Denis Bradley detects determination on the part of the two governments to move the political agenda forwards despite the on going game of political chicken which enthralls Northern Ireland’s two major players. He suggests that that would require a Plan B, and that the only effective one would be to move to a Joint Authority arrangement in which southern Ministers would be invited to work alongside British Ministers and cut out the local middle man. In today’s Irish News Breige Gadd agrees there is a change in the air (subs needed), but that a benevolent despotism might be adminstered directly from London:
But if forced into long-term direct rule it was going to be direct rule but not as we knew it. The paternalist indulgence characterising previous periods of caretaker ministry has gone. Politicians and people alike will no longer be indefinitely cushioned by generous budget subventions condoning political inaction while we bicker and baulk at taking on real responsibility for our own governance.
The secretary of state and his team will act on our behalf to develop a slimmed down Northern Ireland which has effective and efficient health and education services fit for purpose in the 21st century. If the country were a business, one would assume we were being prepared for take over or a buy out. Indeed the most important recent statements from a secretary of state since Peter Brooke’s retrospectively famous “no strategic interest” speech are Peter Hain’s recent comments on our economy. Put baldly, he tells us Northern Ireland is not an economically viable entity. To survive we are interrelated – not with England Scotland or Wales but with our other half – the Republic of Ireland. For nationalists this is sweet talk indeed as we all know that where the economy goes other aspects of life will surely follow. For a unionist though it must be fearsome and troubling news.
Here with the PM’s backing is a dynamic secretary of state with a determined ministerial team running a benevolent despotism free from the restraints of participative democracy telling us that he will decimate local bureaucracy, modernise education and rationalise school provision, develop an effective health service and establish a proper collaborative relationship with the south. All this will move ahead apace.