Retreating across the power-sharing rubicon

The decision by the DUP leadership to make the historic leap into power-sharing politics through participation at Executive level in the north of Ireland has not been followed by the party’s elected representatives at local Council level. As the Belfast Telegraph has revealed, only 4 of the north’s 26 councils will be chaired by a nationalist Mayor/ Chairperson in the coming year. The fact that all nationalist-controlled councils practice some form of all inclusive cross-community power-sharing, whilst few unionist-controlled councils do, was partially the subject of Jim Gibney’s piece this week. The one person needing to take note will be Environment Minister, Arlene Foster, who is likely to find Sinn Fein unwilling to endorse any reforms of local government which do not involve legislating for a system of power-sharing across the newly proposed Councils (be they 7, 11, 15 or even 26 in number!)

  • jaffa

    Using AV to directly elect a Mayor and Deputy (last two standing after eliminations) could clean up all this shit.

    Not sure Stephen would still get the job in Bangor though. Depends on the path of transfers I s’pose.

  • Pete Baker

    As the Belfast Telegraph report also notes – albeit beneath the headline

    Councils are now beginning the third year of their term and, in nationalist-dominated authorities, the likelihood is that Mayorships and chairperson posts would go to unionists in year three. So it may be somewhat unfair to take just a single-year snapshot.

    Moreover, the position improves marginally at the deputy mayor and chairperson level, with Sinn Fein gaining seven positions and the SDLP five. A spread including the chairpersons of various council committees would in all likelihood, in most councils, display a more equitable carve-up.

    Ah well.. a more equitable carve-up is what we want, surely?…

    But the other, more interesting, question is whether, what are supposedly, transitional arrangements at central government level – to proper democratic arrangements, whether in a new polity or not – should be replicated at local government levels?

  • Cruimh

    Jim Gibney should ask why all the parties treat SF like Pariahs …. could it be your own fault ?

  • realist

    Just highlights for the world to see that the Unionists are no more Democrats than Hitler or Saddam was.

    It is only when a council becomes Nationalist controlled does it take on the principles of Democracy and that of trying to heal a divided community.

    One has only to look at the Orange Order parades demanding to walk through areas that they are not wanted instead of places where they would be welcomed and cheered to see the sort of people they really are, KKK!!!

  • Frank Sinistra

    Pete,

    I noticed that bit in the Tele too. I thought it actually disproved their point as if Unionist controlled councils implemented d’hondt this would be the year Nationalists gained positions.

    It emphasises Unionism reluctance to powershare.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Pete

    The Tele report does indeed highlight how in nationalist-dominated councils unionists may be assuming the most senior position on Council in this term- but the fact remains that reciprocation ‘on unionist-dominated’ councils isn’t forthcoming.

    And, again, the figures from councils like Lisburn, Antrim and Ballymoney illustrate how this extends to committee chairs/ vice chairs.

    As regarding the issue vexing you the most, of course the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement should be rolled out into local government.

  • Pete Baker

    Not without an analysis of the situation within each Council, Frank.

    Which is kind of the point. [to Chris as well] It’s a nice headline to stir the blood with.. but there’s no analysis behind it.

    And, as I previously asked, where did it emerge that the objective, and apparently the ideal, was to replicate the particular, and transitional, central government arrangements at local government level?

  • Dewi

    It’s the names that are so naff – North West this and that – try end find some beauty !

  • Pete Baker

    Dewi

    That particular issue is probably best left to a post which concentrates on that particular issue.

    Chris

    “of course the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement should be rolled out into local government.”

    Oh, of course.. why didn’t you say so?

    That’s why everyone, with different objectives in mind, regards them as transitional arrangements..

  • Cruimh

    Ah, Lisburn council Chris – remember the embarrassment in 2004 when Paul Butler claimed he had been excluded and Seamus Close pointed out that he CHOSE to refuse a senior position ?

  • Chris Donnelly

    That’s why everyone, with different objectives in mind, regards them as transitional arrangements..

    Which is why they formed the basis of a cross-party agreement, Pete, which will also be necessary for any future local government framework (cross party, at least, in the sense of Sinn Fein and the DUP.)

  • Dewi

    Sorry Pete – get confused – but not that link ?

  • Pete Baker

    Dewi

    That’s the latest post dealing with the review of local government arrangements.

    Chris

    In central government. The issue of the central government arrangements being the issue around which those different objectives focus.

    Local government is an entirely different fish.

  • Dewi

    So the names are left to the authorities after implementation ? that’s OK then.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Local government is an entirely different fish.

    But need it be so? To date, obviously institutionalised power-sharing has not been the norm within local government setting, but I’d be very surprised if our spanking new councils operated without them, Pete.

  • Pete Baker

    “But need it be so? To date, obviously institutionalised power-sharing has not been the norm within local government setting, but I’d be very surprised if our spanking new councils operated without them, Pete.”

    Chris

    Given that you’ve already stated that, in your opinion, Sinn Féin will be “unwilling to endorse any reforms of local government which do not involve legislating for a system of power-sharing across the newly proposed Councils”

    I’m not surprised that you’d be surprised if it was otherwise.

    At least it’s a long way from – “of course the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement should be rolled out into local government.”

    Although it’s not an argument to do so.

    But glad to see you’ve rowed back on the gross assumption to a narrow party-political agenda.

    The objective is, after all, the best democratic arrangements, surely? And even SF agree that the current central government arrangements are transitional – end objective disregarded.

    No-one is refusing to sit in local government with anyone else.

  • observer

    God, when will the Mopery end?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Ohhh, here goes again….

    Pete
    No one’s arguing that parties are refusing to sit in local government chambers with other parties.

    The point is that unionist parties are continuing to reject power-sharing politics on a number of councils dominated by unionists whilst benefitting from the introduction of power-sharing arrangements on councils dominated by nationalists.

    Having accepted the need for power-sharing arrangement at Executive level, refusing to do so at a local government level can only be interpreted as rejecting the principles of power-sharing- or at least, rejecting them where unionists are in the majority.

  • Pete Baker

    “Having accepted the need for power-sharing arrangement at Executive level, refusing to do so at a local government level can only be interpreted as rejecting the principles of power-sharing- or at least, rejecting them where unionists are in the majority.”

    Chris

    You miss the point about the comparison between the local and the central government arrangements – and the powers they operate, and the areas they operate in.

    Central government arrangements are about the state.. whereas local is about the Council area.

    Transitional arrangements – which is how I assume you would describe them – at one, do not equate to similar arrangements at the other.

    Isn’t the best democratic arrangement the objective?

    How do Local Councils, subject to the Assembly legislation, fail in that objective? – apart from not having a SF chair?.. unwilling as the party apparently is “to endorse any reforms of local government which do not involve legislating for a system of power-sharing across the newly proposed Councils”.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Pete

    They are both institutions of governance within a society and state (transitional or otherwise) which has been deeply divided. The extent of that division was acknowledged explicitly by all parties through the now virtually universal endorsement of the GFA and its consociational arrangements by the major political parties in the six counties.

    The nature of their powers is irrelevant in this case.

  • Pete Baker

    “The extent of that division was acknowledged explicitly by all parties through the now virtually universal endorsement of the GFA and its consociational arrangements by the major political parties in the six counties”

    Actually, no. That Consociatonal Agreement was about the nature of the central government, not local government arrangements.. and it seems to be generally accepted to be a transitional agreement.

    But, as you’ve already admitted, your issue is about SF’s position on local government.. not on any principle of good government.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Wrong Pete.

    My issue is about how the absence of power-sharing on a number of unionist-controlled councils illustrates a reluctance to fully embrace the principle of power-sharing and all that entails for accepting the legitimacy of the nationalist tradition.

    On ‘good government’ and the transitional nature of the Agreement’s institutions, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for them to be replaced any time soon. These arrangements represent good government, which is why they have been endorsed by all the main parties here.

  • Pete Baker

    Wrong?

    I’m quoting your own words back to you.

    *sheesh*

  • Chris Donnelly

    I was waiting to see how long before the asterisks came out…

    When you calm yourself, re-read the post. You’ll find your error is in your interpretation of my ‘issue,’ Petey.

  • Cruimh

    “Petey” ????

    **** me, that’s cheeky Chris LOL

  • Chris,

    On a more general point, it’s good to see you back. Pete, Fair Deal, Gonzo et al have been hammering out lead threads and there has been a noticeable chasm in terms of balance.

  • piebald

    Get a room you 2 ! (PB & CD )

  • Chris Donnelly

    piebald

    Pete enjoys the flirting more…

    Thanks macswiney.

  • Cruimh

    I agree Mac – there’s hundreds of frustrated bloggers waiting for part 3 – ” Harold Gracey ate my hamster” 😉