Executive go slow to continue?

The first Assembly lasted just over 800 days before it was brought down. This Assembly has just passed that milestone and has clocked up nearly 20,000 hours of devolved government.

Now that our MLAs are coming back from a long summer break, I thought it might be a good idea to look at the comparative records of both administrations. These are not definitive guides to productivity but do point to the level of activity under each.

According to the Assembly website 42 pieces of legislation have been introduced in this Assembly. The last one managed 64. In simple terms you could expect a new piece of legislation approximately every fortnight from the first Assembly and about every three weeks from this one.

Another difference this time around is the use of accelerated passage to reduce Assembly debate around proposed legislation. This Executive uses this mechanism much more readily then the first did and even deployed it to curtail the budget debate.

There is also quite a bit of legislation either caught up in Executive wrangling or which simply appears to have fallen off the radar altogether. This includes:

Cohesion Sharing and Integration – sectarianism and racism
School transfer – 11plus.
Appointment of a Sustainability Commissioner
Irish Language
Civil Service Equal Pay
Liquor Licensing
Sunday Betting
Children’s StrategyProgramme for Government

Academics have examined the two administration’s approach to the development and delivery of a Programme For Government. They note the first Executive’s programme was some 70 pages, single spaced; this one’s first draft was 17pages and double-spaced.

The first Programme was organised around clear policy goals. This one is not and is flimsy by comparison.

The first Executive produced a rolling, three-year programme, so that it fulfilled the requirement in the Good Friday Agreement that the Programme for Government (and budget) be agreed annually; the second has just produced one, three-year programme.

Finally, the first Executive consulted the Civic Forum on the programme; the second still has to decide if it wants to reconstitute the forum.

North – South Cooperation

Under the first Executive the North South Ministerial Council met in either plenary, institutional or sectoral form 71 times. This time round there have only been 43 meeting and as far as I am aware the work programme which was agreed in 1999 has not be updated.

  • Zoon

    Maybe its time that we revise how we practice representative democracy.
    The median working wage is well below what the politicos get and i believe there are better persons out there doing a harder job for much less effort than the media hungry MLAs get who are in love with the own voice and image. No doubt there are MLAs who deserve their pay but then again there are some who do not.
    Did Jim N UCUNF MEP not promise to release his expenses etc, after he got returned, where is it?

  • fin

    Conall, deceptive piece, would the very first assembly not be expected to have a large programme for government on account of been the very first one. It produce a 3 year rolling plan, how long did it last? how many of the ‘clear policy goals’ were achieved?

    The fact that powersharing and democracy actually now exists in NI is a credit to the SDLP and Sinn Fein, that it is fairly stable is a milestone, that the DUP agreed to powersharing/democracy is significant.

    Perhaps the newfound democractic goverment of NI should be allowed to stagger for a while before been expected to deliver in the same fashion as longer established governments.

    Will you be doing a followup on the SDLP’s unity forum idea

  • Couldn’t really comment – shouldn’t

    The Assembly and the Executive are a disgrace.

    108 members, 11 depts, goodness knows how many advisors and hangers on and no output.

    Reform the lot of them now before the next election- slash and burn the viable policy!

    But be assured according a friend recently attended the AgendaNi seminar “What will a Conservative Government mean for NI” – the answer was shed loads of patronising waffle from Tory wide boys. Owen Paterson was amazing – apparently his solution to the crapness of the Assembly was a virtual – “it’ll be alright on the night”

    He even attempted to lecture the audience with the only guilt trip – don’t do anything that might damage the progress we have made – look how far you have come. Incredible a Tory telling the business & community sector “not to damage the process” – what process? the processs that delivers nothing, that agrees on nothing and that can’t even hold a proper budget debate in a financial crisis

    The reality remains, NI is on the edge of the UK, London has got rid of its problem – again. THe natives are quiet incapable of doing anything – but who cares they are only damaging their own kids/jobs/health service *delete as appropriate and London Tory or Labour don’t give a toss.

  • maeglin


    Shockingly uninformed piece. Why is legislation necessarily seen as a good thing? Both unionist parties claim to support “small government” and therefore should be resisting EVEN MORE regulation and infringement on individual liberty.

    Secondly, your list of so-called missing legislation makes no sense;

    Cohesion, Sharing Integration – this is an update of a STRATEGY (shared future) not legislation

    School Transfer – may just require agreed guidance rather than primary legislation

    Appointment of Commissioner – APPOINTMENT under existing legislation, does NOT require new legislation

    Irish Language Act – as if. DCAL Minister has made it clear this will be a STRATEGY

    Civil Service Pay – issue requiring settlement and re-evaluation of pay scales for certain jobs. What legislation required?

    LL and Sunday Betting – hardly high priority issues (though maybe for the DSD SDLP Minister hence their inclusion LOL) but two of the few on this list that would require legislation

    Children’s Strategy – A 10 year strategy has been agreed and published some time ago. This is published and requires no legislation. The rolling action plan is updated periodically.

    As for your comments re the PFG – I think most commentators would agree that the first PFG was a rag-bag collection of everything and anything that Depts were doing. Useless and lacking focus. The strategic part of the new PFG numbers around 20 pages. The detailed PSAs are outline the key actions and main targets and are logically ordered. The difference is these were appendixed unlike the first PFG where they made up the bulk of the document.

    Why don’t you actually go and find out some facts instead of the ill-informed twaddle you are (and getting paid to) spouting.

  • Thanks for your comments Maeglin.

    Just one small but important clarification of fact. I don’t get paid for the blogs I write.


  • couldn’t comment – shouldn’t


    Are you really supporting this shower?

    They are useless, they have neither strategy nor legislation – Governments are supposed to govern and they do that through legislation. Policy is normally implemented through legislation – that’s why we have a Legislative Assembly.

    Back in the 80s the likes of Jim Molyneaux supported a kind of devolution called “administrative devolution” a system whereby policy and legislation was set at Westminster and Stormont implemented it. It was crap then and it is crap now.

    But that’s what we have today except it is being implemented by hypocrites who are pretending to be legislators – jumped up local councillors.

    It shouldn’t continue and sites like slugger and the media should get on their case – we shouldn’t tolerate it

  • Mike


    “Academics have examined the two administration’s approach to the development and delivery of a Programme For Government. They note the first Executive’s programme was some 70 pages, single spaced; this one’s first draft was 17pages and double-spaced.”

    Hasn’t it been acknowledged (David Trimble quoted in ‘Room 21’ possibly?) that the first PfG was too long and contained too many items and should have been much more high-level and prioritised?

  • Belfast Gonzo


    If your best argument against Conall’s piece is that the government has no strategies, I wouldn’t necessarily be shouting about it. Regardless of the lack of legislation, there’s a lot of important stuff you have noted that appears to be going nowhere fast.

  • wsviasdlp

    Self promotion is very profitable these days.
    I love when know nothings set themselves up as some kind of authority on all things Northern Ireland, when the opposite is true.
    We have a farcical ‘government’ that is not really a government, and a politically connected ( Old SDLP connections) PR machine promoting that government.

    No merit. No nothing- just I will promote you after you promote me.

    Truly revolting and fooling noone.

    On yer bike, if the ‘scum’ didn’t take it

  • Comrade Stalin

    fin, I think the “wow, we have formed a government and we are not killing each other” argument in favour of the executive has worn a bit thin. People expect the government to deliver and, frankly, it hasn’t.

    I am not fan of the Stoops or the UUP – the mess we are in was created by the SDLP and their foolish insistence upon d’Hondt – but their administration achieved more in the short time that it had. Taxi reforms, ground rent reform, etc, are some examples of long-overdue problems which were tackled. I can’t think of any real difference this executive has made to the lives of people in NI, on big issues or small ones. Planning reform, for example, is a matter that you would think people would agree on but we’re still no closer to getting that sorted out than we were in 2007. All we’ve had are stunts like the water charges being suspended the price of prescriptions to those not in poverty being reduced.

  • Maeglin

    just pointing out the errors in conall’s article folks!

    I dont see any merit in bringing forward legislation just for the sake of it. The Irish language Act for example would be a massive burden on many bodies and would consume even more of the taxpayers money.

    There are strategies and policies being produced on a daily basis. However a mandatory coalition between parties that are ideologically poles apart isn’t exactly going to be efficient OR productive. I think we need to start facing up to the fact that some policies (esp ones left unfinished by but very much the produce of the last admin) will simply not see the light of day.

    I do think there is a tendency for sdlp snd uup to harp back to the “good old days” which were in fact far from good. it is sheer revisionism.

    on the planning issue – I think you will find progress has been made in his area hence the sharpe increase of applications now being passed.