Leadership debates and the need for leadership

So the Northern Ireland leaders’ debate has been and gone: Ours was remarkable only for how badly everyone seems to feel Margaret Ritchie performed, though on specifics like the economy Gerry Adams would make the lost city of Atlantis seem like a well known commercial centre. He can only be specific on his not having been in the IRA: a subject he is as specific on as the fact that he sang “Always look on the bright side of life” whilst in gaol. Adams it seems can only be specific when telling lies. What was amazing was that all Reg Empey could say was that those who vote for him do not believe Adams. Peter Robinson did not even remark on Adams’s comment which from the man who once railed against Sinn Fein was scarcely believable.

Jim Allister of course was absent from the debate and instead given a brief slot afterwards with David Ford and Steven Agnew of the Greens. Today Allister has hit out at the failure to put him on the same panel as the other major political parties pointing out that in the European election his share of the vote was only slightly lower than that of the SDL and UUP. Predictably Allister went on the attack in the debate, though with only Ford and Agnew he had little to fight.

The only significant point Ford made against Allister was that the TUV’s policy of voluntary coalition has the problem that there is a veto on this (Sinn Fein’s). Ford, however, stated that he supported moving to voluntary coalition and indeed all of the other parties apart from Sinn Fein seem to be in favour of moving towards a more normal system of government with oppositions, voluntary coalitions and weighted majorities. This is of course the TUV’s position as outlined in their manifesto and in numerous previous positions. Strangely although the other parties denounce it as unachievable they also have the same position: as recently as 12th April Peter Robinson himself championed voluntary coalition, though without any obvious mechanism for its achievement.

When other parties suggest voluntary coalition they say it is achievable, despite no concrete suggestions on how to do so: when the TUV suggest it they are branded as being fantasists. The other parties are of course correct, there is a difference: that is that the other parties accept that Sinn Fein (or anyone else) has the ability to veto any move to voluntary coalition. The TUV on the other hand argue that no one can have a veto on progress and that if the political system is such that such a veto has been handed to someone then that political system needs reform: the process must be changed; a minority (any minority) cannot have a perpetual veto on that change.

The other parties are trapped claiming to want to move to a more normal and hopefully more competent system of government: yet they are unable to countenance the radical reform that the current system would require to allow that change to take place. This is the inherent dilemma imposed on us by the institutionalisation of the sectarian carve up of power and the interlocking mutual vetoes with which we are faced. Although lateral thinking may not be likely at election time, sooner or later someone is going to have to accept that this process needs to proceed in the direction of a more sensible form of government and is going to have to take the hard leadership decisions to make it happen. Expecting such leadership during a leaders’ debate is of course utterly naive.

  • wild turkey

    ‘lateral thinking may not be likely at election time, sooner or later someone is going to have to accept that this process needs to proceed in the direction of a more sensible form of government’

    well fair enough turgon. i am a great believer, and occassional practioner, of lateral thinking. of course this question may be utterly naive, but what is your best shot at lateral thinking on the issue you raise?

  • wild turkey,
    I think the TUV position is logical that they would not enter power sharing. That does not mean that they would keep SF out of power sharing merely that they (the TUV) would stay out of it.

    The other piece of lateral thinking which I have suggested previously is that the UUP and DUP are in coalition with SF. they could state that they want voluntary coalition and give an undertaking to share power with SF. That would at least make them honest and rather than hiding behind the shield of mandatory coalition they would make their electoral pitch and see what the voters thought.

  • Henry94


    they could state that they want voluntary coalition and give an undertaking to share power with SF.

    What a field day TUV would have with that. Unionists “forced” to share power with Sinn Fein upsets them enough but Unionists volunteering to do so would drive them over the edge.

    The structures of the agreement are the basis on which nationalists consent to be governed within the current constitutional arrangement.

    If parties are free to form an executive on a voluntary basis then we have unionist government. Anything else is just another form of mandatory coalition.

    What unionist who rise this seem to want is any kind of formula that would allow them the go into government with just the SDLP. Well they had it in their hands. It was called Sunningdale.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The only possible answer is a voluntary coalition that has a majority of both designates.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    On the wider point of leadership, it amazes me that not one politician, north south or on the mainland, has had the balls to stand up and play a straight bat to the people.

    Here’s my manifesto pre-amble:

    “Looks lads, the worlds fuct, as export led, service orientated open economies, we’re more fuct than most. Now we all rode high on the hog when times were good. 15 years of growth, stable industrial relations led us to buy off the unions when we thought we could afford to lose our competitiveness. Problem is now we have nae spons to pay for the cash we borrowed from the big boys.

    There’s no point in whinging that it was the banks, the yanks or the planks what done it. Fact is, we thought we were great, and making money was a piece o’ pish. 3 holidays a year, 2 cars, second homes, lituanan au pairs and filipino housemaids were the norm. Think about that – you all thought this was normal – think what a feckin eejit you sound like now.

    So forget whatever you’ve been hearing about protecting front line funding, no tax rises, and taking money from the banks.

    We’re all taking a 15% pay cut from tomorrow, this will be set against reducing the capital repayments from the gigantic loans. All governement departments will have their budgets cut by 10% and find efficiency savings of another 10%. This money will be invested in capital investments so we can take advantage of getting sparkies and plumbers at wages not approaching premiership footballers.

    VAT is down to 10%, Stamp duty is abolished and PAYE is up 3%.

    Unions are abolished, along with public toilets and fax machines (only banks and solicitors insist on using them). Michael O’Leary will be appointed to oversee all of this.

    If we get a large dose of luck, we might be able to go back to buying new cars in 2015. In the meantime, sit down, shut up and be grateful for whatever you manage to hold on to.

    The other shower are just promising that your kids will be the ones to pay for your belief that the good times would last forever.

    Vote for me!!!