Arlene tells the BBC she will have final say over where parties sit…

Update on the idea of changing the seating arrangements to accommodate the Opposition, Arlene Foster has just said in an interview on Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra that she won the election and no one is moving their spot in the chamber.

Though I think the last word on the actual positioning of Opposition and government will come down to the new Speaker and his office, Robin Newton. Mike Nesbitt will expand on the idea in Inside Politics after 6pm on Radio Ulster this evening.

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  • T.E.Lawrence

    If I was the UUP I would do a Denis Skinner and “Showboat It”. All UUP go into the chamber first and sit in Sinn Fein seats and force SF to go over and sit beside the DUP !

  • samay

    Would be quite a sight to see DUP and SF sitting beside each other !!! Might be good for Northern Ireland in the long run, too……..good ‘optics’.

  • Dan

    Of course the opposition should sit opposite the biggest party of government..
    Let Sinn Fein shift….

  • colmh

    Some dup refuse to even shake hands with sf so I can hardly see them agreeing to sit beside them.

  • Redstar

    As their policies are indistinguishable I can see no reason why the two establishment parties should not sit together

  • Brendan Heading

    Alliance tried to do this at the 1996 Forum when they were positioned away off to the right of the speaker where they could not be heard – arrived early and occupied the unionist seats in the centre. It backfired, as I suspect all of this will for the UUP.

    The UUP lost the election; they have 16 seats out of 108. They’ve got no business dictating who sits where.

  • Ryan A

    I’m of the opinion if the opposition (currently 22 in number) gets bigger than SF (and if either Alliance or the SDLP opt for opposition it will) then it’s fair and SF should shift. If SF refuse it makes a bit of a mockery of the outcry from them over the last 24 hours if they can’t face sitting next to their partners in Government. Though I imagine if it does come down to Robin he’ll face a lynch mob if he makes his buddies budge up for ‘themmuns’.

  • fralycis

    Sorry, but what gives a First Minister (whoever that may be) the right to allocate seating positions? Surely it is down to the Speaker and his/her staff, in consultation with any appropriate Standing Orders, to clarify and subsequently determine the logistics?

  • babyface finlayson

    This seems a bit arrogant from Arlene. She doesn’t own the assembly and surely does not decide who sits where.
    Maybe trying a bit too hard to show she is the boss.
    I am sure there is plenty of capital to be made by the UUP from this (and good fun for the rest of us) if they play it right.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I know it would Brendan but it would be good craic to watch the commotion on TV ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Can I distribute the Pizza’s to the waring clans so that we can end up like a Man United V Arsenal Tunnel Spate where old Fergie got hit on the head by a flying pizza !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    How dare you question Queen Arlene’s Authority in her Palace !

  • Redstar

    Why would the Shinners refuse to sit with their senior partners?

    After all they both believe in Tory cuts, Corp tax handouts for multi nationals etc.

    Both parties enjoy hob nobbing with British Royalty and other British establishment figures.

    Conservative parties like SF and DUP should sit comfortably together

  • babyface finlayson

    Yes, but given that Unionists want nothing to do with the South I suggest you hold the Mayo.

  • PV Nevin

    While this move by the UUP on the one hand gives a veneer of democratic normalcy to Stormont, on the other it exposes SF.

    While everything is “power-sharing” and “peace process” then the austerity attacks by the Stormont government are concealed by the dance that DUP and Sf engineer -manufactured schisms over sectarian issues; SF adopting the left pose and DUP happy to be cast as the bad boy of the right – arrogantly assuming their electoral support is eternal. Though the UUP move will make the DUP uncomfortable.

    But the main Unionist and Nationalist assumptions are that their votes are locked in with nowhere to go.
    McGuiness is squirming because “power sharing” is being exposed for what is – a DUP/SF coalition government.
    It’s us and them all right; but the “us” are the working class, regardless of religious identity. The “them” are the ruling class and their sycophants and crumb-beggars in the political establishment. Northern Ireland is like anywhere else.

    With regard to People Before Profit (and the other pseudo-lefts). They are cut from the same cloth as Syriza, whom they once lauded. Don’t be fooled.

  • Declan Doyle

    Are the seating arrangements in the Stormont chamber really the most pressing issue?

  • chrisjones2

    They are if you want to pretend that themuns is the enemy

  • chrisjones2

    Aye and Newton having just been put there by her will challenge it

  • chrisjones2

    Agree. But dare they?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Split the difference, let DUP and SF sit where they want to sit, simply have the SDLP and UUP swap seats. Mike can join Jim in the Shinner half, Colum can take McCann to the DUP one.

    Maximum mischief.

  • fralycis

    Haha a faint conspiracy that played in my mind yesterday was that during the DUP/SF private talks about supporting each other in votes for Speaker and Principal Deputy Speaker involved, they would at least have mentioned the possibility of a UUP speaker being much more assertive in forcing a seating change (should an official Opposition ever take place).
    Of course, Danny Kennedy and Patsy McGlone as Deputy Speakers would have a tough time convincing the (impartial combination *ahem*) of Newton and Ruane at the helm.

  • chrisjones2

    …and Marty mentioned that Ruane will take over in due course

  • mickfealty

    So where does the official opposition belong?

  • Brendan Heading

    over a pint in the Royal ? 🙂

  • Brendan Heading

    It doesn’t matter. This is an act for the cameras.

  • Granni Trixie

    Surely space impacts on the dynamics and the symbolic value is more than optics?

  • chrisjones2

    Hang on. Republicanism is one thing. Mayo on pizza is in a different league

  • chrisjones2

    ITS ALL AN ACT FOR THE CAMERAS

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Nah ! The TV is too small in the Royal, cross the road into the Rangers Club and upstairs in the nicely furnished South Belfast Branch Meeting Rooms of the ABOD Mitchellburne Club, bigger TV Screen and nice view of Sandy Row ! Bring the Popcorn I will have the Cheese & Pickles !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    It would be interesting if Mikey Boy was handed a pizza to fire at the enemy, who would he aim for first ?

  • the rich get richer

    Arlene and Sinn Fein “won” the election….so thats that

    Or was it Arlene that won it on her own……….

  • T.E.Lawrence

    She has certainly put Marty and the Shinners in their place ! As a matter of fact she has put the lot of them in their place. Bow to the Queen !

  • babyface finlayson

    True but the joke doesn’t work with anything else (Meath-free pizza maybe?) so call it dramatic license.

  • Granni Trixie

    By that logic if there turns out to be more than one opposition party there is no reason why opposition parties should sit together given their policies tend to differ.

  • Redstar

    I am simply stating a fact.

    Both parties believe in tax cuts for multi nationals whilst imposing Tory cuts. Both parties enjoy hob nobbing with British royalty and the establishment.

    They have the odd sham fight to keep some of their sheep thinking there’s àny difference between them but as the polls showed and more so the falling turnout in Natinalist areas- many of us want nothing more to do with SFs pseudo Republicanism.

    Excellent article in today’s Irish News sums it up well

    http://www.irishnews.com/opinion/columnists/2016/05/14/news/new-nationalism-risks-going-the-way-of-new-labour-518077/

  • chrisjones2

    “cut from the same cloth as Syriza”

    Would that be the Syrizia that Gerry is a great supporter off

    “On my own behalf and that of Sinn Féin I extended good luck and best wishes to SYRIZA in Sunday’s general election in Greece and expressed our full support for a European debt conference.”

    http://links.org.au/node/4259

  • chrisjones2

    Well; Tony did that and paid them hansomly

  • Brendan Heading

    The TV may be small but according to all the reviews on Tripadvisor the company is first class.

  • Brendan Heading

    the “act for the cameras” I’m referring to is on the part of the UUP who have dramatically withdrawn for the government without any plan about what they’re going to do next. The DUP and SF have controlled the government for ten years sitting right where they are and not once did the UUP raise it.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    More than good optics, maintaining the present seating arrangements does more than indicate that DUP & SF aren’t really in Govt together: can they afford to be? Only the future will reveal whether reliance on the old tribal opposition has more votes than Mike Nesbitt’s move.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    What a good idea!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Would even be better if SDLP and Alliance also sat beside the UUP and told the Cartel to sort their own seats out together in the chamber ! We are not for Moving !

  • T.E.Lawrence

  • chrisjones2

    Thats actually better

  • chrisjones2

    Arlene …like throwing a discus

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I have thought about the lot of them but the funniest would be Wee Barry McElduff getting smacked on his big bald forehead with a flying pizza ! And in the famous words of the great Sid Waddell One…Hundred….and….. Eighty…………………………

  • mickfealty

    Both ways? There’s a perfect logic to giving the opposition it’s proper place in the chamber. The simple raising of the argument shows there’s very little logic to any countering argument to it purely as a proposition. The best I’ve heard yet is that ‘it doesn’t matter’.

    Not only is it weak, it’s a refusal to recognise opposition for what it should be: a key element in the governance structure. If I’m wrong, then what’s the actual argument for not doing it? BTW Brendan, the UUP did not withdraw, they went into opposition.

    That’s catered for in the March bill, which was voted through by the Assembly. The fact that some people did not think that through is not the UUP’s fault. You cannot have two government parties in the most dominant positions in the house, whilst the opposition is sent to the back.

  • Brendan Heading

    There is no argument against it, but this isn’t the point. If Mike wants to understand why things are the way they are, he can get back on the phone to Trimble and ask him why the SDLP never sat beside his party when they controlled OFMDFM together.

  • PV Nevin

    You may wish to check People Before Profit’s parent organisation, the SWP?
    Here are just a few links
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/09/07/irel-s07.html

    https://richardboydbarrett.ie/2015/01/25/syriza-victory-a-victory-for-all-the-victims-of-austerity-in-europe/

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/irish-opposition-and-trade-unions-welcome-syriza-victory-1.2079091

    http://www.electionhubireland.com/parties/independents/people-before-profit-alliance/

    Sinn Fein are a classic nationalist party. They represent a layer in Ireland that wants a bigger slice of the action. The left pose of Sinn Fein is a another set of lies.

    People Before Profit. otherwise known as the Socialist Workers Party, won two seats and topped the poll in Sinn Fein’s strongest constituency.
    This is significant. The policies of the SWP must be scrutinised therefore. Nothing should be taken at face value

  • Skibo

    That is one stupid comment. They were not vying for the same voting pool. The only ones Arlen pot in their place was UUP and TUV and as the UUP and the TUV held their seats I assume she did not put anyone in their place at all, just achieved parity with Peter Robinson’s election results in 2011.

  • Skibo

    Of course we have the PBP there now so they will make the Torys reinstate the welfare cuts. If they don’t, can we say they have failed and are also tories?

  • Skibo

    If we go back through the welfare issue, how would the government and opposition parties handle it? Would Mike join Colum on the opposition benches and oppose the implementation of Welfare cuts? How could SF remain in government then?
    This government/ opposition does not actually make sense. It is normally left v right but here we have both sides on both sides with the left being the minority on both.

  • Granni Trixie

    In that case I quite agree,

  • Charlie Farlie

    This is not about the want for an opposition to better suit the needs of the people but more about Mike Nesbitt’s ego and his need to be centre stage. A more disengenuous soul one could not find. Wouldn’t Mike just love to be sitting facing the two parties and offering nothing but criticism and faux outrage at every movement, no matter how productive. He was well beaten in the election and his ego cannot deal with that fact. So he tries yet again to take the limelight. He has an enlarged messiah complex. Why should a party that inherently believes in power sharing and has twice the size of a mandate be made fools of by a man who has a personal need for attention? Why should they dance to his contrived tune and move around like pawns on a chessboard, is their mandate worth less?
    Two Unionist parties back sitting in the most powerful seats in Stormont, so what was the Good Friday Agreement about if not to protect that other sizeable mandate that is now conveniently trying to be pushed to the periphery. If the SDLP signs up with a man like this not only have they contravened everything they created in that agreement, but will also be removing the protections for their own community enshrined within it. By all means create an opposition, but Nationalism cannot be pushed to the periphery like it was pre 1998!

  • PV Nevin

    UUP taking the opposition stance is a manoeuvre on their part. Nesbitt sees an opportunity to point the finger at the DUP as the servants of the bilionaires. Just as Sinn Fein make the same calculation in Dublin and they too form a an ‘opposition’. In both cases of course it’s only the normal cynical posturing.
    The extra dimension in Belfast is that the UUP move suddenly reveals the nakedness of the DUP and SF. Goodness me they are a coalition! A coalition government!
    The seemingly petty stubborness on seat arrangements is actually deadly serious. Sitting opposite one another perpetuates the head wrecking strategy of both parties. Alice in Wonderland logic of the charade they.engage in between them. ‘What government? There is no government! There is ‘power sharing’; but that’s because of our “sityeeation” ‘.

  • Declan Doyle

    You are taking a constructivist view. Your argument is based on ; ‘that’s the way it has always be done, so that’s the way we should do it’. Not enough me fears.

  • mickfealty

    That’s not why I suggested it. So I’ll ask again, if you don’t think they should sit opposite the government, where should an opposition sit? Stay where they are and pretend nothing has changed?

    There’s quite enough pretending going on up on the hill as it is. It’s not as though government hasn’t got the lions share of advantage in terms, resources, power and patronage?

  • mickfealty

    They would all have to sit together.

  • mickfealty

    That’s the best argument against I’ve heard yet. It would be against the GFA, but since the GFA has been messed around with twice already, maybe there’s a case for tweaking it further, rather than refusing to recognise the corollary of the last change?

  • Jag

    All 108 MLAs should be seated alphabetically according to their surname. TUV Jim Allister sitting beside SF Caoimhe Archibald. Arlene Foster beside Michelle Gildernew. Gerry Kelly beside Danny Kennedy. Alex Maskey beside Gary Middleton. Conor Murphy beside Mike Nesbitt. Alister Ross beside Catriona Ruane.

    Give it a week and the whole tone of politics in Northern Ireland would change (either that or you’ll see more Little Pengellys or Curried surnames)

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m with you on this idea.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    There may be a mandatory coalition, but I feel Sinn Fein are the de facto opposition. Any party over 30 seat strong can veto legislation and there is no tricolour still over Stormont, even as an ancillary flag. In the Welsh assembly we have both the Welsh and British flags flying..as does the Scottish parliament..

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    I will believe that SF are equal joint partners when I see the tricolour flying alongside the Union jack at Stormont. Or that they achieve the 30 seats necessary to veto legislation.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    skibo..the DUP increased by 4,000 votes and TUV went up 7,000.The combined votes of Unionist and British parties ( Con and UKIP) was over 80,00 over the combined nationalist vote.They actually hold a majority of the Assembly seats.

  • Charlie Farlie

    Agreed Mick, and I’m not necessarily against the idea of an opposition par se, however we need to remember the reason why power sharing was implemented as the choice system. Has Unionism suddenly became egalitarian in its outlook where those initial protections are no longer required? No it hasn’t. Given half a chance people like Gregory Campbell would still be wanting Nationalism to eat it’s dinner off the floor. We need some certainties that we are not removing all protection from reverting back to discriminatory practices. Has the SDLP thought about this? And as for Mike’s ego, well he wants to be head honcho. I wouldn’t move an inch on his demand, never mind move an entire party (second largest) to the back of the room. First movement in the reemergence of majority rule? Let’s hope the SDLP don’t have blinkers on when it comes to making their decision.

  • Dominic Hendron

    You present an alternative, hopefully with the help of the SDLP and Alliance and the add ons

  • Dominic Hendron

    How long ago was that? Let’s move on

  • Dominic Hendron

    Nesbits a bad leader, John Mc Callister would have been better but we are going no where with the current pretence. What’s coming down the line is more conflict and frustration for ordinary people. Throw the cards in the air and see where they land and start from there. It’s as good a way as any to try and get good government

  • Charlie Farlie

    But thats not good enough Dominic. Just because something isn’t working properly doesn’t mean we revert back to a system that had horrendous consequences. We are very quick to forget. When a society such as ours is striving to overcome that bad system we expect perfection too soon and just to ‘throw the cards in the air’ to me is gambling with at least a form of stability, if not forgetting all past mistakes. Yes an opposition in a normal society would be ideal, however this state has not reached ‘normality’ yet. And thats why this is not the time to reinstate another form of majority rule for the sake of Mike Nesbitt and his inability to accept failure. Mike wants to be the leader of an opposition. His raison d’être is to gather headlines by creating instability facing off Arlene Foster in his desire to be leader of Unionism. All of this meanwhile at the expense of stability and Nationalism.
    If anyone thinks that an opposition will bring stability to this Government, I believe they will see the opposite happening. This place is ran on a handout from Westminster, criticism is very easy toward anyone attempting to administrate that. Now criticism will be the order of the day by someone who doesn’t have to bear responsibility of that and also has the freedom to make himself look like a supreme judge sitting on the opposite bench. I can see a lot of problems ahead. Not denying the current situation isn’t perfect, but at least its not pretending we have a normal social system. His line ‘Let the battle commence’ while cringeworthy, was also a vision of what he intends to come.
    Political commentators should analyse a bit deeper what they wish for and stop pretending we have a level of normalcy here. Just because some have reached a modicum of political maturity, it is not necessarily reflected at community level. Sometimes I wonder who is really in touch with political reality, those who remain in the academic sphere and television studio’s, or those who live among those who really make the decisions in this place, Stephen Nolan and his listeners. And won’t he just love Mike Nesbitt for stirring things up, it gives him material, enough fake outrage to agree with his criticisms and unfortunately the message to people that this place isn’t working and then he goes home. His listeners meanwhile are left with a feeling of negativity and hopelessness. Which all feeds into the dogma of those groups who love nothing more than negative destabilisation and their numbers grow. All for Mike’s Ego, and Stephen’s boast of ‘Biggest show in the country’. Hope its worth it!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    That sounds like an argument to have a northern Ireland flag also flying at stormont.

  • chrisjones2

    “John Mc Callister would have been better ”

    Who for?

  • chrisjones2

    I thought it was more about Arleme creating a false narrative of her vs SF when in reality they are two sides of one coin in Government

  • Dominic Hendron

    The idea that the extremes, SF/DUP, can bring good politics has not worked. The GFA was based on the idea that moderate people could relegate their differences to the common good and behave themselves in the interest of building society here ; which is unique in its experience. The DUP/SF experiment forces people into extreme positions, note Arlene’s McGuiness as FM tactic and Sinn Fein’s poster about if you really want a UI vote SF. People need an alternative that makes the GFA work in the spirit it was intended.

  • Skibo

    Agreed RIW. SF down by 11000, SDLP down by 10922. PBP up by 8000. What that shows me is that Nationalism needs more choice.
    The Nationalist vote was particularly down in Mid Ulster and West Tyrone where their seats are safe.
    I was expecting Unionist representation to either drop below 50% or hover around this level. It seems the Unionist cause has been rallied, perhaps by the earlier Flegs debacle or perhaps a push to slow down the greening of the North. Nationalism is comfortable in its position within the North at the moment but remember alot can happen in a few years. The bigger issue for Nationalism is where are Unionist seats at danger of an increased Nationalist vote?

  • chrisjones2

    Depends who you ask dunnit

  • chrisjones2

    “What that shows me is that Nationalism needs more choice.”

    What that shows ro me is that many voters claimed to be Nationalist either arent or dont care enough to vote

  • Dominic Hendron

    Everyone

  • Skibo

    You may be right but you could also be wrong.
    I know of a number of people who would be staunch Republican and have stopped voting because they see SF as delivering British rule in Ireland. I believe if the Nationalist vote can be invigorated they will return. Nationalism in the West is comfortable and perhaps it is taken for granted that SF and SDLP can retain their seats without those comfortable voters.
    I also know others who wouldn’t vote for a UI at the moment as it does not make financial sense, mainly because there are no actual facts.
    The UI project has to be sold. The finances has to be worked out and proved to be viable.

  • Charlie Farlie

    This idea of two extremes is continually perpetuated by the media. What is it about having an aspiration of a United Ireland that you see is extreme? The GFA had it enshrined within it that this aspiration is a valid one and when demographics change this can be put out to a democratic question. There is nothing extreme about that viewpoint. I think SF are in danger of losing some of their core vote precisely because they are not extreme enough so I think that accusation, whilst it does apply to the DUP and its inability to install the central principles of power sharing within the GFA throughout their party, cannot be levied at the feet of SF for all their issues. Its a liberal accusation that is not reflected among the general population when they come out to vote. Also I don’t understand how you can say the arrangement of conjoined Govt ‘forces’ people into extreme positions. There was no less than 10 different parties throughout constituencies to vote for, most centrally liberalist. People didn’t want them enough to vote for them. Alternatives were not chosen, and ultimately its them collectively who call the shots. The spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is still there. It is the media classes who try to tell us its not. Now throw a recession and a Tory Government on top of it and we are into a different argument. Though listening to commentators, most make no distinction.

  • Charlie Farlie

    Of course it was a false narrative – agreed!

  • Dominic Hendron

    Looking forward with interest to the outworking of this mandate then

  • Charlie Farlie

    This mandate will not work Dominic precisely because the media classes and smaller parties don’t want it to. It is more about a power grab from outside than it is about any meaningful policy creations within. Now with Mike in the second best position within the Assembly, negativity will reign. Doomed before creation of a single policy. And ironically, this time its not the DUP’s doing.

  • Dominic Hendron

    Great