scrap the sectarian straitjacket

Also in the Belfast Telegraph, Eric Waugh puts forward a couple of questions that a critic of the Agreement would want answers to before devolved powers were to return. He touches on the policing paradox and argues that there is a need for “a fundamental re-examination of the 1998 machinery.”From the Belfast Telegraph article

The other weakness of the Trimble years was the total absence of Ministerial solidarity in the Executive. We never had a Government which spoke like a Government.

In fact the First Minister was slanged off in public by one of his own Ministers. Of course, in reality, his Ministers could never be “his own” at all.

They behaved like a covey of independents, springing important policy decisions on colleagues – and the Assembly – who had not been consulted. Some did not even attend the so-called Cabinet meetings. This independence is already being insisted upon by would-be Ministers in a new Executive.

When you add to this the fundamental flaw – that not all the parties in Government would accord even courtesy recognition to the constitution of the very state they would be helping to govern – you have, not an engine of co-operation, but a potential nest of vipers.

What price official secrets when a Minister is hot-wired to an illegal organisation? Expecting diametrical opponents of this stamp to unite to the intimate extent required for stable Government, and on the 1998 basis, is to ask for the earth.

Accordingly, if there is to be what the Rev Paisley calls a “decontamination period” for republicans seeking Executive seats, an intelligent use for it would be a fundamental re-examination of the 1998 machinery. The sectarian straitjacket in the Assembly should be scrapped and an element of flexibility, making possible an orange-green coalition approved by the Assembly, introduced into Cabinet-making.

If this is denied and we persist in past mistakes, a new administration is likely to be doomed to the same fate as the last.