Stormont: Let’s Keep it Closed

There’s a wonderful, fascinating irony developing – for political anoraks at least – in the devolved regions of this United Kingdom. Just a few days after David Cameron’s initial talks with Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP about devo-max for Scotland it appears that devolution in Northern Ireland is about to be handed back.

Devolved institutions that pander to nationalist factions rarely survive long. In Northern Ireland any administrative progress is made near-impossible given the need for cross-community agreement for anything important. Such agreement is typically impossible. Hence nothing gets agreed. Indeed given the truism that Orange and Green are like chalk and cheese it sure seems strange that we have a system of government that requires consensus from people who clearly can’t stand each other.

In Scotland everything in the garden is lovely because there is only one nationalist party. But nationalism isn’t really an ideology. And the SNP is not at liberty to set its own budget unless it gets fiscal autonomy. When it does, it’ll have a lot less to spend. No Barnett formula then. But the dividing of the spoils will result in schisms in the SNP and a return to Scotland’s preferred basis for political discussion: ideology.  In short, the politics of left and right will ultimately return to replace the Groundhog Day tedium of the border question – regardless of whether Scotland remains in the Union.

Because the only thing that really matters in politics is power – especially power over money. The NI Executive has no power to insist on bigger budgets because it’s remote and isolated from mainstream political discussion. As Sammy Wilson pointed out yesterday in the Assembly (I paraphrase) the Conservative Party has no elected representatives here so why should it care?

The Northern Ireland Assembly looks a bit like a government but isn’t. It has no control over its budget, has no tax raising powers, and has no participation in major decisions that affect its budget. And really, what point is there in government without power and without influence and without budget?

That’s why direct rule is a much better option. Decisions will be reached quickly. Northern Ireland will essentially become an outpost of England as far as important legislation is concerned. Local MLAs can be stood down saving us quite a few quid. Local quangos can continue to be closed. Welfare reform can be enacted.

After all, our public services can only function if we get money. Westminster decides how much money we get. If our devolved administration merely gets in the way of that money being spent it should be closed down and, ideally, never re-opened.

  • Kevin Breslin

    How can “we” keep it closed?
    We don’t have any power over whether it is open or closed.
    If there is direct rule there is no longer really a political “we”.
    As a political “you” for so long, you must realise how little you have influenced the local people here.
    We don’t elect parties that stood on the policy of closing Stormont.
    And UK, England all the time they did have direct rule didn’t change the political or economic culture of the region one bit for all their savings.
    They have no desire to govern every detail here if they have the choice.
    We will still be Us at the end of the day.

  • Deke Thornton

    I suspect just about everyone agrees with this OP (Outside the gravy train). At least with their head anyway. The ‘Assembly’ was only ever a big sugar filled placebo to feather nest various warring factions. The only factor you’ve left out though is…I suspect Westminster just cannot be bothered with us. The good thing about the Tory majority is that David Cameron has shown no sign of listening to the pleas for more money and hopefully will cut the subsidy even more.

  • 23×7

    I agree. This is a failure of the current devolution settlement not by the individual parties.

  • Croiteir

    Why not keep it closed? You answer the question in the piece, because the English don’t care. The piece is actually an argument for removing this region from uncaring English control and into Irish control

  • barnshee

    Great Idea- can you hear the rush North by Irish politicians to pay up –fund the problems and assume responsibility for the consequences– No I can`t hear them either

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Indeed…the RoI might just run a budget surplus this year. Not sure how keen it would be to take on the £10Bn+ Northern Ireland annual deficit.

  • barnshee

    “(Outside the gravy train).”

    And thereby may lie the answer. We need a decision to cease payment of ALL salaries- directly associated with the Assembly where it fails to set a budget.The MLA pool -with some honourable exceptions- is bereft of skills and qualifications necessary for employment.

    A period on (now reduced) welfare would tighten the dung in all concerned.

  • mjh

    It’s better to have argument up on the Hill than fighting down in the streets.

  • michael robinson

    The government will keep it open at all costs to pretend to the outside world that their so called peace lives. Meanwhile the hatred and bigotry goes unabated while the country is being over run by illegal immigrants.

  • Ernekid

    The most cost efficient way for the British would be to announce a total unilateral withdrawal from Ireland and to leave Dublin to sort out the mess that is the North.

    It’d probably be a pretty popular strategy in England.

  • murdockp

    Northern ireland in many ways is like FIFA. A different format of corruption in that the money for favour goes on green and orange projects with little for the silent 70% of the electorate.

    Good riddance to stormont.

  • murdockp

    Northern ireland. The brits don’t want it and neither do he irish.

    What’s left.

    I reckon Cameron should identify 1,000 acres of land in Northumberland and construct ‘ORANGEVILLE’ a bit like Cadbury’s borneville. All the unionists who don’t want to live on irish soil for more that a second can move here, remain part of the UK with their communities intact.non need to fly a union jack ever again

    Ireland can then be united without civil war and a modern world leading economy created.

    Leave the orange ville residents houses empty incase they want to move back when they realise they have on one to fight with or hurl abuse at.

  • barnshee

    Are you completely bonkers have you seen the “skill set” of the average councillor (bombing and murder don`t count as “skills”)

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Keeping Stormont closed is easy to say, but what it would in fact be doing is serving to further insulate voters from the impact of their decisions at the ballot box.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Applying the Irish tax regime to Northern Ireland would probably have a favourable impact on the deficit, but yes, it’s unlikely to eliminate it.

  • Reader

    Jeff Peel: If our devolved administration merely gets in the way of that money
    being spent it should be closed down and, ideally, never re-opened.

    Here’s a way to sort out the current issues and get Stormont up and running again.
    The budgets for the next 5 years can be set in a short period of direct rule. Then new Assembly elections are held. The Executive, given sufficient consensus, will have the tools to agree their own budgets. Or they could fail; in which case the pre-programmed budget for that year will apply. After 5 years practice, they may be able to agree their own budget without a safety net.
    If Stormont is going to micro-manage welfare, there probably needs to be an Executive minister with overall responsibility, and an overall budget.

  • Pasty2012

    “devolution in Northern Ireland is about to be handed back”; who is handing it back? It may be taken back but will not be handed back freely by Nationalists.
    The Unionists want to hand it back in order to get Welfare Benefit Cuts implemented and then want the powers back again, But whilst Direct Rule is in place then there is likely to be a demand for the British Government to Introduce the Irish Language Act which they signed up to Implementing, and which the Unionists blocked. A way of trying to even things up you might say.

  • murdockp

    Define irony

  • hugh mccloy

    not for one seconds should current counicls be given control of social care

  • hugh mccloy

    An article I worte a while back about health and budgets, http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/01/07/crisis-what-crisis/ here is your allocation get on with it and stormont has been doing it for years

  • cu chulainn

    Could Britain not send over some of its Poles or Bulgarians whom it seems to object to, to live in the Orange houses. Win Win.

  • chrisjones2

    You assume Ireland cares!! Dream on. They regard Nordies as a contagion

  • chrisjones2

    For ‘orange’ substitute ‘black’ , read this agains and consider your real values

  • chrisjones2

    That would bump up the welfare roll by about 800 unless the MLAs were declared to have consciously put themselves out of work

  • Dan

    Alex Maskey and Dolores Kelly are beyond incompetent.
    They should be done for misconduct in public office.

  • John Collins

    Sadly Chris I think you are spot on there

  • Deke Thornton

    Yeah, an insider at Downing Street told me David Cameron sees this as an important issue. So no doubt it will be very high on his agenda. I’ve no doubt he will make sure it goes through Pasty. No worries there. mate/ ancharagh?

  • Deke Thornton

    Their ‘performance’ on Nolan was hilarious/pathetic. Maskey, I can understand because he has mental heath problems. But Dolores Kelly, not the brightest , but embarrassing. Roysten Valley? Parish council *bad*. Bad/Bad.

  • OneNI

    Mick is overt racist allowed on this site?

  • OneNI

    Its amazing the amount of racism amongst Irish nationalist

  • Kevin Breslin

    Jeff isn’t worried about that, so the rest of Northern Ireland should not be worried about that. Not as if this place called strikes and protests about decisions made from London before we had Stormont up and runnning.

  • NMS

    Jeff & Catcher, Ireland (the State) could never afford Northern Ireland. Taxation is kept low by low levels of Public Expenditure, which is an approach supported by the majority. I would expect the May tax figures, which will be released on 3rd June to point towards a current Budget surplus for 2015. If the electorate prefers a low tax/low spending regime for themselves, they are not going to put with high tax to maintain the malingerers of Northern Ireland. A recent OECD report, looking at trends in taxation and expenditure suggested by 2020 Ireland will be the lowest in both categories.

    Catcher – You can’t apply the Irish tax regime, without cutting NI Public expenditure in half. Would this be acceptable?

  • Reader

    If SF and SDLP posturing bring down the Assembly, who is Cameron going to want to punish?
    There may be a few socially liberal issues get tidied up during Direct Rule (fingers crossed), but the chances that Cameron is going to deliver on a nationalist wishlist are zero.

  • Reader

    murdockp: Define irony
    Irony (n): the excuse given when someone wakes up sober and recalls the remarks they made the night before.

  • murdockp

    Hardly, if you take what I said literally it is you with the problem. To think a ridiculous post was one of seriousness.

    I am neither green nor orange and I find the whole thing ridiculous. I was pointing out that there is no solution to the problems faced in NI. The Irish Don’t want it, the Brits don’t want it, and the people from both sides are hooked on conflict and there is nothing that can be done to create peace.

    The comment about leaving their houses empty was deliberate to show that this was not a ship them out comment. I was gain pointing out that even if the most diehard of unionists lived in England, they would have no affiliation with the place and have nothing in common with the English as they would miss the bigotry and misery of NI to much.

  • murdockp

    I am not an Irish nationalist, I couldn’t give a toss what flag I live under. I just want peace, healthcare, education, prosperity and jobs.

    In slugger, it seems to me you are classed as either green or orange and you guys on two occasions on this posit have tried to paint a colour on me which I am not happy with.

    I see myself as very much in line with the silent 50%, no colour at all

  • Gingray

    Deke did you mean to mimic the gaelic used by SF at stormont – My friend, in any irish gaelic dialect (slight difference in scots gaelic) is “mo chara” if you’re speaking of the friend, and “a chara” if you’re speaking to the person.

  • Gingray

    I think Chris is saying substitute black (as in people of african descent) for orange (protestant northern irish people) and the original poster should realise this is just nasty horrible sectarianism.

    Orange and Green need to learn to live together, not force people out.

  • Gingray

    Maybe some, but I think Chris has this one wrong – northerners feature in every day life in the south, and there is an appetitie for reunification, just not for the chaos.

  • Gingray

    You really think England will keep subsidising us forever?

    As long as we are tied to a london centric economy, we will remain a backwater, and eventually the English will tire of paying our way for us. Better to work towards a model that gives us self sufficiency than constantly needing handouts, and has been wodely recognised at home and in the UK, mimicing the rest of Irelands approach is more likely to produce success that trying to copy Essex.

  • Gingray

    At least until he looses his majority! Have people forgotten the mid 90s and the Unionist tail wagging the Tory dog? And major had a 21 seat majority – Cameron has 15.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In the event of Trident causing a nuclear holocaust in Northern Ireland, surviving citizens could move to the safety of Britain, move to a safer South of Ireland, or alternatively they could try to move to Greenland or A new colony of Scotland called Ulster-Scotland which hasn’t yet been assigned to protect their culture from both British and Irish influences.

  • Croiteir

    Why should they rush to pay for Britains mess, once the british rebalance the failed states failed economic base then they will step in to keep it on track with the rest of the country

  • Croiteir

    About as keen as they are taking on Connacht I would say. Did you not hear Micheal Martin’s Ard Fheis speech?

  • barnshee

    Or you could set aside a ” bantustan” for them in NI say 55-60 % of the area and allow them to parade etc to their hearts content— or reverse the process and set up a green “bantustan” contiguous with “the border” Put up strong fences and hey presto everyone happy

  • SeaanUiNeill

    From my own experience, murdockp, you tend to get hard stick from both camps if you simply talk sense about important issues that affect us in real ways, and do not tow a recognisable “party” line. I’ve even had them both commenting as if I were supporting the other on one memorable (for me at least) occasion myself. Congratulations!

    I’ve only recently posted one of my favourite St Just quotes, but it deserves another outing:

    “Je ne suis d’aucune faction, je les combattrai toutes.”

  • Reader

    murdockp: Hardly, if you take what I said literally it is you with the problem. To think a ridiculous post was one of seriousness.
    We get Brits Out and Taigs Out stuff round here all the time – it’s always fatuous, never witty, no-one thinks it’s an actual plan but some do like to let off a bit of steam every now and again.
    I hadn’t assumed that you were the type to go out at night with a can of paint, if that is what was bothering you?

  • Zig70

    You could use these arguments and substitute fascist dictator, ui,anything. There is a disagreement so move the power to a party that is universally disliked and loses it’s deposit. What’s to say England won’t be hamstrung after a few by elections. Should we shut it down and move the power to Stormont if that happens?

  • barnshee

    I love the idea that a capital city 90? miles away would survive a nuclear holocaust in NI

  • aquifer

    The Paisleyites and the Provos could not keep it together. What a surprise. Next.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    NMS,

    Personal taxation isn’t low in Ireland. In some ways it’s much higher than here especially if you add in the costs of having to obtain your own health insurance. I’d say, all other things assumed equal, if the Irish tax and public spending regime was applied to NI the tax yield would be greater.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    protests which made not a jot of difference. Margaret Thatcher decimated the welfare state in NI at the time.

  • NMS

    Catcher – Yes I agree with you in some ways on the income side.. Social Insurance contributions are much lower in Ireland than in the UK, let alone other EU states, which to date has been feasible because of 1950s emigration trends. The most basic problem are salary levels, which are very low in NI and would yield an even lower tax and social insurance yield within a united Ireland.

    I would question whether Ireland could afford the historical basic pension costs. Pension costs are key in the short-term and the long term. NI would be a twig too much “ar droim an asail”.

    The Irish tax model has been developed within certain parameters, subsidising NI was not one of those and 35 years of dealing with it, would suggest that the North could not be absorbed without a degree of expenditure cutting, which could not be isolated to NI alone. Subsidy costs would overwhelm.

  • Zeno

    I must start a list of reasons why there is going to be a United Ireland.
    1) Demographics (it’s not working out, but still)
    2) The Brits will withdraw because of the cost.
    3) The ROI is keen on Reunification and would love to have us.
    4) Brexit
    5) Scotland will exit the Union.

    There is more…………… but let’s look at how UI would work.
    1) Our £10 billion black hole will vanish.
    2) Investment will flow in, even though we don’t have the skill base for employers.
    3) Loyalist Paramilitaries would be hugging IRA men and women.
    4) Everyone would love it and not feel at all like they had been forced into a United Ireland.
    5) We would all live happily ever after.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Anglo-Irish Agreement protests weren’t about welfare it was about direct rule. Nearly shut this place down.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have my own resentments to these statements:

    Under the status quo Northern Ireland is liable to British debt on a collective level such as annual nuclear decommissioning costs for an industry it barely uses, and pays for London infrastructure on a national basis. The tax liability to spend on nuclear decommissioning is virtually eternal. Those liabilities would be gone not just the Barnett subsidy. There would be liabilities from Northern Ireland’s part of the UK deficit as the SNP made the case about an independent Scotland, while NI would pay nothing toward’s the Republic’s national deficit.

    It is also being out-competed for foreign direct investment from neither being in the Republic of Ireland or with the island of Britian, while lower corp tax would reduce the level of public spending it would certainly ensure that many jobs are secured and would mean many of the high skilled jobs that are being lost to the Republic go to Derry, Lisburn or Newry instead.

    In terms of skills that isn’t a constitutional matter, it’s not as if the best of British couldn’t move to the Republic for work given that there are 300,000 British in the Republic. People from the Republic can even join the British Defence Forces so those people can get skills.

    People have voted for a peace process that doesn’t force the majority of people in Northern Ireland to accept a United Ireland they don’t want, but also a peace process with a strand two element where the people define their own relationship with the Republic or the island of Britain already. The fact that loyalists or republicans or whoever aren’t happy with that is really down to them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Big issue is a Trident nuclear submarine blowing up at sea not at Faslane. Not a holocaust, that was a bit hyperbolic, but certainly a Chernobyl like event.

  • barnshee

    The “sea” from my direct experience is a very big place

  • Zeno

    Cheers I’ll add those to the list.
    7) We would get off our debts.
    8) It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a skilled workforce. We can bring in foreigners to do the work or join the Army.
    9) We would only be forcing half a million or so into UI, so that will be fine.
    10) We wouldn’t have to pay any Ireland’s debt.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Why do you think Northern Ireland within a united Ireland would be stopped from developing skills?

  • Zeno

    I didn’t say that. I said we don’t have the skilled workforce. Ireland is in the same boat. So it’s catch 22. The big companies are not going to invest when we don’t have a skilled labour force. Why would they when other countries already have skilled IT workers for example. India and China for example.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Funny, I know Chinese and Indians who are being taught (and some who are teaching Computer Science) over here. Logically speaking we’re doing something right in their eyes.

  • Zeno

    Irish people in general are not that great at computer sciences. Some may well be excellent, but it takes a different mindset to write code and we as a nation don’t have it.

  • Zeno

    Since 1998 the Catholic population has increased every year and yet the Nationalist vote has fallen by 48,000. Being Catholic does not mean being Nationalist. Only the IRA and the UVF believe that.

  • Skibo

    Zeno, have you considered the fact that the nationalist vote has plateaued due to the fact that in the west they have a majority and how have a laxidasical attitude to voting while in the east they are a minority and accept that Unionism will win out for the next couple of elections. The drive for a United Ireland is slow but will gather speed as people realise it is a realistic option. As the South comes out of recession I expect this to gather momentum.

  • Zeno

    I’d add those to the list…
    10) Masses of nationalists don’t bother voting even though they would love a United Ireland.
    11) The South coming out of recession makes it much more likely, even though during the Celtic Tiger years, no one in the South was mentioning it or offering to take on the basket case NI Economy.

  • Zeno

    I’ve said it many times. The only danger to the Union comes from Unionists.