Will Brian Feeny light the bonfire?

Brian Feeney today takes a swipe inter alia at the Northern establishment especially the DUP, for being clueless about how they’ll face inevitable financial cuts, preferring instead to sit crowing on top of their own wee dung-heap. In contrast, he points to an Bord Snip:

One of the key aspects of An Bord Snip’s recommendations is a hard look at the cost of the state apparatus in the south. In this wee place with one and a half million the NIO and Stormont together have constructed a replica of a sovereign state with all the boards, commissions and quangos they could think of.

In principle, I seriously agree with him. The huge nomenklatura built up during the Troubles still overshadows the Assembly and allows them to evade tough choices by keeping the show on the road after a fashion. At best most of them politely patronise the Assembly; at worst, they despair of it. Brian will admit though that much of this apparatus evolved mainly to create Catholic equality. Next, you needed some balance and before you knew it, you had created a ballooning bureaucracy, much of it at the behest of the two governments. I remember an appalled but diligent Lib Dem peer doing duty on NI business, showing me a literally two feet high pile of glossy reports from NI agencies. Could we risk scrapping much of this today? The idea was, if you objectivise governance and make it more rights-based, you draw the poison of politics out of it. Now that politics have returned, poison and all, the two approaches can be said to be incompatible. You couild say the structures remain in place to give space to Assembly parties to build trust in each other and the public. In our present fragile enough state, who is brave enough to light the bonfire of the quangos and replace them with what? A strong confident coalition of the willing? More council control than the thin pickings in the Review of Public Administration? Maybe Brian has a manifesto ready.

  • fair_deal

    “Brian Feeney today takes a swipe inter alia at the Northern establishment especially the DUP, for being clueless about how they’ll face inevitable financial cuts,”

    Perhaps Feeney could bother himself to look at DUP proposals for reducing government.

    A bonfire of the quangos is undoubtedly needed but isn’t easy as many are fulfilling stautory functions so abolishing the body doesn’t abolish the ‘work’. While some money can be saved by combing a range of functions in one organisation the real savings will only come if you sit down and decide what you want government to stop doing (and European law probably limits that).

    “The idea was, if you objectivise governance and make it more rights-based, you draw the poison of politics out of it.”

    Rubbish you just shift the political battle and it ignores the left-ward influence on much of human rights development. It also the removal of democratic control for judicial control, no thanks. Judicial power is meant to be a check on power not the power.

  • slug

    Ironic but the credit crunch – and the opportunity to seriously cut a lot of bureaucracy – may be a golden opportunity for NI. Its hard in normal times to justify such cuts for the usual political reasons.

  • Drumlins Rock

    So reducing the councils from 26 to 11, education boards from 5 to 1, with similar story in the Health service counts for nothing? think we are ahead of the south on those areas already, would it not be sensible to allow those changes, together with the whole devolved administration to settle before we move onto the next stage, which will happen soon enough i’m sure.
    My guess is a review will begin shortly after the next assembly and council elections, and dare I say a complete constuiency remap? Hopefully the councils can take on alot of the silly bunk, I can think of a few places to start.
    In the meantime of course merging and scrapping a few more Quangos would be good.

  • Seceder

    reductions – None of which have been done by the DUP. THe RPA wasa UUP initiative, health reforms were McGimpsey’s and all the endless useless talk has been the DUPs – for all their bonfires of quangos the DUP have done little to reduce anything.

  • Scaramoosh

    “Now that politics have returned.”

    Can, in all honesty, what goes on in N.Ireland, really be called politics?

  • Drumlins Rock

    can we start a list on here of recomendations for functions and boards that could be scrapped/merged/reduced?

    And I dont mean the whole assembly!

    1. The childrens commissioner

    would be as good place to start as any,

  • Brian will admit though that much of this apparatus evolved mainly to create Catholic equality.

    I doubt Brian would admit anything of the sort; there is no problem on earth which won’t be laid at the door of those darned Prods/Unionists/Brits in Feeney-World.

    I’ve covered a relevant report issued by the Centre of Economic and Business Research today which deals with the same topic skirted round by Feeney:

    http://tinyurl.com/lbo8g9

  • The link to the CEBR Report doesn’t seem to be working, try this.

  • O’neill, one of your ls is missing. Try this.

  • “In this wee place with one and a half million the NIO and Stormont together have constructed a replica of a sovereign state with all the boards, commissions and quangos they could think of.”

    Why is Brian being economical with the truth? Was he not an SDLP councillor when the Irish government had its hands on the levers of power here post-1985? Did he not avail of the services of the Anglo-Irish Joint Secretariat at Maryfield via the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin? I can think of one of his former SDLP colleagues who did.

  • fair_deal

    Seceder

    “THe RPA wasa UUP initiative”

    Nice attempt at a re-write, but omits that the UUP wanted the 15 council model.

  • “all the DUP can come up with in the midst of the dire economic straits is the suggestion that the Irish government cuts back on ‘north-southery’.”

    It’s not all being cut back, Brian. According to the Clare Herald a motley crew from the Black North is this very day ‘invading’ Inis Oírr. The party includes Mervyn Storey DUP MLA and the ‘very impotent’ Minister Conor Murphy:

    Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, will tomorrow host a visit to Inis Oírr, one of the Aran Islands, for a delegation from Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim, accompanied by local MLA Mervyn Storey and the Northern Ireland Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy MP MLA.

    It seems the crew lacked the gonads to visit Rathlin’s sister island, Cape Clear …

  • barnshee

    “So reducing the councils from 26 to 11, education boards from 5 to 1, with similar story in the Health service counts for nothing”

    Er yes nothing is exactly what has happened so far- there is the need to vastly reduce the public sector cost base, 80 % of the cost base is wage related- there are only two ways to reduce

    1 Cut activities and jobs
    2 cut wage rates

    Likely to happen?

    a ha ha ha

  • loki

    Fair_deal:- back in the dim and distant past that the DUP cares not to remember, it was in favour of 7 councils. And indeed for the same reason that SF fancied 7- it allowed a total sectarian carve-up. Indeed, the DUP councillors wnated 15 councils and relayed that info to party officers, who then decided that 11 was the way forward. Keep trying the revisionism- someone may still believe that DUP in some small corner of NI.

    Interesting- the submit word is “over”,as in “it’s over for the DUP!”

  • fair_deal

    Loki

    “it was in favour of 7 councils.”

    I can;t find any link which substantiates that. Do you have a link for this. At least one UUP rep claims differently:
    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-176957506.html

  • cynic2

    Any policy to do so would never pass an Equality Audit

  • Different Drummer

    Answer No He Will Not Why?

    Because he has been lighting and burning his own bonfires for many many years…..

    …..bonfires of the vanities.

  • frustrated democrat

    When you have Minister Sammy saying ‘I am pleased to inform Members that the Executive have delivered record levels of spending on our public services in 2008-09’ that means he judges the Assembly’s success by the increase in the amount of taxpayers money spent. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ni/?id=2009-07-07.3.1&s=budget+speaker:11374#g3.3

    What hope do we have?

    Sammyomics would judge the success of a politician by how much they can claim in expenses – of course that explains the films, luxury east end pads, food bills, office rent etc etc. By his reckoning the DUP has very very successful politicians.

    We need experienced people in ministries who understand what they are doing.

    The facts that everyone can understand are that ten years of Brown have left the UK with no money and a defict of about £3 billion a week and we, in common with the rest of the UK, will have to contribute sunstantial savings to get back in balance.

  • Driftwood

    What hope do we have?

    frustrated democrat

    It looks like the UNCUNF candidate in the Norwich North by election, Chloe Smith, is now a cert to be elected. There is hope!

  • Billy

    Driftwood

    Great news. I’m sure that the NI assembly and their spending plans were a real hot topic on the doorsteps of Norwich North and played a major role in Ms Smith being elected.

  • Driftwood

    Billy
    The Conservative and Unionist Party is a broad church across the UK. It’s nice to see we now have the youngest member of parliament in the Commons. Congratulations to Chloe and let’s look forward to next May and a lot more joining her from all parts of the Kingdom.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Driftwood is quite right the people in NI will have exactly the same opportunity to elect a member of the putative Cameron government as the voters in Norwich North.

    They can vote for Westminster candidates who can make a difference for ALL the people of NI and who could help decide what amount of funding is available here in conjunction with a new Secretary of State.

    Let us hope that they follow the example of the voters in Norwich and do not place their X beside the candidates of the Sammyomics party.