#SluggerReport: Contrasts between northern and southern PfG processes…

So Mike has jumped. Stephen Nolan was giving Phillip Smith a hard time because his party leader had said that he was going to give it the whole two weeks before the election, and has now taken the first opportunity to walk when it arose.

In yesterday’s Slugger Report, I compared and contrasted the PfG in the south and compared it to the ponderous process already in train in Northern Ireland. It may provide some clues as to why the UUP decided to cut their bait and run.

In the Republic, it’s been months since their general election and only now has a proper Programme for Government emerged. Despite being the longest one ever 47,000 words according to Stephen Kinsella on Morning Ireland yesterday morning, it is long in intent, story, and narrative but spare in figures, targets and dates for delivery. That is necessarily the case.

This must necessarily be the case. This is a tiny minority FG government which will depend on the major party of opposition FF abstaining on key issues of confidence to prevent it from falling.

The 32nd Dail will be required to do a lot of the heavy lifting, not just in striking down legislation it doesn’t like but initiating and gaining passage of law and means it wants to see enacted. Welcome to Irish Scandinavia!

In Northern Ireland, we live in a very different part of the political universe.

By contrast, most of the work on the current PfG has been in train from February (i.e., long before the election) and possibly longer. Whilst the Dail has seen talks between 2/3 of its deputies, most of the talks leading to the current draft document (or ‘management

Both the SDLP and UUP generated some 7 or 8 papers in the run into the negotiations to the Fresh Start Agreement and neither saw anything come back from either the DUP or Sinn Fein.

Those who have seen the working document say it is long on figures and woefully short on political content.

The question of whether the mid-sized parties will stay inside the Executive or walk has – in principle at least – been resolved. Mike Nesbitt returns not to the place he was before, (which was ‘out of office’), but to Opposition.

It is no longer a theoretic question, but reality. It throws a switch now on others. It’s clear that the SDLP are going to continue with their original game plan which is to use the full two weeks to explore both options, and then decide.

I suspect Brian Feeney on Wednesday was reflecting thinking inside Sinn Fein which is that they want the SDLP to stay in.

But as I said on the #SluggerReport yesterday, Opposition is an instrument, not a policy. The SDLP and Alliance should resist the urge to walk early, or indeed decide on whether to walk or not until negotiations are complete.

Meanwhile, there is no obligation to consult in the Republic. The enhanced deliberative and legislative powers of Dail Eireann are trusted to filter out the worst single party excesses. Thus government and executive action begins now, and not November.

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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