Equality – what equality?

David Ford has told the BBC a £1bn package to pay for devolution of policing and justice could be lost if agreement is not reached before the next general election.

There is probably some truth in this but as Fionnuala O’Connor pointed out on Inside Politics yesterday it is a very strange arrangement when a party (Alliance) with no mandate to sit around the Executive table will end up in government as a result of a deal to set aside the D’Hondt for the allocation of this post.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed a nationalist will not hold the post of justice minister, thus subverting the rights of SDLP voters to be properly represented at the Executive table in accordance with the party’s mandate and the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. This deal discriminates against nationalist voters and the SDLP as the party would be entitled to the 11th minister in the Executive under D’Hondt.

It surely also poses a question about SF and the DUP’s commitment to equality.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall

    re. “Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed a nationalist will not hold the post of justice minister”

    Havent they also agreed that the UUP and the DUP cannot take up the post? If the answer to that is “Yes” then doesnt the statement “It surely also poses a question about SF and the DUP’s commitment to equality” look like a straightforward piece of ideological spin?

  • Sammy

    I wonder if the DUP and SF would have been so keen to give up the post if the 11th department had fallen to either of them under D’Hondt?

    There is no getting away from the fact that this deal discrminates against nationalist voters denying them a minister they are entitled to.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    you have clearly misrepresneted the facts here with your statement “Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed a nationalist will not hold the post of justice minister”

    This is a half truth designed to make it appear as if its anti-SDLP when actually it is clearly a fudge to get the agreement implemented.

    re. Discrimination.
    You may as well say that Unionist voters cant have a Unionist Justice minister after the Stormo elections and they might be discriminated against – as we dont know the distribution of ministries and therefore dont know if the UUP would have lost out.

  • Billy

    Conall

    I have to agree with you. Fair enough, I can understand the DUP not wanting a SF Minister and, even as a moderate Nationalist, I certainly wouldn’t trust the DUP (the likes of McCrea, Campbell, Wilson, Paisley Jnr) with it.

    However, the truth is that this SF/DUP side deal has deprived the SDLP and constitutional Nationalists of a ministry they are fully entitled to.

    I have had little time for the SDLP since John Hume and Seamus Mallon retired.

    However, given the consistent stance of the SDLP against violence over the years, there was no reason (other than Unionist bigotry) that they shouldn’t have had this ministry as they are entitled to it.

    SF and the DUP should have agreed that neither of them wouldn’t take it. Beyond that, the standard method used in the assenbly (D’Hondt) should have been honoured.

    The SDLP and their voters have been robbed of a ministry that they are fully and legally entitled to.

  • Brian Walker

    Conall, Nothing wrong with an SDLP minister of justice, in my view. But the idea of a small party minister to break a deadlock is entirely familiar in coalition building the world over.

    I’d even welcome the odd breach of the D’Hondt strait jacket if it helps make govenment work. Mark Durkan might have agreed, had not the SDLP been sidelined by the proposal for an Alliance minister. The next question is: will the SDLP try to block the transfer of powers if Ford or an other is part of a deal? I’d guess not – and they’d be right and statesmanlike not to do so, tough though it would be for them. Another world wide poltical phenomenon is that commitment to equality is usually subordinate to party advantage.

  • Brian

    I dont think the SDLP will oppose devolution. They did vote against the legislation in the Assembly because of the fundamental inequality at its heart amongst other things.

    The real question in my mind is this. Does SF belive in equality for all nationalists or is it just for their members and supporters?

  • fair_deal

    Where does it say that the creation of a new ministry is simply given to the next party in line as opposed to a re-running of D’hondt?

  • Fair Deal.

    “Where does it say that the creation of a new ministry is simply given to the next party in line as opposed to a re-running of D’hondt?”

    Nowhere. So why would the DUP and Sinn Fein simply not agree to running it again?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    Re. “The real question in my mind is this. Does SF belive in equality for all nationalists or is it just for their members and supporters? ”

    SF has agreed to rule itself out of the Ministry – that IS equality. There is, if the transfer takes place relatively soon about 1 year to run before an election. Do you accpept that it could be the Ulster Unionists who would theoretically lose out next time?

  • fair_deal

    “Nowhere.”

    In which case what is the basis for a claim of inequality, if it was run again the SDLP would get 4th choice?

    “why would the DUP and Sinn Fein simply not agree to running it again?”

    Don’t know.

  • fair_deal

    Possible Correction

    Do the SDLP get 5th choice?

  • Sammy.

    Under the DUP – SF deal some party is always going to be treated unequally. This is the problem with it.

    You could argue SF’s position in many ways but not as a stand for equality. It drives a horse and cart through equality of treament and respect for electoral mandates.

    Conall

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    Given that you agree that

    “Under the DUP – SF deal some party is always going to be treated unequally”

    Do you agree that your statement

    “Sinn Fein and the DUP have agreed a nationalist will not hold the post of justice minister”

    Is only a half truth as SF would be intending (if it ever comes to pass) to “discriminate” equally against all parties including themselves.

    If so, you should correct the misleasding impression you have created in your thread.

  • Bray

    It’s also a strange arrangement whereby one sovereign state (UK) agrees with another sovereign state (Ireland) to transfer policing and justice powers into a region within that first state’s jurisdiction and then 11 years later that sovereign state still has not fulfilled that commitment (and its associated commitment on a bill of rights). If d’hondt was run again justice would be taken way before the sdlp got its hands on it.

  • Sammy.

    I am really sorry but you have totally lost me.

    Bray you are right about the British Government’s tardiness on this issue and on the Bill of Rights.

    You are also right that the dept may well be taken by others and not the SDLP if D’Hondt was run again but at least there would be equality of recognition of mandates and there would be another nationalist (SDLP) minister around the Executive table. That is what we all voted for in 1998.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    you stated in your thread that SF and the DUP “have agreed a nationalist will not hold the post of justice minister” and you have now agreed that “Under the DUP – SF deal some party is always going to be treated unequally”.

    I am therefore suggesting that your statement is a half truth and you should correct it – the UUP, SF, the DUP and the SDLP could not hold the position after the next election – any ‘discrimination’ as you like to call it applies equally to the 4 main parties.

  • Sammy

    “I am therefore suggesting that your statement is a half truth and you should correct it – the UUP, SF, the DUP and the SDLP could not hold the position after the next election – any ‘discrimination’ as you like to call it applies equally to the 4 main parties.”

    The point is SF have signed up in your words to a discriminatory deal. Why would any self respecting Irish person sign up to anything which so was obviously discriminatory?

    It makes no sense to row back on the equality provisions in the Good Friday Agrrement and makes a mockery of SF’s claim to want an “Ireland of Equals”.

  • Seymour Major

    “Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs”

    “All animals are Equal but some animals are more equal than others”

    [from ‘Animal Farm – George Orwell (1945)]

  • J Kelly

    it is my view that when it comes to nominating the minister for justice sf will nominate a stoop, the dup will nominate a tory neither will get cross community support so we will end up with alliance. common sense but we have the sdlp the constant victim calling foul. grow up and move on

  • picador

    Just think how much dissident recruiting sergeants would relish Gregory Campbell or somone of his ilk as Minister of Policing & Justice. It’s a no-brainer!

  • Drumlins Rock

    Conall your heads up your arse if you think the SDLP are entitled ot it by right under D’Honte, yes you have a point in by right it should be rerun, in that case you would get a a DUP justice minister and SF finance minister, oh and the agreement only allows for 10 excutive seats so far as i know so almost certainly 2 departments would be merged so the 11th seat would disappear form under a plump SDLP bottom.
    BTW, I personally would not have a major issue with a SDLP P&J minister (so long as it wasnt wee alex couldnt listen to that) but to peddle this farce that it is theirs by right is idiotic and childish.

  • So do I hear some people saying this should never be a DUP department in the same way we hear some say it should never be an SF one?

    The issue is equality of respect for all mandates. The law has already been changed to allow another department. The issue is that SF and the DUP are choosing to allocate that department outside of D’Hondt thus disenfranchising SDLP voters who would be entitled to a second seat at the table in an 11 seat Executive.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    “The point is SF have signed up in your words to a discriminatory deal. Why would any self respecting Irish person sign up to anything which so was obviously discriminatory?”

    No that is seperate point – your initial point that they are discriminating against Nationalists is a deliberate attempt to present the facts in a misleading way. The deal potentially (if it ever comes to pass) will ‘discriminate’ against all the main parties.

    In relation to this seperate point Brian Walker has already explained that to you very clearly above.

  • Drumlins Rock

    they mite be entitled to an “11th Seat”
    but they ARENT entitled to the P&J seat,
    why should the very last choice get the top post?
    get over it conall, its a carve up thats necessary to get it started, next time round if the SDLP are the biggest party then they can have it,

  • Sammy the fact is this agreement does discriminate against nationalist voters. It denys nationalism the 11th seat and hands it to a party without a large enough mandate to be in government.

    Drumlins I am advocating another nationalist seat in an 11 seat Exec. What SF have agreed to discriminates against nationalist voters.

  • andrew white

    is this the same Dhont that the SDLP are gurning about in lisburn? they only like it when it suits them the bloody hypocrites

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    this is probably the only compromise that could be made to secure a deal on Police and you have tried to selectively use the facts to turn it into a narrow point against SF by seeking to downplay/ignore that this proposal could ‘discriminate’ against Unionists as well – thereby trying to make it look as if SF are trying to deliberately damage the SDLP.

    Clearly party political and piss fecking poor.

  • Sammy, I agree with your interpretation; Conall can’t or won’t see the London/Dublin/DUP/SF horse-trading.

  • J Kelly

    This type of silly behaviour is the reason that the sdlp is in the state they are. The sdlp built a thirty year reputation on looking at the big picture but since the likes of the attwoods, durkan and their pr/media professional friends took over the sdlp has went down a narrow street of looking at sinn fein and taking the opposite position. If they continue to cry about not getting the minister rather than concentrating on getting the ministry to ireland they will suffer for it. I will bet that this will backfire. Likewise in the leadership the sdlp will elect margaret ritchie and fail to see the big picture.

    JoC who is the new messiah now that Durkan has failed to deliver you to the promised land.

  • The d’Hondt rundown goes like: http://sdlpyouth.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/dhondtpreview.jpg with the SDLP getting the 5th and 11th seats. The Alliance party would get the 14th seat.

  • J Kelly

    The SDLP have done more than any other party to get policing into Irish hands. Who was it who fought for proper legislation Parliament? Who was who took the brave step to join the policing board?

    I have to say as an Irishman I find it depressing to see fellow countrymen deny nationalist voters their rights.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Conall,

    re “I have to say as an Irishman I find it depressing to see fellow countrymen deny nationalist voters their rights. ”

    Certainly a serious candidate for greatest political overstatement of the year.

  • Conall, there was nothing very brave about the SDLP using the Department of Foreign affairs to alter policy and day-to-day decisions in policing and justice here when the process is not subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

  • paddy

    pity they hadnt all bin given seats on the titanic

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Conall

    Since the SDLP commitment to D’Hondt is for purely selfish reasons, I wouldn’t get too worked up – particularly as there’s no way the SDLP would prevent devolution of justice.

    This is one of those occasions where everyone else can ignore the SDLP, because it won’t make any difference how loudly they scream “It’s just not FAIR!”

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Conall,

    Yet again, no comment on the Agreement’s requirement for a maximum 10 Departments, I note?

    Honestly, dry your eyes.

  • Dave

    “It surely also poses a question about SF and the DUP’s commitment to equality.”

    Not at all. They both discriminate equally against nationalists and unionists, agreeing that the job should go to ‘Other.’ The unionists said “No taig about the justice place” and the main nationalist party agreed on condition that no declared unionist was about the place either. So, they were both equally sectarian, cancelling out each other’s sectarianism. That suited the non-sectarian party just fine because they go the job. Who says that non-sectarianism doesn’t pay in NI?

  • Junior.

    The DUP and SF got the law change to allow 11 departments!

    Dave.

    So the Alliance party is totally neutral on the constitutional question? I think you will find it is perceived as a soft unionist party and acts as such.

  • Brian Walker

    Much of this discussion is alas, irrelevant. The Westminster NI Act 2009 for transferring the powers prescribed a vote by parallel consent on an Assembly resolution, not D’Hondt, as therefore does the Assembly Justice Bill. One good argument for doing it by resolution is that the mandates of the parties haven’t changed since the 2007 election and therefore a complete reshuffle of depts is unwarrranted. Much as I think the SDLP could do a decent job, I can see no principled objection to this decision. To roll D’Hondt for a single dept would be anamalous and the argument for it is pretty thin, purely political. The developing convention seems to me that D’Hondt is reserved for the share-out immediately after an election, with parties required to opt for a choice of depts. The political realities behind the Alliance option are I assume: (a) neither main designation wanted the other to take the dept, nor did they want to split justice and policing into two and take one each. ( b) SF in particular wanted to deny it to the SDLP, as winning such a key ministry would have given the SDLP a chance to shine at SF expense. Coalition building often uses a very small party to break a deadlock. It seems entirely sensible. I can undertstand SDLP disappointment but can’t see how they have cause for complaint. The equality point eludes me.

    Better now surely to get down to decent programme for the future and try to build ad hoc coalitions for better government. Get over it guys.

  • Drumlins Rock

    ok Conall lets run D’hont, but just for the one post, as it is outside the agreement which has only 10 posts, the DUP as biggest party get the choice and nominate David Ford,

    happy now?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Brian,

    excellently put – I suspect though the quality and strength of the arguements advanced will make little differnence – if someone has their heart set on taking offence, or trying to make political capital then they will not be for turning.

  • IJP

    Rather than the various spurious cases being put forward for given parties to receive the post, could we not have some discussion as to what they would actually do with it?!

    Brian

    Very well put.

    I do have to say I personally have some difficulty with the “Sunset Clause” bit – we simply can’t just come back here in 18 months and have the same old niggles.

  • Junior Apparatchik

    Conall,

    … and they got the law changed to enable cross-community vote.

    Under the Agreement, SDLP doesn’t get it. Under the current system, SDLP doesn’t get it.

    What’s the problem?

  • fin

    Conall, unfortunately the SDLP took their seats on the Policing Boards when nationalists where trying to get Patten implemented, because of the SDLP unionism got away with hollowing it out.

    Once again happy with a box of chocolates the SDLP thought it was a good deal.

  • Dave

    “I think you will find it is perceived as a soft unionist party and acts as such.” – Conall

    And no doubt it is. However, it is classified as ‘Other’ and that is why it now benefits from the equal opportunity sectarianism of both the DUP and PSF which declares that either Nationalist nor Unionist shall hold the justice portfoilio. That was my rather obvious point.