“I’m hoping the Minister’s answer will help me understand the question…”


Anyone who knows Francie Brolly, also knows he is his own man. Was he gently poking fun at the party machine which had provided him with a near unintelligible question to ask his own party’s Minster of Agriculture? Some of his colleagues at the front clearly got the joke (including the Minister herself), the back bench boys (including Francie Molloy, just out of shot) remained fairly stoney-faced throughout. Which raises another question: are our MLAs being allowed by their parties to be independent legislators? It’s a question of particular concern regarding Sinn Fein MLAs, who alone are paid ‘an industrial wage’ by their party rather than the state. As a footnote, I’ve played the clip several times, and I’m still none the wiser. I hope Francie fared better!

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  • Chris Donnelly

    Mick
    The issue of Sinn Fein’s MLAs being paid a wage is entirely unrelated to this matter, and it’s really a stretch to suggest that Sinn Fein in particular are not allowing their MLAs to be ‘independent legislators.’

    Anyone listening to the goings-on in either Leinster House or, more blatantly, the House of Commons during Ministerial Question Time will see a similar pattern- delivered by individuals considerably more practised in the ‘game’, however- and I mean that as a compliment to Francie.
    I’ve watched Stormont Live enough to see DUPers/ UUPers and even the SDLP resort to this practice when their Minister is at the plate.

  • Mark McGregor

    I’d like to see a YouGov type report on how often MLA’s have voted against their party line. Even though dissent is limited in other places I feel pretty sure you’d see 100% adherence to party line on every issue at Stormont. Which does beg the question why pay for 108 of them when you could just have a party representative with a weighted vote delivering exactly the same parroting of agreed party position.

    I’d be delighted to be corrected and be directed to the dissenting votes against a party position.

    What Francie’s very humorous delivery does demonstrate is; while it may be normal practice no one seems to have gone to the trouble of explaining to him the question he was given to ask and clearly involved detailed research for the prepared answer.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>are our MLAs being allowed by their parties to be independent legislators?<< Except over agreed issues like abortion and other matters regarding conscience, I know of no party that allows their members to vote independently, or act arbitrarily without consulting their party. Bendy Wendy Alexander apart that is.

  • URQUHART

    Fair enough point Chris, but can you think of another example, in any of the chambers you list, where the legislators are so clearly unaware of the meaning of their questions or answers?

    And find it so amusing?

  • Bob Wilson

    Question time is based on the cut and thrust of debate – the unforeseen supplementary and the unintended remark. In Stormont everyone is in Govt and cannot be removed, Question Time is completely rigged and a waste of time

  • cjx

    The sytz them civil services in Stormont dream up is weird!
    Could have answered that in 10 words
    Would someone remind them that they are just an off shore provincial subordinate administrative support service for a wee small provincial offshoot of a third rate post colonial power that has lost its way in the world an not get ahead of themselves; versus their neighbouring state primarily to the south and west of them which is an independent state full member of the EU OECD etc and amongst the 10 richests states on this planet.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s a question of particular concern regarding Sinn Fein MLAs, who alone are paid ‘an industrial wage’ by their party rather than the state.

    Mick, Sinn Fein MLAs are paid by the state just like everyone else. I think the point is that they are required to donate a significant proportion of their salary into the party.

    Clearly it would be nonsense for Sinn Fein MLAs to give all their money to the party, out which the party would pay them. They’d pay income tax twice.

  • The Raven

    It was an excellent example of DARDspeak.

    By the way, Michelle, it’s not YOUR department. It’s ours. Time someone reminded you and your colleagues of this.

  • 0b101010

    Always nice to see the politicians laugh in our faces as they make a mockery of the system we entrust them with.

  • Danny O’Connor

    To avoid voting against their parties many people either stay in their room or if they are in the chamber slip out to the loo during the vote. Sometimes an issue comes up which is a constituency issue which divides members of the same party,eg hospital at Omagh or Enniskillen.Maternity services, City or Royal.I personally believe that even though you represent a party -you are paid to represent your constituents and that does not always dovetail with party policy,you must do your duty to your constituents.

  • sammy mouse

    I personally believe that even though you represent a party -you are paid to represent your constituents and that does not always dovetail with party policy,you must do your duty to your constituents.

    Just as well you were never elected to the NIA… you would have have a hell of a whipped ass by now.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I was – in 1998

  • sammy mouse

    So can you give us half a dozen examples of when you voted against the whip of the SDLP assembly group please?

    Remember the votes are all on hansard online so we can check.

  • Bob, I think goes to the heart of the matter. And I take Chris’s point that planted questions happen in other places too. But I’ve rarely seen a situation where the MPs/TDs are required by the party to ask questions they don’t understand themselves. If they don’t, what chance have we?

    I realise this may be an uphill battle, but the legislative assembly is supposed to be accountable to the public. This kind of obfuscation (whether by design or default) is cutting us out. Hell, it’s even cutting out the MLAs.

    PE,

    There are independents in the Dail, and mavericks in the Commons who clearly speak as sentient human beings in the chamber, no matter how they vote in the end. Robust exchange on the floor is good. Not that there seemed to be much scope for that in this debate.

    CS,

    You could be right of course, in which case I will happily withdraw the point. It would be useful to have some clarification on that.

  • Come on you chaps, you voted for an assembly without an opposition, now Mick wants individual MLAs to step into the breech,
    or should I say rush over the cliff like lemmings.

    Here’s an original idea, dump this democratic dictatorship and get yourself a democratic parliamentary system which you could be proud of, something similar to that which exists in the rest of the EU might be a start.

    As to the shinners and the industrial wage, long may it last, it is about the only thing the shinners do that irritates the unionist politicians these days.

    By the way, unless there is a glitch at slugger central, Francie’s speech has been censored in Turkey. Make of that what you will, inshallah?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mick,

    You could be right of course, in which case I will happily withdraw the point. It would be useful to have some clarification on that.

    Mick, here is a page describing the salaries paid to our MLAs last year. All of the Sinn Fein MLAs are listed.

    As I say, when SF say their elected reps draw an average industrial wage, I believe what they mean is that they agree (possibly sign some kind of contract) to contribute most of their salary back to the party, keeping what they consider a modest subsistence. The alternative would be for the assembly to pay the salaries directly to SF. That would be quite preposterous, aside from creating all kinds of problems with tax and bookkeeping.

  • dewi

    Joseph – can’t read link that well but think it says standard salary for MLA about €30k? – I dunno but that don’t sound a lot for a legislator.

  • Bigger Picture

    Ah yes the shinners get paid the industrial wage. As someone in the press once told me it makes for a great story if only it were true.

  • Tienan

    Mickhall – youtube is banned in Turkey because of uploaded videos slagging Attaturk one of the founding fathers of Turkey

  • Tienan

    The Industrial wage thingy doesn’t take into account the generous “allowances and expenses” – I’d say they are all coming out with at least double the industrial wage

  • Merhaba tienan,

    Sledgehammer and nut springs to mind.

  • URQUHART

    When there’s damn all industry, what’s an ‘average industrial wage’ anyway?

  • “When there’s damn all industry, what’s an ‘average industrial wage’ anyway?”

    55 pounds a week dole money

  • @Mark

    I’d also like to see something that shows how members vote – like the Public Whip for Westminster.

    Does Stormont make the basic information on members’ votes available in any kind of usable form? I couldn’t find it on their site – but then I didn’t look very hard.

  • Hogan

    I think we need to draw a distinctions between types of questions here.

    1: Sometimes ministers will hand a soft question to a party colleague to draw out information they have found difficult to get out of their own civil servants, or to put pressure on a project that they think civil servants are dragging their heels own. Maybe OK?

    2: Sometimes ministers will hand a soft question to a party colleague to allow them to detail in the response some progress/development on an issue, this is what Gildernew was doing in this instance, you may say what’s the harm? she gets to announce her initiative and the member gets his mug on the telly right? WRONG it wastes chamber time for other proper questions, the minister has a big press office to make announcements of progress (riveting as that one was i wouldn’t fancy being the Press Officer to sell that one in!)

    3: Lastly we have real questions asked to challenge ministers on their performance and that of their department, I say more of these please.

    It is worth noting that we are not the only legislature to suffer from the scurge of category 2, it really does infuriate when we see people on a Wednesday afternoon in the supposed ‘Mother of all Parliaments’ bowl an ‘underarm’ to a PM who is more than capable of standing 30mins of rough treatment from the opposition.

    At least Francie had the balls to clip the wings of whichever party hack backs up Gildernew, what’s the bets the next time he/she has a soft question to plant it doesn’t land on Francies desk?

  • Danny O’Connor

    Sammy mouse check all you want- i don’t care

  • slug

    “on how often MLA’s have voted against their party line. Even though dissent is limited in other places I feel pretty sure you’d see 100% adherence to party line on every issue at Stormont.”

    The UUP seemed to have a problem with rebels at one stage…remember the vote for the FMs?

  • slug

    Mick H

    “As to the shinners and the industrial wage, long may it last, it is about the only thing the shinners do that irritates the unionist politicians these days.”

    So annoying unionists is a motivation for you?

    BTW it doesn’t really annoy unionists, though some unionists admire Sinn Féin for the commitment it displays.

  • Quizdaemon

    IIRC former MLA’s David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson also did the industrial wage thing. No idea if Red Dawn Purvis is carrying on the same practice. From the few times I’ve seen her actually appear in the Assembly Chamber it’s obvious she ain’t starving.

  • Sammy Mouse

    Danny O’Connor,

    Sammy mouse check all you want- i don’t care

    Simple question; did you ever vote against your party whip? It’s the sort of thing you would remember doing.

    If not then it says a lot about your character coming on here saying one thing but then when you had the chance doing the other.

  • Danny O’Connor

    I do not recall any issue where any conflict arose that was in any way detrimental to my constituents,quite the reverse,where I was able to persuade colleagues of the merits of my position,one example of which would have been of the need for a new F E college in Larne.Had there been any occasion where I would have had to choose ,I was paid to represent constituents and that would have come first.
    My voting record on Larne BC will substantiate that fact.

  • Sammy Mouse

    So you didn’t then.

    Thanks, I’ll be sure to remember this (your hypocrital opinions) next time I’m voting in Larne.

  • Danny O’Connor

    If you lived in Larne you’d know ,but hey at least I have the guts to put my name to my posts,unlike some spineless wimp who comes on here accusing me of hypocracy while hiding behind a nome de plume ,and even if you do decide to go get an operation to have a set of testacles implanted in your obviously empty scrotum you can then go and vote for whoever you want because I dont care.

  • Sammy Mouse

    There’s a rule on this website stating that people should play the ball, not the man.

    The above post is somewhat surprising coming from a previos politician, and if he ever comes back into the political world I will not hesitate in reminding him of his comments when he knocks and my door (and I do actually live in Larne).

    Maybe he is just spiteful that less than 1800 people believe he is right for the job.

    Anyone know if there is a hyphen in sore loser?

  • Danny O’Connor

    knocks and my door? and I am not sure about the hyphen but there is a u in previous

  • Sammy Mouse

    Danny, I do not intend to get into a slagging match with you; I believe we are both above that. I was just asking you the original question in an attempt that you would realise what you typed is not as easy as it sounds.

    Good luck with whatever your intentions are for the future. Although you mightn’t have my first pref but still have my respect as a cllr and especially for your previous occupation.

  • Mick H

    “As to the shinners and the industrial wage, long may it last, it is about the only thing the shinners do that irritates the unionist politicians these days.”

    So annoying unionists is a motivation for you?
    Posted by slug

    Slug,

    I have nothing against unionists as individuals, but of course annoying unionist Party’s like the DUP and UUP is what partially motivates me. I’m a working class socialist and republican to boot, who looks forward to a united socialist republic of Ireland.

    That does not mean I am unable to respect as individuals the unionists working classes, nor wish to debate as equals their political beliefs. Indeed there are Unionists no matter what class they belong to that I admire, but never the less I will continue to oppose them politically as they will me.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Sammy,
    I am sorry ,I tend to over react sometimes,but I want to assure you that I have never ,either as a former mla or councillor allowed party policy to interfere with the obligation I have to the people I represent.I try to do my best for them,it’s impossible to please everyone,but I genuinely can’t recall any occasion that I had to choose,on constituency matters I have known someone absent themselves to avoid voting against the party position,but again in My situation it never arose.