Supposing, *just supposing now*, that Stormont were to collapse…

How do you think each of the five main parties would fare? I’m not saying it will (brinkmanship is a feature not a bug of our opposition-less settlement), but it might be fun to figure who you think might be a ‘winner’, a ‘loser’ or ‘evens’. The only rule is that you must explain ‘why’.

Those who plump for winner, loser, evens without explanation will find their posts are quietly removed as so much graffiti…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • I will play.
    But there are too many imponderables. Soft or Crash Landing? Timing? Duration?
    Short or Long Term Consequence.
    Would there be a skeleton Assembly in operation where MLAs could draw a salary and represent constituency interests?
    So effectively its a party game (no pun intended) where any partisan contributor can make a case for his-her party doing ok.
    But Id make the general observation that SF and DUP were more toxic in the pre Agreement days.
    So my own observation (in part based on the fact that Id prefer Stormont to collapse) is

    Equal First….DUP and Sinn Fein (they have most to lose because of the largesse…cars, offices, salaries, advisors etc
    Equal Second….SDLP, UUP and Alliance.

    Clearly Alliance might actually gain supportt thru unionists taking blame but academic in the context of there being no Stormont.

    Unfortunately….the so called Civic Society.
    Id imagine that the NIO have a list of collaborators who would serve on a 25 person Advisory Panel to administer Norn Iron.
    Indeed Slugger contributors could probably make a good guess at likely names.

  • megatron

    Biggest loser = unionist parties as they really have no purpose as a party unless they are influencing policies somewhere (other than relying on a hung parliament).

    Medium Loser = SF – they still have the south but the loss of all ireland bodies (and to a lesser extent the absense of engagement with unionism) will not help them. Also wont help them in the south.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s possible that the DUP will make gains snapping up a lot of support within non-voting Loyalist areas.

    I would suspect a short term collapse may happen for a week or so to prove a point during a non-critical duration at Stormont.

  • Sp12

    Catholics in North Belfast on the housing list.

  • SK

    ” Also wont help them in the south.”

    Disagree. One of the big sticks used to beat Sinn Fein with down here is the perceived discrepancy between their policies north and south of the border. They’re constantly under attack for backing austerity in Belfast but opposing it in Dublin.

    Remove Stormont and you remove that stick.


    Megatron, it is also worth noting that North South bodies continued to operate during previous suspensions of Stormont albeit somewhat off the radar. There is nothing to suggest that the same arrangements would not continue in the event of a further suspension. I’d say that Sinn Fein as a party will be the big winners – experience shows that they always are. They will come back even stronger …. most likely with the post of First Minister … when Stormont comes back again. And should they gain power in a coalition in the South they will have a say in the operation of North South bodies even if Stormont is suspended, whereas Unionists won’t.

  • Banjaxed

    Biggest winner – the taxpayer, as the Stormont cash cow would no longer need fed.
    Runner-up – the environment, with the reduction to zero of the hot, nauseous gases emanating from same animal.

  • redstar2011

    Cannot disagree with Banjaxed!!!!

  • My opinion is that if the Executive collapses, the Coalition Government will give them a few weeks to pick up the toys and get back in the pram before indefinitely suspending the Assembly (and stopping the salaries.)

    Immediately following that, Orders in Council will be passed to force welfare reform and water charges, and the regional rate will not be reduced to make up for the water charges. On top of that, expect general spending cuts, and the Parades Commission to continue exactly as it is.

    The winners: the Treasury.
    The losers: the population of Northern Ireland, who won’t have to pay for the Assembly, but will lose the ability to have any serious influence on public policy in Northern Ireland.
    The political effect:
    DUP think they are teflon, and may get a bounce for the 2015 General Election, but in the longer term they may have trouble as people realise they are considerably worse off. How much trouble remains to be seen, as people have this nasty habit of voting tribally instead of for economic policy.
    UUP would have the opportunity to do something, but it’s unlikely.
    Sinn Fein will be big winners as the evidence will show they didn’t collapse the Executive.
    SDLP may be losers.
    Alliance will have to play things very carefully, but could be winners for not being a cause of the collapse.

    The reason? The Coalition has steadfastly refused to get involved at anything resembling the level that past Governments have. I simply don’t see Villiers and Cameron doing anything other than introducing Direct Rule.

  • cynic2

    All would lose financially

    The DUP and UUP and Stoops would be financially crippled

    The Shinners would take a big hit financially but would be better off because of all the money hidden away in front organisations supporting the cause band from friends in Americay to make up numbers .

    Politically I think the Unionists would win. They are British and and want the Assembly financially but don’t NEED an Assembly as much as the Shinners do. They have Westminster

    The Shinners would be deeply exposed within their own community. What do they do? Return to war? Thats the road to nowhere and every bang would allow the Prods to say ‘you see …they were never democrats’ .?

    Internally they will be seen as fools and incompetents and run the risk of a resurgence of the dissers from their own green and violent wing. At the very least it might provoke that generational change and a heave on the old Guard, especially in the South

    And when the Assembly was being re-established,as the group most desperate to get it back up, they would be in the weakest position this time

  • cynic2

    the population of Northern Ireland, who …………. will lose the ability to have any serious influence on public policy in Northern Ireland.

    What ability do you refer to? Its a political crap shoot with policies driven by religious fundamentalism, sectarianism and sheer greed

  • cynic2, I will have to give you that one, although there is a large degree of populism in the policies the top four parties have that don’t relate to the constitutional question… apparently, yes, they do exist.

    My point was more that if people don’t like what the Executive is doing, they may find the policies enforced by a Westminster Government of whatever persuasion rather less palatable (and the DUP would do well to remember how much influence the Lib Dems have in the current Coalition before hoping to make anything of a hung Parliament!)

  • mjh

    Assuming something more than a few weeks.

    All parties lose a large proportion of their income and damage to their party structures. First would be the sacking of research assistants, SPAD’s and the workers paid to assist with constituency work. Then would come the cutbacks on head office staff.

    Second would be the closure of constituency offices.

    Where a party has a Westminster MP they would have the basis of a much reduced infrastructure, other parties would become virtually invisible apart from the activity of local councillors, who would now be operating with less party backup.

    This hits SF proportionally more in income terms (because they take the biggest financial contribution from their MLA salaries), but the UUP, Greens and TUV worst in terms of local presence and a political platform since they have no MP’s.

    Before very long all the parties start to lose talent as those MLA’s without another source of income are forced to find other jobs. Some will be lost to politics for good. Party leaders who are not MP’s – such as Mike Nesbitt – may not be able to carry on long without an income. The parties that come out of this best are again those with MP’s.

    Finally the focus will begin to turn to whether or when there will be negotiations, then onto the negotiations themselves. In this process the DUP and SF will have virtually all the limelight – giving them a further advantage as the only relevant spokespersons for their communities.

    Alliance may benefit from the further withering of the UUP.

  • BetsyGray

    So the games begin….whos going to come out smelling of roses…and whos going to hide and cover their blushes…History dictates that compromise is best, but that was knocked on the head from yesterdays walkout and tantrum/huff by unionism. Political unionism constantly picks bad fights they never seem to win…they need to pick a fight they can win…I could go on…you get my point- I’m sure…..thus historically political unionism comes back to the table with less meat on the bone…until their next fight..when there’s no meat on the bone…until finally theres no bone and no table. I dearly wish they can get their act together and be smart and compromise round the table at Stormont…but presently thats not possible…Thus I award political unionism as loser if it all falls…(if your nae in you canny win)..the DUP may claw back some of those 100,000.00 votes at the next it worth it..?
    Nationalism on the other hand is a different animal, it doesn’t carry the blood and thunder dogma that characterises section of unionism. Its more confident and sure of itself, than at anytime since the foundation of the Northern state and will continue to do so. Stormont was a compromise for them also, as long as equality, parity of esteem etc…was the order of the day and at the centre of governance….no one lording it over the other side…we’re all first class citizens now stuff etc… nationalism had some skin in the game – so to speak… Though without unionism on board and both sides singing from an agreed hymm sheet at Stormont I’m afraid its not worth a dry bucket of spit if both sides can’t agree. Thus the collapse of Stormont for Nationalism will be a big disappointment to them..but then again nationalism is very good at the long game….thus I award ‘evens’ to nationalism……

    SDLP-evens- will slide further to losers(still on the Sinn Fein menu)
    SF-evens-hold steady-long game.
    DUP- losers (pyrrhic victory)
    UUP-evens-holding (if takes potential compromise stance)

    as usual -no winners…! surprise…surprise..!….its still a very, very big IF.

  • Roy Walsh

    No losers Mick, at least among the politicians, they’ll continue to be paid for talking cacs.

  • Barnshee

    “those MLA’s without another source of income are forced to find other jobs”

    And exactly who would employ these former murderers/gombeen men/sectarian clowns?

  • cynic2

    “And exactly who would employ these former murderers/gombeen men/sectarian clowns?”

    International Aid Agencies on courses lecturing African Despots and their henchmen on how it all went wrong

  • Zeno

    The first causality would be the around 400 “Staff” at OFMDFM.
    That’s enough to put the unemployment figures alone up.
    SF would lose bragging rights as they would no longer be in government in both parts of Ireland.
    The Unionist Parties look to me like they are going to work a lot closer together and will come back stronger with election pacts etc.
    The rest of us will benefit just by not having the lot of them in government.

  • MYtwocents

    losers SF, as their Still active IRA comrades will be saying, We told you it wouldn’t work, before sending them off, Michael Collins style.

  • Zeno

    Actually it works perfectly. It just doesn’t work they way some people thought it would. That’s their own fault for having high expectation. Apparently they thought that they could elect people with no ability who would magically bring peace, Jobs and investment and we would all live happily ever after.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Zeno, party political staff would lose but the institutions will be put in “deep freeze” ie they will continue to be operated by the same civil servants, except reporting to a minister appointed from London. No civil servants will lose their jobs.

    regarding the threats to withdraw from the institutions by the Unionists .. they’re hard to take seriously. I’ll believe it when I see it. Robinson at least knows that outside of those institutions he can no longer protect his supporters from the things he feels it is important to block – gay marriage, abortion reform, water charges and so on. He’ll also put all those MLAs and the staff employed to support them out of work. And after he does so he’ll end up with .. nothing. The Parades Commission will remain and the British government will simply fortify the police lines at Twaddell just as they did at Drumcree. This is a loser.

    Robinson may well hold out for influence through Westminster which he may have following the next election. But that is a gamble; and in any case, there is no guarantee that the British will be able to meet his demands in the face of pressure from the US and Irish governments (especially an Irish government incorporating SF ministers).

    The other problem, which Robinson will also be aware of, is that it is unionists who believe that Northern Ireland is a legitimate and functioning entity, and republicans who (ideologically) say that it is artificial and cannot work. Unionists collapsing government in Northern Ireland are proving the republican argument correct. Rendering Northern Ireland ungovernable is a republican strategy.

    If they do withdraw and collapse the institutions, the British will probably not do anything except suspend the assembly and convene all-party talks. They won’t enact legislation or do anything that would make the suspension seem permanent, at least on this side of the 2015 general election. But after that election they may decide to punish the parties by enacting water charges, ending the rates freeze, forcing through welfare reforms (minus the concessions the Executive had negotiated), removing the Poots ban on gay blood donations, enacting gay marriage, implementing the High Court rulings on abortion, and launching a full consultation on abortion reform.

    I literally have no clue about where Unionism goes now, as it has simply been led down a dark alley.

    I have to say at this point I think the institutions need to collapse in order to focus minds. The government isn’t working and we need to deal with this problem.

  • Zeno

    ” No civil servants will lose their jobs.”
    I didn’t know the 400 Staff of OFMDFM (twice as many as Downing St) were Civil Servants as such. I thought they were all just people who had to be paid off to keep them on board. I mean what could they possibly be working at?

  • Zig70

    Bring it down. A secret sectarian organisation have undue influence in government. Not a sustainable position in any administration. A dose of joint authority or even the wiff of it would sort it out.

  • Greenflag

    What an idea -If Stormont were to collapse – I mean it’s not as if it has’nt been tried several times before . I’ve lost count as to how many collapses and how many near misses -but as CS states above it might help to focus minds .

    It would strengthen the already widely held notion and each July it becomes even more widely held, that Northern Ireland in it’s present format is ‘ungovernable ‘ at least ‘self ungovernable ‘ as per the standards expected of a normal democracy .

    @ CS

    ‘I literally have no clue about where Unionism goes now’

    Indeed – in it’s present format it has no longer term future on this island .

    ‘ as it has simply been led down a dark alley.’

    It led itself down a dark alley or to be more exact several cul de sacs -the first one being Anti Home Rule – the second being the 1920 establishment of the NI State – the third being the failure of Sunningdale – the fourth, fifth and sixth being the various suspensions of the Stormont Assembly .

    In truth if it was a dog -the kindest thing to do would be to put it out of it’s misery .

    Direct Rule -the Finchley model but at the end of a long spoon will suffice until such time as demographic change becomes electorally significant and allows HMG to do the decent thing and cut the umbilical cord on a failed political experiment .

    Probably for the best too . The local NI parties given their history would probably not be strong enough to survive a changing of the guard at Stormont to SF without dragging the province back to the worst days of the 1970’s .

    HMG and it’s security forces will have less hangs ups next time around re locking up those factions within unionism or nationalism/republicanism who fail to keep the peace.

    Speed the day .

  • Comrade Stalin


    During the 1960s I think unionism had some promising figures who understood the arts of statecraft and the compromises necessary for political stability. The same re-emergence was seen, in my view, during the mid-2000s when the DUP began to embrace devolution. Each time, reactionary elements have taken hold and saner voices have backed down to secure their own positions, at the considerable expense of unionism’s long term status. It would be nice if this pattern changed but I don’t see it.

  • Greenflag

    CS ,

    Brian Faulkner , Lord O’Neill look like political visionaries when compared to the present bunch 🙁

    Even Paisley could look further than his nose in the end .

    “It would be nice if this pattern changed but I don’t see it..”

    It will only get worse .As the political numbers worsen relative to ‘themuns ‘ and as Belfast becomes more nationalist /republican and AP then ‘reactionary ‘ elements will simply take over whats left of political unionism .

    I’d use the term deja vu but in the context of discussing political unionism even that term fails to describe the utter repetitive stupidity that passes for ‘politics’ within political unionism 🙁

  • Greenflag

    @ cynic2,

    ‘ lecturing African Despots and their henchmen on how it all went wrong’

    The real despots meanwhile in the City of London and Wall St dont have any problem in taking in the proceeds of drug peddlers , money launderers and even sanctions breakers . Paribas had ‘no problem ‘ being fined 9 billion dollars by the US Federal Government for ‘ignoring ‘ the law . Ditto for many other of the ‘financial sector ‘ despots .

    The so called African despots are a long way down the field from the likes of Goldman Sachs , Bank of America , RBS etc etc etc etc .

    Here’s a real billionaire ( not a despot ) who can tell the future if our ‘politicians ‘ don’t wake up !

  • USA

    Irish language enthusiasts. They will get a much more sympathetic ear from Dublin + London. It will be de facto joint authority, under a different name of course.

    Some inexperienced public school London type who will be handed the portfolio for NI Dept of Education or Health or Regional Development, and he / she will slum it for a few years to advance his / her political career in England.

    All Executive members who watch their jobs and salaries go to above mentioned English 30 somethings. Handpicked by London + Dublin of course.

    Unionism has lost the run of itself. Absolutely nothing positive to offer society. Just fake outrage about marching, flegs, kulture, bonfires, immigrants etc. They are about to shoot themselves in the foot and everyone is expected to contribute to their medical bill. I seriously fear that lives will be lost this summer. Unionism now has more in common with the BNP. Shameful.

  • Pete Rock

    I actually find it almost incomprehensible that Stormont could collapse due to this dispute over a march.

    I drove up that particular contested route last night, it’s a short dander up a main road past some shops and not so many houses.

    It’s bordering lunacy that Republicans/Nationalists cannot tolerate this walk.

    Sinn Fein created this monster, now we are all suffering its bite, also they’ve been outflanked by GARC who have took over where the Shinners left off regards a more militant opposition to the parade.

    Gregory Campbell said this morning that the DUP’s still “formulating” a response, so their predictable posturing and nonsensical meandering hasn’t been announced just yet.

    Not looking forward to this week at all.

  • Greenflag

    ‘It’s bordering lunacy that Republicans/Nationalists cannot tolerate this walk.’

    It’s July ffs the marching season . Once you cross the border apart from the in the opposite direction to Rossnowlagh in Co Donegal -lunacy is always close to the surface .

    ‘Sinn Fein created this monster, ‘

    If you knew your history you would know in fact that the opposite is the case . The ‘Monster ‘ created Sin Fein or to be more precise SF could not have become what it has become without the sterling work executed on it’s behalf by the OO and Unionist political leadership or lack of leadership if you like over several decades .

    Hopefully it will pass (the week ) without any loss of life or property damage and the taxpayer won’t have to pay more than the 26 million it took to clean up after and maintain a police presence on high alert at some parades .

  • Mc Slaggart

    Pete Rock

    “I drove up that particular contested route last night, it’s a short dander up a main road past some shops and not so many houses.

    It’s bordering lunacy that Republicans/Nationalists cannot tolerate this walk.”

    Why lunacy?? The OO does not support the right of everyone to march on the queens highway. If you want to be able to march then the onus is on you to support the right of others to march.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I drove up that particular contested route last night, it’s a short dander up a main road past some shops and not so many houses.

    It’s bordering lunacy that Republicans/Nationalists cannot tolerate this walk.

    This argument is as old as the parading dispute itself and can be taken either way. If it’s only a short dander up a road then what’s the problem with banning it ?

    Sinn Fein created this monster, now we are all suffering its bite, also they’ve been outflanked by GARC who have took over where the Shinners left off regards a more militant opposition to the parade.

    Sinn Féin exploited parades but they did not “create” the issue. The British government tried to ban parades completely in the 1800s due to the disorder and problems caused, and back then there were parading-related incidents that resulted in deaths.

    Regarding the collapse of the institutions, to be honest I think they’ve spent what little political capital they had. You cannot govern a country when the members of the government cannot agree on compromises to proceed on. Mature, stable politics requires compromise and for some of us it simply isn’t in our lexicon. They’re almost ready to fall by default.

  • Pete Rock

    The monster I refer to being the madness that surrounds this particular march up the Crumlin Road.

    For years Sinn Fein and the IRA were at the centre of organising and facilitating opposition to the march, both by peaceful agitation and then the mandatory all out violence against security forces, these riots went on for days and the numbers of injured cops went into the hundreds.

    Only within the recent past with the emergence of dissidents and latterly GARC has their grip on proceedings started to loosen.

    Now a proxy war of who is the most “anti Orange” in Ardoyne is being contested which leaves any potential resolution even further away than ever.

    The facts are that the OO could walk up the road until eventually the violence that SF were so inextricably linked to and would NEVER condemn became so predictable and intense that the “powers that be” caved in.

    Violence and its threat won the day for Republicans in this particular “battle” and an extremely poisonous message was sent out to people that this type of action reaps benefits.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ach Peter, I went to the trouble of engaging you and you just came back repeating the same argument. As well as adding in a few well-worn canards.

    The Parades Commission determination runs to about 12 pages and it gives several reasons for rerouting the parade. One of them is the potential for disorder. The others include the conduct of the Orange Order and the protest at Twaddell, which you’ve conveniently ignored.

    You are not wrong to say there is a tug of war going on in Ardoyne. However, it’s facile to say that the parades issue started with Sinn Féin.

    I have a number of objections to parades which conduct themselves poorly, like they did, for example, outside of St Patrick’s church on Clifton St a few years ago. I don’t like being described as a victim of Sinn Féin brainwashing because I have arrived at those views. That incident was the seed for a future contentious parade. To ignore this kind of poor conduct and suggest that the local residents are simply being whipped up by SF is to fundamentally disrespectful and intolerant.

  • Pete Rock

    Why can’t you just call a spade a spade and see the PC determination for what it is, they rolled over to the threat of violence, violence that was initially instigated and perpetrated by Republicans with the help of Sinn Fein.