Nice piece from Alex Kane again this week, in which he points to the current stasis in which Northern Irish administration suffers:
13 years since the 1998 referendum and weeks away from the fourth assembly, there is still no evidence that the parties have any interest in agreeing a radical, era-changing agenda for what is supposedly the ‘new’ Northern Ireland. They still plan for the future with the signposts from the past and prefer to settle scores rather than govern in the common interest.
And apart from the fact that the assembly managed to survive for a full term (although it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s actually survived for 13 years) what will the 2007-11 years be remembered for? Well, for most people, the response to that question will be a shrug-of-the-shoulders indifference. They don’t remember. They don’t care. Few could point to anything that has made a real, life-changing difference to their everyday lives. Even fewer could point to anything that could be construed as representing a new way of doing political business in Northern Ireland, let alone demonstrating evidence of newfound trust, cooperation or confidence.
Now there are rumours that privately even Sinn Fein are interested in political reform of the clunky institutions set up under the Belfast Agreement. But, as Alex points out, we now face a cacophonous (and substance free) election campaign in which everyone tries to pretend that none of them have been running the place for the last four years (which four and a bit of them have) in partneship with the people they’ve agreed the latest budget with:
The parties are already tearing lumps out of each other: the DUP accuses the UUP of not being serious about government; Sinn Fein has said it will veto any plans to introduce an official opposition; the UUP talks of a game-changer, but isn’t likely to be in a position to implement it; the SDLP says Sinn Fein is controlled by the DUP; and the Alliance Party blames everyone for not listening to them. And in a few weeks time all of these parties will be trying to form a new government with each other.
Groundhog Election Day anyone? Just keep an eye on those turn out figures… Or as Alex puts it: “Oh dear, maybe this is as good as it gets: in which case I may soon be joining the ranks of the non-voter.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty