Towards more normal politics…



IT’S time to think about scrapping D’Hondt and replacing the enforced cross-community powersharing government with a ‘coalition of the willing’, presumably similar to the Dail, says UUP leader Sir Reg, about eight years after Alliance mooted it. “Normal politics, in time, will allow parties to form genuine political coalitions and move away from the tribal, divisive politics of the past”, says the UUP manifesto apparently, and Reg quotes this to back his argument and deflect DUP criticism. Normal politics, you say? Well, it could happen sooner than you think. Today’s Tele poll points towards a love-in, not a work-in, between the DUP and Sinn Fein, so anything’s possible. A total of 48% of DUP supporters say Deputy McGuinness has performed well so far. First Minister Ian Paisley scores an even higher 54% rating from Sinn Fein supporters, according to the Ipsos MORI poll survey. Both leaders also enjoy the backing of the majority of their voters. Noel McAdam also reports that a total of 58% of DUP supporters backed the move to enter government with Sinn Fein (a figure familiar to UUP members and David Trimble!) compared to 80% support within Sinn Fein. The public appears to have increasing confidence in the ability of former enemies Paisley and McGuinness to work together. It all begs the question: What the hell did more than 3,500 people die for during a conflict that lasted over three decades?

  • jpeters

    I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head that the current arrangements allow everyone to maintain their idealogical purity while while keeping the peace and getting on with raking it in. Its as if no one ever really was prepared to indulge moderate views when an extremist could get the same job done.

    Or am i just bitter? (probably)

  • Cuchulainn

    this all kinda begs the question, Why didnt this work with the malon/trimple era??

    simple answer was that both Shin Fein and the DUP went out of thier way to convince the public that they both had a different and better way to run the province.

    and thier answer was the st andrews agreement, and we have ended up with the exact same thing we had 9 years ago! only now the 2 small partys are now the 2 main ones!!

    if only shin fein, dup and the uup had figured this out back in 1974 then we would have prevented all those needless deaths.

    with the uup in decline, dup in overdrive, sdlp holding and the shinner holding, i look forward to seeing how the next few election, westminster, european and assembly pan out.

  • interested

    Time to think about scrapping d’Hondt etc etc, about 8 years after Alliance mooted it, and of course about 10 years after both the UUP and Alliance were falling over themselves to support it telling us it was the only way forward.

    Neither the UUP nor the Alliance Party (gonzo – still an APNI press officer at heart?) have any credibility on that ground.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Interesting that only 58% of DUP voters have expressed support for the coalition bearing in mind the traditional over-representation of “nice” opinions in polls, the craven reporting of the media constantly regurgitating pro-executive propaganda and the fact that the DUP has moved into UUP territory. The usual DUP voter response to the great Crocodile was to give 100% support, even if he told them to stick their dangly bits in a blender, so 14% approval/hero worship is also very low.

    It suggests to me a greater opposition to the move now in traditional Unionist circles (read core support) than we saw in the election, backed up by the recent establishment of a rapid response unit staffed by inter alia, our own Christopher Stalford, to scribble rebuttals to the press of critical comments.Punt obviously knows the honeymoon period can’t go on for ever, and the only way is down.

  • “rapid response unit”

    “Rabid” would be a more appropriate description for Stalford’s efforts. If he’s the man leading the fightback against the dissidents and the discontented, then the dupes are in trouble.

  • I Wonder

    13% of the ENTIRE population think power sharing is wrong.

    I think by any reasonable standard, that’s a resounding endorsement of practical politics and devolution.

    ———————————————-

    “It suggests to me a greater opposition to the move now in traditional Unionist circles ”

    Ok, lets test it. Let Jim Allister resign his MEP seat NOW and see if he gets re-elected as an opponent of power-sharing with SF.

  • CTN

    An incredible poll!

    I agree with darth that opinion polls usually overstate “nice” middle ground parties or opinions and this one seems to be an exception.

    If this anti-executive feeling is so large within unionism then why are the UUCP, Jim Allister and the other extremists not gaining much more public support and profile.

    I know there is a protest letter due for buck house soon but these fundys are thin on the ground and were very quiet at 12th demos.

    Even if this poll was accurate I just can’t see them picking up enough votes from Paisley’s mob in the context of a scare factor whereby a vote for an anti St Andrews candidate could be seen as a vote for SF- something akin to the Fred Cobain scenario….

  • Alan

    Mind you, I’m still awaiting the practical politics bit.

    What we’ve had to date is very positive, but there’s been nothing contentious actually decided. It has all been put on the long finger.

    The Transfer, RPA and Water Charges / Rates, to name a few, hang above the Assembly. The acid test will be getting agreement on the big ideological issues. I will be pleasantly surprised if the mandatory coalition can advance things.

  • No wonder the UUP is in such trouble – “coalition of the willing” being such a well-regarded phrase these days.

  • hib

    A good scare from the dissidents like last time when Bobby Mac stood in 6 constituencies and then had to resign from politics will do the Doc no harm.

    Fear of joint authority or SF taking the lead usually brings the unionist vote in behind the DUP.

    If it looks like the dissidents might give the Doc a bit of trouble I reckon a lot of UU’s will abandon the wilting Reg Empty to keep unionism in electoral poll position.

  • I Wonder

    I suspect a fudge on rates/water.

    What say the water/sewerage element of the rates bill is identified at £50 per household.

    This is then netted off (“no-one will pay twice”) and another separate line for w/s introduced – at £150 per household. 🙂

  • DC

    Yea nice poll but it’s all pretty much vanity-politics at the moment nothing in the way of taking decisive policy choices about how best to reform public services be they water, rates, and indeed health services.

    Just wait until the bills come in – tiocfaidh ar la.

  • DC

    “What the hell did more than 3,500 people die for during a conflict that lasted over three decades?”

    To show to the world the power of reconiliation and might of democratic politics over crude paramilitarism.

    Since the DUP looked certain to clearly do a deal back in November 06 most people concerned with NI politics have been asking the very question.

    It’s Paisley I can’t get my head round. I mean Adams and the IRA have been spinning peace moves for decades but Dr No, well, he was always Dr No. No?

  • Prince Eoghan

    I reckon we should all be cheering from the rafters!

    ‘Normal politics’ Who would have thought it possible? I didn’t.

  • slug

    I do think that it would be very easy for things to go bad and that the parties have done a good job to achieve these poll results.

    Interestingly DUP and SF have a mutual interest in being good partners. There are tough issues ahead as someone above mentioned. Hoe they handle them will be very interesting.

    I am sorry that Gonzo though to mix this with the voluntary coalition idea that the UUP have come out in favour of. That is for the longer term.

  • curious

    Any news on the headline support figures for the different parties?

    Or will they be in tomorrow’s paper?

    Wonder if the UUP and SDLP will hold at 15% or will have slipped a little further?

  • IJP

    Alliance has always opposed designations and d’Hondt.

    Redesignation was done in good faith to keep the institutions operating, as it was deemed that removing designations and d’Hondt would be best done with the institutions operating than with them having collapsed.

    Had the Ulster Unionists then been willing to adopt the policy they are advocating now, redesignation would not have been necessary.

    Get it?

    (And I say that as someone who was not a party member at the time and who thought the Alliance designation to redesignate was naive. But then, I’ve always been a hardliner…)

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  • Comrade Stalin

    interested:

    Time to think about scrapping d’Hondt etc etc, about 8 years after Alliance mooted it, and of course about 10 years after both the UUP and Alliance were falling over themselves to support it telling us it was the only way forward.

    Neither the UUP nor the Alliance Party (gonzo – still an APNI press officer at heart?) have any credibility on that ground.

    This is a lie. Alliance opposed d’Hondt from the very start. It’s a stupid system and is full of flaws. It was the SDLP who promoted it and the UUP who failed to seriously challenge it.

    The UUP did not mind d’Hondt when it suited it to keep it that way. It is now opposing d’Hondt because it causes it to be under-represented. QED.

  • CTN

    DC the doc has always been “condition- not calendar led”.

    He obviously feels that with IRA disbandment, all their weapons destroyed in front of witnesses and SF on the PSNI boards those conditions have been met…

  • 50%+

    “….scrap D’Hondt” = “….a protestant parliament for a protestant people”.

  • Cruimh

    Is the total disinterest in today’s anniversary not a sign that we have moved towards more normal politics ?

  • DC

    “DC the doc has always been “condition- not calendar led”.”

    Why didn’t he work towards achieving those conditions many years ago, about 10 years ago.

    The Peace Process????????????????????

    He walked out and sniped from the side as opposed to using influence and democratic diplomacy.

    Instead Trimble brought in change – sold out if you like, but Paisley bought back in when the influences both domestic and international, but other than the DUP, brought the SF-IRA juggernaut to a halt.

  • Comrade Stalin

    ”….scrap D’Hondt” = “….a protestant parliament for a protestant people”.

    It’s this kind of silly nonsense I’m talking about. Simple majority rule is never coming back, so why suggest that the moronic d’Hondt system is some kind of bulwark against it ?

  • CTN

    DC- I agree the provies are in a quandry but think Paisley is partly responsible for that by playing his cards right outside the GFA by succeeding in obtaining the support of a majority of unionists and then withholding that support for the better deal for unionism that transpired at St Andrews when Britain’s favorite delivery boys- McGuinness & Adams threw the baby out with the bath water again,then rushed lemming-like into electoral retreat down south….

  • Aquifer

    Multi-seat PRSTV is a subsidy to the extremists. Better cut the seats per constituency and add in party seats to get proportionality on an assembly basis. But who would vote for that? not our biggest parties.

    D’Hondt is a silly and random system. Individual assembly members should be allowed to vote any nominated member of any party for any office, but to have to vote across the sectarian lines.

  • I suspect a fudge on rates/water.

    What say the water/sewerage element of the rates bill is identified at £50 per household.

    This is then netted off (“no-one will pay twice”) and another separate line for w/s introduced – at £150 per household. 🙂

    Exactly the stroke Toronto City Council is pulling next year.

  • IJP

    Further to what Comrade has said, the further difficulty we have had here is that promoting the end of d’Hondt is very technical. It’s not exactly something you raise on the doorsteps.

    But when the Executive comes to deadlock on secondary education, water charges, location of acute services etc etc, suddenly those technicalities will become frighteningly relevant to those people whose children end up in the wrong school, who can’t afford their rates bills with water lumped in on top of them, and who have to travel 50 miles to get basic medical treatment.

    This is far from a technicality. And misrepresenting people doesn’t help.

    D’Hondt was never a good idea. Nor was sectarian designation. Qualified majority voting is the only way to get real decisions made.

  • ‘Normal politics’ Who would have thought it possible? I didn’t.”

    What exists in the north is far from normal democratic politics, basically what the Stormont administration amounts to is a conduit for the implication of the government in London program, plus the public trappings of a democracy. Water is a prime example of the systems shortcomings as the people of the north will get what Brown decides. The fact that posters to slugger are attempting to prophecies what will happen highlights this democratic deficit.

    We are where we are, but surly the first duty of all democrats is to evolve the present system into a proper parliamentary system or bring it down. For the present sectarian system is unsustainable in the long run as it is fatally flawed, not least because it lacks the most important ingredient of a functioning parliamentary system, i e an opposition worthy of the name.

    In truth the Stormont administration does not amount to much more than a series of walk about’s conducted by the First and Deputy First Ministers. Not only have they both begun to mimic the southern President when out and about on their rounds, but in reality have about as much real political power as the good lady.

  • CTN

    Fair play to the ailing UUP at least the have started a debate.

    I think De honte was necessary to get the agreement of to a start but now that it is up and running the arrangements may change if there is demand for a referendum and people vote in favour of it.

    It could mean that Michelle (norn iron) Gildernew may be able to opt out of a mandatory coalition with those nasty greenies Conor Murphy and Catriona Ruane who don’t want the term Northern Ireland about the place, unlike poor Michelle who just can’t stop using it.

    Whilst we’re on the subject of tweaking GFA/StA’s what about the two outstanding super duper cross border bodies the provies were braggin about- when do we see them materialise?

    It seems that under the McGuinness/Adams autocracy SF are like a ship without a rudder, sailing into deeply unprincipled and dangerous waters….

  • DC

    “Paisley is partly responsible for that by playing his cards right outside the GFA by succeeding in obtaining the support of a majority of unionists and then withholding that support for the better deal for unionism”

    But your argument is flawed because Trimble had to give way on the ground which Paisley now stands. It isn’t a better deal, it is just slightly tweaking the technicalities of some of the Assembly’s operations. The ruination of Ulster is still in it and believe me it will ruin Paisley’s concept of what Ulster is.

    It’s about Northern Ireland from here on in with it’s British and Irish citizens hosting migration from other EU countries.

  • I Wonder

    “it lacks the most important ingredient of a functioning parliamentary system, i e an opposition worthy of the name.”

    I disagree. Opposition is of value in terms of holding government to account, in exposing inefficiency or waste of resource. The current setup encourages pragmatic people-responsive politics and compromise.

    What would an Opposition have to oppose in the government’s providing very speedy efficient support for the recent flood victims and its admirably prompt effective response to the foot and mouth threat and the pragmatic carrot-and- stick offered to the residual paramilitaries?

  • michael

    A well read friend of mine one commented, when discussing this very subject, that strong accountability and opposition wasn’t really terribly neccessary in the assembly due to the fact that they dont really have that much power.

    thoughts?

    also, just out on a rather under considered limb here. What about and american style executive choosen by the FM and DFM. The FM and DFM, or hopefully just president, would be elected in a presidential campaign. No nationalist/ unionist designations required. This, however, would be held by a consociationalistic assembly executive opposition?

    would that merely result in unionist majority rule again? i dont know!

  • I Wonder

    Michael
    It might be an idea to have a Presidential election which precluded anyone reasonably identifiable with either unionism or nationalism.

    It’d probably turn out some sort of beauty pageant, but is that a bad thing?

    I’m old enough to recall that a Chinese woman, Susie Tan, was once a Miss Northern Ireland.

    A rather perplexing situation then, but realistically, a beautiful blonde Polish/Russian/Lithuanian lady with a pronounced accent, may well be a future Miss Northern Ireland…

  • Darth Rumsfeld is from Limavdy………………

    haha

  • lib2016

    We had a ‘proper government with an opposition’ and it was such a complete and utter disaster that it had to be abandoned.

    Trimble and the UUP got the sack from the electorate because they couldn’t or wouldn’t implement the GFA, never mind run the Executive.

    Unionists won’t be trusted with power ever again on there own – full stop! and unless they prove themselves capable of powersharing there soon won’t be a separate NI for them to play about in.

  • michael

    lol!

    saw miss NI on Newline this week! i know i’d preferr her to be head of state that Ian and Marchine!

    Constitutional change, is this a possible direction… Anyone?

  • CTN

    DC- if “my argument is flawed”- then David Trimble had to resign from the UUP after losing his seat, whilst the doc climbed up to be FM and someone is reading the analysis wrong.

    My betting isn’t the unionist electorate who have pasted the UU’s and made the DUP the largest party by far.

    I don’t expect that to change in the next election despite these wobblers unfavorable to power sharing…

  • CTN

    Sorry for the typo- 3rd line should read-

    My betting is it isn’t…

  • DC

    The point being CTN that David Trimble drove the negotiations as far as he could; Paisley, on the other hand, never got in the peace process vehicle.

    The DUP rode on the back of the UUP by allowing its core constituency to be eroded away both by DUP scaremongering and by difficult policy decisions taken by the custodians of the Agreement, Blair and Ahern, which greatly troubled the unionist electorate. Policy such as changing the RUC into PSNI.

    Ultimately, Paisley could never or never would have delivered this at the time (as when have seen) so he had to give way to moderate Unionism to subsequently attack it only to get back in the peace process vehicle when it had come to a halt.

    Good strategy for power yes – but good Unionism?
    Well, Northern Ireland has a nice confederal Irish relationship these days.

  • PaddyReilly

    ….scrap D’Hondt = ….a protestant parliament for a protestant people.

    Not exactly. The current state of play is that exactly half the seats in the Assembly are held by the DUP and UUP, and another seat by a Loyalist Party which is in favour of power-sharing. So even if the UUP and DUP were both to come out in favour of exclusive Unionist rule, they still wouldn’t have enough seats to bring this about.

    Presumably the next assembly will produce a further reduction in the Unionist/Loyalist representation, turning them into unambiguous minority. So I don’t see why it should not be possible to abandon D’Hondt at that juncture.