“That’s a decision for the Irish government”

The DUP took on the mantle of “defenders of Irish sovereignty” in the Northern Ireland Assembly today [Added link to the debate]. Being debated was a Sinn Féin private members’ motion calling for “an All Ireland economic summit to find alternatives to NAMA and an all-Ireland strategy towards mutual economic recovery” – the party’s statement is here. It’s as if they haven’t noticed what’s been happening in Ireland. RTÉ notes that the motion was defeated, and reports the NI Finance Minister’s comments.

DUP Finance minister Sammy Wilson spoke against the motion. He said that NAMA was a matter for the Dáil and added that he was confident the Irish government had no intention of starting a fire-sale He said: ‘I don’t want to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of Nama. The Irish government has taken a decision that that is the way it is going to manage the banking difficulties which banks based in its jurisdiction have got into.

‘That’s a decision for the Irish government and as far as I’m concerned the only input that I wish to have is that if they set up that system then I want to make sure that the issues that effect Northern Ireland are protected through the co-operation which we have on a government to government basis or on a minister to minister.’

The motion, and amendment, under debate

Motion – National Asset Management Agency

That this Assembly expresses deep concern at the possible negative economic consequences for the island of Ireland if the National Asset Management Agency legislation currently under consideration by Dáil Éireann is passed; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to raise the issue at the North South Ministerial Council to agree a way forward regarding these assets which will ensure the economic stability of the island of Ireland and movement towards economic growth.

[Mr M McLaughlin]
[Ms J McCann]
[Mr P Butler]

The Speaker has selected the following amendment for debate:
Amendment 1:

Proposed: Leave out all after ‘consequences’ and insert:

‘ for Northern Ireland arising from the potential National Asset Management Agency legislation currently under consideration in the Oireachtas; and, while respecting the right of the Irish Government and Parliament to determine their own response to the banking crisis within their jurisdiction, calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister, alongside the Ministers of Finance and Personnel and Enterprise, Trade and Investment, to use all opportunities, including the North South Ministerial Council, to ensure that the potential implications for the economy in Northern Ireland are fully taken into account within any legislation and subsequent action.’

[Mr S Neeson]
[Dr S Farry]

Adds From the NI Assembly debate

Mr Weir: I welcome the debate. As a politician, it is, in part, always good to talk about bankers, because in recent days, they are, perhaps, the one group of professionals that tend to be held in lower esteem than politicians. Consequently, the opportunity to distract from our bad press is always welcome.

Although I disagree with the wording of the amendment, Dr Farry hit the nail on the head. We need to focus on what the Assembly can do and determine our appropriate role. In that respect, I fundamentally disagree with the motion’s approach, because I do not believe that it is appropriate for the Assembly to interfere in what is essentially a turf war down South between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin and in legislation in another jurisdiction.

Some people would criticise the Assembly for not giving sufficient scrutiny to its own legislation. Therefore, it is a somewhat expansionist approach to suggest that we should interfere in legislation in the Irish Republic. To that end, some colleagues and I find ourselves in the unusual position of being defenders of Irish sovereignty today. We are a different jurisdiction, and it is not our role to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.