The SDLP should decide which direction to jump

Belligerency seems to be the order of the day for the push-me-pull-you SDLP. In her first moves as leader, Margaret Ritchie finds herself in contradictory – well, maybe just paradoxical- positions. She goes militant over the SDLP’s claim to the Justice Ministry while at the same time sits down with Reg to try to devise a plan break the other Assembly logjams. As Malachi puts it, there is “a serious flaw in the SDLP’s response to the process devised for the appointment of a Justice Minister: they don’t agree with it, but they want to go along with it.” This we can agree, is hardly the SDLP’s fault. But after that Malachi takes off in a direction I don’t follow. His argument twists and turns to reach the cul-de-sac of the SDLP going into opposition. What good would that do? He says “The Agreement will have been defended, and that is what counts most.” But is it? I suggest what counts most is saving the democratic vehicle of the Assembly.It’s odd to see liberal-minded democrats treating the Agreements as fundamentalist Christians read the Bible. Politics is a moveable feast and the Assembly is a living, breathing institution (just about). In politics “power sharing “ is about power as well as sharing and that has to be faced. The DUP-Sinn Fein nexus commands a cross community majority of 59% – democratic by any standards. Nor is it obvious to me the Alliance Justice ministry ploy is in breach of the Agreements anyway. D’Hondt is a good mechanism for appointing ministers just after elections. But rolling D’Hondt in mid term only serves to reinforce leading party dominance, as Malachi himself points out. As the main parties checkmate each other for Justice, what’s the point in rolling? If their move to appoint David Ford been blatantly illegal, those useful persons the departmental solicitors would surely have spoken up or someone would have blown the whistle.

The case for awarding Justice to the Alliance party is pragmatic. In parliaments throughout the world, small minority parties have been used to break coalition deadlocks, even to the extent of assuming the premiership. Whatever the ulterior motives of denying the job to the other side, David Ford’s appointment would make a statement in favour of the wider interests of the community which have been so blatantly sidelined in the endless party battle. As for the centre parties, there is much to be gained, not least for their respective parties, in Reg and Margaret steering the Assembly into calmer waters. If a break point is to be reached, it is surely better deferred just now. What matters at this stage is to discover if the Assembly can swallow the completion of devolution and survive. That means the stakes and therefore the price of failure, will be even higher next time they decide to call a crisis.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    “I suggest what counts most is saving the democratic vehicle of the Assembly”.

    Nonsense. What matters most to the Parties and indeed their voters is the “end game”. How to get the advantage they need.
    Neither side (parties/voters) actually WANTS this to succeed.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Brian Sinn Fein are behaving like the pigs in animal farm,they used to tell us that we all had to respect their mandate,but they now refuse to respect ours ,by departing from d’hondt for the allocation of the justice ministry they have given the DUP a veto.I can imagine the slagging we would have got if we had denied them a position that their mandate entitled them to.
    Either our mandate is fully respected or we should pull the plug and go into oppposition.
    We should only participate as equals ,if the DUP & SF dont treat our voters with the same respect that they treat their own,we are either equal or we are not.

  • Eurocrat

    The premise that Alliance claims to a future Justice Ministry is in anyway justified is totally absurd. What mandate do they have to the position? Other than being picked by SF-DUP as the heir apparent. If the process of D’hondt being re-run at this stage or mid term is of “inconvenience” or inappropriate then the parties should weight in and support, like the UUP seemed to have done, the SDLP nomination for Justice Minister. It is quite ridiculous that people should attempt to claw at reasons why the SDLP should not get the Minister. Not only are such attempts party-political in nature, they are clearly anti-democratic and without legitimacy. SDLP are entitled to the position, fair and square, there is no ifs and buts. Attempts to deny them that should be rightly condemned as modern gerry-mandering. As per the GFA and SA agreements ministerial appointments are allocated via D’Hondt. A departure from this, to create an Executive post via a cross-community vote, not only goes against the legal principles of previous agreements and is legally unjustified. But that is on the basis that a future Justice Minister will be a member of the Executive…..and there lies the interesting point. Legally it is very possible to create the Ministry, allocate a minister outside of the executive table via Westminister legislation. Not only would such a move be unprecedented but it would be reckless. It would be politcally unjustified also. The SF/DUP attempts to justify Alliance claims to the Minister are equally absurd as they are politically opportunistic. If SDLP do not get what is rightfully theirs they need to and must pull out of the Executive. They can not afford to accept the post going to Alliance as it is undemocratic and contrary to the principles of the GFA and everything the democratic SDLP stand for. To attempt to change the rules now on Ministerial appointments is simply undemocratic and the Alliance Party have no justifiable claim to the position.

  • brendan

    Out. Let it fall and let the DUP and SF sort out the resultant mess.

    Get out.

  • Eurocrat

    “Let the DUP and SF sort out the resultant mess”….surely that is a paradox?? lol

  • seosamh

    Either our mandate is fully respected or we should pull the plug and go into oppposition.
    We should only participate as equals ,if the DUP & SF dont treat our voters with the same respect that they treat their own,we are either equal or we are not.

    Posted by Danny O’Connor on Feb 17, 2010 @ 06:01 PM

    Treat their voters with respect.

    Are you nuts?

  • Democrat

    I agree with Brian Walker. Running D’Hondt again, just because a new Ministry has been created, is like having a general election to fill a by-election seat. It could destabilise the whole Assembly.

    I assume that nominations for the post of Justice Minister will be brought before the Assembly. The SDLP have nominated Alban Maginnis. He will have his chance like every other nomination. That is a democratic procedure and it is a reasonable way to deal with a novel situation.

    It will not be long until the Assembly elections. Then the full d’Hondt procedure will be used. The SDLP should show a bit less regard for their own advantage, and a bit more for the whole political system. Rights imply duties, though few people in NI seem to understand that.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Democrat,the point is that it is not a demoratic procedure,it is in fact a corruption of democracy.the assembly was elected using proportional representation,and the executive appointed by proportional representation,and now we are to move away from ptoportionality to what amounts to patronage.
    It is rich saying that the sdlp should show less regard for their own advantage,are you thick,nobody stands for election and tells people not to support them .It is the SF/DUP who should be showing leadership and fairness.

  • Danny O’Connor

    proportionality,democratic,typos

  • ardmaj55

    ‘Rights imply duties, though few people in NI seem to understand that’
    Democrat [7]
    The problem is not that they don’t understand it, but they’re determined to set it aside when it doesn’t suit their purpose.
    The formula for NI politics with regard to rights/responsibilities is the same for both sides, but positions reversed one in relation to the other as follows;
    All or maximum possible rights and minimum responsibilities to our side,
    and none or minimum rights and maximum responsibilities to themmuns’
    I think that covers it.

  • iluvni

    Either our mandate is fully respected or we should pull the plug and go into oppposition.
    We should only participate as equals ,if the DUP & SF dont treat our voters with the same respect that they treat their own,we are either equal or we are not.

    Posted by Danny O’Connor on Feb 17, 2010 @ 06:01 PM

    And if your new leader doesnt, in the end, take that position, where will that leave you within sdlp?

  • Paul

    I am with danny oconnor on this one the SDLP should be awarded the justice minstry if they don’t get it they the SDLP should go into opposition.

  • Danny O’Connor

    iluvni
    thats for me to know,I am aware that I am not the only one who believes that we should be fully in or fully out,not trying to keep a foot in both camps.I expect our new leader to lead,

  • iluvni

    Hmmm, interesting.
    Sort of….

  • Paul

    I think the ground is being prepared for the SDLP to go into opposition.That would be most welcome as we have no opposition to the excutive.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    Now i may be just crazy but has anyone suggested having a joint justice ministry as we have with the first ministry?

  • Brid Rodgers

    The DUP with the support of Sinn fein is continuing with their attempts to dismantle the safeguards built into the Good Friday Agreement. Setting aside D`Hondt as the method of ensuring fair allocation of ministerial responsibilities is another step in that direction. How many ministers would SDLP or Sinn Fein have if the appointments were subject to a DUP veto as is the case with the policing and justice portfolio. Don’t be surprised if a review of the working of the agreement sees the DUP trying to have all ministers appointed by cross community support. What if this should arise under a minority Conservative government depending on |DUP votes???
    Brid Rodgers

  • Alias

    Arguing about D’Hondt misses the point. The deal that the Shinners agreed is one that contains the premise nationalists are not fit to hold the justice portfolio. In agreeing to be second-class citizens within the British state, the Shinners used their veto declare that unionists are not fit to hold the portfolio either. In effect, both unionists and nationalists are now second-class citizens. Hence, the position must now go to a minister who comes from an indigenous tribe that is designated as ‘Other.’ Well, that’s the demented theory anyway – except, of course, that the Alliance are unionists, so it’s just the taigs that are second-class.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Ms Rodgers,
    I think the second part of your post is definitely a little scare mongering.

    The SDLP IS being treated badly here. There is little hope of the Party getting its due in respect of “Justice” but going into opposition seems a high risk strategy.
    But a temporary one.
    The partys managers have surely calculated that even if the current assembly runs its full term, the next Stormont election may not really see an increase in seats won but more than likely will give the party a second ministry.

    Almost literally taking one step backwards (leaving the Executive) to take two steps forward in 18 months.
    It deserves to work.

  • Greenflag

    alias ,

    ‘In effect, both unionists and nationalists are now second-class citizens. ‘

    Wonderful news;) At long last equality of a sort . This rancor can be resolved very simply by appoint joint Ministers for Finance , Justice , Health , Culture and Education etc . As a reach out to the SDLP , Alliance and the UUP there can also be Assistant Minister’s to all the Joint Ministers and then Assistants to the Assistants until the entire 108 MLA’s are either Joint Ministers or their Assistants .

    PS .

    Somebody better ask the English if they can pay up for this lot as well ;(?

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Well Alias, technically as part of his long term “gissa job” strategy, Ford declares himself “agnostic” on the border.
    Of course the AP will say ANYTHING.

    Ford is looking even more smug than usual. I hope he fails miserably.

  • lat54ni

    Last week, when referring to the dup/sf composition of the group reviewing parading, Alex Atwood made the comment that ‘people will be dismayed that the sdlp (and uu) have been excluded from this review group’. Listening to him I was struck by how wrong he was in his perception. What people are dismayed about is the sdlp’s complete unwillingness to take a stand whenever the dup/sf are shafting them. The sdlp’s bypassing on the Justice Ministry and their inability to draw a line in the sand is entirely in keeping with their lack of backbone. This is why their vote is falling, people can see how weak they are and won’t vote for weakness. Where and when did the rot set in?

  • Los Lobos

    Oh joy of joys, the sdlp are contemplating filling the opposition benches to really give it to SF and the DUP. What a complete transformation Ms Richey has made in a few short weeks at the helm. It takes a woman’s touch to sort out the male naysayers in the party who wanted to be in the Government of the north but who also wanted to act like a party of opposition when talking to reporters and anyone else who would listen to their whinge. Mandatory coaliations should be replaced with mandatory oppositions, anyone who is not in Government should be forced to work together. Just think about it, the SDLP and TUV holding hands as they stroll into the chamber to outsmart Peter, Martin and the gang. The future’s bright, the future’s Orange!

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t think Malachi is right about the legal action part, as the appointment of the justice minister is very specifically covered in the Northern Ireland Act 2009.

    The SDLP aren’t getting the job because they can’t obtain cross-community consensus. Alliance can.

    Eurocrat:

    The premise that Alliance claims to a future Justice Ministry is in anyway justified is totally absurd. What mandate do they have to the position?

    Let’s look over the border. What mandate did the Progressive Democrats have to appoint a Tainiste ?

    What mandate do the Green Party in Ireland have to be in the cabinet ?

    If the process of D’hondt being re-run at this stage or mid term is of “inconvenience” or inappropriate then the parties should weight in and support, like the UUP seemed to have done, the SDLP nomination for Justice Minister.

    Why would they do that ? This system of government, a system which the SDLP designed, is what has led to this situation of power-brokering over the heads of the majority by the extremes.

    SDLP are entitled to the position, fair and square, there is no ifs and buts.

    There are plenty of ifs and buts, which is why the SDLP are quite obviously not getting the job.

    Danny:

    dure,it is in fact a corruption of democracy.the assembly was elected using proportional representation,and the executive appointed by proportional representation

    I know that functional illiteracy appears to run through the SDLP these days, but I would have figured that anyone with an ounce of sense would see that the appointment of the executive is far from proportional. The UUP, for example, have only about 1% more of the vote than the SDLP, yet they have double the number of executive seats. The DUP command almost half of all the executive seats while having only one-third of the vote. The Executive is not proportional, and if you want to look who to blame for that, well Brid Rodgers is right here. Ask her why the SDLP picked on this stupid d’Hondt system rather than using something sensible like weighted majorities.

    Democrat:

    I agree with Brian Walker. Running D’Hondt again, just because a new Ministry has been created, is like having a general election to fill a by-election seat. It could destabilise the whole Assembly.

    What nonsense. How would it be destabilizing ? What are the SDLP going to do, go out and start riots in the streets ?

    IMO, it’s like the time a few years back when the FG-Labour coalition fell and a completely new government came about in Ireland without there being an election at all. It’s entirely normal in countries with coalition governments.

    Brid,

    Don’t be surprised if a review of the working of the agreement sees the DUP trying to have all ministers appointed by cross community support.

    You make it sound as if cross-community support for the executive is a bad thing. Surely the SDLP’s desperation to get this job hasn’t led them to abandon their core principle of cross community consent ?

    Fitzy:

    Well Alias, technically as part of his long term “gissa job” strategy, Ford declares himself “agnostic” on the border.
    Of course the AP will say ANYTHING.

    I’ve been saying it for years here and everywhere else, to anyone who will listen. I don’t care that much about the border, one way or another. And I’ve never heard David Ford say anything to suggest that he does, either. I keep saying to people “Alliance are not unionists”. Alliance don’t designate to be unionists in the Assembly (except for that time when they were begged to do so by Seamus Mallon, David Trimble and Tony Blair). Alliance have voted for SDLP and Sinn Fein council appointments up and down the country. How much clearer does it need to be ?

    Ford is looking even more smug than usual. I hope he fails miserably.

    I think you need professional help. Disagreeing with Ford is one thing, but wanting the justice ministry to fail because of that is quite another. Reminds me of the raging white supremacist bigots in the USA who hope Obama fails.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Seriously I don’t give a shit about their politics. I just want them to get off their holes and do what they are paid for.

    And that starts with committees properly scrutinizing what the feckin civil servants are up to.

    Really with out all these fictional crises, we may just actually start wondering what they have been doing for the past few years.

    I’ll start sweet fuck all, other than raking in their allowances at public expense.

  • Scaramoosh

    The Assembly locks in Status Quo/Stasis.

    It is not a solution to our divided society, but an acknowledgement that their is no solution.

    The fact that the DUP-Sinn Fein nexus commands a cross community majority of 59%, should not be applauded, for it is redolent of a society in which the hardliners on both sides have won out; the not give an inch brigades.

    The worst thing of all is that it gives both sides, the excuse to act like lame ducks. The locking in of stasis induces a sense of inertia, that results in a total lack of proper politics.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Oh joy of joys, the sdlp are contemplating filling the opposition benches to really give it to SF and the DUP. What a complete transformation Ms Richey has made in a few short weeks at the helm.

    The thing that annoys me about this is that if the SDLP (and UUP) and sided with the rest of us in opposition some time ago, there might have been an opportunity to renegotiate with a single voice at St Andrews with a view to making things fairer. Together, those of us not in the DUP/SF axis would have been just shy of a straight majority, and we’d have had enough bargaining power collectively to change things.

    Instead the SDLP chose to stick around and has begun complaining only now that the conspiracy to run things as a DUP/SF axis has begun to cost them directly. This is petty and pathetic.

    I’m not clear right now on what SDLP strategy is. How is reminding the electorate of their failure to secure a ministerial seat going to persuade people to vote for them ? How is leaving the executive right now – abstention – going to fix anything ?

  • fatrex.savage

    Obviously on “Planet Danny”At this point the SDLP are still a “ a fully respected party.” Yet in the real politique they have gone the way of the Redmonities after the 1911 Home Rule Bill- into political oblivion.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Never quite saw David Ford as Obama.
    But then Comrade Stalin if you scroll back a little you will see your own age-ism.
    But you do make a good point that the Alliance party only designated themselves as unionist when begged to do so……..although I am not sure how this shows them as people of principle……in fact it rather supports my position that Alliance will say ANYTHING. I thank you for your support.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Fitzy, it feels like every time you contribute something you have to mention your age. It’s part of the general smell of elitism that all your contributions reek of; the self-confidence of an irreformable white-collar bigot.

    Actually Alliance’s redesignation showed how stupid the system is.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Now youve just lost the “white collar” vote……as well as the senior citizen vote…as well as the Margie Hawkins vote.

    You just dont have the best canvassing style do you?
    Two tips.
    1 if they delay you at the doorstep complimenting Alliance it means they are committed to another party and are holding you back.
    2 ALWAYS close their garden gate. They HATE if you dont close it.

    Glad I could help

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    If the SDLP want to go into opposition why dont they just bloody well do it and stop the dramatics, the party has failed since John Hume stepped aside, from the whipping we in West Tyrone gave Brid Rodgers to the loss of Foyle in the upcoming election, its time to either stand for something or bow out gracefully

  • I wish people would some going on about the two smaller Executive parties “going into opposition”. There’s no such thing as opposition the way the Executive is constructed under the Good Friday Agreement. It’s an inclusive coalition whereby the parties that have enough seats in the Assembly are entitled to a place in government with those they oppose. Leaving the Executive just hands your seat(s) over to the bigger parties, leaving them to go on their merry away about doing whatever they want.

    Parties like the SDLP and UUP are far better served, as are their voters, by being in the Executive as they can act as the counterbalance against the DUP/ SF. Outside the Executive, they’ve no more say that Kieran Deeny or Gerry McHugh and any chance they have to shine the spotlight on any shenanigans will be lost.

    Why let other parties bully you out of your right to be in the Executive. It’s better to use your position in it to your advantage, as the UUP and SDLP have done.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    An Phoblacht Abu
    Having Ms Rodgers stand in West Tyrone was a very bad decision and the ramifications are still being felt.
    In fairness West Tyrone has never been fertile SDLP ground.
    Back in the 1970s (12 6 seat constituencies) it was mostly part of the “old” Mid Ulster.
    Of the six seats SDLP only took two …Paddy Duffy in the Cookstown area and Aidan Larkin in the Magherafelt area.
    As I recall Stephen McKenna was the big noise in that part of the constituency (Omagh) but he never really got out the vote.
    Joe Byrne briefly emerged but lacked any kind of gravitas.
    McMenamin was also thoroughly rejected.
    A predominantly Nationalist area without SDLP representation is very very bad for SDLP.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Fitzy, you’re just full of good advice. Why don’t you try running for office yourself ? The electorate loves a name-dropper.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    And how do you know I havent Comrade Stalin?

  • Danny O’Connor

    Comrade Stalin,it didn’t take the Alliance party long to abandon its principled opposition,when the sniff of a ministry came,they faded like snow off a ditch,they even tried haven spoken on one of their motions to withdraw it before a vote,so it wouldn’t look to be criticising those could endow it with a ministry its votes do not merit.If you are so concerned about abstentionism why would you not tell that to the only party that actually practises it.

  • PaddyReilly

    What if this should arise under a minority Conservative government depending on DUP votes???
    Brid Rodgers

    The British Electoral System is a lot harsher than either Irish one: any government depending on DUP votes would very soon fall. There are 10 Unionist MPs and 8 Nationalist ones: having 10 for you isn’t much help if that makes 8 agin you.

  • Brian Walker

    Brid, It’s good to hear from you.. My point is, the Alliance ploy is not inherently undemocratic and apparently not illegal and you’ll pardon someome uncommitted to any party for pointing this out. There is a power equation in any assembly which can overrule the mandates of any one party. The DUP and SF are learning this too. It’s a dry subject but briefly, the Assembly will have to develop conventions to get over deadlocks. The Alliance move may be one of them. Of course the SDLP should vigorously contest the point. For my money Alban would make an excellent Justice minister but it looks as if it aint going to happen.

    What would going into Opposition mean for the SDLP? I just can’t see them scoring with voters when they could be winning some success in the greater prominence of government AND opposing at the same time. Demanding collegiality in government is a far more worthwhile aim, I suggest – particularly if you can bring good ideas (like over 11 plus selection) to the Executive table and to the people at the same time.

    I share Brid’s concern about a Conservative government. Owen Paterson doesn’t seem to realise that unless the UUs were to split the unionist vote mor or less evenly with the DUP, his pet project of a Cons –UU alliance would be decimated under simple weighted majority for electing ministers. Likewise damage to the SDLP. I stick my neck out and say it will never happen, unless the SDLP and UUs wither and die of their own volition. But in a 108 sest Assembly elected by STV, they’ve every chance of survival if they retain a core vote. Under the Conservatives, the most that might be negotiated – perhaps – would be simpler formulae for Assembly voting, effective and allowable under the present rules if problems are broken down into manageable bites rather than deaal breakers. In the meantime there’s surely an opportunity going a- begging for the SDLP and the UUP to strike out with shared future ideas in a spirit of collaboration that sadly, was often missing when they had lead roles in the first Assembly. Present SDLP company excepted of course.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “I suggest what counts most is saving the democratic vehicle of the Assembly. ”

    This is perhaps a little ambiguous. It could be argued that a move to opposition was designed to save the democracy established under the GFA/SAA by refusing to cooperate with the move away from d’Hondt.

    It could be argued that it is better to cooperate with the Assembly at any price.

    I’m not sure that “if their move to appoint David Ford been blatantly illegal, those useful persons the departmental solicitors would surely have spoken up or someone would have blown the whistle”, simply because there is no evidence and no precedent for this. They may well have spoken up; blowing the whistle is quite another thing. In any case, even a successful legal action would not be a guaranteed victory, though it would greatly add to the pressure to move into opposition.

    It should be possible to take the position that the SDLP will remain in the Executive as long as the DUP engages its support for d’Hondt in future. It’s a further indictment that SF did not have this included in the Hillsborough agreement (to defer agreement).

    Personally, I would also ask for the meaningless ‘Deputy’ in DFM to be removed, as there is potentially a much more serious breach of equality there.

    I would have thought that this outcome has been clear for some time, so perhaps the most important thing in terms of the SDLP’s future success is to be decisive and to argue its case coherently and with one voice.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    “My point is, the Alliance ploy is not inherently undemocratic and apparently not illegal and you’ll pardon someome uncommitted to any party for pointing this out”

    Er “uncommitted”…..not on the evidence of what I have seen.
    But then again it might mean in a purely party sense.
    Or it might mean that a person cant be comnited to BOTH unionism and conservativism.

    Interesting.

  • Sammy Morse

    Seriously I don’t give a shit about their politics. I just want them to get off their holes and do what they are paid for.

    And Pigeon Toes sums up the electorate’s view of all these political games nicely. Whoever gets the job will be judged on how they do it, not how they got it. And rightly so.

    But as the arguments about the political games are going on, I’d better add my tuppence worth!

    SDLP are entitled to the position, fair and square, there is no ifs and buts.

    It really is time to nail this nonsense on the head. D’Hondt can’t be run for 11 Ministries under the terms of the GFA, and even if you got the law changed to override the GFA and allow that to be done, either the DUP would take it with first pick, or if their understanding with the Shinners held, the UUP would take it with fourth pick. Has it ever occurred to you that the UUP are playing the SDLP for fools on this issue?

    the executive appointed by proportional representation

    No it wasn’t, because the FM and DFM’s parties get a bonus seat to start with! A system drawn up in contrast with the nearest analogies on running d’Hondt (the appointment of additional members in German/Scottish style AMS electoral systems) because that happened to suit the SDLP in 1998.

    Don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot? Mark Durkan should have thought of the possibility that the SDLP wouldn’t be top dogs within nationalism forever when he dreamed up the mechanisms under Strand 1 way back when.

    In effect, both unionists and nationalists are now second-class citizens. Hence, the position must now go to a minister who comes from an indigenous tribe that is designated as ‘Other.’ Well, that’s the demented theory anyway – except, of course, that the Alliance are unionists, so it’s just the taigs that are second-class.

    Except, you’ve got taigs (your term) in the Alliance Party… are they suffering from false consciousness or something? And if we were unionists, why wouldn’t we designate as Unionists in the Assembly to get the benefit of extra voting strength rather than being second class citizens under the (SDLP designed) Bantustan voting system in place in the Assembly.

    Ford is looking even more smug than usual. I hope he fails miserably.

    I find the idea of Fitzjames Horse calling anyone smug funny, and the idea that he wants a Justice Minister to fail if he is called Ford sad. If Alban Maginness does end up being the Justice Minister, I want to see him succeed. It would stick in the craw a bit, but I’d still want to see him succeed because the stakes for this society are too high for him not to. But maybe that’s beyond the SDLP-UUP-TUV coalition of the sulky.

    There’s no such thing as opposition the way the Executive is constructed under the Good Friday Agreement.

    Finally, and SDLP supporter who understands the logic of the system Mark Durkan designed in 1998. But it all goes wrong when he claims something…

    It’s better to use your position in it to your advantage, as the UUP and SDLP have done.

    …that hasn’t actually happened.

    There are 10 Unionist MPs and 8 Nationalist ones: having 10 for you isn’t much help if that makes 8 agin you.

    5 of the 8 are Shinners, so it’s only 3 agin you, and the alternative would be 15 agin you. It may be smart tactics by Cameron but also bad strategy. He really doesn’t need a shitstorm in NI buggering up his premiership.

  • PaddyReilly

    5 of the 8 are Shinners, so it’s only 3 agin you

    This presupposes that the Shinners will keep their word.

    But possibly, they might break their commitment to stay west of Westminster; possibly they could resign en masse, allow SDLP to be elected in their stead, and then stand again in the next election which would inevitably follow.

    It would depend how much David Cameron and the DUP annoy them.

  • I find it ironic that the ‘non-sectarian’ party, Alliance, in playing along with the new rules governing the appointment of the Justice Ministry, are giving tacit support to the position of the DUP and SF- the position that it is acceptable to rule out a Nationalist/Unionist nominee on the basis that s/he is a Nationalist/Unionist, regardless of how qualified that person is or what mandate they received in the Assembly election. Whatever the legalities of it, Alliance are committed to a process which is built on dubious principles.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    “I find the idea of Fitzjames Horse calling anyone smug funny, and the idea that he wants a Justice Minister to fail if he is called Ford sad. If Alban Maginness does end up being the Justice Minister, I want to see him succeed”

    easy for you to say that Mr Morse but of course Alban Magennis wont be Justice Minister.

  • Alias

    A ‘taig’ is a catholic nationalist and not one of those (semi-respectable) catholic unionists that Sir Reg is prepared to tolerate in the UUP for the sake of the union. A taig, being a nationalist, would be excluded by definition from joining a party that did not promote a nationalist agenda. So no self-respecting taig would join the Alliance party – a party of the status quo (which is a default unionist position).

    If the Alliance party abandoned its USP of being a party of the status quo (selling itself to nominal fence-sitters and those who are too nice, too timid, or too confused to have ‘strong’ opinions on contentious national issues) and came out as a unionist party, then it would it be mauled like old ladies thrown into an arena against the lions in the TUV and the DUP.

    It is far better to remain as the cross-community party, occasionally having a big juicy steak thrown to them whenever the top dogs can’t agree on a suitable carve up and fling to the mongrel instead…

  • Brian Walker

    Damian and others, I think what we’re seeing is the painful outworking of making power sharing work over time. I’ve made my case for the Alliance ploy. Poeple may cry foul over the failure to roll d’Hondt for Justice but if it isn’t a constitutional requirement, not much can be done about it. No harm in challenging it, perhaps come gain will come of it indirectly but treating is as first order issue only emphasises the SDLP’s limitations. The DUP and SF nearly bring the Assembly down. And the SDLP? – threaten to go into opposition! Big deal! Doesn’t sound great does it?

    Some sort of balance has to be struck between the aspect of politics which is a power struggle and the interest of the public they’re supposed to serve. When the power struggle becomes all-dominant, the whole system is threatened. When they concentrate on the business of government, life becomes easier for them. Isn’t there a lesson in that? A big problem is phrases like
    ” working for the public interest” and “civil society” are unsexy, anorak words. It’s more fun to get worked up about the politics of the thing which has been the obsessession of generations. Perhaps McGuinness’s memorable “traitors” phrase is one way of moving from one type of discourse to the other.

  • J Kelly

    Could those claiming that the SDLP are being excluded please answer two questions;

    Why cant the SDLP get your partners in this so called middle ground to support you in a vote at the assembly?

    Why has the SDLP approach changed, firstly Mark Durkan the former failed leader wanted a complete re-run of d’hondt, now Margaret Rithchie wants d’hondt extended?

  • Danny O’Connor

    J Kelly
    I believe that you are completely missing the point,probably deliberately so.If d’hondt was extehded,it would be the sdlp who would be next to nominate,giving us 2 ministers in the executive,if d’hondt is completely re-run,we would have 2 ministers in the executive.

  • Sammy Morse

    I find it ironic that the ‘non-sectarian’ party, Alliance, in playing along with the new rules governing the appointment of the Justice Ministry, are giving tacit support to the position of the DUP and SF- the position that it is acceptable to rule out a Nationalist/Unionist nominee on the basis that s/he is a Nationalist/Unionist, regardless of how qualified that person is or what mandate they received in the Assembly election.

    Nope, I think an Alliance Justice Minister would do a better job than an SDLP Justice Minister – that’s not to say an SDLP Justice Minister would do a bad job, just that we would do better. That’s why I’m a member of the Alliance Party and not the SDLP. Presumably, as an SDLP activist, you think an SDLP Justice Minister would do a better job than an Alliance one – and that’s fair enough. I just happen to disagree.

    Alias, I’m not going to dignify your narrow, prejudiced, exclusive little rant with a response. Who made you the arbiter of who is ‘self-respecting’ or not?

  • Sammy, I think that the SDLP would do a better job at First Minister than the DUP, but you won’t see me supporting an SDLP MLA being falsely placed into that role as they haven’t the electoral mandate for it. It’s called democracy.

    Here’s a crazy idea. Maybe Alliance could actually try to win enough seats to entitle them to a place in the Executive, rather than allowing themselves to be used as DUP/ SF pawns.

  • [i]Why cant the SDLP get your partners in this so called middle ground to support you in a vote at the assembly?[/i]

    Because it wouldn’t matter. The DUP would veto it.

  • Sammy Morse

    Occasional

    It’s called democracy.

    That’s the argument the SDLP made when the Justice Bill was going through the Assembly last November. There was a vote and they lost. That’s called democracy.

    ::roll::