Minister responsible for Council reform told by Castle time is over for debate…

None of us should take for granted the benefits of having our politicians work together after years of bloody violence on Belfast streets. But here’s a good example of what happens when someone wants to get something done.

If it is a Sinn Fein Education Minister who wants to abolish selection in schools, s/he cannot do so without agreement between both parties in Stormont Castle (aka OFMDFM). Now we are seeing the opposite dynamic in train. Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have taken a decision in the Castle they are now trying to force feed the non Castle Minister charged with delivery of the long overdue council reforms.

The Minister, Alex Attwood cites a couple of reasons for reconsidering the Castle’s 11 council deal:

…the reduction of the 18 Westminster constituencies to 16 and the councils’ own initiative aimed at achieving savings through greater sharing — the Improvement, Collaboration and Efficiency (ICE) programme. He denied his suggestion ahead of tomorrow’s Executive meeting will stir up new confusion [emphasis added].

You can see the problem from both angles. Decision making at the top level has been treacle like. Despite the new administration being formed in March, there’s no sign yet of a completed Programme for Governement. New confusion where the big two can actually agree is clearly unwelcome.

On the other hand, the Minister wants to maximise the relevance and quality of the decisions emanating from the department of which he is titular (and executive) head. I don’t think they can actually make him to enforce their solution, but they will try to use the only viable weapon open to politicians at Stormont, the blame game.

The delay has very much emanated from the Castle, but now united, they will certainly play what cards they hold to transfer the blame for that longer term delay onto the Minister…

So goes the trench warfare that is Stormont politics…

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