Could Alliance get justice ministry..?

THERE’S been a bit of speculation (probably with its origins in Peter Robinson’s office) lately that Alliance could get the justice ministry once it’s finally devolved. While the party has not been directly approached or offered anything, the kite-flying probably indicates that the DUP and Sinn Fein talks on the matter aren’t making great progress and that the other options (such as a shared ministry) are proving problematic. An offer to Alliance would be attractive – a chance for a ministerial position, and a key one at that, doesn’t come knocking every day and would allow the party to show leadership and make a difference in an Executive it has long been critical of. However, an offer would not be without potential pitfalls, and the party should ensure it extracts the maximum if it any deal involving it is thrashed out. A flattering Liam Clarke teases out the issues here.Clarke notes the things that need to happen:

While the other parties in the executive are designated nationalist or unionist for voting purposes, Alliance stands outside the sectarian blocks. Its seven MLAs share the designation “others” with the solitary Green member and Kieran Deeny, the hospital campaigner from Tyrone.

If these nine were allowed to form a party for assembly purposes then they, and not the SDLP, would mathematically be entitled to the next minister. But that would require new legislation at Westminster because the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 specifies that the justice and policing minister must come from one of the two largest designations, currently unionist and nationalist. There is no doubt that Shaun Woodward, the secretary of state, and Gordon Brown would rush through such legislation if required.

You can bank on that; Woodward owes the DUP big-time after they agreed to back the Government on the 42-day detention vote. From an Alliance point of view, the party may be able to use legislative changes to undermine the sectarian designation system in the Assembly. The DUP would be amenable to this. The Shinners might prefer to keep quiet on this, but the SDLP would likely take a hard line on retaining tribal designations, as it’s Hume’s Big Idea. They’d also be highly pissed off at being passed over for another ministry – they would be next in the D’Hondt queue. And the Stoops love D’Hondt too.

Clarke concludes:

Ford was sounded out about the ministry by Peter Hain during the St Andrews negotiations. Hain suggested that an Alliance policing and justice minister be included in the OFM/DFM, appointed by the DUP and Sinn Fein, but with no voting rights.

This second-class status was turned down and would be rejected again. Instead, Alliance is likely to seek full voting rights and to use them to press for an increased role for parties who, like themselves and the Greens, appeal for votes outside the tribal headcount which has turned every election since the foundation of the state into an unofficial border poll.

They may well be working with the grain of history. Many Northern politicians report that as peace and security settles down but the credit crunch bites, they are more often asked what they will do about jobs and services than about flags, emblems and the border.

This is important; there’s no point in Alliance accepting a second-class ministry, if it’s offered. It should ensure it has full membership and voting rights in the Executive and control over its departmental budget.

  • Pete Baker

    “Could Alliance get justice ministry..?”

    Not unless the DUP and SF agree.

    And the Alliance Party then hand their own head to those parties on a platter.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Indeed. Which is why I was suggesting the party get its ass as much political cover as possible.

    If only you could write so succinctly more often!

  • steve

    lol gonzo

    so its not just us under educated peons

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    all publicity’s good publicity? I think Alliance desparately need to get into the spotlight. Could be a good move for them.

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    If the Alliance get this then there’s no justice in the world

  • cynic

    Given Alliance’s lack of credibility or policies on anything significant, just whom is it suggested would have the leadership skills to manage this one?

    And then to be seen to be handed it down as a gift from the ‘real’ parties – presumably in a way that could be taken away again any time if the mood changes of Alliance dont perform ‘as required’?

    Even if it did happen, wouldnt it just demonstrate that the Executive just isnt working – literally. They cannot agree on issues that matter so nothing gets decided, nothing gets done, money haemorrages and things just drift.

  • pith

    Seems like a good plan. The best way to deal with a controversial ministry would be to make it very very boring.

  • slug

    Alliance are enjoying a good time opposing the Executive. They should name a high price to join it.

  • pith

    If only the great man John Lord Alderdice were still around he would be perfect for the role. Life in general just hasn’t then same without him. I well remember the shockwaves his resignation sent through the community after heading up the Peace Process for all those years. Truly a great man. That’s not just my opinion, it’s his as well. His self-penned profile on the LibDem website really is a masterpiece of pomposity. Baron Alderdice, Minister for Justice. It just sounds right.

  • I think it would be hypocrisy of the highest level if APNI joined the executive in any shape or form; considering they have been the exponents of ‘holding the executive to account’ and being the ‘opposition’.

    Also lets not kid ourselves about APNI non-sectarianism; David Fords campaign in South Antrim at the last two assembly elections was run on the basis of ‘Vote Ford 1 to keep out Sinn Fein’. It worked in 2003 to keep out Meehan, but in 2007 Mclouglin won a seat at unionist expense. Ford can no longer play the sectarian card in his campaigns.

  • DC

    The problem is that the ‘constructive opposition’ becomes the government, so much for opposing, opposing until they get a little offer of power??? This would make Alliance as guilty as the rest of the political lot up on that hill, sacrificing many a principle on the way to a hotseat.

    It would get the party exposure but it would contradict a strategy that was from the outset built on this opposition mantra, one that I don’t think was that great and would prefer the party to leave the ‘other’ and discharge down both blocs and become a tad more relation re N-S integration.

    Mind you if they took the justice seat it would fit in with rising to the bait of power and pomp, but the message would then be very confusing, especially as carving themselves out as an ‘opposition’ party.

    Interesting to see what happens, it is a hard one to call.

  • Baron Alderdice of Knock

    I was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue, and continued to work for a settlement in Northern Ireland through my leadership of the Alliance delegation at the Multi-Party Talks which finally produced the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998. I am widely regarded as having played a key role in these negotiations and in their successful outcome.

    I led my party into elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and was elected on the first count to represent East Belfast. I then surprised the community by deciding to step down as Party Leader having held that post for almost 11 years.

    Yes pith, if only I was still around

  • Ignited, surely you’re not joining the chorus of whingers who claim that any objections or opposition to Sinn Fein constitute “sectarianism”! That’s up there with “People give Caitriona Ruane a hard time because she’s a woman”. Jesus wept!

  • Alderdice’s profile reads like any CV. Is it really more pompous than our illustrious DFM lecturing the Iraqis on how to make peace and be nice little boys and girls?

  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    “People give Caitriona Ruane a hard time because she’s a woman”

    That’s true. It’s the reason she gets a hard time and fellow shinners Conor Murphy and Michelle Gildernew don’t!

  • Michael

    ‘If these nine were allowed to form a party for assembly purposes then they, and not the SDLP, would mathematically be entitled to the next minister’

    Is this assembly party similar to the ‘assembly group’ the UUs tried with David Irvine?

    If so, that could be a possible model for the FF/ SDLP merger.

    Perhaps I’ve gotten it all terribly wrong.

  • Dewi

    I swear I read in Powell that this was the agreed (Between SF and DUP anyway) plan all along. Just get on with it.

  • Traditional_Unionist

    Alliance would be mad to take the position and I dont believe they will

    Why would the DUP be so angry about SF/IRA getting the role anyway? If they can walk hand in hand with them into stormont and give them equal power in running the country then they shouldnt have a problem with this. The DUP seem to have two completely different faces regarding different things at stormont.

    I personally think it is mad to even consider devolving police and justice, but thats my opinion in my anti(current)agreement status. People who support the current agreement should be having a different opinion to me. shouldn’t they?……

  • roland rat

    now we’re on the subject of the alliance party who will their candidate be in the enniskillen by-election?

  • THERE’S been a bit of speculation (probably with its origins in Peter Robinson’s office)

    Actually not all of it is coming from the DUP. Some of it is coming from the NIO. None of it is coming from the Alliance Party. And, more tellingly, none of it is coming from Sinn Féin either which makes me think it is a bit of gossip to fill otherwise empty silly season column inches.

    Toodle pip.

  • Basil Brush

    I know it is nothing more than gossip at the minute but which Alliance member would take the ministry.

  • Dewi

    Actually Margaret Ritchie is probably the obvious choice. I agree it’s not sensible for someone from SF or the DUP to perform this role in the immediate term but Ms Ritchie would surely be equally unacceptable to all – and therefore perfect.

  • Beano,

    The first people to point fingers and talk about ‘non-tribal’ and ‘sectarian’ politics is the APNI. I just find it amusing that for all their talk they, and their leader, have relied on fear of ‘themmuns to get themselves votes.

  • slug

    Ignited

    Its not sectarianism to oppose Sinn Féin.

  • Comrade Stalin

    cynic,

    Given Alliance’s lack of credibility or policies on anything significant, just whom is it suggested would have the leadership skills to manage this one?

    I’m wondering what your point of reference is. Given that the executive has failed to introduce a single bit of proprietary legislation, apart from regulating taxis better (that’s the annual ~£30 million budget for assembly salaries and expenses well spent), I can’t see leadership, policies, or credibility anywhere.

    Even if it did happen, wouldnt it just demonstrate that the Executive just isnt working – literally. They cannot agree on issues that matter so nothing gets decided, nothing gets done, money haemorrages and things just drift.

    Yup, and that is why I would be surprised if Alliance were to go for it, not without significant changes in the way that the Executive is constituted. I do not see the DUP/SF coalition going back to the drawing board just to get an APNI justice minister, as that is what they will be demanding before they accept any role like this.

    The governing parties do not have a particularly good record in this matter. Alliance did request a review of the d’Hondt procedures in – was it 2003 ? – following the redesignation matter. The SDLP and UUP basically turned up, said “right, d’Hondt’s fine so we’re going to keep it” and left again. There isn’t going to be a repeat of that little farce.

    pith:

    His self-penned profile on the LibDem website really is a masterpiece of pomposity. Baron Alderdice, Minister for Justice. It just sounds right.

    Pretty typical for a politician really, the stuff the chuckies put out on their website (especially surrounding Our Gerry) easily beats it. And while he was leader, Alderdice had the highest personal vote in Northern Ireland. Obviously the electorate thought personalities were somewhat less relevant than you think.

    Ignited:

    Also lets not kid ourselves about APNI non-sectarianism; David Fords campaign in South Antrim at the last two assembly elections was run on the basis of ‘Vote Ford 1 to keep out Sinn Fein’. It worked in 2003 to keep out Meehan, but in 2007 Mclouglin won a seat at unionist expense. Ford can no longer play the sectarian card in his campaigns.

    I love this one, it brings me right back to the old days in the Soviet Union. Wasn’t Ford being bigoted by opposing Sinn Fein in the first place ?

    Ridiculous. It’s quite legitimate to ask the voters to keep Sinn Fein out, most people regard them as an abhorrence. Given their tepid and somewhat limp performance as a governing party, I hope everyone moves hell and earth to keep them out. They’re useless.

    The first people to point fingers and talk about ‘non-tribal’ and ‘sectarian’ politics is the APNI. I just find it amusing that for all their talk they, and their leader, have relied on fear of ‘themmuns to get themselves votes.

    No, it’s more to do with the fact that Sinn Fein are shite and the possibility of them winning a seat scares people. You guys are really going to have to come up with some policies rather than shouting “bigot” like a bullfrog with a bad cold every time someone points out the gaping issues with your party.

  • Conquistador

    Comrade Stalin is right.

    For Willie McCrea and David Burnside to trail the towns and villages of South Antrim and say “Vote for me because I’m a protestant” is sectarian and wrong.

    David Ford’s campaign of “vote for me to stop the catholic”, now that was a breath of fresh air.

  • Lol i’m far from defending Sinn Fein here! I’ve lead you up the garden path a bit, my first post is worded badly. I also believe APNI did the same thing in Ballybean to attempt to keep out the SDLP. Its perfectly acceptable in a Unionism vs Nationalism debate; but the APNI claim to be above petty tribal politics.

    I’m not calling APNI bigoted, they are hypocrites.

    Its commonsense to oppose Sinn Fein not sectarian. APNI on principle should be campaigning on a positive agenda, and that quickly goes out the window when election time comes around.

  • Comrade Stalin

    David Ford’s campaign of “vote for me to stop the catholic”, now that was a breath of fresh air.

    Who said anything about Catholics ?

    I also believe APNI did the same thing in Ballybean to attempt to keep out the SDLP. Its perfectly acceptable in a Unionism vs Nationalism debate; but the APNI claim to be above petty tribal politics.

    This is just fucking stupid. “Vote X to keep Y out” is used all over the democratic world, there’s nothing faintly tribal about it. Why should it suddenly become tribal when it is deployed here, just because most of our parties like to wave a flag ?

  • Conquistador

    “Who said anything about Catholics ? ”

    Is Mitchell McLaughlin not one? I hear he likes a good mass.

    “This is just fucking stupid. “Vote X to keep Y out” is used all over the democratic world, there’s nothing faintly tribal about it.”

    Is tribalism confined to Northern Ireland?
    If your campaign is to keep out one tribe then you’re tribal.

    To claim otherwise is “just fucking stupid”

  • picador

    It shouldn’t be that hard to get an agreement on this. SF and DUP should agree that neither party will hold the ministry for two Assembly terms leaving the Stoops and UUP to share it / split it / rotate it. Not ideal but workable perhaps.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Is Mitchell McLaughlin not one? I hear he likes a good mass.

    Why should I care what his religion is ?

    Is tribalism confined to Northern Ireland?
    If your campaign is to keep out one tribe then you’re tribal.

    But the Alliance campaign wasn’t to keep out one tribe, it was to keep out one party. It’s called “tactical voting” and it occurs throughout the western world, and probably elsewhere as well.

    Do you mean to say in England there’s a Conservative tribe and a Labour tribe ?

    To claim otherwise is “just fucking stupid”

    Your point of view is that all politics is tribal then ?