Accountability's the thing…

So aside from the now highly ritualised game of political chicken between Republicans and Unionists over decommissioning, it appears that ministerial accountablity is the main stumbling block after several days of hermetically sealed talks in Kent.

In fact, accountablity comes in at number two in the party’s seven tests, and above the one about only having ministers ‘committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means’.

The key problem, from a DUP point of view, comes in paragraph 24 of the Belfast Agreement:

“Ministers will have full executive authority in their respective areas of responsibility, within any broad programme agreed by the Executive Committee and endorsed by the Assembly as a whole”.

The party argues in its road map document Towards a New Agreement (PDF) that Ministerial decisions are uniquely unaccountable to their committees on either a straightforward or cross community vote.

Though, the party also argues that the rules around fiscal control are written so loosely that the Minister of Finance has little scope for reigning in high spending colleagues.

Critics say that the party missed the experience of cabinet government, and that once inside the tent it may find its hand strengthened in numbers and its ability to take more of the key positions.

Others, like Danny Morrison, believe that in fact the DUP objects:

“…to the safeguards, the checks and balances which were put in place because of unionism’s historic abuse of majoritarianism in the six counties. They object to parallel consent and weighted majorities which protect both communities. They object to the provisions of cross-community support for key decisions”.

All in all, it’s not exactly big picture stuff – which may explain why NI’s big set piece at Leeds Castle failed to ignite much interest outside the political classes last week. But there will have to some progress on this issue if Northern Ireland’s Assembly is to finally reawaken from its long hibernation.

  • Davros

    Although I’m no fan of the DUP or Jeffrey Donaldson,
    they do seem to have a point. Mr Donaldson gave a good example of what was arguably gerrymandering on a discussion show yesterday morning when he raised the Isssue of Ms de Br

  • willowfield

    There should be collective responsibility, but what does this mean in practice?

    In theory, I assume the Health Minister for, say, Scotland, would have the authority to close down maternity services in one hospital and transfer them to another without the need for a vote of the Scottish Parliament. This is what Barbre de Brun did.

    In practice, though, such a decision is unlikely in Scotland because the issue would be discussed in Cabinet and the Cabinet could rule against the Health Minister’s proposal. If the Health Minister chose to go ahead anyway, he or she would be sacked and replaced with someone who would abide by the Cabinet decision.

    In NI, this was not possible because the Cabinet (i.e. the Executive Committee) had no authority to sack De Brun.

    Is this what the DUP is trying to fix?

    Doesn’t seem unreasonable.

  • willowfield

    Don’t see how fixing this would be a return to “majority rule” either, since the Executive Committee is a power-sharing one.

  • Warm Storage

    Willowfield, the Executive was a power-sharing one nominally. If anything, it was power-dividing. By that, I mean that Ministers acted largely on their own. This allowed a system whereby the so-called checks and balances that ought to have been applied by statutory committees to potential ministerial decisions could be either ignored by the Minister or rendered impotent as a result of the inability (at present) of committees to amend legislation. A committee can suggest amendments for consideration by its Minister, no more. In the event of a Minister seemingly having a completely free rein, a real power-sharing Executive would be able to hold him or her to account — this the former Executive could not do.

    Of course, the Assembly as a whole could have held Ministers to account by simply voting against their proposals. In reality, this sometimes led to the farcical actions of committee members who had previously been vocal on some aspect of legislation/policy when he or she had his or her scrutiny head on in a committee meeting voting with the Minister in the House. Why? Three-line whips and tribal loyalties.

    Ministerial accountability is about trust, not about a return to majoritarianism. Would the same problem be presenting itself to, in particular, the SDLP (guardians of the agreement)if the make-up of the Executive was six Unionist/six Nationalist or even tipped in nationalism’s favour. It’s a slightly hypocritical stance, given that the number of Ministers (and, by extension, Departments) was decided back in late 1998 not on a basis of how many Departments Northern Ireland needed but on what would produce an Executive with equal numbers of Nationalists and Unionists on it. Don’t believe me? Run d’Hondt for seven, eight or nine portfolios for 1998 mandates.

    Could go on, but I need my lunch.

  • Eddie

    But the hte best decsion was to put peadiatric services next to the regional chuildren’s hospital. BAcked up by most opf the professional bodies.

    Robinson is on record as saying that he wanted a position where SF minsters were not able to buy a paper without the DUP letting them.

    This is not a normal society – unionist majoritarianism brouight us an M1 that stopped in Dungannon – great especially for the North West.

    Unionists have nothing to demostrate that they can be trusted with a veto.

    Look at unionists on Lisburn council – no nationalists in senior positions – Catholics make up just 16% of the workforce but nearly 50% of the lisburn cathchment area population. No power sharing.

  • Henry94

    We have to take into account the nature of Power Sharing. A majority in the Assembly counts for nothing and can have no role in this.

    But neither should Ministers be free agents.I would trust the parties. Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers.

    At first party loyalty might make that difficult but in the long run it would work. MLAs would be willing to use the power they had if a minister lost the run of himself (or herself).

  • Davros

    Eddie … Lisburn has no Nationalists in senior Positions ? Typical πŸ™‚ That was because Cllr Butler REFUSED a senior position.

  • Davros

    “I would trust the parties.”

    I don’t trust ANY of them Henry. DUP or SF, SDLP or UUP.

  • peteb

    Henry

    “Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers.”

    I’ve heard some bizarre suggestions before, but that has to be the most ridiculous ever to be proposed.

  • Davros

    Agreed Pete …. Cue Jokes about MM and Gerry being scared of Bairbre LOL

  • willowfield

    Warm Storage

    Explain to me how giving the Executive Committee power to sack ministers would not cure the Bairbre de Brun/RVH issue?

    Henry94

    Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers.

    A preposterous suggestion.

    What

  • peteb

    Mind you, Davros, there is something about that strict schoolmarmish image that some find very unsettling ;o)

  • Davros

    I find it strangely attractive and live in hope!

  • Davros

    But that probably says more about me …..

  • peteb

    A little too much information, Davros.

  • Davros

    I loved the running gags in “Folks On the Hill” especially where Bairbre tries to trick Peter into
    talking to her πŸ™‚

    ” My Office Peter”.

  • Warm Storage

    Willowfield,

    I might be getting slightly confused here, but when did I mention anything about Ministers being sacked or not being sacked? I was talking about a definition of power-sharing, and I thought my view on accountability was pretty similar to your own. Indeed, if the DUP is seeking accountability for the right reasons (and there are many), then that’s not unreasonable.

    Though, any power available to sanction (or sack) a Minister, if used, would simply, under the present nomination system, lead to one party’s Minister being replaced with another from the same party (ie. one likely to follow the same policy). A flawed deterrent.

  • PS

    Testing………..

    (Apoligies but the other commentating test thread seems to have problems)

  • Warm Storage

    Isn’t Henry94 simply advocating MLAs having a free vote rather than voting for a policy/piece of legislation because it happens to be “their” Minister behind it?

    Unlikely to ever happen — maverick MLAs are in short supply — but hardly “bizarre”, “ridiculous” or preposterous”. However, having representatives who barely know which way they’re voting until their neighbour indicates to them or until they see other members of their party going through the division lobby is.

  • PS

    On the issue at stake here, we need to talk in realistic terms.

    If devolution is achieved, it must be a workable devolution, where republican ministers have the same rights and ability to govern as their unionist counterparts.

    Accountability is indeed hugely important, but it must be made clear that while accountability is desired, a Unionist veto is not.

  • Warm Storage

    Why does it necessarily have to be a Unionist veto? By the same token, the supposed pro-agreement parties could scupper any crazy DUP proposals. After all, there would be seven of them on the 12-member Executive.

  • peteb

    Warm Storage

    What Henry suggested was not a ‘free vote’ for the assembly.

    “Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers” clearly suggests that only MLAs from the same party as the minister concerned should be able to ‘overturn’ a decision by that minister – that’s bizarrre and ridiculous.

  • PS

    Davros, Re Your comments about Lisburn city Council, please read the Letters Page of today’s Irish News if you get a chance.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “Although I’m no fan of the DUP or Jeffrey Donaldson,
    they do seem to have a point. Mr Donaldson gave a good example of what was arguably gerrymandering on a discussion show yesterday morning when he raised the Isssue of Ms de Br

  • PS

    Ach now Pat, are you suggesting that when it comes to healthcare panels of doctors might know more about the subject than Unionist polticans intent on denying services to a Republican area?!

    Surely not!

  • Warm Storage

    If that’s what Henry did mean, then I agree with you. It’s fanciful, unfeasible and unworkable, and would lead to an awful lot of internicine fighting in parties. I can just imagine the DUP Back-Bench blocking Nigel’s plans, for example.

    But let Henry clarify what he did mean, eh? Often what we post doesn’t convey the exact sentiment of our posting… Henry, over to you.

  • peteb

    Warm Storage

    If Henry wants to return to ‘clarify’ his position there’s no-one preventing him from doing that..

    But you’re seeing ambiguity where none exists, as Henry’s post continues with “At first party loyalty might make that [MLAs from each party having the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers] difficult but in the long run it would work”.

  • Colm

    I know it’s not going to happen but why do we need to have this musical chairs all parties included fixed executive anyway..

    Why not adapt the rules of normal elective government and have a single administration made up of a coalition between the single most popular nationalist and unionist parties. The other 2 parties would form an opposition.

    That way you would have majority rule without it being single community majority rule, you would avoid the current each party for their own non accountable executive you have at the moment, and you would give the Northern Irish electorate the chance to effect the the most important electoral action a democracy can allow, and which is denied to them at the moment. The chance to kick the administration out of office and replace it with another one.

  • North Antrim Realist

    Seems to me that if you set the % at the right level everybody would have a veto, Nationalists, Unionists, Republicans so what is the problem. It would only happen in a very small number of cases in any event.

    Let get on with getting real Government back here so we can get rid of the unaccountable unrepresenative Gold Coast Civil Servants who are destroying this country with their policies and decisions.

  • willowfield

    Warm Storage

    I might be getting slightly confused here, but when did I mention anything about Ministers being sacked or not being sacked?

    You didn

  • Warm Storage

    “If Henry wants to return to ‘clarify’ his position there’s no-one preventing him from doing that..”

    Well, that doesn’t mean that you and others have the right to “clarify” it for him. I’ve read the post again, and still I interpret it to mean the possibility of a party taking the decision to vote against its Minister’s proposals IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ASSEMBLY VOTING ON SAID PROPOSAL.

    He wrote:

    “Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers.

    At first party loyalty might make that difficult but in the long run it would work. MLAs would be willing to use the power they had if a minister lost the run of himself [or herself].

    Wherein does Henry94 suggest that it should be MLAs from the party of the Minister in question that can EXCLUSIVELY veto a Minister’s decision? That’s just plain stupid. I take it to mean that they can ignore the party whip and vote for what they think to be right, in the same way as MLAs from other parties vote on the same item of business. That’ll still never happen, all the same.

  • peteb

    Very well, Warm Storage, if you’re determined to open up that ‘ambiguity’ on Henry’s behalf, feel free.

  • peteb

    But “That’s just plain stupid” is exactly the point I was making.

  • Warm Storage

    NAR

    “Seems to me that if you set the % at the right level everybody would have a veto, Nationalists, Unionists, Republicans so what is the problem. It would only happen in a very small number of cases in any event.”

    Setting the percentages at the right level IS the problem, the clue being in the word “setting”. If, at the beginning of every mandate, as was done once the results were in in 1998, we fiddle with parliamentary procedures to produce a voting system that best suits the make-up of the Assembly, then we’re setting a very dangerous precedent. Case in point: the party mandates after last November’s elections, and the subsequent composition of the Executive those mandates have produced. Whereas d’Hondt produced a nicely packaged six/six split when triggered in 1999 to elect the 10 Ministers after the election of the FM/DFM, and whereas rules about parallel majority and 60/40/40 (weighted majority) largely worked 1999-2002 (excepting the re-election of the FM/DFM debacle in 2001 where UUP defections upset the cross-community 50/50 apple cart that applied to such a vote), the changed mandate will result in a seven/five split on the Executive, which appears to have upset the SDLP and its notion of what power-sharing should be. Future Assemblies may present more problems unless the voting procedures and accountability are addressed. Don’t even get me started on designations!!!

    Willowfield,

    Sorry; I had read your posting: I was just befuddled as to whether you were asking for my opinion. Apologies. Did I answer your question then?

    “So how do we overcome the accountability problem? I would not be practical to make every decision by a minister accountable to either the Executive, or to the Assembly: that would be a bureaucratic nightmare.”

    Too right — that’d produce a logjam and no good government. Personally, I’d like to see the powers of statutory and standing committees increased. It might take a while to get our members to Westminster standard when discussing the minutiae of legislation, but (revisit my 1.47 post) committees in the last mandate, despite their best efforts, could do very little to affect the outcome of a Bill, especially when the Minister had his or her party on board.

    Peteb/Willowfield,

    On Henry’s “bizarre” suggestion, I’ll (if you don’t mind!) say nothing more until he’s replied. I’m becoming increasingly concerned that I may end up with egg on my face, despite my qualifying remarks at every juncture! he couldn’t mean what you both think he means… could he?

  • willowfield

    Warm Storage

    Too right

  • peteb

    “Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers”

    He could indeed, Warm Storage.

  • Warm Storage

    Willowfield,

    “There is ample scrutiny of legislation and – by definition – no minister can pass legislation without recourse to the legislature!”

    Can you elaborate on how there is ample scrutiny of legislation? Committees can scrutinise legislation all they like, but they can only “suggest” amendments to the Minister, not make amendments to Bills as standing committees in the House of Commons can. The Minister can take on board his/her committee’s recommendations or ignore them. Private members can table amendments and hope they are selected for consideration stage.

    When the Bill is brought to the floor at consideration stage, it is not the Bill that is voted on but the clauses therein. Of course, any offending clauses can be voted down, but the Bill will get through largely unscathed.

    Ample scrutiny, then? Check out how many amendments to legislation were tabled in the lifetime of the last Assembly. And then check how many pieces of legislation were strangled at birth or at the final hurdle.

    Peteb

    “Let the MLAs from each party have the right to overturn a decision of their own ministers”

    Call me pedantic (“You’re pedantic” — Peteb) but in an inclusive, power-sharing Assembly, can’t “their own Ministers” be taken to mean that a UUP Minister is as much one of an SDLP member’s Ministers as an SDLP Minister is?

  • peteb

    I wouldn’t call you “pedantic” if you tried to argue that was what Henry meant, Warm Storage.. Silly, yes.. but not pedantic. ;o)

  • Henry94

    My proposal is based on the fact that the parties appoint the Ministers. That is unusual. Usually a Prime Minister appoint Ministers and it is to the PM they are really accountable. He can fire them or overrule them.

    The Ministers boss is in effect their party MLAs.

    That should be recognised and made the channel of accountability.

    There is no way in our system that Ministers can be accountable to the whole Assembly in any meaningful way.

    Nor can they be really accountable to each other through the normal collective responsibility.

    My proposal gives the MLAs a role on the same basis as the departments are divided. I think they would grow into it.

  • Warm Storage

    Right, I am now wiping an entire lorry-load of free range off my visage. I have been very silly.

    *Much grovelling by Warm Storage in direction of Peteb and Willowfield*

    Henry94, why not just have four Executives and four Assemblies in that case? Oh, and the Alliance Party, Bob, David and Kieran could just go home.

  • Warm Storage

    PS. If that’s your vision of what constitutes power-sharing, god help us.

  • willowfield

    Here’s a suggestion.

    Why not keep the system essentially as it is, with ministers being autonomous within the broad parameters of a programme for government, BUT, introduce some sort of mechanism whereby the Executive Committee can recommend that a minister’s decision can be referred to a cross-community vote of the Assembly?

    This would maintain the essence of the GFA arrangements, but would provide Assembly control in cases where (a) the power-sharing Executive was convinced that a minister had made a dubious decision that merited reference to the Assembly, and (b) the Assembly itself voted to overturn the decision by cross-community vote.

  • peteb

    Grovelling is always appreciated, Warm Storage.

    I did try to warn you though. :o)

  • Davros

    Welcome back PS:) Enjoyed your letter to The Irish News a while back and hope you had a good summer !

    I had already noted the letter today – the tone was ” even if they offer us anything they are swine and anybody who takes anything is an Uncle Tom “… an attitude I thought we had left behind. Yes the UUP and DUP of Lisburn are negative and I wonder how much of their behaviour is because they are faced with someone like Cllr “the Maze was Auschwicz” Butler ? SF needs more like Alex Maskey and Gearoid O

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry.

    Interesting idea. And perhaps very true to the Executive as conceived in the Belfast Agreement. In this scenario what role do you see the Committees retaining?

    Is there not also a longer term danger that they become regarded as politically redundant in the same way as the old Stormont opposition?

    And is there a danger that by bringing those kinds of decisions inside a political party you lose an enormous amount of transparency?

    For instance, there’s a high level of cynicism expressed about Seanad Eireann, the select electorate for which is dominated by party apparachiks.

  • Davros

    Pat- Ministerial dictatorship is not democratic.

    It could be argued that If a DUP policing minister restored the levels of the full-time reserve that he would have the overwhelming support of the Police federation and other organisations reprersenting the police. Would that make it ok ?

    SF want accountability to elected representatives EXCEPT when it would be SF called to account.

    PS- what’s with this “denying services to a republican area” ? Care to justify why SF denied services to a non-republican area, South Belfast, that also happens to have a SF representative ?

  • Henry94

    Mick

    The Committees should develop a good knowledge of the issues in their department and help the minister to reach good decisions. But let’s say a minister takes a bad decision. The pressure and the responsibility would be on the party to reign them in and there would be no tribal pressures to conform.

    willowfield

    Your idea is a good one

    introduce some sort of mechanism whereby the Executive Committee can recommend that a minister’s decision can be referred to a cross-community vote of the Assembly?

    But I would like to see cross-community agreement in the executive required to refer a decision. After all we wouldn’t want every Sinn Fein decision coming to the Assembly just because the unionists felt like it.

    Warm Storage

    why not just have four Executives and four Assemblies in that case?

    Heating costs.

    But seriously in a way we have four mini-executives. That is the architecture of the Agreement. This is not like a coalition government with an agreed program.

    If this system was imposed on a normal parliament you could have hard line communists and ardent free-marketeers in the same government with no agreed program. It is a unique system and requires unique methods of accountability.

    We are lucky that we have an economic consensus here that the British should pay for everything. It cuts down the room for disagreement.

  • Henry94

    Plus, why should a unionist minister be accountable to MLAs elected by votes he can’t ever win.

    It a division of the spoils system. Let’s not pretend otherwise or we’ll confuse ourselves.

  • Davros

    ” But I would like to see cross-community agreement in the executive required to refer a decision. After all we wouldn’t want every Sinn Fein decision coming to the Assembly just because the unionists felt like it.”

    Fair comment Henry.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    And is there a danger that by bringing those kinds of decisions inside a political party you lose an enormous amount of transparency?

    That is a danger so let’s have the debates and the vote on the floor of the Assembly

    For instance, there’s a high level of cynicism expressed about Seanad Eireann, the select electorate for which is dominated by party apparachiks.

    The MLAs are elected by the people. If they provide political cover for bad decisions they will pay a price in votes. Remember in the multi-seat system you can be replaced by someone in your own party who can make political capital out of your actions or inaction.

    And one last thing. Ministers bringing things to their own constituency when they can is normal politics. That’s what we are supposed to want.

  • Davros

    Henry- How is SF pushing things towards republican areas any different from the Bad old days when Unionists made sure things such as the NUU went to Unionist areas – an attitude that led to the ghastly Craigavon – You do realise that by legitimising THAT mindset you are legitimising everything that was wrong about NI in the past ?

    This is all becoming very Animal farm πŸ˜‰

    ( Is equating the political fate of John Kelly to that of Boxer taking things too far ? )

  • peteb

    Hmmm, Snowball was the insider pig hounded from the farm and then subjected to a campaign of vilification by the party propagandists, Davros. Boxer worked till he dropped, then was sold to the glue factory. Between the two, and in truth neither are particularly apt, Snowball would be closer.

  • willowfield

    Henry94

    But I would like to see cross-community agreement in the executive required to refer a decision. After all we wouldn’t want every Sinn Fein decision coming to the Assembly just because the unionists felt like it.

    Reasonable comment, but I think a weighted majority would be sufficient at this stage, otherwise – in your scenario – SF would have a veto on referring matters to the Assembly.

  • willowfield

    In fact, I think I’ll revise my suggestion in light of that point because a cross-community vote in the Assembly would also give SF and the DUP a veto, and would disenfranchise ‘Other’ MLAs (imagine the doctor fellow from West Tyrone not being able to vote on a Health decision referred to the Assembly).

    Revised suggestion:

    The Executive Committee – by weighted majority – should be able to refer a ministerial decision to the Assembly for decision by weighted majority.

    Perhaps, in order to prevent the possibility of logjam and abuse of the power, criteria should be agreed to narrow the scope of what decisions could and couldn’t be referred, e.g. restricting the power to decisions involving spending, or a certain level of spending.

  • willowfield

    In fact, I think I’ll revise my suggestion in light of that point because a cross-community vote in the Assembly would also give SF and the DUP a veto, and would disenfranchise ‘Other’ MLAs (imagine the doctor fellow from West Tyrone not being able to vote on a Health decision referred to the Assembly).

    Revised suggestion:

    The Executive Committee – by weighted majority – should be able to refer a ministerial decision to the Assembly for decision by weighted majority.

    Perhaps, in order to prevent the possibility of logjam and abuse of the power, criteria should be agreed to narrow the scope of what decisions could and couldn’t be referred, e.g. restricting the power to decisions involving spending, or a certain level of spending.

  • Davros

    Pete , I was thinking along the lines of work-horse cast aside πŸ˜‰

    But I’ll be interested to see How Henry and co’ differentiate between Unionists looking after Unionist areas – bad – and Republicans looking after
    Republican areas πŸ˜‰

  • Davros

    Snowball … Anthony McIntyre ?

  • willowfield

    In fact, I think I’ll revise my suggestion in light of that point because a cross-community vote in the Assembly would also give SF and the DUP a veto, and would disenfranchise ‘Other’ MLAs (imagine the doctor fellow from West Tyrone not being able to vote on a Health decision referred to the Assembly).

    Revised suggestion:

    The Executive Committee – by weighted majority – should be able to refer a ministerial decision to the Assembly for decision by weighted majority.

    Perhaps, in order to prevent the possibility of logjam and abuse of the power, criteria should be agreed to narrow the scope of what decisions could and couldn’t be referred, e.g. restricting the power to decisions involving spending, or a certain level of spending.

  • peteb

    Davros. I’d disagree with the ‘work-horse’ analogy for Kelly… and I’d disagree with giving Mcintyre the level of importance of Snowball in Animal Farm.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “It could be argued that If a DUP policing minister restored the levels of the full-time reserve that he would have the overwhelming support of the Police federation and other organisations reprersenting the police. Would that make it ok ?”

    The DUP do not have the powers to restore anything in the field of policing or anything to do with justice or human rights.
    The people who advised De Bruin were in the business of saving life the Police Federation were/are not.

    While Dodds was a minister he launched an aid(sic) package for the Glenbryn estate shortly after the abuse of the Holy Cross children. He also announced massive spending at Tigers Bay. Two areas with no housing waiting lists but unsurprisingly two unionist areas in his own constituency.
    All available statistics point to a massive housing shortage in nationalist areas in his constituency. He didn’t even have a fig leaf to hide his blatant and vote buying sectarianism.

  • Davros

    “The DUP do not have the powers to restore anything in the field of policing or anything to do with justice or human rights.”

    In response to ” If a DUP policing minister “

    Gosh Pat no wonder SF were keen to take the Education Folio πŸ™‚

  • willowfield

    Take a chill pill, Pat.

    Relax.

  • ShayPaul

    Mick

    Surely the problem lies not in the voting mechanisms but more in the “immovable principals”.

    Explanation :

    If we started with a constitution (liken this to the basic principals which Blair and Ahern moved to defend at Leeds) then we could introduce mechanisms that required a super-majority in order to modify them and a validation system requiring the unanimous accord of a small constitutional authority ( three – one from each tendency and one in the middle).

    Other less basic items would require a super-majority and a majority on the constitutional panel.

    Lower still – just a super majority.

    Lower still – just a majority.

    A simple mechanism (majority of one tendency) could be evoked to raise the point in question to approval on one higher level.

    The starting point is the constitution – I leave that to experts.

    If things evolve from where we are, the fundamentals of the GFA could be the core principals of the said constitution.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    You can’t change the reality of how political power works. But you can ensure that a section of the community are not excluded from power on a sectarian basis.

    If you were a Minister with the option of putting something in your own constituency or a different constituency I think it is reasonable to suppose you would be more open to the arguments for putting it in your own.

    Maybe because we have been deprived of real politics we are a bit innocent about it. I hope not because that’s how it works all over the world. In fact the whole point of Animal Farm was that that is how power works and that is why it can’t be concentrated in the hands of the pigs…………..ever again;-)

    b willowfied

    You’re close to a solution, I think but there could be some dispute about the size of the weighted majority. I would like to see more use of weighted majorities at all levels but I think we need to pick a number and apply it in all situations. We can’t keep changing the bar depending on who has seats.

    But I would keep the cross-community system in the Assembly with a change to a majority of non-unionists and a majority of non-nationalists in order to give the non-designated MLAs some power

  • willowfield

    Henry94

    You’re close to a solution, I think but there could be some dispute about the size of the weighted majority. I would like to see more use of weighted majorities at all levels but I think we need to pick a number and apply it in all situations. We can’t keep changing the bar depending on who has seats.

    Agreed.

    But I would keep the cross-community system in the Assembly with a change to a majority of non-unionists and a majority of non-nationalists in order to give the non-designated MLAs some power

    That would certainly be better than the current system, but why is it preferable to a weighted majority?

    My concern is that the cross-community system gives vetoes to PSF and DUP, whereas a weighted majority would enable cross-community alliances to defeat party vetoes, e.g. nationalists allied with UUP could defeat the DUP, or unionists allied to SDLP could defeat PSF.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “This is all becoming very Animal farm πŸ˜‰
    ( Is equating the political fate of John Kelly to that of Boxer taking things too far ? )”

    It is believed that Boxer was based on the miner Aleksei Stakhanov who in 1935 was heralded as an example of the selfless Soviet worker who far exceeded his quota of work.
    It later transpired that his output figures were greatly exaggerated and the quotas of his co workers were added to Stakhanovs in order to boost his own productivity.
    Given that, I don’t think John Kelly would appreciate being labelled a fake who took credit for the work of others.

    “Snowball … Anthony McIntyre ?”

    Snowball and Napoleon were believed to be based on Trotsky and Lenin. The two leaders of the Soviet revolution. Mc Intyre for all his admirable qualities was never in a leadership position within the Republican Movement either in jail or outside. Something that he himself has never claimed.

    Therefore Davros your comparisons and attempts at reference look quite daft.

    “Gosh Pat no wonder SF were keen to take the Education Folio :)”

    SF took Education because no one else wanted it.

  • Davros

    You are struggling Pat πŸ™‚

  • Warm Storage

    Henry,

    “But I would keep the cross-community system in the Assembly with a change to a majority of non-unionists and a majority of non-nationalists in order to give the non-designated MLAs some power.”

    If you mean what I think you mean here (and I got it badly wrong yesterday, hehe, so I’m being careful), surely this suggestion would be counterproductive in that it could, in effect, give the Alliance and Kieran Deeney (assuming he designates as ‘Other’ — ie. ‘Normal’) a veto over the rest of the Assembly. Picture the situation: a cross-community vote gets 100% of both Nationalist and Unionist support (difficult to believe, I know), only to fall down through failing to get the requisite 40% support of ‘Others’.

    The motion falls.

  • willowfield

    Don’t think that’s what he means. He means ‘Others’ would be included in both the ‘non-nationalists’ and ‘non-unionists’, so they’d actually get 2 votes!

  • Warm Storage

    Willowfield,

    “My concern is that the cross-community system gives vetoes to PSF and DUP, whereas a weighted majority would enable cross-community alliances to defeat party vetoes, e.g. nationalists allied with UUP could defeat the DUP, or unionists allied to SDLP could defeat PSF.”

    Most cross-community votes in the Assembly take place on the 60/40/40 model, so the DUP and Sinn F

  • Warm Storage

    Thanks Willowfield,

    Sheesh, I really am getting the wrong end of the stick with Henry’s postings. Apologies. I see what he means now. Two votes for Alliance, you say? That’s like a whole General Election’s worth! Sorry, Gonzo ;0)

  • willowfield

    Thanks for the clarification about cross-community votes.

    I withdraw my criticism that they provide vetoes for PSF and DUP.

    I’d still prefer weighted majority, though.

  • Warm Storage

    Me too.

  • Davros

    “You can’t change the reality of how political power works. But you can ensure that a section of the community are not excluded from power on a sectarian basis.”

    Excluding terrorists because they are involved with terrorism – which is where we are now- is not exclusion on sectarian grounds Henry. That The IRA are Catholic does in any way worsen or mitigate their crimes. Loyalist terrorists should also be excluded – and by and large they are shunned at the ballot box by unionist community.

    But I’m fascinated to see you justify the malpractices of the Unionist past.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    I was referring to the exclusion of nationalists under the old Stormont as it happens.

    But I’m fascinated to see you justify the malpractices of the Unionist past.

    You know, there is an interesting discussion going on here. You should think about getting involved in it.

  • GaViN

    i have the perfect solution to Northern Irelands problems,elect me the leader for i am so brilliant πŸ™‚

  • Davros

    Henry surely you should acknowledge the abstentionist policies of nationalists ?