Un-masterful Inactivity

I did a blog on this issue some time ago but recent events have brought me back to the issue. The current system of government with individual ministers being partially accountable to the executive inevitably produces inaction. The DUP are quite correct in stating that ministers can no longer go on a solo run in producing new legislation: Ruane’s inability to introduce a new system or stop academic selection is good evidence of that. This is a significant advance over the even worse method of government by individual fiefdoms which the UUP negotiated previously.However, although a minister cannot bring forward a new proposal without the backing of his or her executive colleagues, he or she can stop or end something without any such support. Ruane’s ending of the 11 plus (continuing McGuinness’s policy) is an excellent example. Although she cannot introduce a new system, she was able to end the 11 plus and there is no way by which her executive colleagues can force her to create an organised alternative. McGimpsey was able to arbitrarily close the Tyrone County Hospital which although sadly probably necessary is going to be done at an idiotic time of year with his eye firmly on the European elections. Sammy Wilson is able to ban an advert on climate change again without any ability for anyone to stop him.

Government does indeed require people to stop some things and take negative decisions. It also (and indeed more importantly) requires the ability to create new things. However, such is the utterly dysfunctional nature of our system of government that agreement on anything other than the most bland and banal of subjects is almost impossible. The final irony of course is that there is no mechanism by which this can be changed within the current system unless everyone agrees with the change: something which is even less likely than agreement on controversial measures.

  • slug


    I think this is very inaccurate.

    First, even under the old system a minister could not introduce legislation without getting a sufficient consensus under the Assembly voting rules.

    Second, a minister cannot end important things without Executive support. IIRC the 11+ was ended under Direct Rule following the announcement of Martin McGuinness. I believe that if Direct Rule ministers had not ended the 11+ Cairtiona R. would not have been able to end it.

  • joe

    Surely the checks and balances while undoubtedly frustrating are fantastic for unionism in the longer term- can only promote the status quo

  • joeCanuck


    Do you really think that maintaining the status quo in an ever changing world is a good thing?

  • x

    The old system was bad but at least Ministers made decisions, and all those decisons were able to be challenged by the Executive and the Assembly.

    Now Minsters cant do anything and the whole process of Government is calcified with no action being taken.

    While some see this as a plus the lack of progress on anything is damaging NI economically and our reputation is now being dictated by the morons like Meryn the flatearth and Sammy the flatulent