“Tensions at the heart of government have been laid bare.”

Interesting report from the BBC’s Martina Purdy on today’s events. Notably the contrast between the previous silence from the NI Executive ministers and the comment that

“While [Margaret Ritchie’s] ruling was significant, far more important was the effect it had on the Executive. Tensions at the heart of government have been laid bare.”

The focus is primarily on the Finance minister’s point of order.. but no other ministers made any comment during the debate.. which is, perhaps, to be expected from “tired old warmongers”.. Adds I should also have mentioned the paramilitary politics involved..

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  • Dewi

    Peter – just realpolitik – need to realise who is in charge……and that’s not playing the man or the ball.

  • Dawkins


    I saw the frontpage headline in the Belly Telly tonight. It tells us that Goggins has “dithered” on the abolition of the 50% remission, promised us by the inimitable David Hanson with a stroke of the pen. Lies, to be sure. There was no intention there. A chap might ask himself: who’s side was Hanson on?

    This is some of the realpolitik that Dewi alludes to. Does Goggins’s wife or daughter have to be raped before he moves his fat arse?

    Pete, you’re speaking of tensions at the heart of government. From where I’m sitting, the above is the most tense situation of all. Until this revolting law is changed none of us is safe from sexual predators.

    The Labour Party have shown themselves to be uncaring bastards. We can’t vote them out of office here. I can cast a single vote in England, if there were an election. But Gordon Brown won’t let me, the moral coward.

    Sorry if I’ve posted off topic, and that I’ve been less than measured. But I am really angry by this dithering. I’m beginning to smell a rat.

  • Pete Baker

    No Dawkins

    You’re talking about a specific example of what is still a reserved matter.

    The actual topic is the devolved administration.

    Do try to keep up…

    ..and try not to post off-topic.

  • Dawkins


    “Do try to keep up… “

    A glacier would have no difficulty in keeping up with the pace of change in NI.

    Any chance of somebody blogging Goggins’s dithering?

  • Nevin

    It’s interesting to see how the public at large rightly gets steamed up about sexual predators yet can vote for the far more dangerous paramilitary political predators. It’s a funny old world.

    I’m sure not all parts of government in Dublin and elsewhere were enamoured by the Department of Foreign Affairs ’embrace’ of paramilitary politics. For example, the Department of Justice would have to deal with the detritus of the expansion of our ‘civic justice’ into its jurisdiction.

    I’ve just blogged a brief item about the future of the police station in Bushmills. It’s possible the site could be flogged off to a developer and ‘civic justice’ could become even more firmly rooted. So far, our (mainly DUP) political representatives have remained largely silent. Will they opt for decent community policing or will they allow developers and paramilitaries to carry on regardless? Perhaps Ritchie needs to take a look at the North Coast et al to see whether or not the DSD is promoting a ‘culture of lawfulness’.

  • Nevin

    Is Ritchie’s ‘myself alone’ cart-before-horse approach a breach of the St Andrew’s Agreement?

    In making her announcement on funding Ritchie was acting without authority. Under the terms of the St Andrews Agreement, she cannot make such a decision without the support of the executive and assembly. What has emerged subsequently is that support from her executive colleagues wasn’t forthcoming. She revealed to Radio Ulster that the executive had refused her request to have the issue discussed. .. Socialist Democracy August 2007

  • bootman

    why the three threads?

  • Nevin

    “why the three threads?”

    Problems in the Slugger Executive? 😉

  • Greenflag

    Why would there not be tensions at the heart of this power sharing government ? The DUP’s insinct was never for power sharing and SF’s political objectives have not changed ?

    If I were a Unionist I’d be more concerned if there were/nt tensions .

    Eventually the ‘farce’ will unravel but the longer the show is on the road then the better will be the prospects for a longer term more stable system of government in NI whether within it’s present boundaries or in some other arrangement .

  • Nevin

    I think they should opt for shared sovereignty, Greenflag. This would give the Executive a shared goal – and Dublin could put a bit more of its money where its mouth is 🙂



    I haven’t seen that quote before, but it leads me to ask a question. Is the UDA funding different to other funding decisions or do they all need Executive approval?

    If yes, did the Executive agree with the decision to kill the Irish Language Act and did they agree to allow Paisley’s mate develop his Giants Causeway joint?

    If not, why not?

  • Greenflag

    ‘I think they should opt for shared sovereignty,’

    A beautiful theory Nevin so was Communism . But just as the latter was more suited to ants than human beings ‘shared sovereignty’ is an idea more suited to ‘ivory tower’ academics than to the cave dwellers of Buckna or Crossmaglen ! Trust your health is keeping up :)GF

  • Mick Fealty


    Not from where I am sitting. Just to add to the crushing tedium (for some at least), I have a piece coming out on Comment is Free this pm on the subject too.

    Why three threads? Well, the YouTube clip was well worth a thread of its own (was Robinson serious with that point of order, or just looking for time out to deal with a decision he did not expect to hear?).

    Very few people watch this stuff during the day, and the Beeb has to compress like crazy to get it into the schedules. So to capture that moment as it happened, so to speak, was a bit of an online coup.

    This is the first real decision to come out of the Executive. Most of the stuff so far has been negative (in the sense that it involved heavy public critiquing of a minister’s decision).

    The unwillingness of individuals to make decision rather than roll with the advice of colleagues, and/or senior civil servants even when it runs against explicit promises in the party manifesto has been fairly dull one-party-government stuff.

    Whether the decision stands or falls, it has been fascinating watching a single minister defy one of the most comprehensive attempts at collective censure we’ve seen to date.

    Adds: And that, in the long wrong run, may be the bigger story than the ‘feisty minister declares the world is round’ angle.

  • Nevin

    Urguhart, the details are in the Ministerial Code (pdf format). Several ministers may have breached it already!!

    Perhaps posters (and ministers) might need to reflect on the implications of the Code.

  • Nevin

    Greenflag, we practised the principles of ‘shared sovereignty’ in Coleraine from the early 70s onwards whilst the tribal leaders in their caves were urging the foot-soldiers to do their bit for Chief and (their) Country.

  • The Dubliner

    “I think they should opt for shared sovereignty, Greenflag. This would give the Executive a shared goal – and Dublin could put a bit more of its money where its mouth is :)” – Nevin

    That’s the problem with Joint Authority: it would mean joint responsibility for the whopping great subsidy that sustains NI’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. If the south has to finance the charade of NI, then we’d have to bring it back down to earth with a no-nonsense long-term economic plan. The Centre for Economics and Business Research but the share of state spending as a percentage of regional income for Northern Ireland at 70.5%, compared to 44.1% for the United Kingdom as a whole, and 34.1% for the Republic of Ireland. Unionists and nationalists would be outraged at the attempt to introduce them to an unfamiliar concept called ‘reality.’

    I don’t see ‘shared sovereignty’ as anything other than JA. So, that would mean no Executive for NI. If there is to be an Executive, then forget JA – let the Brits pay for the Cloud Cuckoo Land wherein NI’s lunatic politicians love to dwell. As a taxpayer in the south, I have no intention of paying for their demented indulgence.

  • Nevin

    “it has been fascinating watching a single minister defy one of the most comprehensive attempts at collective censure we’ve seen to date.”

    Don’t you mean collective responsibility, Mick?

  • The Dubliner

    Nevin, it’s what made Bill Clinton such a hero to the left: the willingness to “do the right thing” even when it goes against all of the available advice. 😉

  • Nevin

    “I don’t see ‘shared sovereignty’ as anything other than JA.”

    Joint authority smacks of joint direct rule from London and Dublin, Dubliner.

    Greenflag can confirm this suggestion I made a long time ago. I’d go for shared sovereignty with as much devolution as possible, including an enhanced role for local government. I’d also merge the ‘external’ relationships: Strands 2 and 3.

    We need a process that accommodates the two opposing aspirations so that we can work together for the good of all – with no eulogies for the wicked. It can work but we need to pay more attention to what we have in common.

  • Nevin

    Dubliner, Clinton and ‘doing the right thing’ seems like an oxymoron. Wouldn’t Clinton have been lobbying against Ritchie?

  • Mick Fealty

    To argue the point, collective responsibility is not what is being enforced here Nev. Indeed, had anyone been serious about it such censure should have been enforced at the beginning of this process, not at the end.

    Indeed various statements from senior SF members (not least the Minister for Agriculture) make it very clear that they did not believe until now (or at least until Martina Anderson’s mention of it yesterday) that this was a matter of ‘collective responsibility’.

    This all has an air of ‘making it up as you go along’. Which I guess is fine so long as you can remain ‘plausible’ in the eyes of the wider public (whatever us ‘anoraks’ think). But there is also an element of ‘treating the public with contempt’, and that is potentially a very dangerous practice for those who repeatedly indulge in it, in the longer term at least.

  • Nevin

    “As a taxpayer in the south, I have no intention of paying for their demented indulgence.”

    That’s all very well and good, Dubliner, but the ‘socialist revolution’, that would have embraced the whole of the island, was about to take off about forty years ago when the Dublin establishment stepped in to ‘decapitate’ the socialist leadership of militant republicanism – eventually leaving us with the Provos. Your gain was our loss.

  • Nevin

    Mick, we’d need to see all of the detail. It would appear that Ritchie ran (some of) her proposals initially past the Executive and got nowhere; she then ‘grandstanded’ in public; she was supposed to return to the Executive (according to Poots) but announced her decision to the Assembly instead.

  • Greenflag

    ‘but the ‘socialist revolution’, that would have embraced the whole of the island, was about to take off about forty years ago when the Dublin establishment stepped in to ‘decapitate’ the socialist leadership of militant republicanism -‘

    Nonsense there was no ‘socialist revolution’ 40 years ago . The ‘numerical’ facts are that the Irish Labour party which had reached 20% support in opinion polls at the time ended up with 17% in the 1969 election which brought Jack Lynch to power.

    Jack Lynch continued with the Lemass legacy which had turned the Republic from a virtual basket case economy in 1957 to a much more confident and developing society by 1969.

    The majority of Irish people knew who’s leadership had taken the country forward . Sean Lemass had been effectively Taoiseach since 1957 and while Dev was still droning on at cabinet meetings for hours with his vision of a Gaelic speaking self sufficient Irish Ireland and our ‘spiritual empire’ sturdy children -no prostitutes etc etc , Sean Lemass was busy preparing economic policies which would drag the republic out of it’s economic despondency . He understood intuitively that without necessary economic growth there was no future for the Republic as an independent Irish State.Indeed national ‘pessimism’ reached an all time low in the mid 1950’S with 50,000 people emigrating every year . Lemass was not liked or even understood by the ‘irish’ Ireland element in FF at the time and even Dev confessed he never quite understood Lemass’s fixation on the ‘economy’.

    Lemass’s period as Taoiseach gave the Republic back it’s confidence and provided the springboard for much of today’s success story .

    I’d rate Sean Lemass as Ireland’s greatest ‘practical’ patriot . What Northern Ireland needs is a Lemass but instead what they have is a fundamentalist cleric who’s ideas for generating ‘revenue’ seem restricted to passing the bucket around to the captive faithful in his ‘sideline’ occupation or going on bended knee to the Chancellor of the Exchequer at No 11 Downing Street.

    The idea of a shared ‘goal’ is laudable but when you don’t have the political power to implement the economic policies which you see as being essential to make the leap from virtual complete public sector dependence to what the country needs then the situation at least in this respect is no different in NI today than it was in the Republic in the mid 1950’s when Dev was dreaming about an Ireland which had never been and never would be . Unionists dream of a Northern Ireland that never was and Republicans dream of a UI that is stuck on the far horizon

    In the meantime the world moves on and NI is left behind politically , economically and as a society.

  • Greenflag

    ‘As a taxpayer in the south, I have no intention of paying for their demented indulgence.” ‘

    Demented indulgence is too charitable a term 🙁 BTW I’m sure most ROI taxpayers feel likewise . We did’nt get to where we are today by having a sugar daddy at No 11 to pay the bills.

  • Nevin

    “Nonsense there was no ‘socialist revolution’ 40 years ago .”

    Green flag, a ‘socialist revolution’ was the intent. I did point out that the political establishment in Dublin sought to ‘decapitate’ it. It was quite prepared to sacrifice the Belfast establishment to save its own skin. Much as Blair was minded to appease terrorism here so long as violence and mafiaism was largely contained to Northern Ireland.

  • Nevin

    “I’d rate Sean Lemass as Ireland’s greatest ‘practical’ patriot.”

    But he was gone by the time the ‘socialist revolution’ was getting into its stride, Greenflag. Lynch and Haughey were rather less inclined to grasp the militant republican nettle.