Towards a viable Plan B?

Mark Langhammer counts TEN failed attempts to get local democracy working since the Northern Irish Parliament was prorogued in 1972. But he believes that a vigorous Plan B, which involves a strong degree of coercion and involvement from both the British and the Irish Governments is essential if it is to work out in the end. This is, as Mark points out at the top of the piece, a piece of kite-flying which he acknowledges has some flaws, but one of the interesting detail is the advantage that it could encourage both Unionists and Nationalist to engage with sovereign government (ie real) politics:

Developing Governmental Politics: Having the two sovereign Governments at the helm is the stabilising element in this proposal. The buck stops with the two Governing parties. This, in turn, will stimulate interest in developing the governmental parties in Northern Ireland, whether Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein, Green Party or British Conservative. This would be unambiguously positive for Northern Ireland.

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  • seabhac siulach

    In reference to the idea of the 26 county Foreign minister becoming the Deputy First Minister:

    Would that nomination not be completely outside of the Good Friday Agreement and also unconstitutional? Wouldn’t it require a change to the Irish Constitution to allow this to happen? A minister from the 26 county government, according to the present version of the constitution (with modified Articles 2 & 3) only has jurisdiction over the 26 counties, nothing more.
    Would the Brits really be happy with that level of ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of a part of their United Kingdom? Is it possible in international law, in any case, for a minister from one country to wield executive power in another? What democratic mandate would this minister have in the other country (in this case ‘Northern Ireland’ as part of the UK)?

    The rest of the proposals have some merit, particularly the idea of weighted majorities, which would have to be 67% (or two third majorities). This would reduce the chances of stalemate…and lead to a less sectarian system where different parties (across the political divide) might eventually start to cooperate.

    35/36 MLAs seems too few for a coherent parliament in my view. Would there be enough MLAs for the different committees etc., for example.

    The piece says
    “The evidence is that, in time, Unionists will get used to, and grudgingly accept, changed realities.”

    Hope springs eternal…

  • Would that nomination not be completely outside of the Good Friday Agreement and also unconstitutional? Wouldn’t it require a change to the Irish Constitution to allow this to happen?

    Where there’s a will there’s a way.

    Would the Brits really be happy with that level of ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of a part of their United Kingdom?

    That has the fatal flaw of assuming anyone outside NI cares. Brits !=Unionists.

    Is it possible in international law, in any case, for a minister from one country to wield executive power in another?

    The European Union.

  • Crataegus

    Instead of considering it as territory could it not be considered in the terms of a management contract? I may own a building and grounds and collect the rent ,but I may consider handing over the management or part thereof to another for a fee. I retain ownership they have the running of the place. No territory changes hands, can two governments do this?

    With regards alternative PLAN B am glad to see this being raised but as at the time of the agreement there was opinion that more time needed to be given to this then so there was a robust agreed fall back position.

  • audley

    “Would the Brits really be happy with that level of ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of a part of their United Kingdom?”

    Thats like saying would a cancer patient be worried about a surgeon removing a cyst from their body

  • Alan

    Plan B :

    Direct Rule with Joint Announcements.

  • Greenflag

    ‘ counts TEN failed attempts to get local democracy working since the Northern Irish Parliament was prorogued in 1972.’

    Only 10 ? Wonder what the cost has been in terms of hard cash, wasted time , and the never ending whine over 36 years !

    Probably billions.

    And what have they delivered ? An uncertain peace and an even more uncertain constitutional future – a basket case local economy and an Assembly that has’nt sat for 4 years . We’ll not mention the fact that neither of the two main NI Party Leaders have ever spoken a direct word to each other since the NI troubles began some 36 years ago.

    The whole process is a ridiculous and laughable sham going nowhere .

    Time to get rid of this expensive joke of an Assembly which is anyway powerless and fiscally and policy wise would be totally dependent on the Westminster Parliament. Even the Scots are beginning to see that the half way house strategy is not the way to developing fully accountable politicians! Just remember what kind of politicians emerged in Stormont during it’s 50 years of ‘devolved’ responsibility .

    Enough said !

  • George

    seabhac siulach
    “Wouldn’t it require a change to the Irish Constitution to allow this to happen? A minister from the 26 county government, according to the present version of the constitution (with modified Articles 2 & 3) only has jurisdiction over the 26 counties, nothing more.”

    I don’t think so. The northern parliament would be the one with the jurisdiction, not Dail Eireann, so Article 3.1 doesn’t apply.

    Article 3.2 states

    “Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”

    There is an awful lot of wriggle room in there.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that the British and Irish governments (the “respective responsible authorities”) could establish any institution of their choosing to the exercise powers and functions – in other words joint authority would also be constitutional.

    There is no requirement in articles 2 and 3 that unionists or nationalists are involved just the responsible authority – which is the British government.

  • Billy

    Mick

    “Would the Brits really be happy with that level of ‘interference’ in the internal affairs of a part of their United Kingdom?”

    NI is a NON-ISSUE to the UK electorate. Apart from a few right wingers. The vast majority of people in the UK wouldn’t care less about NI and wouldn’t give a s**t about the RoI having a role to play.

  • aquifer

    The compulsion idea is interesting.

    Govern or be overruled. Veto and you go.

    Obvious in retrospect, like lots of great ideas.

    It always galled me that the Irish people voted for the GFA, but the governments would not face down the parties to deliver it.

    Hain’s drip drip of unpalatable political impositions onto the faces of our political failures is pretty inspired too.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Hain’s drip drip of unpalatable political impositions onto the faces of our political failures is pretty inspired too. ‘

    Actually Peter Hain is far too nice to these reprobates .

    His successor ought to refuse to speak to either the DUP or SF until such time as both those parties have negotiated face to face and agreed on a basis for Government . Otherwise the next Secretary will be just as much a waste of time as every other since DR was imposed in 1972 .

    Acting as ‘messenger boy’ between the parties in NI has no payback for either British or ROI politicians . If the DUP and SF have nothing to say to each other then leave them be . There’s no point in flogging a dead horse .

  • Er Indoors

    How would Supernanny deal with such naughty small children who refuse to stop squabbling. Put Sinn Fein and the DUP on the naughty stair!!

  • Greenflag

    ‘How would Supernanny deal with such naughty small children who refuse to stop squabbling.’

    Just put them in separate rooms . This is called Repartition . Then let them go their separate ways . You never know they might develop ‘nostalgia’ for th’oul squabble . On the other hand they might remember the case of the Jewish artist who was seen getting on a train in Vienna in 1938 with a framed picture of Adolf Hitler under his arm . Other Jewish emigres asked him why was he carrying a picture of Adolf Hitler of all people with him to his new home in America .

    He replied that it was just in case he ever developed ‘nostalgia ‘ for old Vienna .