Holding government to account

RTÉ’s Questions and Answers was in Belfast last night and one of the more interesting questions to be answered was how government would be held to account in the absence of a real opposition [RealPlayer video] within the consociational model that is the Assembly. As you’d expect there was a range of views from the panel, from Ken Bloomfield’s description of a need to be able to “throw the rascals out” to SF’s Mitchel McLaughlin defending, what he described as, the necessarily contrived arrangements whilst allowing for review and improvements. The Irish government Foreign Affairs Minister, Dermot Ahern, expressed a desire for a robust opposition to be part of the structures when things had bedded down and the DUP’s Gregory Campbell had a timeframe of within the lifetime of the next Assembly for that to happen. [I wonder how many would agree with Lord Rooker? – Ed]The Panel were:

Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Gregory Campbell MLA MP, DUP
Mitchell McLoughlin MLA, Sinn Féin
Margaret O’Callaghan, historian
Sir George Quigley, Ulster Bank
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former head of NI Civil Service

Also worth noting was Dermot Ahern’s reference to the NI parties having been in permanent opposition.