One of the most fascinating developments in the early stages of the Stormont Assembly is the central role being played by Peter Robinson at the Ministry of Finance. Negotiations with each of the ‘spending ministries’ have (apparently) been comprehensive and thorough and have continued throughout the summer. David Gordon heard the Minister speaking to his former colleagues at Castlereagh Borough Council, where he outlined some of his ideas (they should be familiar to long term readers of Slugger):
“We succeeded in making significant improvements through the negotiations leading to devolution but there is still more to do. While I understand that it may be necessary to build confidence in the process before more radical changes can be delivered I hope that change will not be too long delayed.
“A four party mandatory coalition with no effective opposition is not in the best interests of decision making in Northern Ireland. Eleven government departments to administer the province is about twice as many as we need and the community designation system is no basis for tackling community division in the longer term.”
It’s been a song in the Robinson repertoire for some time. Yet given the interdependence between the two main parties, he will need Sinn Fein to go along with his downsizing plans. With the climate in Britain cooling on further increase in further regional subsidy, a substantial downsizing might be welcome by both Labour and Conservatives.