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.

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  • David

    Waugh has a reasonable point. The machinery for choosing the executive in the Agreement is unworkable.

    There are scores of other divided societies in the world, yet the oly ones which have anything approaching the designation system were Lebanon and Cyprus, BEFORE their respective civil wars and civil breakdowns. This should have been some sort of an indicator that it wasn’t a good idea.

    The d’Hondt system, similarly, has only been tried as a legal prerequisite in Fiji, there it was brough in in the 1990s, it quickly was seen to be unworkable and it now operates as a government and opposition country on basically a Westminster model. Unfortunately the country had to suffer an atempted coup to get there.

    The current system for choosing an executive needs to be scrapped.

  • Henry94

    Is he still clinging to the idea of a voluntry coalition with the SDLP. How stupid does he think the SDLP are?

  • Stephen Copeland

    … 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

    That is only a ‘fundamental flaw’ in unionist eyes. Given that the Executive (not a ‘government’) had no ‘constitutional’ powers, the recognition or otherwise of the constitution of the state is an irrelevance. The Executive is a glorified district council, and he doesn’t appear so concerned about them.

    However, the fact that most of the parties had signed up to the GFA meant that they were giving recognition to the constitutional reality, and that should be sufficient.

    I read Waugh’s piece as another angle of attack on the very notion of Sinn Féin getting back into the executive. It is simply the umpteenth attempt to persuade Blair/Ahern/the SDLP/the electorate/whoever to change the rules to exclude them. It shouldn’t work, and it won’t work.

  • lib2016

    Strange he doesn’t mention that the one thing which the vast majority of Agreement supporters here and abroad accept is the fact that unionists can never again be allowed majority rule.

  • Joe

    There are some people (DUP?) who think that democracy means that 50% + 1 of the people can dictate anything they want to the 50%-1.
    Sadly, that only works if the 50%-1 agree to that.
    True democracy means getting a broad concensus among the people that the method of governing is fair and that all opinions are taken into account in some way. Otherwise, civil strife is sure to occur.

  • gg

    I don’t like d’Hondt. A cumpulsory coalition based on party strengths means that you may as well vote for noone at all, because what you vote for (imagine someone actually voted on policies and not on constitutional issues for once) is rather unlikely to happen.

    This method of ministerial selection reinforces sectarianism and makes a mockery of normal politics, something it might be nice to have at some point in the future.

  • Occasional Commentator

    I don’t think it’s realistic that we can have a government and opposition model here just yet. There’s too much to lose by going into government because the opposition can whine constantly.

    Much easier if you can force everyone else in too.

    But I would strongly be in favour of moving to a government and opposition model ASAP (i.e. not for a few years yet).

    A while back, didn’t the UUs flag up the possibility of them voluntarily going into opposition?

    As Henry94 said, DUP/SDLP isn’t going to happen, but we might be effectively getting SinnFein/DUP – especially if the SDLP and UU ministers can be held accountable by the Assembly (i.e. sidestepped) as the DUP were looking. The DUP were looking to be able to hold individual ministers to account, weren’t they? I can’t remember for sure. What were the details?

    Come to think of it, where can I get good details on the law- and decision- making processes in the GFA and the proposed modifications?

  • slug

    “The DUP were looking to be able to hold individual ministers to account, weren’t they? I can’t remember for sure. What were the details? ”

    Under the Comprehensive Agreement, a minister’s decisions can be referred by a vote of the assembly to the executive, where cross community support would be the decision taking rule.

  • Joe

    gg

    Can you define “normal politics” for us; especially in the case of countries that are totally polarized such as Sri Lanka, N.I., Ukraine etc.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Joe: “True democracy means getting a broad concensus among the people that the method of governing is fair and that all opinions are taken into account in some way. Otherwise, civil strife is sure to occur. ”

    No, *TRUE* Democracy is five wolves and three sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

    What you are discussing is more of a small “r” republic, where the rights of the minority are protected from the whims of the masses.

  • gg

    “Can you define “normal politics” for us; especially in the case of countries that are totally polarized such as Sri Lanka, N.I., Ukraine etc.”

    Even in divided countries, hospitals must be run, education administered, budgets balanced. Am I not allowed to dream that some day these obviously second-rate concerns might be the main political priority? I might even vote again if that ever happens.

  • ho hum

    joe “There are some people (DUP?) who think that democracy means that 50% + 1 of the people can dictate anything they want to the 50%-1.
    Sadly, that only works if the 50%-1 agree to that. ”

    joe surely that means then the 50%+1 required for a united ireland is out the window then ???

  • declan

    “joe surely that means then the 50%+1 required for a united ireland is out the window then”

    Because the days of Catholic increase are coming to an end (the % Catholic community actually FELL for the lowest age groups in the last census), it could well be out the window (:

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Declan: “Because the days of Catholic increase are coming to an end (the % Catholic community actually FELL for the lowest age groups in the last census), it could well be out the window (: ”

    IIRC, there is a thread for the repartition discussion…

  • Joe

    I totally agree declan

    If demographics result in a 50%+1 vote for Irish Unity and it is forced through without discussion and agreement with the 50%-1 as to how the nation will be ruled and administered, there will be an ugly civil war.
    Guaranteed.

  • Joe

    Dread

    You have given a good example of the “democracy” of the wolves.
    Your second point is spot on.
    Every enlightened “nation” should have a Bill of Rights.
    Yep, I’m a small “r” republican.

  • Henry94

    50%+1 is the agreed majority required both for a united Ireland and the status quo.

    The agreement that established that basis had 70% support.

  • Could someone explain this poicing paradox to me – it seems to me that Hain is saying that moving away from criminality and supporting the police would be complimentary policies for Sin Fein. Not a necessary corollary, but it doesn’t seem to me a paradox.

  • That should be Sinn Fein – I wasn’t trying on a bad pun!

  • Occasional Commentator

    slug said: “Under the Comprehensive Agreement, a minister’s decisions can be referred by a vote of the assembly to the executive, where cross community support would be the decision taking rule.”

    I’m still a bit confused. Would cross-community support needed to veto the decision? Or cross-community support would be required to allow to decision to proceed?

    Or, put simply, if the assembly can’t make a cross-community decision either way, can the minister go ahead anyway?

    And also, I’m confused by your mention of the executive. Do we need a cross-community vote in the Assembly and also a cross-community vote in the Executive before a decision can be vetoed/implemented?

  • Occasional Commentator

    To try to answer my own questions on the proposed Comprehensive Agreement, I started looking around Wikipedia, but I didn’t see anything.

    So I created this short article on it on Wikipedia, hopefully it will expand over time. I’ll try to expand on it myself if/when I can.

    There isn’t much mention of it on Wikipedia, it’s not even on the the peace process article

  • GrassyNoel

    Eric Waugh: “…blah, blah blah blah, No Taigs about the place, blah blah blah blah”.

    “As the IMC records, most of the thuggery still going on is the work of loyalist terrorists, not republican. But the loyalist gangs are not involved in the business of negotiating new government. The political associates of the republican gangs are.
    To say this is not to dismiss the evil ways of the loyalist strong men: they must be stopped. But the republicans come first because they have a finger on the button”

    …i.e. because they are Taigs, because they are Fenians, because they are THEMMUNS.

    Does he honestly think the Sinn Féin leadership are considering ‘reverting to terrorism’ if negotiations take a difficult turn? Nobody believes that, unless they

    a) are a TOTAL F*CKING IDIOT

    b) WANT to believe it because it serves some ulterior purpose.

  • bag’oshite

    trying to take part in genuine political debate with the DUP is like trying to sing along at a rock concert. you’ll never be heard. why does sinn fein bother. they wont meet sinn fein talk to them even look at them. maybe if gerry got the big man some sticky buns he might sit down to talk. at least if paisley had his vacuous mouth crammed with eclairs gerry might get a word in edgeways.

  • barnshee

    Yes lads ignore the 64000 dollar point
    “But the loyalist gangs are not involved in the business of negotiating new government. The political associates of the republican gangs are”
    The nub as you might say. The thugs cannot get elected