The semi-detached polit-bureau in action

They just can’t help themselves…

Mr McGuinness was speaking at the official opening of the first high-speed road link between Belfast and Dublin.

He said: “I think Peter Robinson and I will have more good news to announce in regard to the development of the Maze/Long Kesh site.

“We have actually reached agreement and we will publicly announce how we intend to take that forward over the next very short while.”

As both the BBC and UTV Press Association note

Mr McGuinness declined to detail what was in the pipeline.

Would that be because the Northern Ireland Executive has yet to be asked for its approval informed?  The NI Assembly has certainly not yet heard a statement…

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  • Neil

    The NI Assembly has certainly not yet heard a statement…

    And..? Don’t get the point. Surely the two men coming up with an idea together is acceptable, or more, desired?

  • Rory Carr

    Quite so, Neil.

    “We have actually reached agreement and we will publicly announce how we intend to take that forward over the next very short while.”

    The declared intention is only that. It does nothing to indicate that the necessity for Assembly approval is being ignored. Indeed we can take the DFM’s reluctance to be drawn on the detail as a measure of his understanding that the Assembly should hear the details of the proposed plans first-hand rather than being high-handed by having to learn of them first from the Press Association.

    Sorry to spoil your gripe, Pete, but not everything can be taken to illustrate your fixation with dysfunctionality.

  • So they have successfully unpicked the issues around what to do with the Long Kesh/Maze site to the satisfaction of both the DUP and SF (I’d have thought that was a tall order). Not only have they done that but they are having the cheek to not talk publicly about it yet since it is (no doubt) being sold internally to members of both parties. And they have dropped a hint that news is in the offing.
    I’d have thought this is suspiciously like joined up government?

  • William Markfelt

    I’m delighted to see the word ‘politbureau’ applied. Hard on the heels of John Dallat’s ‘show trials’ remark we finally appear to be coming to grips with the quasi-totalitarian nature of this dysfunctional charade.

    As for “I think Peter Robinson and I will have more good news to announce in regard to the development of the Maze/Long Kesh site”. Social housing? I certainly hope so.

  • William Markfelt

    I agree with Pete. (the phrase has a certain ‘mot du jour’ resonance, but I can’t help that).

    It IS dysfunctional, and that dysfunctionality DOES need to be outlined, highlighted, pointed out and challenged at every turn.

  • drumlins rock

    Pull the other one Rory,

  • drumlins rock

    another Poleglass or Ballybeen? whopee that really going to put the place on map, for the wrong reasons.

  • William Markfelt

    Not really. I suspect that there are ‘young professionals’ (call centre monkeys, phone shop employees) who’d like to get onto the property ladder but can’t. Many/some in mixed relationships? (although the differences between Catholic and protestant fade into insignificance compared to the differences between men and women). So starter homes is the answer.

    More valuable, more long-sighted and more about the future than some stupid sports stadium which, if it is to be built, needs sticking on Belfast’s Loughshore. However I reckon we can do without that and spend the cash more wisely other than some one-size-fits-all white elephant ‘lets make up and be friendly’ Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band nonsense.

    Casement Park. Windsor Park. Ravenhill Park. We have all the regional stadia we need in the Greater Belfast area.

  • A N Other

    It’s ok, I can reveal all – it will be a theme park.

  • Drumlin Rock

    Paisley Land

  • William Markfelt

    No!

    Paisley PARK.

    You know…’he wore a Raspberry Beret, the type that you find in a Third Force Surplus Store’.

  • The Impartial Observer

    “Iris Land” sounds better to me!

  • Rory Carr

    “…dysfunctionality DOES need to be outlined, highlighted, pointed out and challenged at every turn.

    I wholeheartedly agree, William. However this is clearly not one those turns, certainly not in the manner Pete is implying – an attempt by the FM/DFM to ride roughshod over the function of the Assembly itself. Calling, “Wolf !”, every time a pet poodle walks into view is not the best way to maintain alertness to the danger of the real beast.

    I have had a drinky or two with ‘Legs’ Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band on occasion and I am not sure he would be best pleased to have his ouvre described as ” ‘lets make up and be friendly’ Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band nonsense.” Serious nonsense, yes and still a pleasure to hear..

  • iluvni

    So, are they going to appoint yet another steering committee comprising a few paramilitary murderers from each side (for balance) and the same bunch of gormless eejit politicians who came up with the previous bullshit plan?

  • Damian O’Loan

    Rory and others,

    There are two things to look at: the decision and the decision-making process. The decision, being agreement as opposed to static disagreement, will probably be welcomed by almost everyone.

    The decision-making process is another question. Do you believe the UU, SDLP or Alliance parties were involved with this? If not, but you welcome the idea, you should look at where that leaves you.

    The Executive would be superfluous and so removed; the Assembly – having never rebelled against the Executive, would be an equally unnecessary quango, and you could relax and enjoy pure, unadulterated religious authoritarianism from Peter and Martin until re-electing people who would respect democratic institutions.

    These FMs needs a copy of the Social Contract, or perhaps they could look again at how the Glorious Revolution arrived. When one is inspired by the Shah of Iran and the other Savonarola, it’s perhaps worth keeping the government and parliament, despite everything.

  • “The decision-making process is another question. Do you believe the UU, SDLP or Alliance parties were involved with this? If not, but you welcome the idea, you should look at where that leaves you.”

    But what value system are we to apply to this? In precedent terms, the previous UUP-SDLP incumbents of OFMDFM operated in largely the same manner. Did they feel typically compelled to refer decisions to the junior parties in their particular sectional grouping (i.e. those with a lesser mandate) or the wider Executive or Assembly?

    I am not (by any means) suggesting the Executive and Assembly system is flawless (eh, far from it). But the decision-making process does require cross-community consent, not intra-community consent. Veterans of previous Assemblies (from the DUP in particular) will be amused that intra-community and all-party consent is now a requisite and will no doubt denounce a heavy whiff of sour grapes from critics.

    What you are actually pointing up is the more obvious flaw – the lack of a mechanism for a functioning opposition (never mind the apparent inability to get rid of inept ministers). Semi-detached and dysfunctional appear more appropriate terms for describing the relationship between the junior partners in the Executive and how DUP/SF are taking on the leadership role through OFMDFM. Personally I’d rather see somebody take charge.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Taking this example of the MLK site as an example, this is typical of how skewed views have become regarding SF and the DUP. There were a multitude of ways on the table regarding how the situation could be advanced, if not concluded. Some were implemented, at considerable expense. But the central problem was that there was a fixed no against a fixed yes on the issue.

    Until it was placed in the context of a larger deal. Which was presumably drafted by the NIO, but allowed the space in which to strike an agreement. There is no reason at all that this approach could not have been thrashed out over the Executive table and Assembly floor, benefitting not only from cross-community influence but also all-party engagement.

    Because almost everyone who votes is represented by a party in the Assembly, they may feel they have at least some stake in decisions that are taken. They may then feel they live in a society where the rule of force is not the final word and so NI, regardless of where you see its natural alliance, would be a space founded on the principle that dissent it met with discussion, leading to a discussion based on a reasonable assessment of the wider electorate’s interests.

    I do agree that there is a problem with the powers of accountability. I think they should look into mandatory free voting on a number of issues in the Assembly, alongside cross-community designation if you like. That the Committees need to be allowed to do things seriously. That certain Commissioners are so bad they make things like representing children’s interests look like a bad idea. That there should be a body fit to call this rush of activity while parliament is on holiday what it is – anti-democratic.

    Although they are obviously linked, democratic mechanisms are more important than individual decisions. Otherwise constitutions would hold no value. Which takes me back to the Shah of Iran, etc.

  • I think a lot of it is a by-product of the lack of accountability. Paradoxically, (taking MLK again), surely the multiple dead end approachs are just as symptomatic of too many cooks. The wider problem maybe that ownership of OFMDFM is acquiring its own perceived historical agency. Did the parallel exchange of DUP for UUP and SF for SDLP create a mindset (amongst all four parties) whereby the out-working of OFMDFM (and the critiquing of such) is a game changer for the electorate.

  • Damian O’Loan

    There are two ways of reacting to the lack of opposition in the Assembly you mention. You can capitalise on its weakness to impose your (or the NIO’s) policy, or you can respect it nevertheless and play a longer-term game. One would at least expect a balance, but if you look at the Emergency Financial Provisions fiasco, you’ll see that is an unashamed power-grab.

    The misuse of OFMdFM existed under the SDLP-UU axis, but the St Andrew’s Agreement exacerbated the situation. This was a reactionary and short-sighted move, typical of its authors.

    The idea of a functioning one-party executive with opposition is pure fantasy. The problem is the present system’s operation is making it, and a democratic united Ireland, a more distant reality.

  • The one-party executive is obviously a non-runner but the idea that some parties will not take up ministries under d’Hondt and perform as a detached (i.e. actual) opposition as opposed to a semi-detached opposition shouldn’t be that fantastical. It should also draw a clearer line in the electorates’ minds over the genuine impact of the result. At the moment, there’s a ministry for everyone in the audience (almost).

  • Damian O’Loan

    But a Minister who votes against the Executive can’t remain within it.

    That’s what brings me back to the need for freer voting in the Assembly.

  • sdelaneys

    The good old royal ‘we’ still sufficient for you Rory, and bugger the underlings?