Direct Rule should be avoided but not because it delivered bad government

I ‘d prefer us to learn to live together through governing together anyday. But this rant from Kevin Myers barks loudly up the wrong tree. Usually Kevin is the great knocker of republican myths but here he warns:

At bottom, it’s the very Englishness of the English which is the impediment to their good government of the Irish. The Irish remember a great deal — to be sure, most of it wrongly: either way, an active historical imagination is a powerful ingredient in Irish identity. For the English, amnesia is the great defining anvil upon which the imponderables of their identity are hammered. Believe me on this: it’s better for everyone if the lads in the North get their act together, and England never, EVER, governs any part of Ireland again.

Kevin, I know what you’re up to – playing up to the instinct of both sides uniting against English. It’s great for the saloon bar but it’s really a lot of ould cod.
That very “English” lack of memory delivered rational government for years. Its deficiency was the quasi-colonial one of leaving the natives with nothing to do else except playing up prejudices to harvest votes and fighting among themselves. By itself, that was reason enough for backing devolution.

Direct Rule delivered reforms now taken for granted and supported across the board it would have taken years for a divided local Assembly to agree on if ever : a practical rights regime including fair employment, Irish medium education, anti- discrimination against gays in booking hotel rooms and civil partnerships, the outline of a shared future they expected ( fruitlessly so far) the locals to implement. Not to mention the big ticket item which with whatever flaws, remains the best block grant deal in the UK. And it was delivered without political pressure, the locals having precious little clout with the Treasury, partly to encourage political agreement.

Northern Ireland received £5,684 per head: 21 per cent above the UK average spend per head and £1,161 more per head than that spent in England Scotland received £5,676 per head: 21 per cent above the UK average and £1,153 more per head than that spent in England Wales received £5,050 per head: 8 per cent above the UK average and £527 more per head than that spent in England England received £4,523 per head: 3 per cent below the UK average

Contrast this with the DUP’s boast of early achievements for restored devolution .
The party highlights:

The Titanic Signature tourism project, securing 600 construction jobs.
Freeze for the second year on the regional rate.
Equality in cultural funding — £40k this week to the Maiden City Festival.
“The primary disappointment of the last 12 months is the continued refusal of the Education Minister to act in a professional way to find a way forward on education reform that everyone can agree to,” the Strangford MLA added ( no, not Iris)

Even for early days, the record was sparse. The truth is direct rule set the benchmarks for the locals to live up to. British ministers resisted the normal politicians’ instinct to proclaim their own achievements too loudly because they were desperate for the locals to take over and claim the reward. Fill in the rest yourself.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • Bob Wilson

    Of course if Stormont collapse totally it would necessarily mean government by the ‘English’. I understand there are three or four people from NI standing for the Conservatives in NI and who knows they might get someone elected in NI.
    Would we still call that ‘Direct Rule’ or parliamentary government?

  • Democrat

    The English do not govern anywhere. Unlike the Scots, the Welsh and the Southern Irish, they do not have their own parliament.

    The House of Commons serves all of Britain. As long as the democratic majority in N Ireland wish to belong to the UK, there is no essential difference between rule by the NI Assembly and rule by the Parliament at Westminster. It is still a democratic system. However, given the recent history of conflict here, it would be better if we could make local politics work and keep the Assembly running.

    Asinine comments about “English rule” can only be counter-productive. Myers needs to get out of the bar more often.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Asinine? The British government is in effect an Engish government.

  • Greenflag

    Wonders will never cease. Kevin Myers finally latches on to the truth in theory anyway .

    Alas the brutal world of facts

    ‘it’s better for everyone if the lads in the North get their act together’

    True but let’s face it -they’ve been at it now for some 40 years and it’s not getting any easier . Admittedly the shooting has mostly ceased but the distrust and constitutional dividing lines remain as they always were .

    ‘and England never, EVER, governs any part of Ireland again.’

    While I agree in principle – Brian Walker above makes it clear that the vast majority of all the necessary reforms to NI’s polity were legislated under Direct Rule by the ahem English . As late as yesterday it required a Scotsman -Gordon Brown and Irishman Brian Cowan to keep SF and the DUP from collapsing the Assembly .

    Direct Rule followed by a fair repartition in due course implemented under the aegis of a neutral international organisation .

    Northern Ireland neither it’s unionists nor nationalists need another 50 years of bull from a powerless and ineffective Assembly .

  • Framer

    Given that the Prime Minister, Chancellor and most of the cabinet are Scots I don’t think it could be called ‘English government’.

  • ooh aah

    I don’t think direct rule will be the same as it was with Southern involvement having a bigger influnce this time round. Both prime minsters where hinting at a “greener” form of direct rule if no agreement was found. After the election and if everything goes as predicted martin could find himself the leader of the biggest party in N.I and hence the biggest sway with the two goverments and set the terms for any future talks on restoring devolution.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Where have you been and what in the world have you been doing.

    For the past twelve years the English along with everyone else in the UK or GB or whatever, have been ruled by the Scots.

    If you and yours dont like it, put the blame where it lies, not with the long suffering English but the Scots who currently not only have the cake, have eaten it, and are screaming it is not enough!

  • Both prime minsters where hinting at a “greener” form of direct rule if no agreement was found

    Shouldn’t be promising things at least one of them isn’t going to be round long enough to deliver.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Pippakin – administered at best – not ruled.

  • oneill

    Why not its what politicians do.

  • pippakin

    Brown can promise what he wants but even if he starts tomorrow he’s not going to get much greening done in 4 months!

  • oneill

    What politician ever gets anything done.

    coll Ciotach

    Administered? My, how some love their little conspiracy theories. When Thatcher was PM the English ruled and it was all her fault. Now its Labour with Scots everywhere, including Blair, and its still English rule and for some no doubt it is still all her fault. The first thing Blair did was get rid of all the career civil servants and surround himself with sales rubbish.

    This idea of some in the UK ruling while elected politicians do as they are told is always the last refuge of the weak headed and no argument. The only time it may have been true was when Blair took an unwilling country to war because the US told him to.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Westminster is run for the benefit of the majority. The largest amount of MPs come from England and they support what is good for their interests.

    He who pays the piper calls the tune

  • georgieleigh

    I think the penny may at last be dropping for our Kev. He is actually contemplating the fact that the Irish are not just like the English, save for slovenly habits and dishonesty.

    No need to inform him about the difference between Britain and England by the way. You cannot get more heart of England, geographically or culturally, than the suburbs of Leicester. He’s forgotten more about the socio-ethnic make up of erm.. these islands than most, naaa, all of his critics will ever learn.

    I expect him to start learning Irish next year. At this stage, the only question is what dialect.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Now if we were talking about MPs expenses I would totally agree.

    We are not, we are talking about who runs the UK. If you think the English call the tune, you might want to spend a minute studying the amounts per head of population. I think you will find the English at the bottom of the pile, where they have been for years and years and..

    Last time I was there there was growing anger amongst English voters and no government can afford to risk English anger. It is what got the Queen out of Buckingham Palace and bowing her head when Princess of Wales died. Most of the time the English dont care so this lop sided arrangement is allowed to carry on. The day the English decide they have had enough of being bottom of the pile, is the day Scotland gets independence, Wales goes broke and Ireland takes on the expense of the north.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    The English should pay more for not being good at feigning the slightist interest in Ireland.

    I am incandesent with rage at their indifference and the more incandesent I get the more indifferent they become.

    The cruel bastards, ah ! they know how to torture a soul.

    All I can humbly suggest is that they be brought to their torturing knees by paying even more and more.

    But why does this hurt me more and more.

    They are fiendish paymasters.

  • Panic etc.

    Ah yes this is what we hate the most because it hurts the most. The English dont care, they really dont.

  • Greenflag

    ‘the English dont care, they really dont.’

    Now that sounds like a plan . And can you blame them ? They fork out 6 billion in extra taxes for NI every year to keep the province on the gravy train and the ‘ungrateful ‘ bastards want even more ?

    I think the English (not the political class but even most of them too ) realised a long time ago that all they can really do in NI is to keep the lid on and try to prevent it from ‘blowing up’ again . They can only lose longer term and for many even that is no consolation.