“The Committee, of course, will lend itself to that farce…”

Having been tasked by the Northern Ireland Assembly to review the initial ministerial provision for the Department of Justice and to “make recommendations relating to the provision that should exist from 1 May 2012”, the Assembly and Executive Review Committee failed to complete their task.  From the AER Committee’s report

8. Following Committee discussion, a proposal was made, on the basis that there was no broad consensus on any of the options, that the Committee draft a Report that outlines all the different opinions, summarises the consultation outcome in terms of who endorsed which options and why, and any other comments.

9. The Committee agreed to this proposal, with no other proposals raised prior to this agreement.

But as TUV leader Jim Allister pointed out on Tuesday when the NI Assembly debated the Committee’s report,

This debate, in a way, is a mirror image and the cause of government working or not working in this place. It is indicative of the lurching from one expediency to another, which of course brought the Department of Justice into being and its present Minister into office. At the time, it was patched together with total disregard for any aspect of a mandate or respect for mandates. We ended up in the preposterous situation of having a party with eight Members gifted two Executive seats, while parties with twice as many Members and almost four times the number of votes as the Alliance Party ended up with one seat in the Executive. That, of course, was done out of sheer expediency to get past a certain difficulty.

We are now at the point of needing another sticking plaster. So, what do we do? We refer it to the Assembly and Executive Review Committee. What a farce. The Assembly and Executive Review Committee will not make this decision. The Assembly and Executive Review Committee will go through the motions and produce vacuous reports such as today’s, which tells you of this, that or the other option. However, it will not make any decisions. It simply awaits its instructions, which will come from the next Sinn Féin/DUP deal. Then, with great gravity, it will consider it and find it a fine proposition. It will rubber-stamp it, and it will return to the House as if it were a creature of democratic process, when everyone knows that it will be a decision taken not on principle but solely for expediency, behind closed doors, by the DUP and Sinn Féin. The Committee, of course, will lend itself to that farce. [added emphasis]

Indeed.  Otherwise the NI Justice department will be dissolved on 1 May 2012.

As I mentioned in the previous post, “The real horse trading [over Justice Ministry] is likely to happen between party leaders…” And only two parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin have the necessary votes to trade…  

*Tick* *Tock*

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Roy Walsh

    Toss up is, who wants Finance? Justice and security is likely to be more appealing to DUP as it keeps Gerry Kelly out of it, this option also means SF get DFP and the blame for the cuts, perfect sense to the main party.

  • A “shared future” should mean that sheer partiality should be put aside and that Justice should be part of d’Hondt, but, like many others, I have my doubts. It shouldn’t be beyond the wits of the Assembly to devise a means to ensure that there is no unfairness in the number of seats allocated to the various parties; elect the Justice Minister first and take that into consideration when running d’Hondt?

  • Comrade Stalin

    David Ford is the imcumbent primarily because he was the least worst option for the DUP and SF. The only way this will change is if the two parties come up with a new least worst option.

    I really don’t think that is likely at this point as the underlying conditions have not really changed since this was agreed at Hillsborough – fundamentally the DUP and SF still do not trust each other with the job (can you imagine what would have happened over the Maghaberry renaming controversy ? Or the Brendan Lillis matter?) which effectively rules out anything to do with d’Hondt. The legislation appears to permit the Assembly to come up with a new way of nominating the Minister but this still doesn’t address the issue of distrust – and furthermore, neither of the two big parties are keen to allow their smaller counterparts to get their grubby mitts on the job, especially not when both of those parties are throwing around idle speculation about walking out of the Executive.

    I fear the loyal denizens of Slugger are merely blowing a lot of misinformed smoke. I feel quite safe in predicting that Ford will still be at his desk on 2nd May.

  • Pete Baker


    “I fear the loyal denizens of Slugger are merely blowing a lot of misinformed smoke.”

    The options available to the Assembly are detailed in two posts linked in the original post above. From one of those

    Technically, as I pointed out here, the options available to the Assembly would seem to be (1) continue with the current system of cross-community vote to appoint a NI Justice Minister, (2) replace the current system with an agreed system of appointing a NI Justice Minister(s) [various options available, default system D’Hondt], (3) “provide for the department to be in the charge of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly”.

    But the NI Assembly must choose one of those options by 1 May 2012. And if they wish to continue with the current system it has to be on the basis of a cross-community vote.

  • SethS

    But as a number of people, myself included, pointed out, the dissolution of the Justice Ministry does not mean that the powers will be re-reserved automatically. Actual legislation is required for that.

    If no-one does anyhting the powers will remain devolved but with no ministry to run them.

    And that given that the assembly has the ultimate power to decide what ministries there are, they could just as easily abolish one of the existing ministries and create a justice ministry (or dole up the powers amongst the existing ministries – that would of course be just the same as submitting to d’Hondt only with one less ministry.

  • Pete Baker


    “If no-one does anyhting the powers will remain devolved but with no ministry to run them.”

    Try to think that scenario through.

    Having been unable to even agree to re-apply the current ‘sticking plaster’ by the May 1 deadline, the parties concerned [OFMDFM] would then start negotiating a rejigging of the NI Executive?

    And while they’re doing that, having failed to exercise that option before the deadline, the Minister-in-name-only would have to sit on his hands – with no department to oversee.

    Meanwhile, the functions to be exercisable by the holder of said office…

    They [OFMDFM] have no time to dawdle – see Northern Ireland Act 1998, Section 17 (3).

    And Nature abhors a vacuum.

    Most likely, given your circumstances and the short time-frame involved, the initial move would be the equivalent of option 3 above – “provide for the department to be in the charge of the First Minister and the deputy First Minister acting jointly”.

    But I still think, in agreement with Comrade Stalin, that the re-application of the current sticking plaster is the more likely outcome.