A vision for the Hucksters shop

When I read Peter Robinson’s speech yesterday I at first considered that it may have been a joke. It is very strange in a lot of areas.

The most publicity has come from the idea of removing community designation from Assembly voting. This is not a surprise in any way, and if Sinn Fein were thinking about it they, would agree. This would stop the DUP from flagrantly abusing the community designation system as they did to protect Sammy Wilson from criticism when he was Environment Minister. Sinn Fein don’t have such a veto at present, because they don’t have the 30 members needed to spark a community majority vote. It would also take a drop in Nationalist vote share that no one would consider predicting to remove the Unionist/Nationalist veto using a 65% majority voting system. Martin McGuinness’ reaction smacks a little of knee jerk – he should at least be thinking it over rather than slamming the door. Gaskin’s predictably offensive and ignorant contribution is a sad reflection of the poor quality of the republican blogosphere, and furthers the knee jerk reaction.

This section of the speech is clearly not a DUP attempt to better govern Northern Ireland, and it is idiotic to suggest that it is an attempt to achieve majority rule. It smells a lot of a sop to the Alliance Party as payment for their soul together with a Ministerial car. However for that to be the case, surely Sinn Fein would have known about it. If this was mood music to the Alliance, and the DUP didn’t think to tell Sinn Fein, then both parties have demonstrated astonishing stupidity.

However the most interesting section of the speech is, for me, this:

For some time the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP have complained about how Executive business has been handled and that they have been marginalized. At the same time Ulster Unionist and SDLP Ministers have been less than responsible in how they have approached Executive business. But rather than apportioning blame I want to find solutions. That is why pending the introduction of any new measures and as a gesture to the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP I believe we should consider requiring unanimity at the Executive in order to pass decisions.

While no party would be allowed to frustrate the commitments the Executive has made in the Assembly approved Programme for Government, in circumstances where the UUP and SDLP make a good faith effort to work constructively on matters in the Executive DUP Ministers would insist that all decisions will only be taken by consensus and we will not use our votes to override their opposition.

Indeed to make this participation really meaningful, I will ensure that SDLP and Ulster Unionist Ministers have a greater role in relation to Executive business. I cannot speak for the deputy First Minister but I am prepared, if they wish, to meet with UUP and SDLP Ministers in advance of each Executive meeting and to make arrangements so that their Special Advisors are fully consulted and involved in the process.

It is here that we get very close to admission that the Executive really is a Huckster’s shop. Sir Reg Empey used that phrase in complaining about how Executive papers were circulated so late as to be obstructive in scrutiny of important matters. Here it is surely implied that such actions have been deliberate measures to keep the UUP and SDLP outside of the loop. What kind of way is that to run a Government? Not only that, what does it say about the First Minister that he is willing to say that the Cabinet has been run badly in the past, but that he has now seen the light and is prepared to do it properly in future? The reference to unanimity being required in the Executive is fascinating, given that a convention of a three member veto at the Executive was dispensed with by the DUP/Sinn Fein Executive in order to push through disputed minutes. It is also interesting that Robinson claims that the UUP and SDLP have been “less than responsible” in the same speech where he announces that Sinn Fein rowed back on their CSI Strategy position near the end of the process, a fact that would be covered by the “not our practise to comment on Executive business” defence usually deployed when such questions are asked.

In many ways it is a shame that the media attention has been so specific in its focus on this speech, because it’s entirity is worthy of debate. But that debate is not likley to be generous to the DUP.

  • Driftwood

    Strange indeed…given that the next election here is to the national parliament at Westminster. Has Robinson given up there?

    This is the man who asked his party to spread the ‘good news’ about devolution effectively admitting it isn’t working.

  • Sean

    Whats a matter mikey are you sad and bitter that nationalists soundly reject what might be the only hope for the uup to ever have a position of strength in nIreland ever again?

  • Couldn’t comment – shouldn’t

    Firstly – the bit about SpAds – I thought the role of SpAds was work together to smooth Executive business, has this been done away with?

    Secondly if the UUP and SDLP have been as marginalised, as Robinson suggests, why are they still there?

    AS for the unanimity clause, that’s just DUP cowardice they want someone to hide behind – no votes, no record, no blame. If the UUP objects on financial grounds to P&J the DUPs will play either – we were willing but we couldn’t get unanimity card or, more probably, we objected strongly and fought hard not to devolve P&J – (hardliners please note) – when in reality they didn’t say or do anything.

    You call this leadership?? Pathetic

  • Big Maggie


    What part of “Gaskin’s” contribution did you find offensive, Peter Robinson bearing arms? Surely par for the course when we got a surfeit of the photo of Martin McGuinness doing likewise.

    And what precisely is he ignorant of? Perhaps you know something he does not. Do share.

  • would be student

    Peter will no doubt be addressing this issue when he gives his inaugural address to the Unionist Academy he was going to set up a while back.
    He has a bit of previous on talking shite though.

  • igor

    I think you are on to something.

    Just why would the DUPs be making overtures to the UUP? Altruism? Statesmanship?

    Nah …… there must be a political motive so if the DUPs arent aiming to wipe them out at Westminster perhaps there’s another cunning DUP plan of the ‘one for you, one for me’ variety.

    We could end up with a political orgy with Reg simultaneously in bed with both the Conservatives and the DUP while they all stiffed the SDLP and Shinners.

    This would have the benefit of leaving the TUV out in the cold as Unionists might well flock to the safety of an agreed single unionist candidate in all marginal constituences. That might well kill off the TUV challeneg for good as they would lose momentum then post election we can all get back down to factionalism and the sectarian carve up as usual

    Call me Machiavelli but ……. it really does make sense you know

  • Big Maggie

    Igor Machiavelli,

    And there was me thinking that lads and lasses went into politics for the greater good :^)

  • borderline

    This is what happens when you construct a state based on sectarianism.

    Alice in WondIreland.

  • bob wilson

    Michael I heard the speech delivered and detached a note of panic in Robbo’s remarks
    The aim now must be for Reg to hold his never and for the Conservatives and Unionists to hit them hard at the General Election.
    DUP have been damaged by the expenses rows – the Paisleys, the Dodds’ and the Robinsons’ all came out poorly
    The Euro result removed there political momentum and exposed the shallowness of their political strategy
    The Assembly is not performing and the DUP/SF are in real danger of being seen as the ‘incumbent’ govt.

  • anon

    Bob- “detached”? ” detected” surely?
    Cons and Unionists can only hit them hard if they have candidates. Since the great announcement of how they’d be chosen it’s all gone silent.
    DUP are not only incumbent government, they’re seen as traitors by a large chunk of the unionist voters, as well as liars. A mate who’s TUV in outlook told me that at least SF were honest- they never sent anyone round the doors saying devolution wouldn’t happen on their watch, and Davy Simpson does have form in this area.
    Sooner Cons and unionnists present a raft of candidates the better.