Change it

Seamus Mallon has backed changes to the designation system in the Assembly and the means of forming an Executive.

  • Twinbrook

    We need a total transformation in political attitudes from the ground up….before any action can be taken

    Trust, a misused word will only come when both communities are ready to break out from OUR tribal divisions…

    Or when they actually start to see that the only thing that unites our particular band of politicians regardless of politics…

    is their ability to screw us all.

  • “Seamus Mallon, former SDLP deputy leader, said he favours finding an alternative which still guarantees equality.”

    IMO the 50%+1 option for constitutional change was one of the major mistakes in the 1998 Agreement; it’s an aspirational tug-of-war with great potential for major future conflict.

    I’ve put forward a devolved administration under shared sovereignty, the merger of strands 2 and 3 and no hiding place for the paramilitary godfathers. This arrangement recognises the two aspirations and it allows our politicians more easily to adopt shared goals.

    The two governments weakened the position of the UUP-SDLP spectrum by elevating the demands of the paramilitaries above the needs of victims and the tenets of democracy; they indirectly but assuredly gave us the Chuckle Brothers and a pretty impotent justice system.

  • The point being that the deal made 10 years ago has almost run its course in regards a 4 party executive. I think it is an important statement from Mallon at a symbolic time.

    The review mechanism will hopefully kick in earlier than expected – hopefully before the end of the life of the current assembly.

  • Gum

    A four party Executive probably has run its course, but I still feel there is a need for powersharing. Do any of you feel that you’d be comfortable with one party forming the executive?

  • Gum –

    You can have oppositional government with cross-community safeguards. Ex. Two largest parties form the the government and the remaining parties form a fully funded and recognised opposition.

    Plenty of ideas to play with at any rate.

  • kensei


    There was little doubt that Nationalism would have jumped at Shared Sovereignty; it was Unionism, and Trimble, that insisted on the Principle of Consent.

  • the dowie

    Seamus, a slow learner, surely not?

  • The Principle of Consent dovetails with my proposal, kensei, and I’ve yet to hear any politician, nationalist, unionist or other endorse it. This proposal puts an eminent UI into the long grass so I can see why nationalists would oppose it.

  • Gum

    Ignited – I know about coalition and opposition. But assume the DUP and UUP formed a govt, or if SF somehow ended up being able to form an executive. I know the latter wont happen but if it could – would you have enough faith in those three parties that they would be able to govern fairly and for all?

    I think it remains sadly necessary that there is shared govt. For what it’s worth, I’ve quite liked the govt of Paisley and McGuinness and still think the UUP and SDLP should have formed an opposition.

  • Gum – Well assume it is necessary for powersharing to remain in place ie the largest party from each designation form a government. At the mninute that would translate into DUP and SF being a coalition government.

    That would ensure no ‘unionist’ government. Bring in issues such as parallel consent for any major legislation and i think you would be covering all objections.

  • Jo


    And, for the first time in the history of a local administration, it would be an Opposition with a reasonable chance of wresting power from the other 2 parties.

  • consul

    It’s probably fair to say that power sharing is going to be a fact of life in Northern Ireland for the forseeable future. If it is ever to have a conventional style of government as in what you would find else where in the western world then logically in the long run both sides would have to come to the point of view that the constitutional question has been dealt with.
    Until everyone is satisfied that the status of NI is in an identical place to that of Scotland, Wales and even England in that it’s purely a matter for the people to decide (in a referendum probably some way off yet)and that any border poll day is the only time a citizens nationalism or unionism comes into play will people in NI be ready to engage in normal orthodox politics.
    It’s only at that stage that the old tribal politics and the nationalist and unionist parties would be replaced with cross community parties with cross community electoral bases. Politicians would leave the constitutional question in the hands of the people where it belongs and instead concentrate on the things that political parties are supposed to concentrate on i.e. policies and running the place as effectively as they can.
    Still, can’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • kensei


    The Principle of Consent dovetails with my proposal, kensei, and Iโ€™ve yet to hear any politician, nationalist, unionist or other endorse it.

    Everyone is signed up to 50%+1.

    This proposal puts an eminent UI into the long grass so I can see why nationalists would oppose it.

    It was the UUP and Trimble that insisted that the Republic should have no say on the internal running on Northern Ireland and that they should be “hermetically sealed”. In the long run, a normal United Ireland would be less likely because of it, but I suspect if equal status was given to symbols and arrangements worked out where the Republic had an equal say a lot wouldn’t care.

    Unionism is much more likely to have a problem with it, and I can’t see them ever voting for it. They’ve killed off other proposals for much less.

  • Greenflag

    And now for an example of a really important issue which has cost the taxpayer more than a penny here’s one way the ‘newbies’ squander other people’s money ๐Ÿ™

    ‘The Belfast Telegraph reports on a conundrum which has been racking the brains of the civil service at Stormont – should deputy first minister have a capital d or not?

    It reports that over the last few years, this debate has involved 44 officials, including the head of the Civil Service, the two first ministers, their two junior ministers (in fact there’s a debate about whether they should have a capital j), plus eight special advisors and the speaker of assembly.

    On top of that, a request by the Telegraph for information yielded 50 pages of memos.

    And the result? The paper gives examples of both versions being used. And you’ll find both on the official website.


    Racking the brains ?

    What brains ? What result ?

  • “Everyone is signed up to 50%+1.”

    Are they? How foolish can they get? Have they no appreciation of our history?

    Unionists and nationalists would both oppose my proposals but for different reasons.

  • To D or not to d – Willie Shakespeare

  • Greenflag, there’s been a demand for bullet points to be decommissioned ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Greenflag

    nevin , (should that be a large N or a small one ? )

    The only comparable idiocy that comes to mind is many years ago sitting in a hostelry in Connamara -Spiddal IIRC and seeing two locals come to blows over whether the tiny summer insects were called midges or midgets . Both were native Irish speakers so their unfamilarity with the english may have been at the root of their problem . Anyway the chap who favoured ‘midgets’ won by a ko . A right fist to the chin of the midge man won the argument ๐Ÿ™‚

    Although I knew he was in the literal wrong I decided there are times when less said is soonest mended .

  • “should that be a large N or a small one ?”

    Both, Greenflag – a big one to start and a little one to finish. cf Greenflag!!

  • Danny O’Connor

    In my view,50% +1 is a majority,but is it a workable majority?.Instead of conflict resolution we would have conflict substitution.History shows that Stormont rule could not be sustained with a bigger majority.What wold happen if Unionist people decided not to co-operate in the institutions?I believe that the same safeguards that Nationalists have in the north must be guaranteed for Unionists in an all Ireland state.Could it really be described as united if 20% of the population of the country are against,we need to try and be persuaders for unity,but first there are a lot of hurts to be healed.We could argue about the past forever and it won’t change a thing.We must work from where we are now if we truly seek a unity of the people ,it is they who are sovereign,not the island that they live on.

  • Jo

    I believe the d or D issue was discussed but briefly and the names named were in fact on a cc list. Still, if you want pedantry, don’t join the NICS, come to Slugger. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Danny, would you care to express an opinion on my proposal: post #2?

    Your point about conflict substitution is one I made re.Hume’s 3 strand analysis back in the early 1990s. Hume ignored the Unionist aspiration much as Unionists had ignored the Nationalist one; Unionists were merely a minority tradition on the island of Ireland.

  • Jo, the pedantry began at Comical Marty’s desk. Should we all turn up together in his office, point the finger at him – and laugh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Meanwhile, the David vs Goliath tussle continues, this time amongst the bushes of Tyrone:

    JA – Peter Robinson and pint-sized political thinking

    Any chance of a Turgon vs fair_deal yard of ale drinking competition? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Greenflag

    ‘Both, Greenflag – a big one to start and a little one to finish. cf Greenflag!! ‘

    I give up ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Greenflag

    ‘In my view,50% +1 is a majority,but is it a workable majority?.’

    Not in Northern Ireland . In the Republic and in the UK (Westminster) it is . This is because the vast majority of the population in both the latter States support the fundamental constitutions of both states regardless of their political party difference . In Northern Ireland you don’t have that majority consensus . What you have is two parties forced into coalition with one party dedicated to maintaining the Union and the other to it’s ending .

    ‘ What would happen if Unionist people decided not to co-operate in the institutions?’

    Eventual repartition and/or war or both ending with a smaller more Unionist or totally Unionist NI depending whether or not repartition arose through peaceful negotiation or after a bloody war .

    ‘I believe that the same safeguards that Nationalists have in the north must be guaranteed for Unionists in an all Ireland state.’

    An all Ireland State will not be governed on the basis of the D’Hondt compulsory power sharing system . Neither would such a system be appropriate in the UK .

    ‘Could it really be described as united if 20% of the population of the country are against’

    No. Which is why the 50% plus one will not work.

    ‘we need to try and be persuaders for unity’

    Most of us (ROI ) would rather watch grass grow

    ‘but first there are a lot of hurts to be healed’

    Some hurts will never be healed . People take them with them to the grave.

    ‘We could argue about the past forever and it wonโ€™t change a thing.’

    True but isn’t it fun :(?

    ‘We must work from where we are now’


    ‘ if we truly seek a unity of the people ‘

    Many years ago I had an supervisor who when asked how a new trainee was getting on would say to me ‘

    Well he likes the idea of the job but he’s not that keen on the work:)

    And I think that goes for those seeking the ‘unity’ of the people IMO.

    If it happens well and good -if it doesn’t well and good !

  • joeCanuck

    Peter Robinson suggested this week that after the next assembly is elected, we start thinking about how to return to a more “normal” system of government. That seems a reasonable time frame.

  • Henry94

    I think the largest designated unionist and nationalist parties should form the government in proportions based on the votes received for their respective blocks. Thus you could have changes of government and an opposition.

    The problem of the non-designated remains. I think they should be entitled to a seat in the executive if they reach an agreed number of seat and agreement on a candidate.

    For example if the threshold was ten seats and the Alliance and Greens got five each they would have to do a deal.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Greenflag,which is why is stated that conflict resolution would become conflict substitution. Could this be why there has been no decommissioning by the major loyalist organisations? I personally don’t know, but I suspect it is part of the reason,we all know what the other part is.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Nevin I can see merit in a situation such as you describe but we would need to develop a greater political maturity first.I believe that being Irish does not make me anti British nor should it make a British person anti Irish – but as a society we are not there yet.There are people who believe in some sort of Gaelic purity or British imperialism who would not want to take one if the other came as part of the same package.
    There would still be those without enough self-confidence in their own choice of identity that they would feel threatened by another.
    A system such as yours could be a vehicle for trust buiding that could open a number of future possibilities,including;- unity ,independence,some kind of federalism or a number of other options which may be possible -if the will/trust was there.

  • Jo

    I’m confused enough without being confused about who represents the place. As far as I (and I suspect, many others) are concerned, they both are ambassadors for this *wee place*.

    Sooner either of them – rather than Jim Allister or David Vance. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Danny, I was a student at QUB in the early 60s and it’s my impression that as a society we’re moving backwards. Corrymeela was a response to the thaw in relations at that time. I don’t see anything similar being created now. Where are the role models that would bring something similar about?

    Take a look at Bebo, especially those sites dedicated to loyalist and republican marching bands. I raised the matter with Bebo – and they removed the telephone number!! I asked Mark Durkan’s office to draw these and related issues to the attention of NICCY. I’ll put the two letters online for you to respond to.

  • nineteensixtyseven


    SDLP Youth have raised that issue also; it is something perhaps that all the parties could get involved in because such hate sites on Bebo blatantly contradict the site’s own policy and are not conducive to a pleasant online experience for the vast majority of users.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Peter Robinson suggested this week that after the next assembly is elected, we start thinking about how to return to a more โ€œnormalโ€ system of government.’

    LOL ๐Ÿ™‚ Hardly a year in Government and not even in the FM seat and Robinson already realises that longer term this type of power sharing is not going to work well ,or can only work to the detriment of the people and economy of Northern Ireland . However now that SF have a firm grasp on ministerial representation it seems a long shot that they would ever consider anything else other than what they now have .Why would they when it would not be in their interest? The former Unionist veto has been replaced by an effective SF veto.

    ‘That seems a reasonable time frame.’

    Reasonable for who ? By then the bould Peter should be nearing 70 and will probably have had more than his bellyful of the political contortions and manuevers he’ll have had to perform in order to keep the SS Power Sharing Assembly from hitting the rocks !

    Realistically I can only see ‘normal’ politics emerging for the Unionist community in a smaller repartitioned Unionist State . And ditto for Northern nationalists if they are repartitioned into a larger Republic . No matter which way they have tried to skin the NI constitutional cat each time the cat grows a replica skin.

    Ultimately the fundamentals will apply and that is that NI as it’s presently constituted can never be a ‘normal democracy’ as that term is understtod in the rest of the UK or the Republic or elsewhere in western europe. So I would if I were an NI resident /citizen/subject/voter accept the mediocrity of the present band aid solution . It may prove an improvement to DR in time. But don’t expect any miracles.

  • nineteensixtyseven, if you do a search with ‘bebo band’ and ‘loyalist uda’ you get this and ‘republican ira’ this.

    As Sarah Gavin, Bebo’s communication director, says it just gets better and better – and Sarah has seen some of our finest paramilitary marching band sites!!

    Rachel O’Connell was appointed Bebo’s safety director in 2006 but it would appear that a lot of our nasty stuff is slipping through the net.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    Nevin, I agree, it’s ridiculous! If you report them then they do delete them but there are too many to sift through and report individually. I press-released on it once too and the links I attached to the press-release were deleted within a few days. There should be more stringent approval mechanisms because these are proscribed organisations that are being promoted.

  • nineteensixtyseven, here’s a link to the SDLP and NICCY correspondence. Click on the images to enlarge the text.

    Perhaps David Gordon and the Nolan Show will take note …