Things you’ll never see in Stormont (1)…

I missed order of business in Dail as a live blog, but it looks like it would have made compelling viewing. This is what a real legislative parliamentary body can do, just by being sheer bloody-minded… Oh yeah, you’d need an Opposition for that…

  • fin

    considering both states were created within days of each other, yes there is some explaining to be done as to why NI has only just manage to move from single party government, over to unionism on this one I think

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Excellent clip – but any comparison is entriely spurious as the Norn Iron assembly is setup to stop people killing each other on the streets and the Dail is set up to run a country.

    This popular and lazy – Stormo doesnt work line – completely overlooks how far Norn Iron has come since the GFA.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    What ‘popular and lazy’ line would that be Sammy?
    I’m merely pointing out that it is a legislative assembly’s job to call the executive to account. Our grand electoral college cannot do that; in plenary at least.

    The sheer (civil) tenacity of Ryan got a result in the face of official inertia. Our peace processing has got us an absence of war, but we are still far from understanding the essential desirability of combative democratic politics.

    Power sharing as it stands, reeks of precisely the placid cronyism of the ’50 years of misrule’; which were in fact mostly ’50 years of no rule’. That’s what happens if you take the competition out of government, and use an electoral system that rewards clientism.

  • Greenflag

    IWSMWDI ,

    ‘completely overlooks how far Norn Iron has come since the GFA. ‘

    And also overlooks the fact that the ‘newest ‘ party on the Unionist side is actively trying to reverse NI back to pre GFA days .

    I’m normally not a fan of Gilmore but he derves some credit for making Lenihan squirm . I have’nt seen Lenihan squirm as much since that O’Brien chap lacerated him on John Bowman’s program a few weeks back .

    I would’nt expect too much from the NI Assembly . The NI State was not designed or created as a democracy , and only ever had a tenous link with the concept anyway .

    What they have in NI now is about as good as it will ever be in terms of governance of the province .

    It can’t be other . The very nature of the State itself precludes the development of a ‘normal’ democracy .

    It may be tough for some people to accept that unpalateable fact of political life . But there it is at least until Mr Cameron sticks his oar in ;)?

  • Mick Fealty

    I might agree GF; but then people said our troubles had no end. Shame on you for giving up so quickly, without a fight.

    Also I am not sure you are reading Allister correctly. He has argued an end to manditory coalition; but I’ve yet to hear him sketch out exactly what he wants in its place, other than an opposition which as teeth.

  • Greenflag

    mick ,

    ‘Our peace processing has got us an absence of war,’

    Be grateful for that much at least. Was’nt it Winnie who said that jaw jaw is better than war war ? I cannot envisage an NI Assembly with a voluntary coalition and a ‘loyal ‘ combative opposition . Perhaps I’m lacking in imagination.

    Wish it were otherwise of course .

  • Mick Fealty

    Political will is the missing ingredient GF. I concede that is nowhere to be seen just now. But who predicted the Belfast Agreement, 10 or even 5 years previously?

    Besides, just how robust does anyone think these institutions are likely to prove if the sense is always the that most important democratic debates are likely to take place outside the chamber?

  • Greenflag

    mick ,

    ‘I am not sure you are reading Allister correctly.’

    I’m sure he’s an honourable man of integrity blah blah blah etc and is head and shoulders above some of his DUP and other rivals .

    ‘ He has argued an end to manditory coalition’

    So could a ten year old child with a basic grasp of ‘democracy ‘ 😉 I’m also in principle against ‘mandatory’ power sharing coalitions .

    ‘but I’ve yet to hear him sketch out exactly what he wants in its place’

    Well exactly . Within the NI polity such that it is there is not a whole lot of ‘middle ground’ to see any practical alternative at least in the short term – to the next Assembly election .

    ‘other than an opposition which has teeth.’

    For an ‘opposition ‘ to have ‘teeth’ it must have a credible chance of winning an election and becoming the government . That situation has never arisen within NI not since the State was founded . I have tried to envisage political circumstances developing in NI in which it could arise even an SDLP/UUP/AP/Green combination versus an SF/DUP government ? I have looked into the crystal ball long and hard and alas it’s still like a cloudy grey morning in mid january with nary a sight of blue nor sun on the horizon.

    It’s not a question of giving up easily . It’s a question of seeing what is practically possible in the here and now given the all too many social , economic and political limitations on ALL the political parties be they left , right or in between .

    The GFA /D’Hondt for all it’s defects and it has some , recognised the ‘unpalateable ‘ aspects on NI politics for what they were and indeed still are and that’s the base from which future developments will come in time .

    I would’nt be too impatient with what NI has achieved. This is a centuries old squabble much of which is of little interest to the average person in the rest of Britain or Ireland . While there’s no harm in tweaking the ‘engine’ to get it to run better it seems that Allister is attempting to blow the gasket .

    I guess we’ll hear his ‘real ‘ alternatives come the Westminster election . I can’t explain why but I see a large amount of ‘fudge ‘ on the TUV electoral horizon.

  • Greenflag

    ‘But who predicted the Belfast Agreement, 10 or even 5 years previously?’

    Fair point .

    ‘Besides, just how robust does anyone think these institutions are likely to prove if the sense is always the that most important democratic debates are likely to take place outside the chamber? ‘

    Not very (robust) I would agree . I think voters already sense that that is the situation – and that SF and the DUP may not be up to the ‘democratic ‘ challenge of open government . But people will I believe give them some more time to find their ‘comfort’ zones within what is after all still an ‘experiment ‘ .

    Right in the middle of a worldwide economic recession is probably not a good time to be looking for answers from a fledgling institution when even august and centuries old democratic institutions (Westminster /USA Congress are ‘flying ‘ by the seat of their pants as each crisis uncovers another ?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    the lazy line(s) is to continously criticize the Stormo architecture without taking into account how effective it has been in getting it us from where we were pre-GFA to now. In fact, until police and justice has been implemented and the mad fecker TUV Jimbo seen off progress will continue to be very slow.

    In some cases e.g. the Tory/UU crypto merger the line is not ‘lazy’ but self-serving as they jibber-jabber/spin about voluntary coalition which takes absolutely no account of political realities but serves to create the illusion of some marvelous politcal trick that PoshBoyDC is about to perform.

  • Jack Black

    You’re right, that wouldn’t happen at Stormont. Willie Hay is a bad speaker, but he isn’t THAT bad. And at Stormont the business is agreed in priviate by all parties together, not the Government.

  • Driftwood

    If Stormont was abolished tomorrow, no-one (except those aboard the gravy train) would notice.
    There is a NI affairs committee at Westminster and the NIO.

    The Trumpton assembly at Stormont is very expensive window dressing.

    Arguing over the crumbs from George Osbornes table next year is NOT a government. Face facts.

  • steve white

    so did they get a debate?

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    But who predicted the Belfast Agreement, 10 or even 5 years previously?

    em… everybody who had paid the least attention to Sunningdale for starters?

    Sometimes, Mick, it seems to me, that you insist on believing on various ”improving democratic” possibilities as an article of faith, not because of the slightest supporting evidence. It’s not a political opinion you have; it’s a religious persuasion.

    Besides, just how robust does anyone think these institutions are likely to prove if the sense is always the that most important democratic debates are likely to take place outside the chamber?

    But you see, Mick, that’s the point. Nobody but the politicos really care about the stability or otherwise of the institutions, only about the stability of the “absence of violence”. Very few people here care about D’Hondt v weighted majority v bar majority v consocial arrangements, etc.

    They either want the peace to keep going or they don’t. Or they want cross-community government, or they don’t. At the moment we have a key majority who want both peace and a cross-community government, beliveing presumably that the existence of the latter protects the continuence of the former.

    Nobody is dying in the ditch for the right to be the Opposition, and very few of the public are dying in the ditch to create an Opposition. Most are just thankful that most of the shooting has stopped.

    Which is just as well, because in this poisonous little acre, absence of shooting is frankly the best we can hope for, and even it takes work.

    If Stormont doesn’t work, it’s because Northern Ireland doesn’t work – Stormont is the sympton, not the disease. You can’t use Stormont to ‘cure’ Northern Ireland of its zero-sum tribal hostility – you have to fix the hostility before you can fix Stormont. And those most active on the ” oh, isn’t d’Hondt just awful” brigade have precious few bloody answers to the real problem – the poisonous legacy built into the foundation and fabric of the state.

  • Mick Fealty

    Steve,

    Next Friday from the afternoon from about 3pm to 9pm

    Sammy, TS,

    You’re both overstating a fairly modest point (and then inventing a few more that I didn’t mention, just for luck). Difficult to make the ‘lazy lines’ line stick when we’ve focused on the good work it’s been doing through the Slugger Awards, at a point when the world and his wife was lazily slagging it off.

    But in the Dail and in Holyrood they actually contest over the business of politics, and in the case of the latter they manage to deal with serious matters including their Constitutional question (Salmond cannot get through a FMQ session with singing to the rafters about it) and remain competitive in the chamber.

    I’m simply flagging up a flaw inherent in a closed power-sharing system that was grand for bring everyone into the chamber; but which we all knew from the start would not be good governance. It’s a question of just how bad it gets before people decide to look for people who can handle competitive politics.

    And 12 months + of stasis in OFMdFM, has given neither of the big parties much to shout about to their respective electorates.

    Sammy,

    Jibber Jabber, maybe. But there’s no telling where things will end up on the Unionist side of the fence after the last twelve months display of mutual bad faith in the Castle. No product (or in the case of education, negative product) may eventually come to be viewed good old fashioned incompetence. Everything else IS just ‘jibber jabber’. Care to contemplate what Plan B i might look like if this one falls apart?

    TS,

    So you think Stormont is doomed? You might be right. But this ‘We can’t do democratic politics because of the poison inherent in the system’ is riff on a line from Monty Python, not a serious argument. But whether it works or not, requires a political will at the top to make it operate. That doesn’t currently exist, it seems.

    Night all…

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    So you think Stormont is doomed?

    Not necessarily; it can limp on indefinitely. But I don’t have any reason to believe it will evolve in the way you want, and i don’t think that is necessarily a fatal flaw.

    But this ‘We can’t do democratic politics because of the poison inherent in the system’ is riff on a line from Monty Python, not a serious argument.

    While I appreciate the Holy Grail gag, ignoring the distorting effects of the foundation of the state (regardless of whose side, if any, you take)is akin to the classic “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”.

    Democratic politics of the ‘big game’ variety you, and many others seek, requires two key things to work. Both these things eminate not from the political classes, but from the broad masses.

    1. A sizeable swing vote that allows for the relative fortunes of parties to ebb and flow – there must be a REAL possibility of changing the government.

    2. A civic detente, which places a premium on the ‘will of the people’, and accepts the moral case for democracy as greater than individual desires at any particular time.

    In Northern Ireland, we have absolutely and resolutely got neither, and after almost ninety years, no sign of either. Indeed the nature and history of the society makes either practically impossible. Stormont doesn’t cause this, it simply reflects it.

    1. We have tribal voting, where the only swing is INTRA-tribe, not inter-tribe.

    2. And we have large numbers of people who consider their own views, standards, desires and wishes inherently more important than any democratic process in Northern Ireland. They won’t often admit that, but it’s the reality. For both sides, and I mean the whole tribe, not just its political operatives, playing the ‘democracy’ card is always just a tactic, never a principle.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    But in the Dail and in Holyrood they actually contest over the business of politics, and in the case of the latter they manage to deal with serious matters including their Constitutional question (Salmond cannot get through a FMQ session with singing to the rafters about it) and remain competitive in the chamber.

    Ridiculous analogy. Scotland’s population, as a voting block, has practically none of the tribal hatreds of Northern Ireland, and there is no fight over core national identity – almost everyone recognises a core agreed ‘cives’ in being Scottish. It is what is additional that is fought over.

    And there is no event in Scotland with the crucifying effect of Partition on the body politic.It’s the elephant in your room, Mick.

    But let’s try a mind experiment. Alec puts through his referendum by hook or crook, and in a shock result wins 75-80% support. Cameron at Westminster responds by carving out an enclave of ‘loyal’ Glasgow and the Borders, offering independence to the rest of Scotland, but claiming the ‘loyal’ bit in perpetuity. He sends the Army up to enforce it.

    Do you reckon no Scot would turn to the rifle? Do you reckon Alec would accept it? Frankly, do you belive that Cameron would dare do it? Of course he wouldn’t – because the legacy of such an act would be poisonous to good relations between Scotland and England, and within the retained part of Scotland for generations.

    But, in a different, more imperial age, LLoyd George did just that. Only he did it to a country already up in arms (yet again) over ‘undemocratic injustices’ running back to at least Gratten’s time, and possibly longer.

    Of course, he did it for good reasons of his own, of course Unionism was perectly justifed in opposing Home rule and then Independence. But History has consequnces. Our difficulties are one of those consequences.

    We, in general, didn’t go down the Bosnia route, or the Kosovo route, or God help me, the Rwanda route. I’m thankful for that alone, and I won’t risk the ‘peace’ lightly

    It’s a question of just how bad it gets before people decide to look for people who can handle competitive politics.

    But that’s the problem, Mick. When things do finally get THAT bad, they (the good folk of Northern Ireland)won’t look for alternative parties – they’ll look for guns. It’s what they’ve always done since 1598.

    And 12 months + of stasis in OFMdFM, has given neither of the big parties much to shout about to their respective electorates.

    But what shouting did they need? Did Barbra suffer as she romped home first with a quota? Are you telling me that Unionists who voted Jim Allister really belive, in their honest hearts, that he will actually be able to bring ‘better’ government about? Or that if SF and DUP start doing ood business, those voters will be happy about it? Pull the other one, it sings “O Susannah!”.

  • Dave

    “A civic detente, which places a premium on the ‘will of the people’, and accepts the moral case for democracy as greater than individual desires at any particular time.”

    The problem being, of course, that democracy is “the will of the people” singular, never plural. In NI, you have the will of the peoples. In other words, two nations competing for control of one state. States only work as nation-states (197 out of 203 states) or, where there is a state of nation rather than a nation state (the UK and the US), when there is a common nationalism to unite the nations. So, in the US, you have many nations and one state but they all operate under the banner of American, and this is pretty much the case with the UK. In NI, the conflict is between those who operate under the banner of the British nation and those who do not; and as Greenflag and you both acknowledge, there is bugger all that can be done ’bout that.

    There is a common nationalism of Northern Irish (and it is this nation that has the right to national self-determination for the ‘state’ of NI) but does anybody actually operate under this potentially unifying banner? If they did, that would restore a functional democracy to NI since it would then be ‘the will of the people’ (singular). The slight problem with this is that it will require cultural genocide to be carried out on the two nations that do exist in NI, destroying their unique cultural aspects and exaggerating their common aspects. That might be contrary to fundamental UN principles but that hasn’t stopped the EU from acting to destroy the nations on the continent of Europe by merging them into a single nation under the common nationalism of European which will ‘share’ the claim to national self-determination of the engineered state of Europa (or so these demented clowns think), so why should it stop the British government from doing the same thing to the two nations in NI? They’d be none-the-wiser until it’s too late.

    Post-nationalism is pure fantasy. When folks realise that (after the EU is disbanded), they’ll get around to a sensible repartition of NI that reflects Article 1 of the UN’s ICCPR, recognising that no nation has the right to order the affairs of another nation so, just as the British nation or the engineered ‘European’ nation has no right to order the affairs of the Irish nation in its own state, that the Irish nation has no right to order the affairs of the British nation in NI. In the meantime, of course, the post-nationalists will continue to deluded themselves (or, more accurately, continue to be inoculated with the EU propaganda that promotes this concept) that nations can be successfully separated from their states.

  • Dave

    “…where there is a state of nation[b]s[/b] rather than a nation state…”

  • Nomad

    Dave,

    Congratulations. You’ve managed to take a point about strong opposition government and make it an attack on continuing European integration. You have a talent of some sort, that’s for sure!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    re. “Care to contemplate what Plan B i might look like if this one falls apart? ”

    As you know fururing is my strong suit. It will be interesting if Unionism tries to jump ship because of the current arrangments at Stormo as the Tories will be faced with doing the dirty on the UU – threatening Unionism with more Dublin involvement(Plan B) or risk much greater disser republican violence who will be able to claim the orange card was played.

    In relation to the ‘lazy’ accusation – the DUP were unable to agree on anything with SF for fear of losing support – which has happened anyway – and if they can see-off the TUV by continuing to sell themselves as pro-agreement then if and when police and justice (a key republican requirment) is transferred it will be game on. Patience my dear boy, patience.

  • “there is bugger all that can be done ‘bout that.”

    Dave, NI is a patchwork quilt of ‘us and themmuns’ so that requires IMO shared sovereignty and the merger of strands 2 and 3 to maximise the accommodation between the two opposing aspirations. It builds upon the ‘common ground’ and would diminish the clout of the ‘hard men’; it should provide an opening for people of ability to become public representatives to get their snouts in the trough rather than ‘donkeys’ with flags on their backs.

    The lead for this will not come from London and Dublin as they are jointly determined to keep our problems contained to here. This means that they will ‘reward’ the likes of Gerry Adams and Jacky McDonald who in other parts of these islands would probably have spent a lot of time behind bars. These are just two of the ‘chosen few’ who must be kept sweet no matter what happens to the UUP-SDLP ‘centre ground’.

    President McAleese’s endorsement of the Finaghy Crossroads Group is just one outworking of that joint UK/Ireland policy. Civil servants from Dublin’s Department of Foreign Affairs will go with this flow but it causes great nervousness amongst those from the Department of Justice.

    PS I used one semi-colon to ‘sex-up’ that analysis 😉 (OOPS there’s another one)

  • “As you know fururing is my strong suit.”

    Quite, Sammy. There seem to be a lot of jokers in your pack – and a shortage of suits 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, I’ve patience enough for all of us Sammy. But your appreciation of how this game goes in the future looks remarkably like the way it’s already run in the past. That’s where I have doubts about it, because not all the factors are the same as they were in the past.

    Whether they get their act together or not, the solid state condition of the BA/SAA institutions don’t make for great transparency, or trust in the longer term. In that sense, I’m merely flagging a problem for the future. In the mean time, without the political will to move on, we may be stuck in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe for the foreseeable.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Mick,

    one potential difference is the ‘Unionism’ of the Tories – if they dont threaten the Unionists with the big ROI papal stick then why should Unionism not, as Driftwood keeps pleading for, and using his terminology let ‘Trumpton’ fall apart. From an integrationist Unionist perpspective( and if I was a Unionist then it would be my favoured option ) – they might be prepared to gamble with a return of re-branded Republican violence to avoid to SF in government.

    re. Criticising Stormo – we have to cut the feckers some slack and simply marvel at the success of the Englezes organising the Robbo and Marty Laugh in that constitutes Stormo – but I agree when the full implementatin of the agreement has taken place and the TUV have been dealt with, we need to see proper discussion and debate.

  • Greenflag

    Dave ,

    ‘There is a common nationalism of Northern Irish’

    There is’nt . There is an overall ‘cultural’ and ‘regional’ identity which you could call ‘Ulster/Norn Iron’ which has commonalities between both tribes and yet also serious political differences . These ‘tribes ‘ are not East and West Bavarians trying to be ‘proper ‘ Germans but instead East and West trying to be part of Germany and France at the same time . Even in the EU this would be seen as a ludicrous basis on which to build local self government in Bavaria . But in Northern Ireland this is exactly what is being attempted . It’s being attempted because neither side really wants to face the ‘political’facts of life and UK politicians as well as the Republic’s would rather ‘fudge ‘ well into the future. And unless there is a fundamental shift in demographics or local political allegiances thats about all that is possible for now . Attempts to undermine the present uneasy peace by trying to ‘perfect’ or reach some ‘democratic’ ideal will fall flat on their face because of the fundamental flaw inherent in the NI State which was built into it at it’s foundation.

    Stormont is the limping ‘cripple’ survivor of 40 years of failure by the political class in NI. Prior to the GFA the only serious effort at a compromise solution was Sunningdale and the collapse of the latter ended serious political engagement across the divide until the late 1990’s and even then it took the American , British and Irish Governments to bang the local NI heads together to try and get some kind of compromise solution.

    Stormont can and probably will limp on indefinitely . As long as HMG continues to foot the bill anyway.

    mick ,

    ‘we may be stuck in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe for the foreseeable. ‘

    True . The food should be passable although now and again there will be serious outbreaks of indigestion and no doubt political trauma caused by those nearby ‘black holes ‘ which threaten to cast said restaurant out of one universe into another 😉

  • “when the full implementatin of the agreement has taken place”

    Sammy, the 50%+1 constitutional deal and the rest of the Agreement are at odds with each other so ‘full implementation’ is a non-runner.