that you seem to assume that APNI thought it was to
    their strategic advantage to land this role. No – after a disappointing number of MLAs were returned, very definately the party decided it needed all the voting power they had to stand any chance of being effective in the Assembly. So this makes a nonsense of “they should have backed Close for Speaker”. ..Alliance was not going to back anyone.
    Let me reiterate – it was at an individual level (2 of them it would seem) who must have sought the job from NIO.
    So ofcourse 2 leaders breaking rank for person gain created bad feeling internally.

    I actually think that in general Alliances as strategic thinkers (under DF!) is greatly underestimated (Naomi Long’s campaign was carefully planned, remember).

    3. Don’t have any knowledge of grievance between Mathews and Neeson – but it does seem to me that you only know part of the story. For instance, I do seem to remember that Sean had to slow down for health reasons at some point.

    What is more interesting to me than dealing with your points is your reference to your own “year in the wilderness”. How dramatic! Do tell.

  • Comrade Stalin

    On the last point first…….I might well have proffered that theory. But its certainly my belief that Neeson was shafted by Matthews and Close was shafted by Alderdice.

    Why do you refer to the process where someone loses a nomination or a post as “shafting” ? You’re well aware that this goes on in other parties and that it is a normal part of party politics. If I apply for a job and get it does that mean I “shafted” the unsuccessful applicants ?

    I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say there are cliques and divisions in Alliance. There are certainly people who disagree from time to time with the leadership, but that’s not the same thing. The only party that I can think of locally that has factions in the usual sense would be the UUP.

    AP members must therefore accept the fact that its no longer tenable to project itself as JUST a “nice” party with JUST “nice” people.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that AP members are trying to project any such thing. I certainly put my point of view across in plain language and put my views and my disagreements with others in strong terms. I’m not aware of being “nice people”.

    If you’re referring to the general concept that the country might be in better shape if nationalists and unionists would get along and focus on what is important, I don’t see that as wishy washy nice-guy stuff, but as hard headed pragmatism. Of the kind that someone earlier this week was trying to say had been invented by John Hume.

    It wont be tenable to merely dismiss every in-house dispute as exaggerated, untrue, mere personality, and the fault of the NIO.

    I didn’t do that either. The NIO did screw up but yes, they are not responsible if aggreived people choose to air their linen in public.

    But frankly 1998 was a bad election. A defeat. They failed in the objective under Alderdices watch of getting that Executive seat.

    1996 Forum election was also a bad election and I don’t see how any party leader would be tenable after a second one in a row. I was a relative newbie at that time, I’ll admit, but I definitely don’t remember us believing we were going to walk into an executive seat. The shock had already come in 1996. I know you’re trying to argue that Alderdice’s decision to go for the job was made at the last minute after an unexpectedly bad election, but that’s not what I recall and I doubt that Alderdice really believed it was going to happen. I think he had probably decided to get offside some time before 1997.

    How it played out was NOT the finest hour of the Alliance Party.

    How it was played out was nothing to do with the Alliance Party.

    Alderdice who had led the Party to a lesser result might well have felt he should resign. He didnt. He took the Speakers chair, and already a Member of another Legislature he was certainly not worried about Double Jobbing.

    He took the job after being asked to do it by the Brits.

    I have given my view that the double jobbing “issue” is a fad largely manufactured by the media so it would be inconsistent of me to agree with you on that part, which in any case was entirely irrelevant in the public and media mind at that time.

    Of course he resigned from AP to be (neutra) Speaker. AP lost a powerful member.

    That’s news to me. My understanding was that Alderdice continued to speak for Alliance in the Lords and was a fully paid up member up to and including the present.

    Close was shafted.

    You still haven’t explained how we get to there from here. And if anybody did the shafting wasn’t it the Brits ? – telling one guy he would get the job and then giving it to another guy at the last minute ?

    And did not ever get the Leadership of the Party as a consolation.

    Close didn’t want the leadership of the party, he was in a very bad mood by that time, and it was a poison chalice that poor old Sean got lumbered with in any case.

    It would have been better if AP had backed Close for Speaker

    It’s a shame AP had nothing to do with who was going to be speaker.

    and had the weight of Alderdice as Leader.

    Alderdice had just taken the party through two very bad elections, so that wasn’t going to happen.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I fully take the point that AP had no strategic advantage in getting the Speakers Chair. It actually lost a member as a result (Alderdice had to leave the Party to be nuetral) and getting the Speakership gave AP no advantage……but it gave Alderdice a salary. But your view now that two people broke rank for persoanl gain caused bitterness……more so as you observe that this was the Leader and Deputy Leader.
    I think Ive teased you away from your original stance.
    Backing Close rather than Alderdice for Speaker was the lesser of two bad choices. …..if one was to get the job.
    All it meant was that the Alliance leader (and biggest hitter) was neutralised by leaving Party and taking the Speaker role.
    The Deputy Leader went into a sulk.
    The point that e can surely agree on is that if AP had gained maybe two more seats as it expected or hoped to do then the situation would hardly have arisen.
    Alderdice (presumably) would have seamlessly moved into the Executive.
    And AP would certainly have been happy if Close had taken the Speakership (although neutralising himself from Party Politics) as the loss of a AP vote would be more than offset by the gain of an Executive seat.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Comrade Stalin
    As you know Naomi Long sits on the Opposition benches since May. Alderdice sits on the Government benches in the Lords. He is I think Chief Whip (it may actually have a fancy different title) of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords.
    Hes a big man in Liberal International also (but I think that AP is a member of that).
    In sheer practical terms I dont think he could be possible for him to be on the Monitoring Commission AND a member of a “Northern Ireland” party.
    No…..Im inclined to think hes no longer an Alliance member.
    Certainly it would be extraordinary if AP had a MP on the Opposition bench in the Commons and a peer on the Government benches in the Lords.
    How could he speak for Alliance now?
    I actually agree with you on Double Jobbing. It is a media fad and in the wake of expenses scandals the politicians have given into the pressure.
    Theres no good reason why Ms Long should not be on the East Belfast Assembly ticket next year. Theres a more than reasonable chance of two seats and Ms Long makes that more likely.
    Ah “shafting”……well of course there is a big difference in losing and being shafted.
    “Shafted” implies disloyalty and as you know I hold the belief that Close was shafted by Alderdice.
    And if party leader Neeson seeking the Westminster nomination is overlooked in favour of Matthews then surely that is an act a Leader might not reasonably expect.
    Incidently in 1974 selection of Gerry Fitt was opposed by Paschal O’Hare (a failed SDLP politician from North Belfast you might say) 🙂
    But Im intrigued. Even as a new boy in 1998, you pick up on the fact that AP had two bad elections….are you saying that Alderdices time was up as Leader in 1998?

  • well then in a few years time we’ll have a tight grip on football fans throughout the country. Presumably to keep those busying themselves with the rights of rioters happy.

    And to answer the title question:

    No.