Villiers: What Stormont needs is the revitalising influence of an opposition…

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Another day in Northern Ireland, another Groundhog.. Theresa Villiers is make a speech today saying it is time to make progress on the past and on a future that could bring NI political life back to the cryogenically sealed democracy unit currently operating at Stormont..

“Political institutions the world over adapt and change. As the founding father of modern Conservatism… the Irishman Edmund Burke… once put it: ‘A State without the means of change is without means of preservation’.

And there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one’s rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative,” she stated.

However, Ms Villiers insists that parties must agree a way forward. The coalition Government in London would not take the decision for them.

“This Government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power-sharing and inclusivity.

“But we also believe that if or how this happens really has to be primarily for parties in the Assembly to take forward, not least because it is so firmly within the Assembly’s competence to deal with those matters that might characterise an opposition.”

Both worthy sentiments, and true. But also impossible without large amounts of political energy, imagination and driving ambition. Liam Clarke also reports:

She pointed out that Executive spends £30 million a year on “legacy issues”. This, she said, placed a heavy burden on the police, and absorbed the energy of politicians, such as Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

“As we approach another marching season there is no doubt that an agreement on the way forward on flags, parading and the past even in outline would send a powerful global message about the ability of Northern Ireland’s politicians to find solutions even to the most divisive of issues,” she said.

She added that it would also “free up the space for politicians to focus more on other issues that are critical to our future such as rebalancing the economy, reforming the public sector and building a genuinely shared future.”

There’s no doubt that Irish democracy was re-vitalised by the eventual and almost complete defenestration of the Fianna Fail old guard in the last general election in the Republic. However northern nationalist memories of being in opposition were not happy ones.

If anything comforts nationalists about the new arrangements it may be that the loudest voices on the tiny opposition benches are unionist rather than nationalist. Although it ought to be instructive that they are, pound for pound also to be numbered amongst the more effective MLAs in the Assembly.

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  • Mc Slaggart

    ” Let’s see just who’s serious about post sectarian politics?”

    Was your comment in your thread “Unionist unity candidate declared in Fermanagh South Tyrone”.1 At least in that election their was a chance of electing an agreed “sectarian” 2 candidate.

    What was shocking was the inability of Unionism to support the sdlp in the mid ulster by-election. They had no hope of winning the seat but still could not bring themselves to support someone who would have attended the mother of parliaments.

    How can you have an opposition when unionism cannot bring itself to stop using sectarian politics?

    1
    Unionist unity candidate declared in Fermanagh South Tyrone (The deal included Theresa Villiers conservative party)
    http://sluggerotoole.com/2010/04/09/unionist-unity-candidate-declared-in-fermanagh-south-tyrone/
    2
    denoting or concerning a sect or sects.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    If this is the Big Speech that was being hyped last night, it seems a bit short on substance.
    I tend to see it in the context of next weeks parades rather than any high-minded change at Stormont.
    Clearly she has got the Parades Commission the NIO want….and Id assume next weeks determination about St Patricks is the “way forward”.
    Nothing really there.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It sounds to me like we are heading back to a period of prolonged stalemate. The two large parties are acting like monopolists; unconcerned that their dominant position will be challenged, they act as they please.

    I don’t think tinkering with the system is going to change this. The electorate have to throw them out.

  • Coll Ciotach

    All written from a unionist mindset, if you wish to get rid of sectarian politics you will have to get rid of the sectarian border

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep CS. It’s a top down revolution awaiting a bottom up evolution…

  • Kensei

    Could someone please explain to me how these two things are simultaneously true?

    1. The two “major parties” essentially have a lock on progress in the Assembly, regardless fo what the “minor parties” do
    2. The electorate, who are perfectly capable of voting in new “major parties” and have already done so once, can’t facilitate any change

  • Kensei

    Also could someone also explain to me under what rationale SF would exile themselves for at least a generation, maybe two?

  • Gopher

    She is talking sense. How can the Electorate vote for change if 5 parties are in the Executive. The only chance is if NI21 get a shed load of votes in the Euro election as they are the only place to register a protest vote.

    Stormont needs to be reformed there is absolutely no need for the UUP, SDLP and Alliance party to be in government

  • Gopher

    @Kensei. Nobody is talking majority rule its either the two biggest parties form the government or else a seat threshold which on the face of it would involve a broad coalition So if the UUP, SDLP and Alliance could work together (absolutelty no chance of that) they could form a government if they have a majority

  • Mc Slaggart

    Comrade Stalin

    “It sounds to me like we are heading back to a period of prolonged stalemate.”

    What you wrote implies that their was a time when the politics of northern Ireland was anything other than “stalemate”? I

    The chuckle brothers may have laughed but I did not notice much in the way of policy implementation. “For Everyone” is a tag line for those who live in the Dead Zone.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    “This Government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power-sharing and inclusivity.”

    What does this even mean. If an opposition is a good thing, though it doesn’t appear any party in too big a rush to become one, enabling clauses could have been put in the most recent legislation that simply reinforced the support scaffolding around status quo. Then let politics take its course.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    ‘She added that it would also “free up the space for politicians to focus more on other issues that are critical to our future such as rebalancing the economy, reforming the public sector and building a genuinely shared future.”’

    They meet two days a week, an extra for committees. Stormont has passed how much legislation in how many years? We’re soon to have as many local councils as Executive departments. How much space do they need? We’re not talking lack of time or resource here.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    “But we also believe that if or how this happens really has to be primarily for parties in the Assembly to take forward…”

    So how’s that going?

  • Charles_Gould

    An opposition does not mean SF have to leave government, it just means that if you don’t want to be or don’t have the numbers to be in government, you get formal benefits in terms of speaking time, and chairmanship of committees, etc. It’s not as difficult to do as you might think.

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    If NIO wants an Opposition, how would it actually get one.
    Well …the “new” Parades Commission is a change of direction and they have been appointed by the NIO.

    Hard to believe that DUP and SF would rush into Opposition.
    And why would Alliance Party do that.
    They certainly have more salaries and Skodas now than they would have in Opposition.
    Whether Alliance are acting for the Common Good by fearlessly mitigating the worst of DUP-SF (as their enthusiasts state publicly) or are the shameless clients of DUP-SF (as the rest of us think)….why would they give up a priveleged position to be just eight MLAs in the Assembly…arguably playing second fiddle to SDLP and even UUP (although in fairness UUP are a bit lightweight)..
    Presumably if Alliance left the Executive and it didnt collapse the Justice Ministry would go back to within NIO (the Justice civil servants seem to think that anyway)….another example of NIO taking control.

    If Villiers is making speeches …written in NIO….talking up Opposition then its likely that NIO would facilitate it…or engineer it. And unlikely that they would be writing speeches without sounding out key figures in Alliance, UUP and SDLP….including people not yet leading their Parties.
    We are now in Election Season.
    Not just Euros and Councils but it will be interesting to see if any Euro candidates grab that nettle.
    Likewise if Naomi Long has a serious chance of retaining East Belfast…and Id not bet either way…..it might just be helpful if she was in a Party that could no longer deal with SF in Executive.
    All very principled.
    Likewise….SDLP might prefer to go into Elections in 2015 and especially 2016 as Opposition.
    In crude electoral terms, would Alliance gain seats in 2016…if disconnected from DUP and SF? I would guess YES.
    SDLP also.

    But certainly a dilemna for SDLP.
    As a member, I would have regarded myself as neutral on Opposition.
    Increasingly I favour it…as a tactic.a
    And in a broader sense, we are living in a Farce.

  • Reader

    Charles_Gould: it just means that if you don’t want to be or don’t have the numbers to be in government, you get formal benefits in terms of speaking time, and chairmanship of committees, etc. It’s not as difficult to do as you might think.
    My suggestion is to include committee chairs in d’Hondt. (so that’s maybe 20, 22? slots instead 10,11). A party that doesn’t choose to be in Government can pick committee chairs instead of ministerial appointments when their turns come up.

  • Charles_Gould

    Reader: that’s quite an elegant formulation of how opposition could work, that at the same time enhances the “bite” of the .committees.

  • Greenflag

    Two comments from the lead thread don’t add up

    ‘ it ought to be instructive that they are, pound for pound also to be numbered amongst the more effective MLAs in the Assembly.’

    ‘the cryogenically sealed democracy unit currently operating at Stormont..’

    Assuming both quotes above are true or meant to be true how can anybody be truly effective in a cryogenically sealed unit ?

    Other than not decomposing ?

  • Greenflag

    I find Ms Villiers reported comments true but somehow contradictory .

    ‘‘A State without the means of change is without means of preservation’.”

    A very accurate description of NI and Stormont 1920- 1972 yet the State was preserved only to be reborn in 1998 with the GFA . And if I’m reading Ms Villiers correctly it’s deja vu time again as far as ‘means of change ‘ is concerned i.e absence of viable alternative opposition .

    ‘And there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one’s rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative,” she stated.’

    Ms Villiers is preaching to the converted . Political unionism made certain of that in 1920 .

    There is another alternative -unspoken as yet by Ms Villiers
    Goodbye Stormont – Welcome a new All Ireland Parliament . Bite the bullet as it were .

    With the best will in the world given NI recent and not so recent history it may be just impossible to achieve what Ms Villiers and her Government would like to see namely

    “This Government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power-sharing and inclusivity.

    Sunningdale again ? That was tried 40 years ago ? and it failed . The GFA is it’s replacement and lets not mince words -who else but HMG is responsible for installing the current oppositionless Assembly ?

    Hoisted -petard et al but Villiers & Co are maintaining the long spoon approach for now ..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “This Government is clear that we would welcome moves that facilitate a more normal system at Stormont that allows for formal opposition, so long as a way can be found to do this which is consistent with power-sharing and inclusivity.”

    As I quoted (from a drunk’s orders) on another thread:

    “Lie on your belly with your toes in the air!”

    Power sharing implicates everyone in the decisions if the power to make decisions is meaningfully shared, and meaningful opposition is impossible in such a situation. You cannot share decisions and oppose them at the same time, that is what is defined as schizophrenia in the world of psychology. I realise that decent people’s optimism persuades them to cherry pick the nice bits out to feel “all warm” over, but the welding of contradictory statements into one sentence does not mean that they can both actually happen. But that (saying nice user friendly things to smoke-screen the ugly truth) is what we are now calling “Democracy”, folks…..

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Power sharing implicates everyone in the decisions if the power to make decisions is meaningfully shared, and meaningful opposition is impossible in such a situation.”

    @Seaan,

    A system could easily be designed to encompass both power sharing and opposition. Opposition parties would simply continue to be designated “nationalist,” “unionist,” or “other.” Thus the SDLP could presumably replace Sinn Fein in sharing power with the DUP, or the UUP could, mind you this is purely theoretical, replace the DUP in sharing power with Sinn Fein. Presumably the “other” category could be empowered at the same time so that Alliance votes would actually count for something on those matters subject to community vetoes. NI21 would have to decide whether it would designate as unionist or other.

  • mr x

    @SeanUiNeill

    Also defined as ‘doublethink’ .

  • Gopher

    Either the the two biggest parties form the government or a coalition that can get a certain amount of seats, that number I imagine lies between 60%-70%

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Mr X,

    Thanks, and yes! I tire of the automatic almost hourly flash backs to the final chapter of “Animal Farm” every time I see the names of Peter and Martin linked. It all started with the chuckle brothers…

    and tmitch57, oh yes, I realise all that, but for the purposes of the real world rather than rarified political theory a la chess board, it would require a serious contender (tweedledee) with a reasonable chance of replacing the incumbent (tweedledum) to effect a meaningful opposition, as is usually the case. With the best will in the world I cannot see either the Greens or even the Alliance being able to do this. But then, even in the Westminster game of conkers at the Mother of Parliaments, “opposition” is a bit of a joke in this golden age of political “Consensus in the interests of universal wealth creation and the Bankster’s requirements”. My first father in law was a Polish exile who used to tell me that Wilson was going to Moscow to get his orders, and I was so sophisticated about it all and actually laughed at him…..

    Perhaps Cerberus Capital Management could simply buy up the rest of the province, put in a board of directors, and save us all the trouble of thinking for ourselves at all. I’m sure there would be a place for Peter at least on the board once the delayed Standards and Privileges enquiry from four years back is finally concluded and exonerates him fully.

  • Morpheus

    We are not ready for an opposition yet because the parties have not done enough to prove that they can be trusted to make decisions for the good of ALL the citizens of Northern Ireland.

    Bottom line is that mummy and daddy (the British and Irish Governments) took the stabilizers off the bicycle too early and didn’t make sure that we knew how to ride the bike before expecting us to fly solo – now we are heading for the ditch.

    It’s time the GFA guarantors created a committee of effective MPs and TDs who can take the reigns to:
    1. fully implement the GFA,
    2. put the Haass Proposals to referendum,
    3. take party politics out of projects like the A5,
    4. find ways of getting Invest NI to Invest in all of NI,
    5. make the NCA accountable to the same high standards as the PSNI before letting ‘em rip,
    6. finding out how many hundreds of millions will be taken out of the NI economy through these Welfare Reforms and come up with a detailed plan on how to mitigate the loss and minimize the impact

    …generally get us back on track again.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Morpheus, I love the shopping list, but once the shibboleth of a “Democratically voted in Assembly” is removed from the table, I still think that a Cerberus Capital Management buy out is still our best bet……

    They might even make the Province stand on its own two feet financially, something a non-elected governing “Council of Ireland” might take another century to achieve. But Cerberus would probably have to resort to sacking most of the inhabitants.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ I still think that a Cerberus Capital Management buy out is still our best bet’

    You might be right given that Cerberus seems to have had enough of the ‘arms ‘ business in particular the so called Freedom Group the gun maker who made the gun used in the Connecticut school mass killing of schoolchildren .

    http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/cerberus-to-sell-gunmaker-freedom-group/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

    “But Cerberus would probably have to resort to sacking most of the inhabitants.”

    Well Mr Feinberg has to make a good return on his investment for his clients and in particular after his ‘losses” on his acquisition of the USA ‘s largest gun manufacturer?

    Connecticut’s loss seems to have turned to Northern Ireland’s benefit or to be precise to it’s property market .

    A major Republican donor, Mr. Feinberg has Dan Quayle, the former vice president, and John Snow, the former Treasury secretary, on Cerberus’s payroll.

    Mr. Feinberg has a penchant for investing in military-related businesses. Cerberus’s holdings include the military contractor IAP Worldwide Services and the satellite provider GeoEye.

    Just what Northern Ireland needs eh ?

    To be fair though Mr Feinberg despite his predeliction for guns and hunting did’nt let these sideshows get in the way of upsetting his major investment clients .

    Now thats ‘professional ‘

    Once Messrs Robinson et al retire from NI politics will they find boardroom seats on the local NI board of Cerberus ?
    so that their local market knowledge can enhance company profits ?

    It would probably pay much better than any Assembly or Westminster salary or pension no doubt .

  • Charles_Gould

    Now, I am all in favour of establishing opposition structures.

    But Kensei makes the best point on this thread I think. To rehash his point…

    The government is basically a DUP-SF gig. In the NI system the top two parties have the grip on the levers of power. It’s like that for a reason.

    If voters want to change that they can – by voting for other parties than DUP and SF.

  • Greenflag

    ‘If voters want to change that they can – by voting for other parties than DUP and SF’

    Given that barely half the electorate will bother to vote and the percentage voting has been reducing since 1998 and it may even fall below 50% in May -it would seem most voters are not fussed about the cryogenically sealed unit on the hill .

    They don’t see the Assembly as having any real power to change much of anything so why bother . Westminster as we’ve just heard from Ms Villiers doesn’t want to interfere as it’s the local’s decision to continue as before without suffering any consequences from HMG at east for now or until after the next British general election . Mr Cameron doesn’t want any untoward eruptions coming from the province that would cast a shadow on his remaining watch .

  • Comrade Stalin

    FJH:

    They certainly have more salaries and Skodas now than they would have in Opposition.
    Whether Alliance are acting for the Common Good by fearlessly mitigating the worst of DUP-SF (as their enthusiasts state publicly) or are the shameless clients of DUP-SF (as the rest of us think)…

    FJH, I may be wrong about this (but I’m pretty sure I’m right) .. no Alliance rep has ever justified entering the executive on the basis that it would mitigate or restrain the worst excesses of the DUP/SF axis. I can’t think of how such a thing would be possible. Alliance’s presence is not sufficient to veto the DUP and SF either at the executive table, or in the Assembly.

    The justifications I have heard, and which can be heard in Ford’s most recent conference speech, are that the party uses both of its executive ministries to promote an Alliance agenda and implement Alliance policies where possible within their departments.

    Alliance’s presence in the executive is also certainly justified by the fact that it essential to keep the executive in place, and stable, which is what most people in NI want (even if most people are not necessarily impressed by the administration’s performance). The fact that the electorate chose to be governed by a power bloc centred around the DUP and SF is a matter that is outside of Alliance’s control.

  • Charles_Gould

    CS

    “The justifications I have heard, and which can be heard in Ford’s most recent conference speech, are that the party uses both of its executive ministries to promote an Alliance agenda and implement Alliance policies where possible within their departments. ”

    Do you feel that this has happened?

    I would have liked Stephen Farry (who I like by the way) to have merged the two teacher training centres to make at least some start to what I see as a worthwhile Alliance cause: trying to integrate society to a greater extent. Then there is the lack of progress on peace walls, which I think is D Ford’s bailiwick (I also like Ford FWIW).

    I am beginning to wonder if Alliance isn’t really able to do very much even within its own departments to further Alliance’s core agenda.

  • Comrade Stalin

    CG,

    I was under the impression that Ford was working on opening up peace walls – I’m aware of one that has been opened up, and one other request to build a wall which was denied by his department. I’m not up to speed on what Stephen Farry has been doing but I thought merging the two teacher training colleges was on the agenda.

    Alliance’s big ticket agenda is around removing duplication, uniting communities and promoting things like integrated housing and education. The party doesn’t control those ministries.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    It’s my impression, from the SoS’s speech, that London, in collaboration with Dublin, intend to keep Stormont as an arms-length body :)

  • Politico68

    I think the hope back in 1998 (as far as the two governments were concerned) was for the consociational arrangement to last only long enough for the parties to adapt to working together, eventually falling into a more normalised political relationship, leading to typical multiparty politics with government and opposition structures.

    That was never going to happen, and it never will. The North is a divided society, period. No matter how much the people might complain about their politicians they consistently vote in line with their tribal attachments. Moreover, it is ridiculous to think that two parties like the DUP and SF could ever form a cohesive effective governing structure. Aside form the constitutional divisions; as parties, they occupy diametrically opposing positions on practically every social, political and economic issue imaginable. DUP – traditional, conventional, neo- liberal capitalist conservatives. Sinn Fein – Reformist, Republican, Social democratic progressives.

    Why people are so surprised it is not working out is beyond me. I believe Teresa is genuine however, I don’t think there is anything superficially appropriate about her comments but I do believe there is an element of wishful thinking in her speech.

    Even if the the parties did agree to re-arrange the structures of goverment as she suggests. Does anybody really believe that the voting public will think “ok, so, how will i vote? What combination would be better?” will they hell, their would be an unholy rush for each side to vote to keep their preferred tribal masters numerically superior to the other side. Simply put Unionists would swarm around the DUP and Nationalist around Sinn Fein, especially if the forming of a government was down to the largest party after the election. And the likely options, DUP/UUP/APNI or SF/SDLP/APNI. – Chaos !!

  • Politico68
  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks, Greenflag, for putting the information about Cerberus up on the thread. I checked it all out myself when I heard that they had bought about a third of the old place, but its good that others can see that Cerberus have almost as bad form as our present masters, the Duo-archy of OFMdFM and their board of directors and their co-workers in the SFDUP.

    I had flagged (oh dear, should I use this word?) Peter as a possible board member, but until his name is finally cleared of unparliamentary activity by the delayed Standards and Privileges enquiry from four years back, I doubt if any US based company would have him on their board. Four years!!! I know enquirys are slow, but there must be an awful lot of material to go through for the commissioner to have taken this long to assess it!

    I’m sure that even a toothless opposition might have brought this long delay up, had there been one. Its raelly not at all fair on poor Peter to have had this uncertainty as to his future hanging over him for so long, and blighting his effectiveness as a world-class statesman.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “There’s no doubt that Irish democracy was re-vitalised by the eventual and almost complete defenestration of the Fianna Fail old guard in the last general election in the Republic.”

    Mick, the rise of Sinn Féin is not my idea of the revitalisation of democracy and, seemingly, most other political parties in the Dáil would take a similar view. Even if Martin McGuinness was a member of #TeamIreland (of the 26) at a heads of state banquet its quite clear some SF activities hit a brick wall at the border. That President Higgins should quote Tom Kettle is merely an indication that the Irish government merely pays lip service to the 1998 Agreement; it will still facilitate anti-Unionist actions in the Unionist-Nationalist tug-of-war even if they are less dramatic than the Athboy conspiracy.

    “free up the space for politicians to focus more on other issues that are critical to our future” .. SoS

    No mention of CAP reform? I’m told that the DARD minister has until August 2 to make a decision, presumably one acceptable to the Executive, otherwise the European Commission will enforce its decision. Farmers have until May 2 to make up their minds about how to process what are called entitlements but their advisors have no advice to offer, in the absence of a decision. I’m also told that the banks started to sweat when they realised that these entitlements could be cut off immediately rather than phased out over a ten year period and that large swathes of the farming sector could go bankrupt. We live in roller-coaster times :)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Although it ought to be instructive that they are, pound for pound also to be numbered amongst the more effective MLAs in the Assembly.”

    I presume you include Jim Allister in that miniscule opposition. It’s worth noting that ‘Ann’s Law’ wouldn’t have gone through without the SDLP wobble and eventual collapse.

    I’ve just had a look at the TUV website and noted that the Executive has until August 1, not August 2, to avoid an EC diktat.

    ‘I too the hills will lift mine eyes from whence doth come mine aid’ has a certain resonance in the DARD minister’s position – whether you be Unionist, Nationalist or Other:

    We have a proposition from the Agriculture Minister that Northern Ireland should be treated as a single entity in regard to that. We have got until 1 August to make our mind up about that. That is a vital decision, because CAP support, such as it is, must go on keeping agriculture productive and making it more productive. That means that you cannot therefore just treat the non-productive areas the same as the productive areas. I trust that that issue will be addressed.” .. TUV source

    A couple of days ago, I heard the term ‘slipper farmer’, an ‘active farmer’ who can draw down significant entitlements from mountain land without delivering any produce ie sit by the fireside.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin, the real mess over farm payments is that grey area where the payments become a commodity that could be bought and sold by landowners whose last experience of farming was with the wee plastic cows and pigs they had as children.

    I was at one meeting to discuss this at the time when Peter Robinson was huffing resignation threats, when a local “farmer” shouted at the minister explaining the offer that they’d bring Stormont down themselves on this issue. That was before they’d caught on that the cut-off would be instant in that event. And for every truly needy farmer who goes bankrupt a good number of golden handshake retirees who bought land simply to supplement their pensions while letting out the land conacre will have to hold on to their Mercedes or Rangerover for another year or two, unable to buy this years model with taxpayers money.

    After all, whats on offer is a continuation of excellent payments for those who actively farm or maintain their own land under the eco-schemes, but real hardship for those who simply rent out, who will loose all entitlement. And all with a gradual financial step down for those adversely affected. Quite a few active farmers I know are commending what has been offered as a great improvement on the payments they get at present, but then, they are actually farming their land.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I understand what I’ve heard, the”slipper framers” will be hard hit. They will at least have to buy a proportianate number of sheep for the mountain grazing they draw payments on. So off with the slippers, on with the wellies……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry, Nevin, I meant “Slipper farmers” not “Slipper framers”.

    The farm payment rules have been so bizarre, since the single farm payment came in, so Byzantine, that anyone not an “insider” is unable to discover just how they are disbursed or how much in payments has simply been hemorrhaging to totally inactive farmers, some just renting out conacre by preference, some retired and unable to farm, but quite a few of whom have never even contemplated active farming of any kind, but who acquired farm numbers for small parcels of land they never see from one year to the next, land which is actually worked (or let out) by a relative.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Thanks for your thoughts, Seann. Much of this is gobbledegook to me :)

    What do you make of the ‘slipper farmer’ observation re.those who own/rent mountain land? You mention gradual step-down but I’m told that the ten-year phase-out could disappear at the stroke of a pen, either in Stormont or in Brussels.

    The bank reference, as I understand it, referred to farmers who had borrowed money on the strength of their entitlements but who could not service this loan on a reduced entitlement. A ten-year period could allow for evolutionary adjustment whereas a simple cut-off could sink them.

    I’m trying to make some sense of the shambles. As it was explained to me, there are several categories of ‘active farmer’, including one that includes the ‘slipper farmer’.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Just one small point, Seann, IIRC the value of conacre land fell when the single farm payment was introduced so I suppose it could rise if the entitlements were passed from the transferor to the transferee. More gobbledegook :)

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I can’t see the problem with moving away from a rainbow coalition model to a more normal government and opposition model, with the following ground rules to ensure cross-community legitimacy for any government:
    1. Cross-community coalition would remain compulsory.
    2. Any government would have to contain at least one party from each of the two main ethnic blocks. Could be any combination e.g. SDLP and DUP, SF and UUP etc.
    3. The government overall must have at least 40 per cent of seats of each ethnic block. So for example if UUP only had 30 per cent of unionist seats, it might combine with some other small unionist parties (say NI21) to form the unionist portion of the government.

    It does mean you could have the biggest nationalist or unionist party outside the government – and there is a danger in alienating one community by having that. But if cabinet seats were equally shared between the 2 ethnic blocks no matter what (filled by whatever party got in for that block), then each community would not be disadvantaged if its 40 per cent party were in government rather than its 60 per cent party.

    That’s not so complicated, though I am sure there would be some devil in the detail of working it out. But it would give people a chance of withdrawing support for a party and that party falling out of government, at least. Which is a start. Parties like Alliance might be a headache here, but they could be allowed to not designate and attach to either coalition government if they are wanted and want to, or opposition, as they see fit during the coalition negotiations.

    I also think we should think about moving formally to joint first ministers. This would defuse some of the fear / competition around unionist vs nationalist competition to get the top spot. There is nothing to be gained from inter-ethnic competition – better to encourage each ethnic block to not worry about domination by the other. Hopefully more liberal, less fearful politics can develop better in that scenario.

    One big caveat: I haven’t thought the mechanics of this through to be quite honest, so constructive criticism / ridicule very welcome. Unless your idea is even more ridiculous ;-)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “So off with the slippers, on with the wellies……”

    Seann, why would they need wellies if they only need to own the sheep? ;)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Stricter rules, Nevin, they are supposed to be “actively farming.” This means that they can leave the sheep out to fend for themselves most of the time, but will have to go out in the wind and rain every so often to replace the ones who died of neglect, which will need to be buried or burnt (or dropped by the roadside).

    You do not simply watch sheep out your windows, if you want them to live at all.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I should add: under this system, there would be no need for herding towards the biggest party in your ethnic block. Some interesting politics could develop e.g. a unionist party might get into government on the basis of its good relationship with SDLP (or even SF if it can grow up and disown its IRA past). With power split 50/50 between communities no matter what, people may be motivated to think about which party can best deliver in a coalition government with the other side, rather than which party can best secure ethnic advantage – as there would be no ethnic advantage to be gained. We might also need a basic bill of rights protecting cultural rights as part of this too.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, as I understand it, they wouldn’t even have to put sheep on this land, probably just, say, bring in a contractor to do a bit of fencing. As always, there will probably be ways around the system.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just saw the postings above Nevin, excellent points!

    As I understand the categories now, the old inactive farmer will be entirely phased out in the new payment structure. Even the the smudges that are being invented, like buying sheep, require some actual farming activity, and an outlay of effort and money, from the subsidy recipient.

    And the actual “value” of Conacre land is what can be squeezed from people who want to farm by people who do not. Certainly, land here in South Antrim has been rising steadily in price every year, and has left the prices for excellent horticultural land in the south of England well behind long ago, something that reflects our unique local farm subsidy centred farming culture. At least the payments should now be going to the person who is actually active on the land, and not, as would sometimes happen, the conacre renter attempted to claim full subsidy themselves on top of the rent charged. But the very fact that anyone could get a farm payment to any degree for land they do not actually farm speaks for itself!!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, “they wouldn’t even have to put sheep on this land, probably just, say, bring in a contractor to do a bit of fencing. As always, there will probably be ways around the system.”

    Well, yes, a non-farming landowner can still simply sign up to eco-schemes that will get him a smaller subsidy, but if it was not going to close up most of the old loopholes, no one would be squealing about it hurting.

    The old system was much easier to scam over, and the number of hedges “re-newed” to death in my locality need to be seen to be believed!!!

    The new regulations under discussion have been crafted to get away from the old culture of “buy land, apply for a farm number and simply collect” and no-one renting out conacre is able to claim at all now, I’m told, but how effectively NIEA will be able to police the new rules remains to be seen You are perfectly right to be worrying about how quickly the new scams will come into play.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, as you can see, I’m thinking aloud! I imagine loads of sheep in overnight transit. A lowland farmer could purchase some mountain land, re-fence where necessary and take his sheep for a jaunt to the hills to appear on DARD candid camera. There are yarns which indicate that this might not be a completely novel activity, even if they technology has changed. I suppose some jaunts could even be cross-border :)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “how effectively NIEA will be able to police the new rules”

    I hadn’t thought of the NIEA dimension, Seann. Is it not under investigation on charges of gross incompetence? A cut-back in manpower and other issues permitted the destruction of a historic site near Cushendun.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, you know that we’re probably fully on the same page over all these issues (if not on the spurious “Wigtown Drowinings”). I had not heard about the Torr horror. Thanks for the link.

    As you probably guessed, I meant to refer to DARD in my posting, but, yes, there is another NIEA dimention to all this. Most of the individuals I come across at NIEA are excellent, well intentioned people already under pressure, and both they and DARD will be stretched to the limits to police even the slight overlap in regulations.

    One of the payment issues will be identifying NIEA sites that attract possible payments under the new rules and my skills as a (often published) local amateur Archaeologist are being called on by local farmers who were only too keen to hide such sites not so long ago.

  • Greenflag

    SeaanUiNeill,

    Thanks, Greenflag, for putting the information about Cerberus up on the thread.

    No problem . The Irish/Northern Irish media seemed very lacking in their reportage on this company other than a piece on Mr Robinson’s effusive praise for the Republic’s government in ‘selling off ‘ Nama’s remaining NI liabilities .

    For what it’s worth Cerberus or Kerberos, in Greek and Roman mythology, is a multi-headed (usually three-headed) dog, or “hellhound” with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and a lion’s claws. He guards the entrance of the underworld to prevent the dead from escaping and the living from entering.

    Somehow that short bio above of Cerberus seems almost tailor made for Northern Ireland . No more the Hound of Ulster but the ‘Three Headed Hound of Ulster ‘ as it were ?

    One thing is certain anyway – the much loved sheep on the hills of Ulster will be even less fond of three headed hounds than the usual one headed variety .

    Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ;)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Full agreement, Greenflag! You might almost think that the media is self-censoring in the interest of keeping in with their sources, but I am reassured that our fearless journalistic seekers after the last grain of truth would never willingly be so constrained in their reporting of Cerberus, they just do not have the rich resources you and I can deploy to research these things.

    About the excellent Mythic info you’ve provided, one of the shelf of hats I occasionally try on still is “Classical and Renaissance Studies”, and, in my twenties, I had to choose between going to the Warburg Institute for a PhD and staying in the dissolute world of 70s London’s Film and Pop music scene, truly hard choice, eh?

    So the original Cerberus is something of an old friend, unlike the Beast that has been unleashed on us to asset strip the grossly overvalued development portfolio of our would-be altruistic home and commercial property providers of yesteryear.

    God help poor old Belfast!

  • Greenflag

    “God help poor old Belfast!”

    Entreaties have already been put to paper by the late Maurice Craig – Belfastman and Ireland and Dublin’s first conservation warrior .

    http://buckplanning.blogspot.com/2009/10/maurice-craig-irelands-first.html

    But the last shall be first and the first shall be last:
    May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast.
    We swore by King William there’d never be seen
    An All-Irish Parliament at College Green,
    So at Stormont we’re nailing the flag to the mast:
    May the the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast.
    O the bricks they will bleed and the rain it will weep,
    And the damp Lagan fog lull the city to sleep;
    It’s to hell with the future for we live in the past:
    May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast

    There’ll be no ‘praying ‘ to Cerberus – the Church of Mammon heeds only the paying whether on the nail or through the nose or as pound of flesh matter a damn either way .

    Perhaps the ‘Lord ‘ has already been too kind to Belfast in the past and in response to seeming ingratitude has now directed his kindness to more deserving cases ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Again, thanks Nevin for the link. I have my own case of Alex’s version of “more robust enforcement, more sustainable planning and protection and positive development of our wonderful built and natural heritage.”

    Quoting myself from an earlier Slugger thread:

    “I wrote to an environment minister about a serious environmental issue that was being flouted in the Larne area and at the end of six letters was told that the publicly declared policies were irrelevant to his decisions.”

    The first replies I received politely avoided answering the points regarding the various planning criteria I drew attention to, so I kept referring the minister to his own department’s clearly stated requirements, to be told eventually that they were irrelevant to his final decisions. All this to do with a bizarre permission granted against quite a few criteria!!!!!

    But then, one only has to remember Runkerry…….

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, I was in conversation with some farmers et al this afternoon; a new term has entered the lexicon: paper wellies :)

    This topic reminded me of a conversation from around this time last year. It can be summarised as: mistakes made by officialdom are administrative errors; mistakes, even simple ones, made by farmers can lead to punitive fines, partly to cover the cost of mistakes made by officialdom :)

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “The new regulations under discussion have been crafted ..”

    Seann, from a regional political angle and on the basis that a politician’s chief interest is to get elected we can probably assume that the DUP and SF will be unable to reach an agreement. Where does that leave us? Will there be some horse-trading between Brussels, London and Dublin? I’m a little surprised that our esteemed Slugger bloggers haven’t been over this with a fine curry-comb.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “I’m a little surprised that our esteemed Slugger bloggers haven’t been over this with a fine curry-comb.”

    Oh. if only! Nevin. My own thoughts are that the proposals have been “finely crafted” primarily to “save money” as well as to fit in with the belated Brussels realisation that the single farm payments were flowing out to what are effectivly non-farmers on an industral scale!

    About the paper wellies, a lot of them boys may be hitting the incompetence of officialdom, but lots more have benefited for years from the indulgence of the same officialdom who can also seemingly simply ignore issues of “non-compliance.”

    It seems to be the luck of the draw…….

    Whatever the case, all too much public money has ended up in the accounts of what are effectivly non-farmers in full time employment elsewhere simply because they had a farm number attached to land they had no interest in beyond its ability to attract a farm payment. That’s what is supposedly being addressed. I just wish someone with more real information than myself would clarify this important issue here, or perhaps, if we had a real opposition on the hill it might come out in public debate, but the whole issue of farm payments has long been a smoke and mirrors issue. Too many of those in the dominant parties believe that the farming vote is the only really important vote.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, if I understood him right, a slipper farmer has designed to don the paper wellies in future. Depending on any fluctuation in the conacre rate and the ability of a transferee to draw down a possibly larger entitlement then the transferor, in some cases a slipper farmer’ might be better off than before. One farmer, if my recall is accurate, who had previously paid £280 per acre was forking out £310 this year. A ‘green’ young official may be no match for a crafty farmer :)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The land holder will usually press for as much conacre rent as they can get, and the proposed shift of farm payemnts entirely to transferee is simply a new reason to raise rental charges. The demand that the renter did not claim payemnt, which was claimed by the conacre renter seems to have been a variant in the past.

    A lot of this land is rented over generations, and the land holder just ups the rent to what he can get from someone else and the rentee pays what it takes to hold on to “his” land (these rentees are unbelieveably possessive of the land they rent). There are always other land hungry active farmers locally who are willing to pay absurd rents, so the rent is racked up and up.

    The old system frequently had land holders who had a tractor running on pink deisel and swanned around the land pulling a wee bit of fence here and there (the fencing you mention above, where actually a contractor would do the real work but the “farmer” would staple a bit of barbed wire and claim he’d worked on his own land maintainance).

    These “farmers” registered themselves as “working” the land and claimed full payments, suplimented by such agri-schemes as they could get such as hedge renewal. If you read the guideline, the requirement is for active planting and careful weed control after the old hedge plants are cut back to bole. Usually in my locality the hedges are simply removed, and the dykes are allowed to grow over with weeds and brambles.

    But a careful look at the annual agricultural and horticultural returns of such claimees(or even at farm yards without, for example, stock facilities) would have shown that these chancers were not engaged in any real farming activity! But as this practice has spread, even sons and daughters (in full employment elsewhere) of such people (and of active farmers) were able register farm numbers, buy land and make sucessful claims. Over the last ten years or so the price of land has risen absurdly high in consequence, because it is seen as a meal ticket to “free money” from DARD, and from the poor fools who rent from the owners conacre.

    As I understand the new proposals this bizarre usage of subsidising the renter while pretending that he is entitled to these subsidies because he has registered as a “farmer” is being phased out. But the real question is as to why such a gross misuse of public money it was ever permitted in the first place.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • David Crookes

    Consider in the same connection the fact that when a local farmer is found guilty of dumping slurry into a river,, he receives some ludicrously trivial punishment.

    If a well-researched article was written under the title NORTHEN IRELAND, FARMERS, AND CORRUPTION, would any local paper publish it?

    Stormont, the courts, and the local media are unwilling to take on felonious farmers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And another aspect of this serious endemic problem, David, is that even should we be blessed with an effective opposition the entire record of both of the strongest parties is of tacit support for this iniquitous system of farm payments.

    This highlights just how root and branch any reform must really be if we are ever to have functioning government over us that represents the entire community! Just like any other third world administration, that of NI is riddled with blood-brother commitments in both of the strongest parties to a selected number of strong interest groups who look to maximum advantage (financially) from their links to those in power. Simply bringing in an opposition (within the consensus, of course) does nothing to address this structural weakness in our system.

    Neither can be seen to tackle problems such as farm subsidies without alienating a major portion of their voting base. So neither party can ever lead, they can only represent such groups within their supporters against the common good.

    Don’t get me wrong on this, I’d really love to see a strong farming community that could earn its own income while providing good healthy food for the community as a whole and so save us from the stranglehold of the multi-national food importers who have impoverished our farmers to the point of beggary. Certainly, because of these farm subsidies, originally envisaged as a support for ensuring security of food provision within the EU (this was made redundant by the “free trade” demands of gobalization), we are now faced with a farming sector so debauched by a reliance on subsidies that much of it would be bankrupted if the pay-outs were restricted to people who are actually farming!!!

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, was CAP not a mainly French initiative? I don’t know; I’m just posing the question. It’s possibly also worth noting that the various agriculture and rural development agencies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have had poor controls but it’s the UK that gets to pay the fine. We also have an Audit Office but it’s not exactly covered itself in glory either.

    I sometimes flag-up the phrase ‘Use it or lose it’ in relation to local businesses but those who complain loudly about prices in small businesses may well do most of their shopping in supermarkets, supermarkets that may well be screwing the farmers who supply the food.

    David, I like your sense of irony: felonious politicians taking on felonious farmers :)

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks, Seaan. I hear from friends who work there that the recent border-delay business in Gibraltar, so far from representing old-fashioned Brit-harassing by the Spanish authorities, was actually directed at a protracted problem which involves crime and corruption

    Small places aren’t immune from corruption! At the moment NI is to some degree a gravy-jug with two spouts and two handles

    Corruption is so much part of our lives that recently a Presbyterian moderator was able to say without embarrassment that more Protestants might back the Agreement if money was shovelled into the accounts of anguished members of his own denomination.

    Don’t rock the boat. Don’t rock the farmers. Don’t rock the paramilitaries. And if speculators lose their money,, get the taxpayer to bail them out.

    Did you ever see DER BESUCH DER ALTEN DAME? Sometimes I think I’m living in it. Never mind the lack of industries, as long as we can have overheated houses and oversized vehicles.

    An adversarial Stormont with a must-have-power-sharing safety-net will not be adversarial enough to decommission the all-important gravy-jug.

    Is any party devoted to the pursuit of rectitude? (Think of the TUV and the flegs business.) I fear that the future will be a mixture of great material expectations and a morally bleak house, with most of us wanting some more.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Nevin, I quote from the DARD consultancy document:

    “At present, a substantial number of non-farming landowners claim support payments on land which they let out in conacre. This results in land parcels being declared on more than one application form (i.e. both that of the landowner and of the farmer renting land), and thus leading to overlapping holdings. It also creates the conditions that lead to dual use claims, whereby one scheme is claimed by the landowner and another scheme is claimed by the renting farmer on the same land parcel.

    There have been two developments which could mean that this position will no longer be tenable from 2015 except, perhaps, in very limited and exceptional circumstances. First of all, the reform agreement makes clear that greening 17 obligations apply to all hectares on the applicant’s holding, not just those used to support payment claims. Secondly, the EU Commission has repeatedly advised the Department during the course of audit activities that in its view, in a conacre situation, support payments should go to the person who is actively farming the land.

    The application of greening to all hectares on the holding may mean that it will no longer be possible to permit overlapping holdings on a widespread basis. It will have to be established to which holding the land parcel should be attributed in order to determine which is responsible for adhering to the greening requirements and whether these requirements are being met. If a parcel could be used to enable more than one holding to meet the greening requirements, then this could lead to contrived and artificial situations with very obvious audit risks. This could be avoided if a land parcel is permitted to be declared on one application form only, meaning that overlapping holdings and dual use claims would no longer be possible.”

    This is where I’m coming from with my comments. I know, like me, you relish the language of these documents, and how a few bland sentences cover up anomalies where procurement procedures for most other departments are scrupulously vetted, while the “procurement of farming services” by DARD is seemingly on a much more add hoc basis!!! A painful image of shovels full of money being thrown at land owners and conacre renters alike flashes involuntarily before my mind’s eye when reading this text!

    And David, any Stormont Party that attempted to sell “Rectitude” to our general public would almost certainly firstly have to take a series of expensive weekend courses (similar to “equality training” for example) to instruct them on what the word means.

    As I said elsewhere on Slugger, my old English Teacher (who knew Yeats) used to say “You can either have education or competition.” Before we begin to take part in such competitive advantage games as “political opposition” I’m afraid we need a few centuries of “education”.

    On the subject of The Old Lady (and her visit), I just discovered the origin of the title for Denis Johnston’s play “The Old Lady Says No!”

    He sent it to WBY under the title “Shadowplay.” Yeats sent it back with “The Old Lady [Lady Gregory] says NO!” So when the abbey performed it in 1929, Johnston insisted that that was the title on the play’s cover, “as suggested by Yeats”.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Seann, as the language of many of these documents is gobbledegook, I’d have thought that the majority of applicants leave it to specialists to complete these forms. The specialists will probably want to do the best they can for their clients but may well have disclaimers in place for their own as distinct for their clients’ protection.

    Just spotted this:

    DARD no longer holds information on land ownership on its LPIS mapping system. .. Land Registry maintained by Land & Property Services will continue to hold the most up to date information on land ownership

    Wonderful. This reminds me of the plight of a house owner whose house has more or less been made worthless because Planning Service doesn’t and doesn’t have to check LPSNI records. Building Control doesn’t and doesn’t have to check the location of new buildings or septic tanks against drawings, a simple enough exercise as the info is online, and Planning Service is quite likely to grant retrospective permission – irrespective of the consequences for third parties.

    In other words, governance isn’t fit for purpose and parties in power are likely to play the card that earns them the votes.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bravo! Nevin, excellent example, Thanks! Without my media experience of carefully filleting contracts for dangerious hidden features I’d be all at sea myself.

    But I’m sure that Cerberus will want to see all title requirements are met on the portfolio they now own, so just wait for international pressure forcing some real changes through, or they might just bring in the Marines……

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘The specialists will probably want to do the best they can for their clients ‘

    You might think that Nevin .Its certainly the impression various specialists will convey .

    You may have heard of the world wide economic and financial sector collapse in 2008 a disaster caused by an epidemic of criminal fraud that wiped out some 40% of the world’s wealth in a year with the then ‘specialists ‘ doing everything they could to screw (financially ) their clients a.k.a the suckers . The bad news is they got away with it the heist -the specialists I mean :(

    Thats how Cerberus got to buy one third of the value of NI commercial property sector for a song .

    None of the eh ‘specialists ‘ i.e the white collar criminal gangsters have spent a day in jail . Shame on the Obama administration -the formerly too big too fail banks now bigger than ever have metamorphised into too big to jail .

    The harsh truth is ALL our politicians matter not the country or party are running scared of the banksters -The oligarchy is a law unto itself .No wonder ‘justice ‘ and the politicians get as little respect as they do . They deserve it and our journalists too .

    Meanwhile the mega agricultural corporations American and Chinese and others continue to buy vast tracts of land in Africa and South America and Asia so as to further control the food supply to the billions of battery fed people/chickens around the globe . :(

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Greenflag, the specialists I have in mind may well have been DARD staff and so are in a better position to provide translation services than farmers themselves. This is very small scale stuff!

  • Greenflag

    Nevin,

    ‘This is very small scale stuff!’

    True enough. Cerberus is’nt . It comes from an environment where the small fry go to jail and the big sharks remain untouchable . You in NI may be familar with that phenomenon in your recent history in the political field .

    Anywhere heres the numbers (multivariate analysis ) on the new ? oligarchic plutocracy across the pond courtesy of the BBC

    http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

    Could be worth a read for it’s on it’s way to this part of the world -assuming for a moment that it’s not already embedded as they say .

    One man one vote indeed in theory . In practice on the important policy areas which affect people’s lives and living standard issues -95% of the votes don’t count .

    David Crookes point above was spot on apart from one omission

    ‘Don’t rock the boat. Don’t rock the farmers. Don’t rock the paramilitaries. And if speculators lose their money,, get the taxpayer to bail them out.

    The ‘banksters ‘ did’nt lose THEIR money . They lost 40% of the world’s wealth on an oligarchic binge which came very close to destroying the world economy .

    There are those who say it’s all over now and it can’t happen again and the necessary reforms have been made .

    Sad news – they haven’t – the ‘felonious politician ‘ category of aberrant humanity is not restricted to NI . At least in one USA State two governors of the same state were incarcerated . Now that every Congressman in the USA is a millionaire there should be less need for eh ‘theft ‘ .

    It is said that in India the people almost always continue to elect the incumbent (of whatever party ) on the grounds that he has probably earned /stolen enough already of the taxpayers monies and thus will be a less expensive ‘choice ‘ than a new comer .

    As always caveat emptor .

    .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Greenflag, everything you say about Cerberua and the banksters is all too real. But as someone once said “Humanity cannot accept too much reality.”

    Another little dose of cold water, this thread started on the idea that an active opposition (“within the consensus” of course, but I’ve already noted the contradictory nature of that little aspiration above) might just bring a smidgen of accountability up there on the hill. But that would only work if government was the senior partner over finance (ie: if Stormont could really take on International Banking and masterfully control them). Anyone who has failed to notice just how questionable this formulation is for ANY government since 2007 should wake up and smell the coffee! Somewhere under my facetious suggestion on another thread that Cerberus might just provide us with a board of appointed professional directors to replace Stormont is the ugly feeling that this may not actually be a joke….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry everyone, (ed: Who Cerbera?) I did not mean to imply a plural, I actually meant to type CERBERUS.

  • Greenflag

    ” might just bring a smidgen of accountability up there on the hill. ”

    I suppose a smidgen is greater than nought . For all Ms Villiers and her Government’s desire it seems more than a bridge too far to envision a Stormont with an opposition that would /could have the votes to topple the incumbents never mind execute a repeat of FF’s near political extinction in the Republic .

    ‘ But that would only work if government was the senior partner over finance (ie: if Stormont could really take on International Banking and masterfully control them’

    If the UK can’t /won’t for it’s future economic prosperity is bound up with the oligarchic international banksters in the City of London and a 100 plus off shore tax havens worldwide , and Dublin can’t but default to Berlin /Brussels , and the USA could/might / but won’t , then Stormont will keep it’s mouth wide shut .

    As for smelling the coffee . The problem is’ nt so much ‘controlling ‘ them it’s fearing these global financial giants who are the equivalent of latter day robber barons except they operate on a global basis . A Government in London or Vienna or Dublin or even in Washington are trying to deal with a 50 headed Cerberus that can be wherever it wants , whenever it wants and has the resources to persuade /bribe /cajole any number of governments it wants around the globe .

    The ‘internet ‘ was supposed to be a tool which would enhance democracy and transparency around the globe and it can be seen to have had some effect in that regard .

    But it’s a tool which can be used for both -i.e greater democracy and less democracy . It’s been the major technological factor in the ability of the global financial sector to bring what used to be western democracy under it’s ‘control ‘ . In this it has been aided and abetted by unknowing and ignorant politicians as well as the bought ones and by the new algorithmic financial instruments which take all the guessing out of speculation and replace it with a formulaic certainty which will continue and expedite the trend whereby rule by an oligarchic plutocracy /kleptocracy will be enhanced in whatever’s left of western democracies .

    It’s time the disappearinng middle classes in the west looked up from smelling their coffees and contemplated what diminished economic futures will be in store for their children and grandchildren once the ‘new ‘ order is complete .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hey Greenflag, I agree about the internet, ” It’s been the major technological factor in the ability of the global financial sector to bring what used to be western democracy under it’s ‘control ‘ “. So what can we all atually do about it?

    Did you ever come across the novel, “Eoghan Paor” by “Conán Maol”, (P.J.O’Shea or Pádraig O’Séaghdha, depending on taste). It’s a fantasy novel written in Irish about a wee Kerry boy who becomes the richest man in the world, buys all land in Ireland above 600 foot, invites anyone who wants to just speak Irish and they just create their own ignore the dominant Bankster Globalisers of their day (1911– guess who!).

    Very much the Gaelic League meets Height Ashbury, but something entirely local in form that boycotts the structures of our Brave New World of the very rich and us, ourselves, out in the cold, is probably the only way out of just tapping on a keyboard and complaining about Cerberus’ swamping all that is good, true and beautiful.

    “It’s time the disappearinng middle classes in the west looked up from smelling their coffees and contemplated what diminished economic futures will be in store for their children and grandchildren once the ‘new ‘ order is complete .” Yeh, but how, as long as I’m working, have a bank account and a morgage and pay tax to their lackies, who use their tax futures to borrow from

    I just cannot see how we can, old Stalinist Style, wrest the Global Economy from the “evil empire” and run it for the people! Without becoming, “Animal Farm” style, something quite similar to the Banksters ourselves, for after all, the bespoke suit was cut to fit them.

  • Greenflag

    The thread has moved on but to answer your questions above briefly

    ‘So what can we all actually do about it?’

    Make sure that everybody has access and that the web does not become just a mouthpiece for corporate interests .There are Governments notably China and some in the Middle East who fear unrestricted access by their citizens for fear of losing their power/credibility.

    I haven’t come across Eoghan Paor’s fantasy – It sounds more like a nightmare ;)

    “I just cannot see how we can, old Stalinist Style, wrest the Global Economy from the “evil empire” and run it for the people! ”

    If you mean by ‘we ‘ Ireland or indeed the UK or any other country we can by ourselves do nothing . While the Global economy is here to stay that does not mean that the global financial sector as it is must stay . The current state of global financial dysfunction and imbalance did not come about overnight . It took 25 years some might say since the mid 1970′s to get to this point . Along the way it was facilitated by legislatures in particular the USA Congress in enacting laws and repealing others which enabled the eventual ‘worldwide ‘ looting to take place .

    To be brief the big ‘banks ‘ need to be broken up and their activities restricted to banking . This needs to happen most of all in the USA and UK but also among the G8 and G20 countries and the rest of the world . Our politicians need to be made aware by the people -that if they continue to abnegate their responsibilties in regard to doing whats right for the people who elected them then they must’nt be surprised when some day the people will perforce go outside ‘politics’ to resolve the situation and that could lead anywhere -even to a place none of us want ?

    In the bigger picture we may look back at the 1945 -1975 period as a kind of heyday for western democracy with increasing living standards -greater freedoms and civil rights for people everywhere in the West . The 1975 – 1999 period can be seen as a retrenchment of conservatism and an ideological conversion to a ‘Market Uber Alles ‘ approach to politics by the neo con right and by centre left leadership in some major western countries .

    In 2007/2008 the ‘ideological ‘ conversion coupled with the high speed internet economy and the creation of various opaque financial tools and algorithmic financial speculation brought the world economy to a near death experience from which it has now barely recovered. and it ‘s not inconceivable that another ‘meltdown ‘ could be engineered

    So it’s looking like permanent ‘limbo ‘ for our elected politicians in which those who can bend the lowest to assuage the unfettered global financial corporate interests the most will get to hold on to their political careers .

    Unless of course the ‘people ‘ say enough is enough