“constrained by outdated political dogma…”

Facinating development in the battle within the NI Executive. In today’s Sunday Life the Health Minister, the UUP’s Michael McGimpsey, continues his unusual campaign for public support in opposition to the Executive’s Draft Budget, while the Finance Minister contradicted that argument in front of the Assembly’s Health Committee. Meanwhile the chair of that committee, and the DUP’s spokeswoman on health [not to mention wife of the Finance Minister – Ed], Iris Robinson, penned a scathing attack on the Health Minister in the Belfast Telegraph during the week.. well, it is a very unusual Executive..

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  • JD

    Iris Robinson gives lie to an underlying divide that should open up in NI describing Michael as follows:

    “From the outset many have feared Michael McGimpsey’s natural left-leaning tendencies were incompatible ”

    There’s much talk of a UUP-SDLP opposition in Stormont however it would have a more coherent narritive if Unionists such as Michael McGimpsey could join the Labour party and form a united opposition with the part of the SDLP that won’t join Fianna Fail when the time comes.

    A cross community allince of the two Labour Parties sponsoring the centre left parts of the SDLP & UUP would make the core of a cohesive opposition to SF/DUP.

    It is a big if but such an alternative needs to be rooted beyond the politics of the old party system

  • Turgon

    Iris Robinson’s somewhat free market ideas for the local NHS may or may not be the way forward. Some of the ideas around constructive tensions may have some merit; others may well not. She does at least seem to have some ideas.

    Ideas are something which McGimpsey seems to conspicuously lack. His only decisions so far have been non decisions.

    However, what neither the DUP, UUP nor anyone else seems willing to face is that one of the major causes of inefficiency in our health service is the excessive number of small hospitals. Politicians of all parties in GB have grave problems with closing hospitals. The problems here are, however, even more serious. Some of our hospitals are extremely small and others farcically close together.

    I would argue that the current number of trusts is too small and one possible reason for this may be that each trust will favour its biggest hospital and close the others by stealth. This will avoid any politician (NIO appointed or local) having to take responsibility for a given closure. It may, however, result in inadequate cover in some areas (e.g. South West), excess monopoly by a given trust in others (e.g. Belfast trusts on cancer and certain cardiac services). What is needed is what seems certain not to happen under this health minister (and probably would not under Iris Robinson though she was the best of a bad bunch) which is a radical rethink of where we have hospitals in Northern Ireland and an engagement with the whole community here about what is best to deliver not only an affordable health service but one which could be comparable to that of the rest of the UK, imperfect as that is.

  • lib2016


    Fitzgerald was writing in favour of an SDLP/UUP coalition in Saturday’s Irish Times. Bertie and Fianna Fail are way ahead of the game and are pushing Fine Gael towards the post-unionist vote.

    Already there is talk of Sinn Fein and Irish Labour working together in the future.

    The British parties don’t do well here and never have. If McGimpsey or other unionists want to display their inner ‘left-leaning tendencies’ I’m sure Sinn Fein will be happy to accept their applications.

  • saveus

    Lib:Any pretence SF had of being classified “left wing” died with the villification of the striking classroom assistants last week. I am glad to hear there is someone in the executive with left leaning tendancies, I’m aghast he is from the UUP and disgusted he/she is not from SF

  • lib2016

    Sinn Fein are becoming a party of government and as such they have to make the hard choices some of which are indeed heart-rending. That’s the job I expected them to do when I voted for them.

    I believe in higher taxes and higher benefits but it is not in the power of Sinn Fein to give us them, yet.

  • saveus

    Really, I voted for them and worked for them on the basis of their MANIFESTO (snow of a ditch), and the fact that I thought they would be the voice of the oppressed, not the oppressor, that they do all in their power to ensure a left to cnetre PFG and budget, recognising they are indeed in a minority in the Executive. The reality is they are frighteningly comfortable the neo-conservative clap-trap that was the PFG and draft budget and even recommended to us.


  • nineteensixtyseven

    Sinn Fein’s conduct over the classroom assistants has been an absolute disgrace and makes a mockery of their apparently leftist credentials. I’m amazed with how easily they are working with the right-wing DUP.

  • Smithsonian

    If Iris Robinson is as good as you say she is, why doesn’t she use her position to demonstrate her ability.

    As chair of the health committee she has access to all sorts of information and with her husband the Minster for Finance there are even more possibilities. She is in the ideal position to lead by example.

    Let her identify which hospitals she would close, which life enhancing (or saving) drugs will no longer be available, and which personnel she will make redundant. Let her explain how she will tackle Mental Health funding, respite provision for carers and the unacceptable waiting lists without significant extra money.

    The fact is that not only is the need greater in Northern Ireland but economies of scale are not available because of the large rural area. Overheads are proportionately higher because of the relatively small population we must administer, a fact acknowledged in the Barnett formula. Furthermore, there are significant inner city issues and the legacy of 40 years of conflict.

    Having failed to get the much heralded financial package the Robinson’s have attempted to replace it by squeezing the health budget with the added bonus of setting McGimpsey up for a fall.

    This may be clever politics, but playing politics with people’s lives demonstrates a complete lack of principle and should not go unchallenged.

  • Turgon

    I agree. I do not think Iris Robinson is much use at all; just a bit less useless than the others.

    I would agree that she would not have the courage to talk about closing hospitals. On the one occasion I had the chance to ask a DUP politician about health (admittedly it was Paul Berry, hardly an expert but at the time the deputy health spokesperson) he would not give anything approaching a straight answer.

  • Garibaldy

    Why are people surprised at PSF behaving in the way it has been in government? A look south any time over the last number of years revealed the true nature of the beast as it rushed towards the right in the hope of coalition with FF.

    The leftist rhetoric was about a space identified as possibly being for that party to fill. No more no less. The northern wing of FF is really PSF, not the SDLP, and this has always been the case.

    Equally disturbing is Iris’ rhetoric. The introduction of layer of management after management has been a disaster for the NHS, not only in NI but the rest of the UK. Abolish matron, get some non-health professional managers in, and what do you get? MRSA etc. Just when we have the opportunity to take some of the control back, and restore the NHS we get more of the same old nonsense that has led to the ever increasing funds sunk into the NHS being swallowed up in BMWs for managers while patients die unnecessarily. She is the one following an outdated ideology that is destroying our services – Thatcherism.

  • Damian O’Loan

    The PfG and the Budget were never given an opportunity to be presented to public appraisal. Even the COFMDFM, the primary organ for such scrutiny, were given minimal foresight of its content. Witness the ongoing dispute over delivery of papers to this Committee – one whose importance has been disturbingly underplayed by the media. Further, the plausability of consultation is entirely undermined when one looks at their passage through our democatic Assembly.

    The enactment of this spending plan will be the confirmation of the demise of republicanism/nationalism. That is not to say that it favours unionism – only that it is in no way the product of deliberation by the NI Assembly, let alone those at the bottom of ‘the hill.’

    What happened to socialist republicanism? Did it get lost in republicanism? When did socialism of any hue assent to the establishment of a ‘client state?’ Witness the real triumph of the Blair regime.

    In light of continuing hypocrisy by the DUP and SF over IRA criminality; of the harmonisation of two governments to ensure the passage of our ‘peace process’; of the media compliance thereto – what is left of the hope for a democratic settlement. It is not only nationalists, but unionists too, who have been robbed by this example of British Permanent Secretaries as government.

    The significance of the passing of this Budget, and PfG, is utmost. It has been, and will continue to be, ignored. And what if Stormont collapsed, not by violence, but by legitimate public protest for democracy and justice?

  • JD

    “Fitzgerald was writing in favour of an SDLP/UUP coalition in Saturday’s Irish Times. Bertie and Fianna Fail are way ahead of the game and are pushing Fine Gael towards the post-unionist vote. ”

    How you could infer that from Garret’s piece in the Times defies logic. He was very much articulating the status quo argument from the section of the SDLP that does not want to be an all Ireland Party – an argument against all Ireland parties – something popular with Unionists and much of the Fine Gael base

    “Sinn Fein’s conduct over the classroom assistants has been an absolute disgrace and makes a mockery of their apparently leftist credentials. I’m amazed with how easily they are working with the right-wing DUP”.

    Sinn Fein are Republican in the Fianna Fail sense – not leftist but populist. That they can work with the DUP is not surprise (the DUP have shown their own Fianna Fail tendencies over the Giants Causeway).

    I think a new difference between between FF & FG will be that one is organised on an All Ireland basis and the other is not – one will argue a United Ireland is inevitable and the other that we have a permanent settlement. Fianna Fail will gravitate towards SF/DUP.

    As for Labour – the Senate pact was a tactical agreement for seats in the Senate nothing else. The Irish Labour Party at their annual conference voted to establsih a commission to examine the role of Labour in Northern Ireland. They’ll consult with unions, like-minded members of civil society and their sister parties in the SDLP & British Labour – a gradual approach that favours as broad a cross community approach to build a Social Democratic alliance.

    This is a far cry from an alliance with Sinn Fein and campaigning to end partition.

    “Sinn Fein’s conduct over the classroom assistants has been an absolute disgrace and makes a mockery of their apparently leftist credentials. I’m amazed with how easily they are working with the right-wing DUP”.

    Fianna Fail is a more likely nationalist partner for Sinn Fein and if anything SF will be trapped in an all Ireland FF/SF/DUP alliance opposed by Social Democrats and Liberals