Martin McGuinness: “This decision is a very decisive decision…”

…and not at all another fudge to keep the Department of Justice upright while they re-apply the same sticking plaster as last time.

And as TUV leader Jim Allister said, “The Committee, of course, will lend itself to that farce.”

According to the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness

Mr McGuinness said the office of the first and deputy first minister was committed to tackling “the size of the assembly and the number of departments”.

“The whole issue of d’Hondt will be considered in the course of our deliberations through 2012 and we’ve committed to getting a resolution to that,” he said.

“This decision is a very decisive decision, it’s about leadership in the absence of consensus and it’s about moving forward in a way that gives confidence to people, that the work of policing and justice is not in any way going to be damaged or interrupted.”

Of course you have… and of course it is…  Here’s what the OFMDFM press release has to say about the “Stormont Castle proposals”

  • Without prejudice to the arrangements following the next Assembly election, or the outcome of the review required by the Northern Ireland (St Andrew’s Agreement) Act 2006, the Assembly will be asked to pass a resolution to extend the present cross-community vote provision for the election of the Justice Minister beyond May 2012. Whatever measures are possible and necessary to ensure that the tenure of the Justice Minister is consistent with other Ministers will be put in place.
  • Notwithstanding this resolution, alternative options including incorporating the allocation of the Justice Ministry by d’Hondt with a reduction in the number of government departments could be given particular consideration. The post election position should be considered as a matter of urgency as part of the PFG commitment to agree changes to the post 2015 structures in 2012 to allow for the introduction of any necessary legislation at Stormont or at Westminster [added emphasis]

And the draft Programme for Government? [Page 52 of 55 (pdf file)]

Agree any changes to post-2015 structures of Government in 2012 (OFMDFM) (To be carried out in consultation with political parties) [added emphasis]

How’s that for commitment

Back to the BBC report

SDLP Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the proposal was a “missed opportunity”.

“The SDLP argued that d’Hondt and only d’Hondt should be the standard for distribution of ministerial office,” he said.

“The DUP and Sinn Fein have also decided, with the stroke of a pen, to do away with a government department. As with d’Hondt, both again demonstrate a fast and loose approach to government, deciding in a blink of an eye which departments stay or go.

“This decision, taken without proper interrogation and consideration, looks arbitrary and political.”

And, on the sideshow distraction that is the axing of the Department of Employment and Learning, the BBC report again

Mr Ford said his party was not against a reduction in the number of assembly departments but said there was a need for a single strong department of the economy.

“We see what is apparently a carve-up, a fix to transfer some DEL functions to a Sinn Fein-controlled department in education and some to a DUP-controlled department in department of trade and investment,” he said.

“That looks to me, not just as potentially seen as malicious towards the Alliance Party but is actually extremely bad government, not to keep the economy departments together but to further fragment them when we should be moving towards move streamlined government,” he said.

I would welcome Mr Ford to the dysfunctional semi-detached polit-bureau NI Executive, but he’s been there long enough to recognise it in action…

And as Lord Justice Girvan said yesterday

A working democracy must have in place effective mechanisms for holding the Executive to account if its conduct, actions and practices fall below appropriate standards of good and fair administration.

Indeed.

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