“Damaging fudge” legislation delayed

Not much information on this yet but, having granted accelerated passage for the legislation to retrospectively allow the appointment of FOUR Victims Commissioners, UTV reports that the Assembly was suspended today when the Executive held back the legislation on the setting up of a Victims Commission – which was scheduled to be debated. From the brief UTV report

The new laws were being fast-tracked, but junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson told the Assembly members a debate would not take place as scheduled.

Adds More from the BBC report

No reason was given but it is understood Sinn Fein are unhappy with a series of proposed amendments which would allow for the appointment of a Chief Commissioner. A Sinn Fein source said agreement had already been reached between the parties that the four commissioners would decide on a way forward through consensus. Mr Donaldson said the bill would be discussed at the business committee.

Although it’s worth noting that, rather than a Chief Commissioner, on TalkBack the Alliance Party’s David Ford only referred to an amendment introducing weighted majority voting into the Commission’s decision making process. Update Sinn Féin’s Francie Molloy has issued a statement

“Sinn Féin reached an agreement with the DUP before Christmas on the way to proceed on the issue of a Victims Commission. “It meant four Commissioners of equal status – reaching decisions through consensus. “That was the agreement – that was what Ian Paisley publicly committed his party to doing. That is what the legislation needs to deliver. Amendments which subvert that agreement are not acceptable.”

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  • Alliance put down some amendments to improve (as we saw it) the working of the Commission, frankly, with little hope of them being accepted. Which caused the Executive to fall to bits. Doesn’t take much, does it?

    Oh, and none of it was targeted at Patricia McBride. We’ve been on record all along that any of the Commissioners could do the job individually, including Patricia. Sinn Féin are the people trying to politicise Patricia’s role, not us.

  • Muad’Dib

    So is this how it’s going to be, once Sinn Fein doing get their way they throw a tantrum?

    This isn’t the Stormont that we voted for, a Government where two of the four executive parties do deals behind the scenes? Where parties not in the executive are required to just sit on their hands nodding and agreeing that all is peachy. If Stormont is this fragile it deserves to fall.

  • joeCanuck

    This isn’t the Stormont that we voted for..

    Sorry, Maud’Dib, it is exactly what we (you) voted for. And it is very fragile indeed.

  • This episode will leave a sour taste in most people’s mouths.

    It seems that the two parties who are responsible for the Troubles and therefore all victims have engineered a situation in which they can “consensually” agree to minimise the impact of the victims’ commissioners.

    Specifically Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, the two beasts of the Book of Revelation (click on my name below for more), are now controlling the outcome of the commissioners deliberations.

    It could only happen in a corrupt political system.

  • Muad’Dib

    [i]Sorry, Maud’Dib, it is exactly what we (you) voted for. And it is very fragile indeed.

    Posted by joeCanuck on Apr 08, 2008 @ 02:35 PM[/i]

    I most certainly did not vote for a two party executive, which is what Sinn Fein, and to a lesser degree the DUP, seem to want. I’m quite sure no one else did. Ask yourself why a person votes for a certain party what ever that party may be. Was it to see them ignored, bullied and threatened in the Assembly Chamber, or worse to see them acting as the bullys and threateners. On Slugger O’Toole we may diasgree with many things but we all are democrats and for Sinn Fein to have a bill pulled and put on hold because it didn’t go their way is shamefully undemocratic.

    As I see it this was a total screw up from the OFMDFM and the Alliance and SDLP amendmendments where designed to fix what was sloppy legislation. Sinn Fein with their actions have politicised what shouldn’t have been made political and it’s blatant that what they wanted was a Sinn Fein controled veto in the commission.

  • Steve

    Muad’Dib
    I most certainly did not vote for a two party executive, which is what Sinn Fein, and to a lesser degree the DUP, seem to want.

    Youre right about that! Its perfectly obvious that the DUP want a one party executive and their noses are increasingly out of joint because of their inability to bully the others into it

  • If the Sinn Féin position on this was remotely defensible, even on the stupidest grounds, this thread would be swarming with Sinn Féin posters rushing to attack us and defend SF. The sound of the crickets chirping is deafening, however. It’s time Sinn Féin left the persecution complex and inflexibility behind and started learning how to cut deals that delivered for everyone in the way that, say, their group on Belfast City Council does. If you’re going to fight a battle a day, try and make sure the fights are on things that people care about and think you’re right on.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Alliance don’t think people care about the Victims Commission then Sammy?

    This was always going to happen. But I suppose from Paisley’s perspective, it’s Peter’s problem now.

  • BonarLaw

    Maud’Dib & Steve

    if you had listened more carefully back in ’98 neither of you would have voted for any of it. As things stand you have a sectarian assembly carved up into partisan fiefdoms- exactly what was in the Belfast Agreement. You can’t say nobody warned you…

  • Dewi

    What’s the problem with politicising things? It’s a parliament making political decisions – and different parties have different political views – myself thought the 4 commisioner solution quite elegant – never quite could work out what the fuss was about.

  • spiritof07

    Anyone know if the Commissioners are being paid yet?

  • hold on a minute

    Sinn Fein throwing a tantrum? I think everyone’s jumping to (incorrect) conclusions here. Wouldn’t you think it’s more likely that DUP realised at the last minute that as they were putting down ammendments to the Bill, (a Bill that their own great leader, the First Minister espoused [who just happens to be out of the country btw… cat’s away, and all that…]) then Jeffrey would look like a total spare part this morning by continuing with the consideration stage of the Bill, given that he was presenting and advocating it as it stood, on behalf of the Executive. For anyone whose a bit slow on the uptake this in turn means he would have had to vote against his own party’s ammendments. Doubt Jeff would have been too keen on that, him only in Office and voting against his own party already! So, they clearly came to the conclusion then that they had better withdraw and think about it a bit more which in turn means having to go and do some serious bartering quick smart with Sinn Fein. And, of course, they can’t drag it out given that they (FM & dFM) grovelled to the Assembly to be given accelerated passage only last week. They’ve inadvertantely given Sinn Fein the upper hand on this one. A total dup feck up I say….

  • Steve

    As things stand you have a sectarian assembly carved up into partisan fiefdoms- exactly what was in the Belfast Agreement. You can’t say nobody warned you…

    Posted by BonarLaw on Apr 08, 2008 @ 06:37 PM

    So Bonar law that makes this Storomont just like the old Storomont except this time both sides of the peace wall get a say? Sounds twisted an unworkable but really give us an alternative Bonar? Anything remotely sensible will do

    Sammy Morse why wouldnt SF object if it doesnt meet their needs? Its called being a political party. and they do always have their magic veto

  • BonarLaw

    Steve

    What about an assembly where members do not have to sign in with a tribal identity?

    What about an executive with collective responsibility and an agreed programme? Let that executive require support of a sufficient number of members to ensure cross-community support. Put D’Hondt out of his misery.

    What about having an opposition?

    Sensible enough?

  • hold on a minute

    Bonarlaw – first point is a great idea, we had this before, hopefully we can return to the situation where MLAs can vote on issues on their merit / individual basis, and not on the ridiculous pre-assigned ‘tribal’ alignment. This would allow for an effective opposition of sorts, on occasion.

    Second point, however, we already do have an Executive with an agreed programme (they voted for it). And we voted for them / this situation, no matter how unpalatable it is for those within the Executive (& their parties/supporters) who feel that their voices are ignored, or, for those who aren’t represented at all. But this is a democracy and the subsequent compromise that we all have to live with for now.

    Unfortunately, the reality is, we are going to be ruled by tribal politics and the occasional stalemate situation for the forseeable future….which, admittedly is very frustrating and I doubt anyone in their right mind could be a fan of, but it’s better than a return to the dark old days of death all round…or direct rule. Powersharing is a building block to a brighter future for everyone. Oh, and patience is a great virtue that we should all practice for the greater good – wouldn’t you agree?

    All the doubters need to move on….or we really will NEVER get anywhere.

  • Steve

    All nice and pie in the sky Bonar but they tried that the last time and it didnt work out so well for the nationalists

    and correct me if I am wrong but don’t unionists still maintain a slight advantage?

    The reason there is D’Hondt is because the unionist community has proven that it is incapable of ruling in a fair and just manner

    so your sugestion sensible? Not by a long shot

  • IJP

    Alliance had both an amendment to have a Chief Commissioner and an amendment for 2/3 majority voting. Among others.

    Sammy

    Sinn Féin is an establishment party now. Time they recognized it, eh?

    Michael

    I’m not sure people do care, actually, no. Certainly no one has ever raised it with me (victims issues yes, commissions no).

    The Alliance Party does care, though. But it has to be a body which actually functions. The chances of the current FM and DFM coming up with proposals for something which actually functions, given their own record, appear somewhat limited…

  • David Ford

    We seem to be in a peculiar situation when two parties table amendments to a ‘Government’ Bill and the ‘Government’ practically falls apart. In 24 hours. Without even having a debate.

    Some people don’t seem to accept that MLAs have any role apart from rubber-stamping the will of OFMDFM. Alliance will continue to operate on the basis that we have a duty to scrutinise legislation, to give our opinion on it, and to propose amendments to make it better.

    Had there been a debate today, I am certain that at least some of the Alliance and SDLP amendments would have been passed. The United Community group has 9 votes and the strength of our argument. On this occasion, we would have persuaded enough MLAs from elsewhere to pass our amendments. If a party of 28 MLAs can persuade others to support them, they win.

    I call that democracy. Others appear to regard it as an attack on the very ‘constitution’.

    This Executive may have an ‘agreed’ Programme, but on a fundamental issue – how victims are treated – we see how shallow that agreement is.

  • Dewi

    “Alliance will continue to operate on the basis that we have a duty to scrutinise legislation, to give our opinion on it, and to propose amendments to make it better.”

    Hmmm – I know it’s a terribly depressing thought but without a policy on the Union it’s difficult. Good Luck.

  • As things stand you have a sectarian assembly carved up into partisan fiefdoms- exactly what was in the Belfast Agreement. You can’t say nobody warned you…

    The package was on the table as a package and couldn’t be cherry picked. That’s the nature of compromise for you. The Agreement was considerably better than what was on offer before but also falls well short of what could and should be done. That’s life. I have to say I wasn’t Quite Convinced by those claiming that their opposition was based on opposition to sectarianism; they had a Quaintly Calvanistic approach to Nationalism which made me think they were a cabal of bigots and Querrulous Careerists.

    Alliance don’t think people care about the Victims Commission then Sammy?

    I don’t see people protesting on the streets calling for four Victims Commissioners, no.

    Sinn Fein throwing a tantrum? I think everyone’s jumping to (incorrect) conclusions here. Wouldn’t you think it’s more likely that DUP realised at the last minute that as they were putting down ammendments to the Bill…

    Did you see Francie Molloy’s interview after the whole thing fell to bits yesterday? Sorry, but you’re wrong.

    Sammy Morse why wouldnt SF object if it doesnt meet their needs? Its called being a political party. and they do always have their magic veto

    In what way does what we propose not meet the needs of SF and their voters? It struck me they were paranoid that we were out to get Patricia McBride and annoyed that anyone from outside their own camp had some worthwhile ideas. Besides, the DUP has a magic veto too. And just because you have a veto, doesn’t mean it’s not a bad idea to make tits of yourselves.

  • steve48

    I don’t think SF are in any difficulty on this, the DUP are simply putting across the point that whatever was agreed with the Paisley clan doesn’t carry through to the new leadership.

    The losers in this are the victims who are being messed around and of course the democratic process which was shortchanged in order to facilitate the whole shambles.

  • BonarLaw

    Sammy Morse

    How Quite Contrived.

    And wrong.

  • BonarLaw

    Sammy Morse

    Quite Contrived.

    And wrong.

  • Marky Marky

    About time SF started to stand up for themselves at Stormont. We saw after the Mairead Farrell event planned for the Long Gallery how the other parties would be quick to change the rules in order to exclude the interests of republicans and the republican dead. On this SF should hold their ground to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

  • hold on a minute

    Sammy: Did you see Francie Molloy’s interview after the whole thing fell to bits yesterday? Sorry, but you’re wrong.

    Yes, I did see it. But is you who is wrong, even, naive. As I said, DUP have inadvertantley given SF the upper hand here….even though this situation is essentially the result of a DUP balls up, do you think SF wouldn’t take advantage of it and make political capital by reminding people that they do have muscle up there.

    And of course, dup are hardly likely to make much noise to the contrary given that the reason they chose to do what they did is because if they had gone ahead they knew that Jeff’s unaviodable actions (i.e. not voting with his back benchers on dup amendments) could be interpreted as treacherous! Which of course, would not be a great start to his new ministerial career.