Ford: an end to “murky side deals”

In one of the first responses we’ve received, the leader of the Alliance Party, David Ford, welcomes the dropping of the OTR legislation, and argues that this should mark the end of any further side deals:From David Ford:

This murky side deal goes back to the Weston Park talks five years ago, and has rightly resulted in complete failure. The lesson the Government must learn from this is that the political process cannot be run via dodgy carve-ups.

“By definition, all political parties represent a minority of the electorate. People will have no faith in a process managed in such a style. We must be seeking solutions which have broad popular support, not engaging in tribal carve-up.

“This, and many other issues, must now be dealt with in the proper way – via inclusive talks. There is no point in waiting for the end of the month
for this to happen, let us get on with it now.

“I am proud the Alliance Party played the lead role in ensuring this legislation was scrapped, and in showing up the process of tribal side-deals for the failure it is. This marks a clear victory for those committed to genuine, inclusive democracy.”

  • Crataegus

    I find myself in agreement with Ford on the need to end side deals. It is an obvious truth.

    However when he says, “we must be seeking solutions which have broad popular support, not engaging in tribal carve-up,” I would remind him that the very structures of the Assembly which he supports reinforce tribalism.

    Also when he mentions inclusive talks I am sure he means only all elected to the Assembly. For me it has got to the stage where I doubt that our politicians can come up with a constructive way forward and feel it is perhaps time to widen the net and bruise some political egos. Anything our political class come up with will be anchored in narrow self interest and some uncharitable would say that the British Government have at least two seats at the table.

  • Pity the same Alliance Party was to the fore in supporting the equally grotesque GFA. Sanctimonious twaddle, I’m afraid.

  • Ben A

    Crataegus makes a good deal of sense here. On the other hand, I’m happy to note that the OTR legislation is off the table. I just wish the idiot Hain would realise that the objection to it is one of basic justice, much less the bizarre obsequiousness of the quid-pro-quo.

    Lock them up, and preferably beat them on the soles of their feet with lengths of bamboo. If Cameron reads this, I’ll be without a party.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Crataegus, you will find that Ford is not in favour of the tribal power structures in the assembly. In fact, he has several times led efforts to try to get them removed, but the other parties have blocked it.

    There was the infamous redesignation situation, where Alliance redesignated as unionists to get a piece of legislation through. In exchange, the other parties promised Alliance a review of the tribal voting system in the assembly. I understand that the review took place a number of weeks later and lasted approximately five minutes with the conclusion that the system should not change.

    David Vance, lacking as you do a sensible opinion on how best to advance politics in this country, I think your perspective can be ignored. Come back to us when you’ve got some workable proposals.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Sadly, the review was a failure and kicked the issue into touch. However, what the move DID achieve, was the fact that what had previously been some arcane issue of little significance was now at the top of the agenda – the sectarian nature of the Assembly’s structures, and how it could result in disaster.

    People like Eamon McCann, Malachi O’Doherty, Democratic Dialogue, Eric Waugh, Alliance and a few left-wingers have all kept the issue bubbling under the surface since.

    The DUP demonstrated in the last Assembly how the sectarian voting system could be used to bring down the whole system. Doing the same thing again would be madness.

  • Crataegus


    Thanks for the insight into the Alliance post the “infamous redesignation situation”. I could imagine that it would be difficult to make progress on this as, if memory serves my right, the likes of the SDLP were deeply wedded to the concept as a method of ensuring parity of esteem (Parity for whom?).

    Belfast Gonzo

    “what had previously been some arcane issue of little significance was now at the top of the agenda”

    I must disagree this has been an issue with some of us from day 1 and I for one have felt Alliance a little under power on this and other issues in the early days, but rather than argue among people who now have similar views perhaps better to agree it MUST GO.

    I think the structures surrounding the Assembly are deeply flawed on many levels and I am less than convinced that our elected representatives are the best people to sort the mess out. They are deeply driven by self interest and have a baggage of previous involvement which means making change is difficult and involves loss of face.

  • Mike

    Interestingly, in their submuission at the beginning of the 2004 review Alliance argued for an end to the designation system – particularly as it meant on these ‘parallel consent’ votes, the votes of ‘others’ (i.e. Alliance, in the main) didn’t count.

    What came up in the Comrehensive Agreement, presumably at the behest of Alliance, was that on these votes, there must be a majority of ‘others’ as well as a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists.

    Which essentially means an Alliance Party veto (they after all comrpise 7 of the 8 ‘others’ in the Assembly).

  • Crataegus


    6 out of 8 (2 WC MLAs).

    From the outset the idea of parallel consent was never popular beyond the SDLP and SF. I recall that there were alternatives that would have given inclusive structures without risking gridlock or institutionalising sectarianism. It is a pity that the ideas were not looked at more closely as they may have helped to address some of the other problems. Also the idea that all the main parties should play their part in government is fundamentally flawed as it removes any effective opposition. There has to be a better way forward that effectively calls an administration to account for its actions and gives voters some real choice. It is was not only badly thought through but these points were being raised and ignored.

    I assume the Alliance submission that you refer to in 2004 was tongue in cheek to highlight the nonsense of the overall?

    However if it was a serious proposal it simply illustrates that they were trying to change the structures to their own advantage and in that respect are no different to any of the other parties.

  • Mike

    Cragtaegus –

    the Alliance submission referred to doing away with ‘designation’ and introducing weighted majority voting – they suggested 60-65%.

    The ’50:50:50′ criterion was porosed in the Comrehensive Agreement by the British and irish governments.

    When I said 7 out of 8, I got my sums a bit wrong – I was referring to how the Assembly sttod at the time of the Comp Agreement, i.e. as now – with 6 Allinace and 1 independent MLAs forming the ‘others’ group. Which would essentially mean any four Alliance MLAs would hold a veto!

  • Crataegus


    Thanks for the clarification.

    My view on the structures are not dissimilar to McCann’s, but given the torture we had to go through to get the agreement I was willing to suspend doubt over the obvious defects in the hope that our politicians would rise to the occasion. (Fool that I was)

    I must confess I lost interest in the detail of the process some time ago as it just seems so negative and pointless. The sad aspect is that many of the problems encountered were foreseen back in 1996. !!!!!!!

    With regards the Alliance document I was being flippant.

    The document was fair enough and proposed everything from a Police Ombudsman for the ROI to the removal of sectarian flags. Lots of ideas. Doing away with ‘designation’ and introducing weighted majority voting to my mind is one of several better options for that particular problem, but doomed as the SDLP believe inclusion means SF and not simply a sufficient percentage that ensures a good measure of overall support. I fully understand their argument but the outworking of that logic has resulted in many of the bizarre elements that we now see in the structures.

    How we move forward now is the pertinent question as to leave as is is asking for future trouble, but who decides?

    I an weary of gridlock and deals which exclude. The paradox is, because the structures that were meant to be inclusive don’t work they have resulted in deals and separate agendas that exclude.