Politics, what politics?

Eammon McCann has been running his eagle eye over the parties’ submissions to ‘the Economic Sub-Group of the Hain Assembly’s Preparation for Government Committee’. In terms of politics on a left right scale, he can only find a percentage point of a difference on the DUP’s and SF’s proposal to drop Corporation Tax. The differential has everything to do with competiting nationalism’s and nothing to do with deciding how to ‘run the country’. Shades of the Langhammer doctrine.

The overlap in the positions of the two parties seen as crucial to the re-formation of an Executive will have helped achieve unanimity in the drafting of the sub-group’s report. Whether the rank and file of the two parties is content with the report may be a different matter.

Perhaps differences emerged among MLAs on August 29th when the report was considered by the Preparation for Government Committee. Hard to say. The PfG Committee complained loudly a few weeks back about a lack of media interest in its proceedings. Then it conducted its debate on the economic report in secret. Hansard’s account reads: “It was agreed that the committee’s deliberations on the sub-group’s report would not be included in Hansard. The committee then considered the report.”

“Sources” have been quoted suggesting that Sinn Féin MLAs—despite two senior members of the party having signed off on the report—were unhappy at the vagueness of references to a “peace dividend.” One wonders whether this was the only source of unease in party ranks.

The documents aren’t formal statements of party policy, but submissions by pairs of MLAs to a sub-group of a committee of a suspended Assembly. But if they can be taken as indicating the broad thrust of party thinking —if they can not, the exercise has been a pointless charade—then the main ideological divide at Stormont on economic matters lies between the DUP, Sinn Féin and (insofar as it’s possible to tell) the UUP on the Right and the SDLP on the Left.

This is not to say that the SDLP is on the Left, but that, on this evidence, it’s to the Left of the Unionist parties and Sinn Féin.

The SDLP opens by suggesting a programme for Government based on “working with unions, business and the voluntary sector on a new basis of real social partnership.” Alone among the parties, it seems aware that there’s more to economics than tossing public money to plausible entrepreneurs. “The Government, the Public Sector, Trade Unions, Voluntary Sector and Public Representatives should combine in a working relationship.”

No other party envisages a role for trade unions or the voluntary sector in the formation of economic policy. Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin mentions the existence of trade unions.

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  • Greg

    Fair play to McCann. There’s virtually no one else looking behind the playground-like behaviour of our politicians at what kind of Northern Ireland they would want if they ever got back the power to shape it. Whatever you might think about his politics and “free-derry” clearly does not think much of them, you have to agree that he does the research and gets the information out there in a way the average five eighths can understand. Who else is doing that?

  • Greg

    Oops, “free-derry”‘s comments were removed just as I was typing mine. But since I’m taking a second go, I think it’s worth asking WHY the politicians go into secret sessions to discuss economic issues unless it’s because they want to keep things from the electorate. And I think McCann is right that a lot of Sinn Fein supporters would be horrified at the SF approach.

  • insider

    There’s definately something to be investigated around what Sinn Fein’s members say in some of these committees and how much it squares up to Party policy and how their party policy squares up to the ‘thinking’ of the average republican on the street.

    They cant even trust some of their lower level MLAs in the PFG – just look at Philip McGuigan dropping the ball by agreeing that the British and Irish Governments look at issuing British Passports to people born in the Republic since the 40’s. However the next wee the shinners come wading in to claim that he didnt agree it – despite there being a verbatim report of him doing it. All that of course was because they had drafted in McGuigan to squash rumours of his disappearance and the reasons behind that. No-one needs to bet on why they did that.

    SF are in difficulties over the PFG Committee – I’m sure we’ll hear more about that soon.

  • The Devil

    McCann may well be 100% correct, spot on, on the money, bullseye, bingo, nail on the head accurate, but tell me this would you listen to someone who had Ginger hair.

    Although if McCann did your politics, Mick Hucknell did you music and Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Julia Roberts fought over the right to warm your bed life would be fair enough I suppose.

  • Insider-

    It seems that the SDLP has similar concerns about the sort of Sinn Féin censorship you highlight:

    “Sinn Fein has censored a report on equality that the public have the right to see, SDLP Equality Spokesperson Patricia Lewsley today stated.

    Reacting with anger following a Sinn Fein decision to block the publication of an equality report agreed by the Preparation for Government Committee, Ms Lewsley stated:

    “Instead of consensus politics, we have censorship politics from Sinn Fein. The Preparation for Government Committee worked well enough throughout the Summer. We reached agreement on important equality and human rights issues. All of this is set out in a report, the contents of which Sinn Fein accepts.

    “But today they not only refused to let the report go to the Assembly for consideration, they even refused to allow it to be published.

    This is censorship. The public have the right to know what has been agreed. Sinn Fein is blocking the public’s right to know. They are holding back pressure for equality and human rights change. They are playing – yet again – right into the hands of the DUP.”

    Pat Ramsey stated:

    “Sinn Fein refuse to accept the publication of this report because they claim that they are against the Hain Assembly. But the truth is that they signed up to a toothless Assembly talking shop in the Comprehensive Agreement they did with the DUP in 2004.

    “Again and again, we challenged Caitriona Ruane to renounce the Comprehensive Agreement that they negotiated with the DUP. Again and again, she refused to do so. On the one hand, Sinn Fein are adopting a hardline posture. But in reality, they have signed up to radical changes to the Good Friday Agreement. They need to know that their posturing today fools nobody. They cannot hide their negotiation failure.”

  • Insider

    El Mat
    Yep – case in point. Why refuse to allow the publication of this report though when they obviously didnt block the publication of the economic report?

    Is it just to prevent highlighting how useless their reps on this section of the committee’s work were or is there something more too?

    I’d think we’ll see more statements from the other participants on this particular subject. Sinn Fein – the censorship party!

  • Nationalist

    Where and how exactly did the DUP’s Mark Robinson manage to run up a bill of £18,000 in travel expenses?

    This is the equvilent of traveling 31,000 miles in the course of constituency work and to Stormont. Obviously he must be taking the scenic routes to work!

    Given that you can’t travel more than 5 miles in any direction in the said South Belfast, where I am lead to believe Mr Robinson also lives, This is some traveling, around 630 miles a week and given that the DUP don’t like anyone working on a Sunday then he must be traveling 105 miles every day.

    Am I the only person who would like Mr Robinson to explain how he managed to travel 105 miles a day, 6 day’s a week, 52 weeks a year around a constituency less than 5 miles across?

    If, for some reason, someone made a mistake at some stage of the process and put a decimal point in the wrong place I am sure the DUP will, as long as that person repents, not hold anything against them.

    Anyone who touched the travel expenses claim forms like to repent should contact Gregory Campbell for details.

  • Glen Taisie

    All that of course was because they had drafted in McGuigan to squash rumours of his disappearance and the reasons behind that. No-one needs to bet on why they did that.

    Adams knows!!!!!

  • insider

    “Adams knows”

    If my poker hand is better than his, will he tell me?

    SF need to come clean on a lot of issues, especially around the PFG