One rule for the Assembly…

The First and Deputy First Minister were both dismissive of the idea today in the Assembly that somehow their decision to appoint four Victims Commissioners rather than one (necessitating a change in statute in order to add the plural) was a political compromise rather than a serious attempt to tackle the problem in hand. But, as commenter shankly’s socialism points out, they may have neglected to read Sammy Wilson’s piece in yesterday’s Sunday Life about waste and duplication in the Assembly. In particular Sammy advocates downsizing the number of MLAs (and OFMDFM):

“These structures have more to do with the political demands of time than efficient government. This job creation scheme cannot be justified”


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  • Pete Baker
  • Damian O’Loan

    I would have thought that finances aren’t the most pertinent argument against this. While it is hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be plenty of capable candidates willing to have worked for, say, the salary of an MLA, there is enough set aside to cover the cost.

    Surely the problem is that the narrative of the past will be created will be necessarily divisive, particularly when the views expressed by a certain Commissioner are equated with his or her ‘alignment.’ Is this to suggest that the intention with Eames/Bradley is to have a twin-track history as well? Even taken alone, these appointments will do nothing to advance a shared future or acceptance of the other. They will contribute to the learning of different textbooks in different schools for much longer to come.

    To me, it shows a lack of leadership not to have made a decision here. However, I do wonder if a separate but equal history isn’t what the market would demand in any case.

  • Rory

    Clearly we nedd some blue sky thinking here. Allow me to be the one to supply it.

    It seems only logical to me at least to extend the thought(?) processes at work here and appoint an individualcommissioner to each single victim. Indeed why not go even further and appoint each victim as his or her own commissioner.

    This would not only help to allay any suspicions of bias within the process it would have the added advantage of being quite cost effective insofar as most commissioner/victims would not be in any position to draw their salaries.

  • happy lundy

    Number crunching thoughts on legislative productivity;

    To match the Republic’s parliamentary productivity (166 TD’s and 60 senators for 4.3M people) we’d need to trim down to 66 MLA’s for our 1.7M people and 24 senators

    The last time we had a bicameral parliament for NI the House of Commons had 52 MP’s and the Senate 26.

    Senate could be;

    Our 18 UK MP’s and our 3 MEP’s or

    Our 26 borough mayors or

    26 of our favourite commissioners so we could see what they’re like on telly and they could pretend their commissions are really committes and make Newton Emerson happier (probably my favourite)

    All of the above and our senate could be up to 74 people (a bit like the Lords where more people having speaking / voting rights than ever come in).

    Of course a Dáil deputy earned €96,650 in 2006 (a UK MP earned 11 per cent less to represent about 4x as many people at €87,132). Don’t MLA’s earn around £40,000K?

    I’d rather pay them 50% more each for twice the work (so 54 MLA’s in 9 constituencies of 6?).

    It might even encourage a better set of applicants for the job.

  • shankly’s socialism

    I am sure most of us could have lived with the idea of another joint office no matter how repetitive that idea is getting and how insecure it makes the DUP and Sinn Fein appear.

    What exactly they were thinking jumping for 4 is unclear unless there was a huge impasse.

    Who in the DUP let Sammy Wilson put out such an opinion piece blowing holes in the arguments they were to make the following day, not good forward planning.

    “The cost of this job creation scheme cannot be justified” – lol

    “I believe that these structures have more to do with the demands of the time than efficient government.”

    Then to go on to suggest he wants to cut OFMDFM even his party have spent more than anyone else, appointed 2 new junior ministers and brought an assembly committee under their name and department.

    On the 4 person issue – What does the failure to appoint anyone from the original application processes say about the candidates when they ultimately end up with 4?

    Is it even legal to appoint the 4 people as suggested without another application process considering the job definition and requirements have no doubt changed, being a sole Victims Commissioner and one of four commissions on a panel like body is very very different and would bring forward much different clientele.

  • Crataegus

    The structures in the Assembly, have nothing to do with efficiency, it is all about creating enough jobs so that the main players feel involved, or to look at it another way are feeding from the same trough.

    The structures are in themselves inefficient. We are clearly over governed and we don’t even have the consolation of having an administration that is good. There is NO effective opposition and we cannot vote any administration out. All we can do is alter to some degree the percentage makeup of THE administration. We might as well live in a one party state.

  • shankly’s socialism

    @ Crataegus

    I cannot disagree with you, the structure were designed to include as many parties as possible and provide enough jobs for the big boys to carry their membership into devolved government.

    In an ideal world I think that we should reduce our spending on government.

    However as you say we basically live in a one party state now the DUP and SF cant sneeze without giving each other notice first

    …reducing the number of MLAs as Sammy Wilson was suggesting would make matters worse, in my view we need the Greens, we need the PUP, Kieran Deeney and god forbid the Alliance Party, while they are not yet a credible opposition they make the place more interesting and provide at least a little avenue for dissent.

    From an ability point of view, we do not have 108 able people, therefore my argument should be that we dump a few, but sadly if we reduced to 72 we would only be left with the numpties, most MLAs with ability would be dumped.

  • willowfield

    Shankly’s socialism

    Good point, but, really, 108 members is ludicrous for a place this size. (Incidentally, I have been very disappointed by Brian Wilson’s extremely low profile since he was elected.)

    In a scenario where we reduce from 108 to 72, your concern could partly be allayed by combining constituencies – instead of electing 3 from East Belfast and 3 from South Belfast, for example, we could elect 6 from “South and East Belfast” – that way, Alliance would be assured of an MLA, whereas they wouldn’t if each constituency only elected 3.

  • willowfield

    Sorry that would be reducing from 108 to 54.

    Same principle applies with 72, though.

  • Crataegus


    I am not unduly worried about exact numbers and do believe there are arguments that we need to encourage a bit more diversity. I don’t even care if there are more MLA’s PROVIDED!!!!

    1 Salaries and expenses reflect the lower number of people served by each MLA.

    2 The place actually works efficiently and we are well represented.

    3 There is some opposition and some possibility of voting one conglomerate out.

    4 It is part of a detailed consideration on the overall running of this place, number of Departments, councils etc.

    I don’t even mind if the average MLA is part time; more important to me is diversity and people with greater and more diverse expertise participating.

    Most jobs outside politics require a certain level of proficiency and training. I was wondering what level of expertise ANY of our Ministers have in the posts they currently occupy? It is like me being employed to run the local secondary school or hospital. It would be mad for me to try, but in politics we are all super beings.

    We need better and more practically minded people involved. We need to get business moving here and we need efficiently run departments operating with clear purpose.

    There is a mountain of work to do and I see little evidence that many of the ministers are really on top of their briefs and I am utterly unclear as to the general direction the Assembly intends to head in many policies areas.

    If you don’t have clear purpose how can you govern effectively or efficiently? That is the real problem.

    I think it is a lost cause. The problems are in part structural and the short comings were foreseen and but no one paid any attention.

  • Comrade Stalin

    We do not need a Senate, and if we were to have one it would be a total waste of time to have the toothless talking shops they had pre-1972, or in the RoI.

    A review of the Assembly and the Executive in terms of the number of elected officials would probably be best placed to occur after the full implementation of the local government reforms.

  • happy lundy

    “We do not need a Senate, and if we were to have one it would be a total waste of time to have the toothless talking shops they had pre-1972, or in the RoI.”

    A very confident and stark statement.

    Why not?

    We already have in our commissioners non-elected appointees performing governmental roles which (as Emerson has pointed out) would be performed by parliamentary committees in other Commonwealth countries or the US (including appointed lords in the UK).

    Calling these people Senators and requiring their occaisional attendance at Stormont would not increase our governmental payroll. It might though give them a platform to bring their work to the assembly directly rather than always having to speak through ministers or press conferences and it should also make clear that these people are an arm of the executive (or agents of the assembly in some cases) – they’re certainly not civil servants.

    Perhaps this can happen at an Assembly committee but these tend to have an inquisitorial (and grandstanding) nature which might be complemented by the less combative, plenary style of a senate session.

    Maybe half a day a week or so of a televised talking shop is what the taxpayer and/or the voter deserve.

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