In “the spirit of co-operation…”

As the dust settled on the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May, the BBC reported

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said that he wanted to see “more realism” from the UUP and SDLP.

“I would like to see those parties as well as the Alliance Party working in the spirit of co-operation,” he said.

“If Peter Robinson and I can work together, then surely all of those parties can work with us.”

If “those parties as well as the Alliance Party” were expecting a new “spirit of co-operation” to actually materialise, they can think again. 

As the NI Environment Minister, with responsibility for local councils, and the NI Employment and Learning Minister, with responsibility for student fees, have already discovered.

As BBC NI political editor, Mark Devenport points out

Peter Robinson insists that cutting the council numbers will provide savings in the long term, even though Edwin Poots, when he was at the environment department, worried about the short term costs.

With all that in mind, the first and acting deputy first ministers may have concluded that they don’t need to talk about or to Alex, before strong-arming him into accepting their approach.

There’s an echo here of the treatment meted out to the Alliance’s Stephen Farry, who was told he could have any tuition fee as long as it was frozen.

Mr Farry’s employment and learning department then had to take more of a hit than he would have liked.

However he does seem to have been a bit more involved in the Stormont Castle discussions around fees than Mr Attwood has been in relation to the councils.

With a few years to go before any more elections the [idea] was that all the Stormont parties would buy into a Programme For Government and pioneer a more consensual form of government.

But if the smaller parties conclude that the bigger parties are going to bulldoze through their departmental responsibilities they might conclude that little has changed since the internal wrangles of the previous executive. [added emphasis]

Indeed.  Or, even, indeed.  But, as Mick said, where’s the incentive for being good at Politics…?

Update The DUP leader Peter Robinson has responded to Alex Attwood’s claim

However, Mr Robinson said: “I wish he really would pay more attention.”

He added: “Of course the acting deputy first minister and I brought him in and talked to him about this proposal before we mentioned anything at an executive meeting.

“Maybe he was sleeping at that as well. He knows what the proposals are and he should stop trying to play leadership games with matters which affect the people of Northern Ireland.”


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