Tories: an end to designation…

Owen Patterson, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has an interesting piece (more at ConHome) out for the ten year commemoration of the signing of the Belfast Agreement, in which he recommends downsizing the administration, and the ending of designation as Unionist or Nationalist.

  • percy

    aye Mick Tories know best, easy when you’re sipping a Gin and Tonic languishing in a St.James Park, London, Conservative Club, surrounded by union jacks.
    That story in the Irish News was a better offering.

  • Mick Fealty

    Cleaned the man and left the ball standing perfectly still!

  • elvis parker

    Mmmm Percy should get out more. Tories likely to be the Govt in a couple of years (ie before next Assembly elections) – if you believe the opnion polls

  • BonarLaw

    Percy

    you have again lived down to my expectations.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Elvis. My only qualifier is that they won’t want to intervene on devolved matters any more than Brown wants to intervene on the issue of devolution of policing and justice. Any pressure they apply on this matter will need to come primarily from a ‘ground up’ project of their own here.

  • percy

    My English Professor scratched out “interesting” in one of my essays
    and wrote “useless epithet”

  • Steve

    Maybe Elvis but right now they delight in shouting stupid slogans from the sidelines. lets see if this becomes official party policy when or if they become the government

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Percy,

    Have you anything useful to say on the subject or are you just going to trade insults all afternoon. If the latter, your know where the door is.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Suppose he has to say something from time to time. Often wondered if there is a nationalist lobby in the Tories (Tories for a United Ireland ? – can’t think of any good acronynms) No time time for the feckless feckers myself – but public school boys or no, they would still sell their grannys, mothers and water companies to get elected.

  • percy

    Yes Mick,
    I don’t think the Tories have any business whatsover in commenting on,
    or interfering with Irish affairs.
    For a number of reasons: mainly historical.
    That’s it really.

  • Mick Fealty

    Better out than in, I suppose. What reasons exactly? Patterson is in NI every week on official opposition business. talking to all of the parties. Considering everyone gets a spake (whether they have a clue what they are talking about or no) on Slugger, I’d like to hear why you think you can and he can’t?

  • percy

    well it’d be great if he was on here debating, then he could be challenged by Sluggerites.
    On substance I just find him utterly condescending.
    Of course every countries gov’t should be like Britian’s wonderful parliamentary democracy he argues.
    This from a party that has operated a divide and rule policy from the inception of the NI statelet; no wonder we have the segregation we have.

    Did the tories ever attempt to befriend the Republic? No.
    They sent in the para to gun down marchers.
    Have they told the truth about collusion? No

    Yes that’s all past, a new future and so on.

    What’s needed now is not transformation of the institutions, but local politicians getting to grips with the complexities of the past, ie victims commission, and grappling with the challenges of policing and justice.

    Maybe years down the line a more “normal” system could be proferred, but there’s an enormous amount of work to be done in the here and now before that’s even worth contemplating.

  • Bob Wilson

    Steve:
    ‘right now they delight in shouting stupid slogans from the sidelines’
    You really dont understand political parties if you think a Shadow Secretary of State in the Opposition that is ahead in the opnion polls will open his mouth without either thinking things through or having agreement from the leadership.
    Mick:
    ‘they won’t want to intervene on devolved matters’
    I think you are mistaken there. The Conservative Party is committed to developing normal politics here in NI so while it would be nice to have the agreement of the local parties we are not Bound by them. If there was a reluctance there would be no comment.
    Some may dismiss our chances of overcoming the Irish Nationalist and Ulster Parochials but someone has to have a vision that is greater than entrenching sectarianism

  • BonarLaw

    Given that removal of designation would require ammendment to the excepted (ie only within Westminster competence) parts of the Northern Ireland Act it is perfectly reasonable that the man who may be SoS makes these helpful comments.

  • Bob – until you stop insulting those who consider themselves unionists you will not be overcoming anything. Designation is here to stay, simply because power-sharing becomes meaningless without it. That is not ideal – but that is a fact and the Tories will not change it any time soon.

  • eranu

    the sooner an end is put to the designation thing the better. its stupid to have a constitutional issue colour the day to day functioning of government. you can see that the idea behind it was to keep people from worrying that themmuns would force usuns into something against our will etc. etc. but it just reinforces the backward tribal thinking.
    we’re 10 years down the line, its time for people to get over themselves and get with the program.

    a majority vote is pretty much the way every democracy works isnt it? isnt it time to talk about implementing that? maybe 66% to carry a vote?

    if the idea of the set up at stormont is to have parties working together, then splitting up before even starting to do any work is a backward step isnt it?

  • George

    Why would the Tories bother?

    If they win the election and NI is still breathing on it’s 85-year life support better to spend the time and energy dressing other wounds first.

    And if unionist parties don’t return a decent enough majority in the European elections, they might not be so eager for this in 2 years’ time.

    Either way if it does happen we’ll get the:

    after consultations between the two governments, it was felt that the removal of designation would speed up the …

  • percy

    BonarLaw/Trimble
    How about the unionists get themselves down to the Dail,
    and play a full part in a fully functioning democracy.
    Helpful?

  • Bob Wilson

    Chekov I am not insulting unionists – no unionist would want to maintain six county unionist parties nor to maintain designation. You are free to ‘consider’ yourself unionist if you wish however.

    I love how your ‘fact’ about what the Conservatives will or will not do is in direct contravention of what the man who could will be SoS in 2 years is suggesting!

    I will leave the last word to my fellow Conservative, Lord Trimble:

    “there are those other issues which will not be devolved. Defence, foreign policy, taxation, public expenditure, the broad thrust of public and social policy are all the purview of Westminster, where all but two Northern Ireland MPs are double hatted as Assembly Members and many triple hatted as Ministers as well.

    It may be interesting to see for how long the electors are content with largely absent representation – indeed to see for how much longer they remain content with a party structure that reflects an age which may now be ending.”

  • eranu

    chekov, “simply because power-sharing becomes meaningless without it”

    i see what you’re saying here i think. do you mean that sharing power between 2 unionist and nationalist blocks is power sharing? and if the system is changed to a majority vote then power sharing between the 2 blocks no longer exists? Id always considered power sharing to mean that parties with a large enough vote would get a ministry or 2, ie a share of the power. That would be ok for the day to day stuff. The unionist / nationalist thing was there to stop the dodgy stuff, you know the sort of thing.
    i think it’ll probably give people the brown trousers, but eventually that 2 block idea of ‘power sharing’ will have to go. society is split into these 2 blocks by religon and that constitutional thing. thats an abnormal situation. normality will have to return were the society is not segregated. there would be 1 northern irish society with different opinions on lots of issues including the constitutional thing. theres no other long term way to run things, unless of course people want to stay in the dark ages.
    you cant create one society by continuing to split it at the top end, ie stormont.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘How about the unionists get themselves down to the Dail’

    because they are afraid they would burst into flames upon crossing the threshold, or just an innate fear of being a minority, which they graciously forget they have britain to thank for.

    As regards the ending of designations, just because the lines between Labour (new men…old boys) and the Tories(policy du jour) are increasingly blurred, does not mean that politics here is becoming the same.

  • BonarLaw

    Percy

    sooo not Trimble!

    Chekov

    “Designation is here to stay, simply because power-sharing becomes meaningless without it. ”

    Not so. Weighted majorities could be employed to endorse an Executive and to deal with Petitions of Concern to ensure power-sharing without the institutionalised tribalism of designation.

  • “Chekov I am not insulting unionists – no unionist would want to maintain six county unionist parties nor to maintain designation.”

    I do not want to maintain designation, I simply believe it is inevitable that designation will be maintained in the forseeable future. The vast majority of unionists vote for Northern Irish unionist parties. And there is an argument to be made that unionists need to accept the constitutional issue is settled and move on, but not in the offensive fashion we see it propounded on the Conservative NI blog.

    http://conservativesni.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/orange-mcnarry/#comments

    “I love how your ‘fact’ about what the Conservatives will or will not do is in direct contravention of what the man who could will be SoS in 2 years is suggesting!”

    He explicitly states that the evolution of the institutions is ‘primarily for Northern Ireland’s politicians to determine’. Good luck in persuading the bulk of nationalists to abandon designation. It is not going to happen, whether Patterson is SoS in two years or not.

  • Bob Wilson

    Chekov you seem to think we should in some way ‘be friendly’ with unionist parties – they are our rivals just as much as the Labour – and you will see much more ‘offensive’ things about Labour on Conservativehome or Guido Fawkes.
    The parochialism of what passes for unionism in NI is the biggest obstacle to binding NI into mainstream UK politics

    Owen is nothing if not diplomatic and polite

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Surely designation is a matter for the assembly?

    Would the ending of designation require amendment of the NI Act 1998? Or could the assembly just take the decision and then get on with it?

    Either way, clearly the Secretary of State should defer to the assembly on this?

  • percy

    that’s funny republicanstones.

    The other few points perhaps worth mentioning are:
    Due to NI have 2 unionist parties ( oops now 3 ) and Nationalists being split into SF and the SDLP; we have a unique system here whereby the DUP have to watch their backs, as do SF or they’ll be replaced by UUP/TUV and SDLP /FF ?

    That in itself is a form of opposition, with gov’t; and its very healthy too.

    You only have to follow politics here a little to know there’s just as much venom between SF and the SDLP as there is between the DUP and UUP, than the 2 major designations.
    This keeps politics alive and on its toes.

    A shared future means whoever is in power have to get on with it, or they’ll be for the chop.

    Its ideal as both sides learn to share and overcome division.

    Even Peter Robinson said other type-designations of say the usual Left/Right split won’t happen in this Assembly, or even the next, but possibly the one after.

    We are where we are, and its a perfect reflection of what we are.
    Its working.

  • Tim

    You can take the designation away but will it change the issue?
    The Conservatives don’t want to be called Tories anymore either….from Wikipedia “The word comes from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe, modern Irish tóraí — outlaw, robber, from the Irish word tóir, meaning ‘pursuit’, since outlaws were “pursued men””

    Who is pursuing who?

  • Philip McNeill

    As a long term solution to Northern Ireland’s governance I would partially agree with Owen. Having this form of power-sharing is not ideal in itself but it demonstrates several things:

    It shows to the world that Sinn Fein and the DUP were working together all along.

    How they are stage managing events and ignoring that sectarianism is on the rise (see recent BBC programmes etc) whereas before they would be shouting from the roof tops. At least when Lord Trimble was prepared to martyr the UUP for the GFA he halted power-sharing for lack of transparency in what Sinn Fein said and what the IRA did. What does the DUP do – no photo necessary Doc. Let us not forget that the SDLP was DFM before – now it’s a man who Paisley and the DUP in general fought for over 40 years to defeat right up to his, ‘smash Sinn Fein’ comments of several years ago.

    Let us be under no illusion frustrations are building in the communities again but at last ALL MLAs will feel their wrath.

  • “ Chekov you seem to think we should in some way ‘be friendly’ with unionist parties – they are our rivals just as much as the Labour – and you will see much more ‘offensive’ things about Labour on Conservativehome or Guido Fawkes.”

    I do not think you need to be friendly with unionist parties. I do think that you need to acknowledge that if you actually have any potential voters they probably currently think of themselves as unionists and they are unlikely to be persuaded to change their vote because you accuse them of being parochial. I would also contend that broad brush attacks on the Orange Order etc do little to win friends and influence people.

    “The parochialism of what passes for unionism in NI is the biggest obstacle to binding NI into mainstream UK politics”

    The large Irish nationalist population in NI is the biggest obstacle to binding NI into mainstream UK politics I am afraid to say. I am all for NI unionists involving themselves fully in UK wide arguments and promoting an overarching UK unionism, but the possibility of proper integration is not coming any closer.

    “Owen is nothing if not diplomatic and polite”

    The rude and abrasive posters on the NI Conservative’s blog need to follow his example. A little bit of self-criticism is not a bad thing, but consider whether the articles full of hatred for Northern Ireland are really persuasive and thoughtful (given that this website is a portal to represent your party here).

  • percy

    chekov
    Its much simpler
    Prods in the Dail, the TD’s can cobble together a whip round for an orange carpet; and we turn Stormont into a giant bouncy castle, with trampolines to go boing.. boing.. boing and have a happy fun time.
    have a good weekend

  • slug

    I’m a unionist I like powersharing but I don’t like designation.

    Unlike (e.g.) Chekov I am glad that the St A Agreement set the rules so the largest PARTY supplied the FM rather than the largest designation; it is more “normal” that the FM be supplied by the largest party. Why should tribalism determine the FM? This St A change was a step away from designation.

    Regarding the point that powersharing needs designation. No. The way we allocate ministers does not require designation; its something for the assembly votes only and this could be replaced by requirement for (say) a 60% or 65% majority, which would allow more interesting party coalitions to emerge.

    However it really is a debate for 4 years time after we have had one fully functioning Assembly and I agree with Billy that it should arise out of the Assembly.

  • slug

    PS at about the same time we consider ditching designation we need to consider an official, funded, opposition position that parties would be able to take up if they are not (choose not to be) in the exec.

  • PaddyReilly

    Designation will not be necessary after the next Assembly election, because Unionists/Loyalists will no longer have a majority, and the balance of power will be held by “Others”. I don’t see why it cannot be removed without too much fuss. Weighted majorities, on the other hand, could be a real pain.

  • Cahal

    A return to majority rule?

    Unionists should be careful what they wish for, considering they hold just 50% of the seats in the stormont village council. A number which will surely keep dropping.

  • Danny O’Connor

    It would be nice to think that as politicians we could compete for peoples votes on what we can do for them,we as a society are not there yet.
    Politicians in the main target their historic vote without trying anything too radical that may be used against them by those with whom they compete for votes.There is a bitter battle within nationalism for the nationalist vote that is probably more damaging than anything unionism canmuster.Unionism appears to be in the same fix,TUV +UUP (my enemy’s enemy is my friend) against the DUP.This point scoring will not bring long term stability, as long as politicians are too pre-occupied watching their backs opportunities will be missed to take us forward together into the better future we all want.

  • joeCanuck

    Not so. Weighted majorities could be employed to endorse an Executive and to deal with Petitions of Concern to ensure power-sharing without the institutionalised tribalism of designation.

    Help me here, Bonar. How would the weighting be applied? Would you not need something like designation or do you think it would be done on a Party label?
    I don’t like it either because, as you say, it institutionalises tribalism.

  • Recif

    i think it’ll probably give people the brown trousers, but eventually that 2 block idea of ‘power sharing’ will have to go. society is split into these 2 blocks by religon and that constitutional thing. thats an abnormal situation. normality will have to return were the society is not segregated.

    Why? Why can’t we recognise this place as an abnormal society that requires a consociational arrangement just like Belgium and Switzerland do? Is that not the reality of the situation?

  • Brian Boru

    Any attempt by Westminster to impose an end to designation would be unacceptable. It simply reflects the tribal nature of NI politics – it did not create it. It is there to protect each side from treating the other unfairly.