NI Executive: “Never mind the quality, feel the width…”

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An interesting analogy from BBC NI’s Jim Fitzpatrick in an accurate depiction of the dysfunctional nature of our ‘indigenous’ arrangements.  From Jim Fitzpatrick’s article

It would be unfair to criticise the parties for a lack of delivery, whenever all they were expected to deliver was “themselves” to the finishing line.

But as they head into an election seeking a mandate for a new term in office, it will be interesting to see what expectations are for the new term. And a question they will have to address is whether the current structures actually allow for good government.

A number of issues this week highlighted the dysfunctional nature of an Executive where power is distributed less by coalition, than by contested carve-up. The ministers around the Executive table have the leadership style of mafia bosses representing five different families, each with their own territory and each with their own power base.

They work together because they have accepted the basic ground rules, but getting agreement is a constant game of trade-offs. The smaller families feel they are not getting a fair slice of the action, but they remain at the table because they fear annihilation from the bigger families should they leave.

It is a structure which does not encourage strategic oversight, or shared common objectives.

Read the whole thing.  As Jim Fitzpatrick says

…when it comes to election time, expect our politicians to trumpet how good it has been to have had four years of government, but perhaps they could tell us how good a government the next one will be.

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  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Pete,

    “dysfunctional ” is your favourite term when speaking of the Assembly. You should really back up the use of that term or drop it or it just looks like ideological wishful thinking.

    You really expect that we can realistically have better government than we have had given the divided nature of Ulster society?

    The DUP and SF have done an excellent job in delivering stability and the continous trotting out of tired old cliches hardly does that justice.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Ministers around the Executive table have the leadership style of Mafia bosses”

    So which one of the five in the photo represents the Alliance Party? I can go with a party being a family and I’ve previously referred to our Rafia and Lafia but the very idea of AP and concrete boots …

  • The Word

    “It is a structure which does not encourage strategic oversight, or shared common objectives.”

    I suppose when Jim puts on the walking boots and treads from door to door asking people to vote for him, he can then tell those people of his strategic plans. Up to then, he’ll have to accept that the model serves the people and they elect the politicians.

    They do so for strategic reasons in most cases, and Jim will find that they get fed up listening to journalists tell them that they don’t understand the system.

    They know the system is preferable to the boarding school boys shouting at each other those “strategic messages” in London, or even the consensual oppositional elitism of the South. It’s even better than those Americans serving their strategic intersts in the billionaire business of US politics.

    People can count themselves lucky, Jim.

  • Pete Baker

    Sammy mac

    Haven’t we had the conversation about you making things up?

    As for “dysfunctional”.

    Well, Jim Fitzpatrick gives a couple of examples to illustrate his use of that term.

    You could always start there…

    Then you can start working through the Slugger archive.

  • andnowwhat

    Totally Agree Sammy.

    What we have in NI is a pretty unique situation.

    Actually, pretty much a bollox, neither Matt nor Mod. The politics are based almost completely on sectarian lines. A majority party, a normal situation, would be an unwelcome situation (as the recent story of Girdwood barracks site hints).

    These are the very early days of the modern era Stormont. There’s a long way to go. Calling the executive dysfunctional (don’t the cowardly journos just love that phrase? What have they done lately save for exposing what amounts to a bit of gossip?) is like calling a toddler a shite dancer.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “there is relief and no small amount of pleasure in many quarters”

    Now which quarters would those be? Perhaps Jim Fitzpatrick will supply the details. It’s always nice to know who might be covering up corruption in governance.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Pete,

    If you are going to elect to use the word and suggest that it is an “accurate depiction” then it is reasonable for you to be challenged on it – dont you think?

    Are you suggesting you dont elect to use it?

    This is a functioning executive which functions well in difficult circumstances. Robinson and Mc Guinness have perform well and compromised on diffcult issues.

    A bit of realism about where Ulster has come from and where it needs to get to wouldnt go amiss in the somewhat lazy name calling.

  • andnowwhat

    Nevin;

    Nice post and on the nail.

    As I have said before, NI journalism died on the rickety cross of the Robinson interview.

    I enjoyed the scandal as a laugh but it was no serious journalism. A bit of sex related tittle tattle and some normal local goverment financial dealings that are replicated throughout the world.

    The real story?

    Well, they didn’t have the balls for that

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Jim F March 19: “when it comes to election time, expect our politicians to trumpet how good it has been to have had four years of government”

    I wonder if Jim had read this from Peter Robinson in Washington the previous day:

    “But we want to bring her [Hillary Clinton] some good news – Northern Ireland was completing the first four-year term of an assembly ever for our power-sharing administration.”

    DUP and SF, the authors of the carve-up, might do a little trumpeting; AP, with an eye on the Justice portfolio again, will be a little more muted; but I’d expect the UUP and SDLP will have more than a few words to say about the late arrival of agendas and position papers for Executive meetings.

  • aquifer

    “It is a structure which does not encourage strategic oversight, or shared common objectives”

    Nothing to stop a corss community group of parties ganging up to offer that though, and if that is what the people want, they will get the votes.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Never mind the quality”

    It seems bloggers and commenters are not the only folks who’ve been concerned about quality. According to its Feb 01 minutes the DRD Board requested the Minister, Conor Murphy, to attend its next board meeting:

    “Margaret Langhammer reported the outcome of the Self Assessment review carried out by Board members using the Questionnaire contained in the Cabinet Office “Maximising Board Effectiveness” toolkit. This sought views on board structures, procedures, communications and the roles of the Chairman, non-executive Directors, Board Secretary and Minister.

    The responses indicated broad compliance with best practice in all areas. However, issues had been raised on communication and engagement with the Minister.

    After discussion, the Board agreed:

    • that Malcolm would invite the Minister to attend the next meeting of the Board;”

    What’s all this about? Have any other Ministers received such a summons?

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin
    Don’t you mean 01 Feb? Seeing as you are quite the pedant .-D

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Self Assessment …………. The responses indicated broad compliance with best practice in all areas¬

    Chuckle/Sigh

  • Cynic2

    “delivering stability”

    Sammy

    For stability read stalemate. I dont want stability or stalemate I want progress. Its a big cruel world out there and being dead in the water is the same as going backwards

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “For stability read stalemate.”

    Cynic2, the analogy I’ve used for our 1998 constitutional arrangement is a tug-of-war. When the two sides are fairly evenly balanced a lot of energy produces little movement; it yields unstable stability. It’s been a very gentlemanly tug-of-war; when one captain slips in the clabber, the other captain has a quick chuckle and then picks him up.

    Has our ‘dysfunctional’ media been fair in its treatment of the main players in our governance processes? I’ve given the DOE a bit of stick in relation to our rotting planning process and the DRD even more stick in relation to a whole range of deficiencies. I’ve not paid much attention to, say, DSD. It’s had difficulties with the Housing Executive: senior staff have departed or been suspended. I’ve had a quick look at the NIHE website. I can find no sign of minutes of Board or Executive meetings and no list of executives, acting or otherwise. Perhaps administratively it’s in a worse state than NI Water yet there appears to be very little media deep-dive analysis into NIHE affairs. Does a SF ministry have more ‘sex appeal’ than an SDLP one?

  • joeCanuck

    A ship which has capsized and turned completely upside down can be very stable.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    “A ship which has capsized and turned completely upside down can be very stable.”

    With SF and the DUP likely to do well in the forthcoming Stormo elections and those parties pedalling the dysfunctional line (SDLP and UUP) having their arses kicked – look out for for illuminating imagery – at least the begrdugers have largely move on from the other tired old chestnut of the ‘school children’ meataphor – and for that at least we should be grateful.

  • Cynic2

    Sammy

    Please point me towards what there is to ‘begrudge’?

    * Unemployment figures?
    * NIW?
    * Education?
    * The Restructuring of Councils?

    Just because the DUP and SF hyenas are happy to co-operate in gorging on the trough of sectarianism isn’t a cause to rejoice.

    Ah I just realised…that must be what they mean by ‘shared future’.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Cynic2,

    Have a look at the Politics show – note the the bit about what did the Romans ever do for us.

  • The Word

    “A ship which has capsized and turned completely upside down can be very stable.”

    Democracy concerns some people. Sometimes it doesn’t give the right result on their terms and in respect of their interests, and they can be seen conspiring in darkened rooms about taking out people.

    Here, it seems that the model offends them because it is very democratic, allowing the politicians to focus on serving the people and ensuring that there is little scope for them not to.

    In terms of “shared common objectives”, can they tell me the minister who is not looking at all the other ministers to ensure a policy gets through?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    The Word, it would appear that major Executive decisions are agreed in advance by the DUP and SF. Once a Minister has his/her allocated budget he/she can act like a little dictator in their own domain. Unsurprisingly, some may create fear in the minds of their Permanent Secretaries, others mirth.

  • The Word

    Nevin

    “like a little dictator in their own domain”

    I like strong politicians who stand up on their own two feet and tell it like it is. A dictator can’t exist under our system.

    “may create fear in the minds of their Permanent Secretaries, others mirth.”

    These attributes can and are exposed under our system. Of course, we agree with a free press, not one that fights the battles of business elites.

    The real battle is between the direction the people want to go and the way that the materialists want to take us in order to preserve their wordly interests.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “exposed under our system.”

    Exposed by whom or what, The Word?

  • The Word

    “exposed”

    Did I tread on a nerve, Nevin?

    By other politicians, of course. Then the press.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “whenever all they were expected to deliver was “themselves” to the finishing line”

    Expected by whom? As a voter and taxpayer I expected a lot more than what has been delivered.

  • Cynic2

    “A dictator can’t exist under our system.”

    ….you clearly dont understand how the DUP and SF work internally

    “the direction the people want to go and the way that the materialists want to take us in order to preserve their wordly interests.”

    …. presumably that’s why they all vote for the Greens.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail madraj55

    andnowwhat. [10.17.
    The 'emotional' interview with Robbo stripped bare the pretensions to journalism [both broadcast and print] here, as hopelessly tame. Incestuous was the word I was looking for, perhaps.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    This sad message today:

    “Rural College, Draperstown is now in receivership … all staff are redundant from 5pm today”