Budget vote was tighter than SF expected?

Strictly for the record, but worth noting that the decision of the SDLP not to vote with the budget must have forced a degree of unexpected pressure from Sinn Fein whips to have sufficient MLAs in the Chamber for the budget vote. Given it was a cross community vote, it needed a nationalist majority to pass. In the event the Aye vote was just 59.5% (and that’s with the Minister voting against the SDLP line).

Six out of the 28 Sinn Fein MLAs did not make it into the chamber for what was, arguably, the most important vote in the legislative year. I count them as: Alex Maskey; Martina Anderson; Raymond McCartney; Paul Butler; Francie Molloy (Deputy Speaker); and John O’Dowd (leader of the Sinn Fein group in the Assembly.

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  • Twinbrook

    off the topic…….

    com`on mick wheres the story concerning the Law lords and the Parades commission?

  • Mick Fealty

    Posted yesterday, ten minutes after it was made public. Next?

  • lib2016

    There’s a two day debate reported in the Irish Times (page 8) begun by Bertie asking the British government “to meet its responsibilities to co-operate with inquiries in this state and to help the process of uncovering the truth about what happened” in atrocities linked with the North.

    A friendly government accuses the British government of a cover-up and its not worth a thread? Instead we have the worldshattering news that Sinn Fein had ‘sufficient MLAs in the Chamber’.

  • Mick Fealty


    Please note: the post above starts ‘Strictly for the record’. You don’t think it is of interest? Fine. But why try to change the subject?

    As for the story you mention, the taoiseach is alluding to the continued lack of co-operation of the British government with the Oireachtas’ ongoing ‘in camera’ investigation of the still unpublished Barron Report. He said it in the Dail so I guess it was worth a few column inches in the Dail Report pages. Have I missed the obvious new angle?

    Now, if they were prepared to release the whole report and let us have a go at it, definitely a story. As it is, the most interesting story is the one about Bertie, the English Casino owner and the Irish passport.


    It shouldn’t be surprising Mick – they’ve been off their game since well before Christmas.

    Today, again, they’ve had their arse kicked by Robinson – a decision to do the decent thing by Margaret Ritchie and support her move to refuse taxpayers’ money to the UDA is shelved again by the real boss.

    It’s embarrassing.

  • Chris Donnelly


    The most interesting angle to the content of the thread is what would’ve happened if the SDLP had’ve been successful?

    Given that it was clearly a stunt move on behalf of the SDLP (and one which has backfired spectacularly) how worse would the reaction have been to the SDLP’s maneouvring had they succeeded in getting the budget defeated?

    I’d suggest, Mick, that the SDLP were more worried about the numbers game in the chamber than Sinn Fein ahead of the vote, and that if hardy had’ve arrived, you may have seen a couple of SDLP MLAs slipping away quietly to ensure the protest amounted to little more than that.

  • Mick Fealty


    If they had overturned the budget, with just 15 votes in the chamber to SF’s potential 28, I am not sure the egg would have landed on SDLP faces.

    But isn’t it is too early to tell whether it has backfired yet? Where’s the damage? Certainly the DFM wanted to push that message since the first 3 minutes of the H&M interview was taken up with it. But the proof is in the eating; not the anticipation.

    There is nothing in the rules of the Assembly to say that the parties in the body of the Assembly have to follow the rule of the Executive, since the Executive committee is not representative of the Assembly party groups in the way it is in the Commons or the Dail.

    The greatest mortal danger, surely, is the retribution the other parties in the Executive are likely to take on Ritchie? Robinson’s two new monitoring units should provide him with good information on all minister’s performance against the new budgetary and PfG targets. She’ll need to stay on top of her brief, and crucially deliver tangible improvements to the electorate. In short, she will not be able to put a foot wrong.

    But that’s all on the defensive side. The other question is: is the SDLP capable of the kind of attack this move promises in the future?

    If this move is to be judged effective it will need to allow them to make political capital, not just to give their own minister ‘covering fire’ so to speak.

    There are already Ministers in other parties who are visibly struggling with their briefs, so there is scope for them to cause serious disruption, or damage even. But can they do it? I just don’t know.

    If they can’t, this move will be not exactly be wasted, but it may just confirm their role as ‘also rans’ for the foreseeable future. If they can, they may be doing no more than buying some kind of passport into the future.

    In truth, they face the same questions as the other parties in the process do. If last year was year zero, then what are any of them for? And, providing they arrive at a tangible answer, how do they get their new purposes across to an increasingly befuddled electorate?

  • J Kelly

    Mick I have just read the editorial in the Derry Journal and its scathing of the SDLP on how they voted in the budget debate. The point I make is that I could count on one hand the times in the past 20 or 30 years that the Derry Journa has used its editorial to criticise the SDLP. The Derry Journal has been the voice of nationalism in Derry for decades and on more than one occasion in the run up to elections openly called for readers to vote SDLP. Its not listed online yet.

    Your right with most political moves impact is usually felt in the long term but the impact can be assessed by how key opinion formers view any move. I had the opportunity to speak to a number of people yesterday from various political perspectives and most were a bit confused to say the least.

    The SDLP have yet to answer the simple question why why did Margaret Ritchie vote yes at the executive. This is were the confusion and the view that it was a stunt emanates from and the inabilty of Mark Durkan to clearly explain the move without getting angry ith the interviewers.

    The ability of the SDLP to cause trouble or disruption for other miniisters is seriously up for question. Lets be honest out of their 15 MLA’s how many have the ability. Attwood a lame duck after being dropped from policing, Mary Bradley hardly a political heavy weight, Thomas Burns, Tommy Gallagher, Alban McGuiness, Pat Ramsey, Allistair McDonnell to name a few I don’t believe that any minister will losing sleep at the thought of being scrutined by any of these.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Had the SDLP ran at this for a long enough period of time to prepare the broader public (never mind even political observers) of what they planned, then maybe they could argue that the move was consistent with a much bigger strategy of delivering critical, oppositional politics within the Assembly.

    Their failure to do so has generated the confusion and criticisms from allies of the SDLP, as noted by J Kelly above in the case of the Derry Journal.

    I might add that the silence of Noel Doran’s editorial column on this matter in the Irish News speaks volumes…

    The damage is in the fact that the stunt once again adds credence to the view that the SDLP are directionless and lacking in any new ideas to get them out of the hole they find themselves in (a point cruelly made by the Hole in the Wall taxi driver in his end of programme snippet on Hearts and Minds.)

    All of which is highly ironic, given that the SDLP had the opportunity to use the additional funding secured by Ritchie to go on the offensive by endorsing the budget as a victory for the party.