“A blind, one-legged monkey could now orchestrate these regular farragoes…”

With near perfect timing, Alex Kane outlines the problems with the so called Hitler/Stalin pact (comment watch alert for likely breaches of Godwin’s Law) of the DUP and Sinn Fein in the wake of the indigenous deal of St Andrews which allows for mutually desired obstruction (if not quite destruction) in the shape of their exclusive and reciprocal vetoes over any and all government action:

…since Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are actually co-equals the political equivalent of the two-headed pushmipullu and since neither can function without the knowledge and approval of the other, we now have government based on personal loathing and tunnel vision.

Neither can give a concession to the other, because both sold the St Andrews Agreement on the basis that they, individually, “ran the show”. The DUP is now hampered by the TUV on the right, while Sinn Fein is getting increasing stick from those republican diehards who wonder what part of “A Nation Once Again” is represented by Stormont, ministerial cars and support for the police.

Even the grassroots supporters of both parties are probably growing a little weary of the “we really are in control” mantra tumbling unconvincingly from the respective leaderships. Yes, the DUP can put the brakes on Sinn Fein ambitions and vice versa; but since neither can deliver an alternative, it simply means that no decision gets made. And the inability to thwart your opponent makes you look both weak and incompetent.

Kane is not hopeful of a genuine respite:

Well, as Sir Reg Empey said on Saturday, it seems inevitable that the British and Irish Prime Ministers will have to host an inter-party get-together in early September: which means that Peter and Gerry will trot off to some fancy-pants mansion with their shopping lists, and, in what amounts to car-boot diplomacy, will hand over some valuables in exchange for some tat, while blaming Gordon and Biffo for bullying them into compromise.

And both will then issue identically worded statements insisting, that “we took these risks and decisions in the name of peace and progress”. Let’s be honest, a blind, one-legged monkey could now orchestrate these regular farragoes.

And of the future:

Let’s face it, the DUP and Sinn Fein will not allow the structures and institutions to collapse. For that’s all that either of them has to show for 30 years of whingeing about the weakness and serial surrender of others, and anyway, it would probably take an exorcism or a stake through the heart to shift them from office at this stage.

The truth is that both are stuck in a time warp; believing that they can deliver their own separate and mutually contradictory agenda, even though the mechanisms they require don’t actually exist. Northern Ireland has changed, but the DUP and Sinn Fein are clinging firmly to the wreckage of their old ideologies and pretending that a retreat from the present realities is a possibility for them.

Interesting. Clearly as a member of the Ulster Unionists, Kane has a particular political axe to grind. However it is telling that when the First Minister Peter Robinson pointed out those things had been achieved by devolution, the flagship legislation he found himself talking up was free public transport for Senior Citizens; a measure brought in under the fitful leadership of the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP.

The mutual veto has the potential to strangle any and all potential fruits of devolution. Arguably the controls on what could pass under the Belfast Agreement (ie, a cross community vote could be called if three members of the Executive objected) meant that vetoes were not the pure preserve of the two largest party blocks, with the result that there was a more permissive regime, which allowed a modicum of legislative reform and process.

There is word that the Assembly Review Committee is to be beefed up come September. But in bottling up top down control so tightly the system has become constipated, allowing none of the parties the latitude to make the far reaching reforms they promised in their manifestoes last year.

The citizens of Northern Ireland have some right to ask just exactly how exactly is this an improvement to the indifference of locally unmandated Ministers under the direct rule regime?

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  • Alex S

    kane has been accurate in the past?

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    This has the feel of someone standing outside a club complaining about how bad it is without letting on he’d just been thrown out

    and probably out of date about Wee Reggie’s September get together.

  • Mick Fealty

    Apart from your feel for what says, Sammy, any thoughts on what it actually says?

  • Traditional_Unionist

    Not for the first time Alex Kane is spot on

    This is a massively failing executive, and the reason it is failing is due to SF/IRA and the DUP pretending they can share power, but actually being unable to deliver.

    They are only there because they crave the power and money, but they try to force through more and more issue that will make the other party uncomfortable, making the whole thing unstable and useless.

    We are acheiving nothing whatsoever from this failing administration, and it will continue to be like this as long as we have the two extremes in control

    Wouldnt it be perfect if we could just kick SF/IRA and the DUP out and place control in the hands of the UUP and SDLP, with no interference from the DUP or SF/IRA

    that is never going to happen though, so we may prepare ourselves for a long long time of bad rule and a patheticly unstable assembly achieving nothing meanful at all during its lifetime

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it


    having memory problems – the UUP and SDLP did run the show which was characterised by collapse.

    You are presumably allowing your distaste for SF to cloud your judgement.

    If agreement can be reached on Police and Justice then other stuff will follow.


    the article looks to me like standard oppostion stuff, predictable and self serving – as you have often suggested to me – that I make things up as I go along – well I would have had no problem with that piece.

  • Rooster Cogburn

    These would be the problems inherent in the Agreement even worse than the one he unflaggingly cheer-led for, never once downing his pom-poms, even when *that* Agreement proved to be so unworkable, it didn’t, uh, actually work (being collapsed by no less an idol of Kane’s than Dave T Turtle, esq, more times than Kane’s had hot dinners – assuming he eats hot dinners solely off the back of what the Newsletter pays him)?

  • Alex S

    In the previous executive the failures were the result of pressures on Trimble from his hardliners and the DUP exploiting the failure of S/F IRA to do the business, in the event of Kane being correct about voters anger at the failure of DUP – S/F to run the place effectively and voting for UUP – SDLP will the same set of circumstances exist for the UUP, I would have thoufgt not?

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “Apart from your feel for what says, Sammy, any thoughts on what it actually says?”

    Well, it seems to say (with perfect timing) that political parties from opposing ends of the spectrum may struggle to assert dominance over each other being (roughly) equally weighted. It also seems to suggest -quite impressively – that having opponents critical to your point of view makes things trickier.

    Grassroots members, especially if they have been promised a Brave New World and total victory, are likely to be upset by messy compromises – the very stuff of government. (I’m going to email Time Magazine on this revelation, personally)

    And he ends by saying those holding the levers of power will not easily give them up (DUP/SF won’t allow it all to collapse etc). Politicians Love Power Shocka!!!

    More generally, he seems to be saying that a coalition of the unwilling is not a perfect system and that one can easily find fault with it. In fact, he’s excellent at pointing out the flaws.

    He doesn’t seem to mention that the government is new, is operating without tax-raising powers and I didn’t see a line about the difficulty of governing after 35 years of conflict and decades of institutional bigotry which has left many people without loved ones and many citizens with unrealised hopes of a normal life and a stake in the community. A backdrop of mutual bitterness and mutual suspicion seems to have not merited a mention from Alex, but hey, those are minor details, right? It really is a quite scintillating analysis. Shouldn’t be surprised if he pops up on Newsnight and the Today programme.

    Well, that’s what I take from it but I’m sure I’m wrong. After all, I don’t even know to what Godwin’s Law refers.

  • joeCanuck

    Godwin’s Law says that the longer an argument or thread goes on, the greater the probability ( equal to 1 eventually) that someone will draw a comparison with Hitler and Naziism. It is (not always) then accepted that the argument is at an end and the person who mentioned Hitler has lost.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Joecanuck: Cheers matey!

  • interested

    ““A blind, one-legged monkey could now orchestrate these regular farragoes…”

    Sounds like a job application to me….

  • Dave

    Billie-Joe, how tolerant would voters be of being forced to become part of the DUP/SF’s learning curve if the measuring of duration and progress wasn’t distorted by subvention? Folks tolerate a low gradient because they don’t suffer any loss from the lack of progress. This is just one of the side-effects of being a subsidy-junkie.

  • Im with BJR on this…

    i think we are all a bit too expecting….

    I mean just think if slugger members were left to run the country….

    we couldn’t agree on anything so why do we all think its any different in the “real” world….