“…intervenes to create difficulties”

Maurice Hayes takes Alliance to task for their position of policing and justice. He states:

There is a perverse constant in Northern Ireland politics that just when things are becoming simple, some individual or group intervenes to create difficulties — even if it means acting entirely out of character. Just when the awkward squads on both sides had seemed to be mastering the art of negotiation and compromise, the former good guys of the Alliance Party decide that the time has come for them to make trouble. It is ironic that the party which owes its inception, and its ethos, to the need to build bridges between unionist and nationalist camps should now appear to have committed themselves to demolishing the frail bridge that is under construction between DUP and Sinn Fein on the devolution of powers relating to policing and the administration of justice… What Alliance and all the others were elected for was to make the system work, which is the current political imperative.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    David Ford’s next party conference speech in full:
    “Go back to your constituencies and prepare to run and hide when asked to do something after 30 years of bluster and mealy-mouthed hand-wringing.”

  • You can hardly blame the Alliance for not wanting to be scapegoats for a DUP/SF executive that isn’t working.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Beano: Point taken but it’s not as if the chance of power is going to come their way too often. Waiting around for a perfect government, full employment and a booming economy before getting their hands dirty may be a long wait too. But yeah, they’re in a corner on this one. Best to be brave, though…

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Remind us all again; when were Alliance asked to take on the justice ministry?

    Hayes’ thinking is pure civil servantese: “What Alliance and all the others were elected for was to make the system work, which is the current political imperative.”


    How fucking pathetic an argument for democracy can you get? Alliance was elected to fulfil its manifesto and to represent the people – not to prop up atavistic tribalism or pander to various ‘Humphries’ and their half-baked ideas.

  • Michael Shilliday

    Good luck fulfilling your manifesto with seven nobodies whinging from the back benches. It was an utterly awful idea to think of it in the first place, changing the game in that way for such disingenuous reasons would have been damaging to the political process.

  • IJP


    Are you a democrat?

    The DUP got the votes for ministerial office – and ran away from this one.
    SF got the votes for ministerial office – and ran away from this one.
    The Ulster Unionists got the votes for ministerial office – and ran away from this one.
    The SDLP is actually due the next minister under the current system – we’ll see.

    The ultimate objective is political maturity. As a society, we cannot continue to live in a dream world where you can vote for fruitcakes and get away with it.

    The people voted for a grubby sectarian carve-up. As a democrat, I happen to believe that’s what they should get. The Alliance Party said such a carve-up would be unworkable. So it has turned out. So, who are you going to vote for next time?

    The underlying point of Hayes’ article is that only Alliance is competent. Well, thank you – but if you want competence, vote for it.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    BG: I’ve no idea if they were asked but I did see that screaming skull, Ford, rule it out. The SDLP will take it. they need the profile being one of the big four parties. Just seems to me that if you are going to get involved in politics then you take power when it comes your way. Poliics is a messy business ask the shinners or DUP. Alliance seem happy enjoying the moral high ground and the odd sound bite on TV news. Their bluff may be called in coming weeks.

  • BTW I think the Alliance have some serious questions to answer too.

    “What Alliance and all the others were elected for was to make the system work”

    I think there’s a degree of truth in that. The Alliance were big proponents of the whole power-sharing/power-splitting carve up and there’s something about their “opposition” status that rings hollow, given their fully-fledged support of a deal that has helped institutionalise sectariainism and ensured we don’t have a proper opposition at all.

    Anyone else coming to the conclusion that the institutions of the GFA (and no pretence that the SAA changed any of it really) was a big mistake?

  • Rooster Cogburn

    Again with the baiting of the Alliance for having so few MLAs Shillers. I thought it was a cardinal principle of Trimblist-Empeyites like yourself to exalt any and every political strategy that each post-Agreement election in a row reduces the number of seats a party holds? Aren’t the Alliance from your point of view simply living the dream?

    As far as the Alliance themselves are concerned, I’ve some limited sympathy for them too. Why should Ford make life any easier for the NIO or the DUP, let alone for Sinn Fein? But, and it’s a really big pointed but, no one, bar no one, deserves more abuse for our current wretched system of government. For every post-national, High Liberal piece of crappiness immanent in it, from d’Hondt downwards is exactly the Euro-Human-Rights-Charter88-Communalist tripe that advanced Alliance thinkers cried out for as our ‘solution’ from c. 1988 to at least the first two years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement. This is their called-for Utopia we’ve ended up in, and it’s every bit as dysfunctional as any sceptic of doctrinaire liberalism could have predicted it would be.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    IJP. I hope I’m a democrat but it’s a messy business and we’re starting from a low base. The key phrase in your post is “the people have voted…” I can’t be responsible for who they voted for. Play the hand you’re given and hope for better next time, i guess.

  • “Play the hand you’re given “

    And Alliance have decided to fold theirs. It may not be an unwise choice.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The only way I can see Alliance taking the position is if there were to be changes to the system itself. Trying to paint the current arrangements as something Alliance has been crying out for for years is disingenuous – supporting real powersharing is very different from supporting a sectarian power carve-up.

  • Rooster Cogburn

    Rubbish Gonzo: I know at least as well as you do what the Alliance dreamt of happening in the future from the late 80s, most of the way through the 90s, and Stormont today is it, to almost exquisitely painful, bigoted liberal detail. Of the few unambiguously good things to have come from the Belfast Agreement, the exploding of liberal panglossianism has been one of the most enjoyable.

  • “supporting real powersharing is very different from supporting a sectarian power carve-up. “

    Then why did the Alliance not argue against (or for improving) the deal in the first place?

  • Belfast Gonzo


    So the GFA is liberal, but explodes liberal panglossianism? Is that possible? Anyway, what the GFA led to is not a liberal democracy, at least not by any political definition I know.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    I think you’ll find it did, and continues to do so. Hence Ford’s statement.

  • My mistake Gonzo, I could have sworn I remembered them campaigning for a Yes vote and propping up the previous assembly by cheating and pretending to be nationalists (or was it Unionists?) for one vote.

  • Garibaldy

    I can understand why Alliance has taken this decision. And I think it’s not as purely principled as they are making out. I suspect that having looked at the fate of the SDLP in putting the process ahead of party interest they worry that this would open the door to something similar happening to them.

    Nevertheless, I suspect that they have made a mistake. Most Alliance voters or potential voters would understand the reasons for it. And appearing in government in a responsible position might well add to their credibility rather than diminish it. On top of that, they could have played hardball on agendas closer to their hearts like integrated education and housing. It might have worked so desperate are the DUP and PSF to ensure the thing works. I feel this is a wasted opportunity to advance the united community profile and agenda.

  • Candide

    Fascinating to hear reforming liberalism described as “Panglossian”. Someone needs to re-read his Voltaire.

  • DC

    I agree GariB largely with what you are saying.

    Alliance strategically failed to position itself appropriately that would allow a credible move into the executive. The problem rests with the extent to which they actually opposed Stormont. Yes, I agree Alliance voters were probably keen on this, yet party-political thought had moved fully into this constructed opposition, in the hope to score political points by attacking ideas in Stormont without offering alternatives.

    It goes back to the post-98 thought over how, while having to accept mandatory coalition in practice but not in theory, Alliance could work this new set up to build on their own agenda. If for example Alliance knew back at St Andrews that policing and justice might come round again, it would have certainly been something to prompt a change in strategy away from absolute opposition. It as after all an incredibly significant office, well above the party electorally, that has past it by due to a fundamental error in political positioning; one that ironically rests at the door of absolutism.

  • Hogan

    Normally i give anything that Hayes writes some credance, however on this occasion he is talking shite.

    During this assembly SF and McGuinness in particular have never missed an opportunity to remind the Alliance Party what an irrelevance they are.

    Hardly surprising though that on this occassion Ford et al have told Art to go fuck himself?

    Politicans are human beings first.

  • joeCanuck

    What an incredible load of bullshit.
    It’s all Alliances fault.

  • perry patetic

    If Alliance are guilty of anything it’s message-muddling. If I read IJP properly he’s saying;

    1) mandatory coalition isn’t perfect but people chose it democratically and until the people choose a different one Alliance will honour and work with that decision

    2) the d’hondt formula allots this ministry to the SDLP

    3) alliance are not prepared to d’hondt so that SF can stop the SDLP getting a bit more power/credibility (in a ministry that dovetails nicely with DSD) and the DUP can claim they kept the ministry out of the hands of nationalists.

    Seems a perfectly respectable position for Alliance. Just needs a bit more clarity.

  • perry patetic


    “a different basis for coalition” (not “a different one”)


    “not prepared to cheat d’hondt”

  • Wilkins

    Michael if you hate the Alliance so much then why did you give them a transfer?

  • cynic

    Maurice is upset that his pet project is faltering.

    The two biggest Sisters cannot agree so they want to set a third party up as an Aunt Sally. Under the voting system Aunt Sally will not be able to do anything unless the other two both agree but she will get all the blame for failures.

    Aunt Sally has looked at this and said ‘You’re having a ‘larf aren’t you. Get on, stop fighting and sort this out properly’. Now Maurice is miffed that Aunt Sally wont set herself up as a puppet minister controlled by those who can’t agree. He chides her that she was elected”to make the system work, which is the current political imperative” but the whole reason she’s offered this job is that her two big sisters wont make the system work.

    Maurice needs to remember that sometimes even a Minister’s salary isn’t worth it.

  • Garibaldy

    I agree with DC that Ford’s attempt to make himself seem more relevant and hardline by acting the opposition has painted him into something of a corner on this one. I don’t think though that this is going to be that effective as a vote winning strategy. The executive is in place. The point is to work it. Why shift a vote to a party that refuses to enter it when it has the chance? I think it’s a losing gamble.

    The reality is that the only effective opposition is coming from Newtown Emerson, a bit like Rory Bremner and the two Johns at the start of the Blair government.

  • Centre Left

    Alliance has taken a principled stance. Good to see one of the local parties doing so.

    Alliance has carved a strong niche as opposition and has boxed the SDLP and UUP into a failing Executive.

    The only circumstances under which I reckon Alliance would take a seat in the Executive would be following a sufficiently increased vote or a fundamental overhaul of the currently failing system at Stormont.

    The NIO will be pleased that Maurice Hayes is very much on message. This article was total rubbish.

  • cynic


    “The point is to work it.”

    Exactly. But you assume that what they propose will work. It wont. The entire reason for suggesting it is that things aren’t working. They wont agree and its a face saver to try to unload the blame onto a puppet minister.

    Politics is the art of war by other means. That’s just what is going on here.

  • cynic

    By the way, As Maurice himself admits:

    “The SDLP could (take the role) , but Sinn Fein are likely to blackball anyone who had been critical of them in the past, or who might be electorally threatening in the future.”

    Nuff said? You can have the job so long as you are unlikely to do anything with it and haven’t been a threat to us. What a basis for Government.

    And the entire imperative is not to provide better Governance, It’s to get SF off a hook they have clearly hung themselves on. Why on earth would the other parties agree? Of course, that may be exactly the calculation of the DUP who have the Shinners where they want them.

  • “a fundamental overhaul of the currently failing system at Stormont.”

    Is this the same Alliance Party that redesignated as Unionist for the day to save a certain “failing system at Stormont”?

  • Ormeau


    I agree in that I suspect that Alliance would strongly consider taking the Justice ministery if fundamental changes were made to the system ie. removal of the designation system and replacement of manditory coalition with voluntary coalition. However until those changes are made the Executive will continue to be an unstable and unworkable body which even a competant Alliance Minister would be unable to prop up single-handedly.

    Let’s not forget that SF and DUP rarely do things for the greater good. They would have screwed over the Alliance minister the first possible moment that came along in an attempt to deflect attention from their own failures ie 11 plus, the maze, Irish language…


    Yes if it was Alliance’s ultimate aim to take the Justice ministry then it would have been a good idea to steer away from absolute opposition, however it obviously wasn’t so therefore your arguements are irrelevant.

    To have a government where all elected parties (bar 4 effective independents) is terrible for democracy anyway. It takes at least one party to take on the role of scrutinising the work of the Executive without having the vested interest of also being part of it.

  • feismother

    I’m less concerned about what party holds the office as long as the individual has the ability and strength of character to fulfil its brief. Among our MLAs is there anybody with the necessary qualities?

  • DC

    “We said the same thing then that we’re saying today that if there is no serious discussion with us about it then there is no serious answer to be sought from us about it.”

    That was the response from the deputy leader.

    Doesn’t sound like an absolute no; however, the wider party strategy would have foundered on this office without both a quick and comprehensive re-think that supplied an appropriate political explanation. This would have required hard work in terms of political adeptness, sometimes circumstances and situations combine once in a while that can give you a foot-in. In fairness I do agree that Alliance has now committed itself long term to fighting it out as opposition.

    I think, however, in politics it is possible to explain most things if there is a good reason to do it. I got the impression deep down that there were those that wanted it in Alliance, but as GariB admits they had painted themselves into a corner.

  • iluvni

    another ministry…arent 10 useless failing ones enough?

  • Garibaldy


    I fail to see how an Alliance Police minister can be blamed for the failure of the executive should it crumble. A total, utter and complete red herring if ever I saw one.

    As for Ormeau’s argument about only having four MLA’s outside the government being bad for democracy. Does 11 make that big a difference? The SDLP and UUP have been able to paint themselves as trapped by a system controlled by the other two. PSF and the DUP use their backbenchers to criticise the other party.

    Alliance would have an even stronger claim – we are going in suspicious, with one task at hand for the good of NI, and we are not responsible for the rest of the executive, nor do we surrender our right to criticise and our freedom of action. Another red herring.

  • interested

    “I fail to see how an Alliance Police minister can be blamed for the failure of the executive should it crumble.”

    Indeed – especially since there isn’t anything to indicate that P&J;would give a seat at the Executive table.

    I believe its possible to have it devolved to a Department but not one within the Executive. Most of Alliance’s rubbish seems to be about not going into the Executive but it could be possible to hold the Department and not be part of the Executive.

  • Turgon

    Alliance are probably being clever here. It would be difficult now, having castigated the DUP and SF to then enter into an executive with then when they would actually be at the beck and call of the main parties.

    I suspect many liberal people within the Pale who vote or consider voting Alliance may be extremely unimpressed with the executive and may only be a bit less opposed to it in its current form than the likes of TUVists, albeit for very different reasons.

    To blame Alliance for d’Hondt is also rather unfair. Alliance was almost completely sidelined during the original negotiations and also at St. Andrew’s. From memory the main architect of d’Hondt was the SDLP under Hume.

    For Alliance to take P&J;now might be seen to be a principled decision to save the executive but it would actually be a principled decision to abandon their principles which has done them harm in the past. The classic example being when they propped up Trimble’s dying executive and then suffered electorally.

    It might also be viewed as a simple, desperate and unprincipled attempt to grab whatever scraps fall from their master’s table. Considering the way they are being offered P&J;it would seem to be a rather Faustian pact.

    They may yet, however, fall for the lure of power: remember John Alderdice’s manoeuvring to become speaker of the first assembly. Alliance politicians principles may well have their own price: Dame Long perhaps?

  • nineteensixtyseven

    The Ministry isn’t Alliance’s to refuse, nor SF-DUP’s to offer. SDLP got 15.2% of the vote to UUP’s 14.9% yet the latter have 2 Ministers in the Executive. The only party electorally entitled to hold the position of P&J;is the SDLP. This matter should be decided with reference to the electorate, not what is politically expedient for the DUP and Sinn Fein.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Interesting discussion, with a lot of interesting thoughts.

    I agree with the perspective that Maurice’s article lacks some basic understanding of the tenets of democracy. It’s not the purpose of the political parties to make the system work. Political parties are elected to forward the objectives defined in their manifesto. Alliance, at the moment, does not feel that taking the security portfolio would serve the interests of it’s electorate, or indeed, the wider interests of the people of Northern Ireland. I think that people do look to Alliance to take a sensible and measured approach to things, and that is why this idea has been floated in the first place. It’s not sensible or measured in any respect for Alliance to prop up a failed executive *unless* the flawed underpinnings of it are corrected.

    It is funny that Alliance are essentially being accused of wreckers by not stepping in to save the day. I remember quite clearly that when Trimble walked out of the Executive, Sinn Fein wanted the British government to allow it to collapse, rather than suspend it. Perhaps some of the Sinn Fein supporters contributing here might like to explain that ?

    billie-joe, Alliance has never run and hide. It has participated in supporting every assembly, administration, talks process and other efforts to try to find a solution here. It had the unionists taken to court in 1985/86 when they ran away. It was at the Brooke talks in 1990/92 when the SDLP ran away, and it was at the GFA talks in 1997 when the DUP ran away. I don’t know where you get the idea that Alliance has spent the last 30 years sitting out on the sidelines. Alliance has always been in the centre of things, not on the outside, and that is what it’s supporters expect. However, it will not support a flawed administration which exists to put the interests of the DUP/SF front ahead of the broad interests of the electorate, and that is the point which needs to be rammed home here.

    beano points out that Alliance favours powersharing and thus their position here is hypocritical. I disagree. The Alliance vision of powersharing was a broad-based local administration working together, derived from a weighted majority voluntary coalition. The point is made “why didn’t they try to fix it when they had a chance?”. Alliance has used every opportunity to try to fix it. The party opposed d’Hondt, and warned of the problems that would occur, but it was ignored. Part of the deal with redesignation was that the then-main parties, the UUP and SDLP, would agree to review d’Hondt. The review was held, but nothing happened, the two parties basically turned up and said “d’Hondt works, we’re keeping it”. The next question is “why therefore support the GFA?”. My perspective on this is that the GFA is a stepping stone, and that was as I recall the perspective of all of the parties at the time it was signed. The ideas represented within that document are ten years out of date and require urgent review and reworking.

    Various observations have been made about redesignation in 2003. At the time, I think it was the right decision. The powersharing administration was working quite well and the benefits of it were visible to people on the ground. Quite a lot of useful legislation (ground rent reform for example; Belfast street trading) was brought in. New trains and buses were funded. I believe the administration was popular and that Alliance were right to stop it from being collapsed by the DUP working alone who were, at that time, an isolated minority. Unfortunately the raids following the “IRA spy ring” allegations quickly made all of this irrelevant. I don’t actually believe that this is what caused Alliance’s poor electoral performance. I think that was caused by the general move to the extremes.

    I obviously lack the intellectual sophistry to understand Rooster’s contributions, so perhaps he’ll explain himself in a way that doesn’t require me to translate with a dictionary.

    Garibaldy, if Alliance had taken the job everyone on here would have bene accusing the party of being fence-sitters with no principles, objecting to the executive whilst simultaneously sitting in it. The post would not have provided an opportunity to raise anyone’s profile, it would have been entirely under the control of the DUP and SF.

    On your point about Ford making himself hardline, that’s not quite the idea. It’s an essential component of a democratic parliament that there’s an opposition to hold the government to account. That doesn’t make you a wrecker.

    Turgon, Alderdice didn’t do any “manoeuvring” to become Speaker, he was earmarked for the post many years before. What happened was that the NIO screwed up and simultaneously offered the post to Close as well. Somehow, the slip up managed to become public, and the NIO avoided having their mistake exposed.

  • Waffler

    How ironic in view of Martins treatment of mr Ford a little while back.
    Didn`t martin say whilst ensuring a good laugh for big Ian that he wasn`t even aware of alliance involvement in stormont.

  • IJP

    I note a few posters having a go at Alliance for re-designating in 2001.

    I wasn’t a party member then, but from what I gather, Alliance re-designated in return for promises of changes to the designation system and d’Hondt.

    Those changes never happened.

    So let’s have a wild guess at why Alliance isn’t so keen to do what Maurice Hayes suggests this time…

  • IJP

    Perry and Cynic

    Yes, that’s basically the technical reasoning behind the decision.


    All fair points.

    I would agree that focusing on “system” and “process” is no way to promote the decision.

    The issue is that by entering the Executive, the party would become bound to a whole raft of decisions (and indeed non-decisions) with which it fundamentally disagrees. That is simply an impossible position to be in politically – what would the point of the party be if it sold all its principles?

    Writing personally, the only way I would contemplate entering the Executive is if I had a fair say over that Executive’s Programme – which would include proper reference to integrated education, resolving the planning crisis, delivering sustainable housing policy, etc; and an actual resolution to the Maze, the 11+, and the Irish language issue. If I saw a draft Programme for Government which did these things, I could enter the Executive.

    In effect, I’m suggesting that if the Executive parties wish to go into coalition with the Alliance Party, they should negotiate a programme for that coalition which the Alliance Party can stand over. Otherwise, they should look to appoint from within.

    (This is to leave aside the point that 1967 is right – it’s the SDLP that’s next up under the existing system, whether I like it or not.)

  • Comrade Stalin


    Yup. The party leader received phonecalls from Downing Street, if I remember correctly, and there was tremendous pressure from media editorials and all of the other party leaders to redesignate. In exchange, a promise was received to review the d’Hondt arrangements and the sectarian voting system which actually created the problem in the first place by allowing a minority bloc to play a destructive role in the assembly (deja vu or what ?).

    The silly thing was that some members of the SDLP could just as easily have redesignated and the same result would have been achieved. However, I don’t believe the public would have understood if Alliance had not redesignated and they would have blamed the party for the collapse of what was, in my view at the time, a relatively popular administration – an administration that actually got stuff done, unlike what we have at the moment.

    It makes absolute sense to me that the party is not prepared to clean up a mess that it did not create for a second time, nor to fix a problem that it warned the other parties about. Since this administration is one which is about as effective as a catflap in an elephant-house, I don’t think the public will miss it if it goes down. I hope the parties aren’t stupid enough to drive us all into an election, but I precedent so far hasn’t given me reason to be positive. And, as “waffler” points out, how can you ask for favours off a party you’ve insulted and sidelined ? One of the first rules in politics is to build alliances and identify potential partners who may be able to help you later.

    IJP makes the obvious point that nobody has made yet. How can someone outside come in and stand over a programme for government that it had no role in drafting ?

    The rulebook says that the SDLP are entitled to the next seat. Since, though, d’Hondt starts from the “most significant” seat downwards, and that justice is clearly a much more important department than the other domestic ones, isn’t it the case that the whole d’Hondt sequence needs to be re-run again with the justice ministry selected at the appropriate point ?

  • cynic

    “I fail to see how an Alliance Police minister can be blamed for the failure of the executive should it crumble”

    Thats not the point. Its all the micro issues that will do the damage not just the macro ones. IJP sums it up well

    “the issue is that by entering the Executive, the party would become bound to a whole raft of decisions (and indeed non-decisions) with which it fundamentally disagrees. That is simply an impossible position to be in politically”

    The fundamental problem in all this is that SF and the DUP CANNOT AGREE on P&J;DEVOLUTION. How then will they agree on contentious issues in the P&J;policy arena. Ergo anything the Alliance Minster puts forward will be stymied if either side don’t agree. But will the 2 sides take the blame. Nope. It will be that nasty alliance minister failing to consult / take account of views / respect my community.

    And behind it all is the festering sore that THEY WILL NOT OR CANNOT AGREE on P&J;issues

  • DC

    I used to think Martin McGuinness was a decent enough leader, but to be fair neither Peter Robinson nor Martin McGuinness are true leaders.

    True leaders are heat seekers, not reflectors, true leaders take responsibility and deal with the issues themselves. Both the DUP and SF have failed badly, but remember the UUP and SDLP were not quite as bad as this but still they were an extremely noisy unworkable political unit too.

    I have little to no time for fossilised centre-right politics, largely to do with lack of progress and little outcomes, as we have seen so far up at Stormont. But, I wouldn’t have much time either for those masquerading as a political ‘other’ choice without actually offering an exchangeable alternative.

  • DC

    It’s just arrogance. Even Stormont’s parliament building is disproportionately arrogant, it doesn’t even look at Belfast, but away from it patronisingly high up on a hill; and as for Stormont’s body politic: Christian Democrats.

    Arrogant and dysfunctional Christian Democrats.

  • Comrade Stalin

    DC, maybe it’s rosy-tinted hindsight but I remember the previous executive getting a fair amount of stuff done in it’s short existence. And that was at a time when nobody in the place had any experience of a local government, except John Taylor. Yes, there was a lot of rubber-stamping going on, but some decent legislation that really helped people came out of it as well.

    I can’t think of a single thing which has benefitted people. About the only headline-grabber was when Robinson froze the rates for three years. We don’t have a government, because it transpires that the StA wasn’t an agreement at all.

  • cynic

    The danger is that the state of this ‘Government’ is now so bad its having a corrosive effect on people’s trust in the ability of the parties to actually govern individually and collectively.

    It used to be joked that NI Councils only dealt with the 3 Bs (Baths, Bogs and Bins). Well, now we have a Stormont County Council and what do we find? Despite all the pretentions our ‘leaders’ would not be bale to agree on what colour the bins should be, never mind how to empty them.

    Do you detect any iota of strategic vision? Any concentration on issues that really matter to people in NI? No, its all about posturing for party political gain. We can be more green / orange / religious / left wing than the rest of them on ‘our’ side so vote for us.

    I think DC is right on the leadership issue.

    Maguinness has a reputation as decisive and effective in taking decisions. He is seen as a ‘good Minister’ but politically (outside the national question) what the hell does he believe in? What is he for or against and what does he want to do about it? Has anyone ever heard him articulate this? Does anyone know?

    Robinson is also seen as a ‘good Minister’ and is a bit more visible on what might be called ‘religious social issues’ but again, (outside the national Issue) has anyone ever heard him articulate a vision of what as First Minster he is trying to create or make better? Of how he sees this working?

  • cynic

    ” isn’t it the case that the whole d’Hondt sequence needs to be re-run again with the justice ministry selected at the appropriate point”

    I agree. That would seem to be the logical and legal thing to do but then this is a political carve up deal between two blame averse parties who want to posture for political effect so they can maximize their vote, stiff the SDLP / UUP and corral the more extreme wings of their own parties. An open and transparent process is the last thing they want.

  • Garibaldy


    I never said Alliance would be wreckers. I said I thought this was a mistake and a missed opportunity. I disagree with IJP that Alliance would become bound by the decisions or non-decisions of the Executive as a whole, particularly if it made clear that it was entering on certain conditions. I’d agree though that they should demand progress on other issues like integrated housing to take the position. This is partly why I think it was a mistake to not take the post – force some movement in return.

  • IJP


    But the experience of 2001 is quite clear – you agree to do your bit, and the others shaft you.

    Maybe they should agree to do their bit first?

    If the other parties came to Alliance saying “Let’s try to negotiate a new Programme for Government you can go with, as well as some changes to the institutions, and we’ll see if we can do a deal”, the answer would not be “no”.

    But that’s not what happened and it’s plainly not what’s on offer. In fact, it turns out the Minister position wasn’t even to be in the Executive at all! What a farce.

  • Garibaldy


    I understand Alliance’s fear of getting screwed. But we’re in a new era now, where both the DUP and Provos have demonstrated their ability to get things done when they want to, and override any possible opposition from within the Executive. A deal done with them could have been forced through, and if they break their word walk away. It means too much to them not to have it work.


    Maurice was grossly unfair to Alliance