What if David Ford and the Alliance ruling council did walk away from justice? Allister? Agnew? Hay?

[Sherlock Holmes] How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

Let’s play a game of What If? for a minute …

What if David Ford meets with the Alliance Party’s ruling council and they decide to show their giant bluff card and walk away from the Department of Justice? Since a Sinn Fein Justice Minister seems to still be beyond the tolerance of the other parties, and SF are thus unlikely to support a DUP minister, who else could do it?

Assuming Alliance are out of the picture, could either a UUP or SDLP candidate gain cross-party support? More likely than before, but not for certain.

Who’s left?

Jim Allister … ahem, no.

David McClarty … unlikely.

Steven Agnew … he’s already confirmed that the answer would be no!

Steve Agnew confirming he wouldn't accept Justive Ministry

What’s left?

Cropped photo of speaker William Hay launching primary school art competition - http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/News-and-Media/Press-Releases/Assembly-Calls-on-All-Budding-Young-Artists/Perhaps the Speaker could step down, drop his tribal designation, resign from the DUP and serve as an independent Justice Minister?

A UUP or SDLP candidate suddenly seems more likely. Unless both parties decided to follow Alliance into Opposition (unlikely).

Whatever would happen, it would create a whole new paradigm up at the Assembly/Executive. Peril is what the peace process has thrived on so far. Maybe it’s what they need …

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  • cynic2

    Dont worry. They wont


  • I know. What there’s always the chance that David Ford is sooo annoyed, that he will.

  • Did I say the wrong thing by mentioning Steven Agnew? Has Steven been reading Slugger?

    Pete Baker: “and not at all another fudge to keep the Department of Justice upright while they re-apply the same sticking plaster as last time.” .. decisive decision thread

    As David might have said to Peter and Martin, “Well here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”

  • Turgon

    I doubt Ford is actually that terribly annoyed. He probably needs to be seen to be annoyed for internal consumption and to perpetuate the myth that Alliance are not SF / DUP lackeys. Farry’s job is a price he would very likely pay to keep his own position. After all Alliance has a history of doing the opposite of what they say they are going to do such as when they twice ruled out taking justice before promptly taking it.

    Indeed Alliance leaders also have a history of doing the opposite of putting party before self such as when the last leader Alderdice took the first speaker’s role.

  • Any UUP person would probably be acceptable.
    On seat numbers they merit it.
    Agnew is too lightweight to have been offered it so his grand gesture in saying he would take it is just a bit of posturing.
    N Emerson perhaps got the likelihood of an Alliance walk out just about right. The Alliance dont do “principle” any more, So posturing on the High Moral Ground doesnt quite have the same effect.
    I suppose theres always the chance that Ford will be sooo annoyed that he could crush a grape.
    But the Timing could be interesting.
    No doubt Ford has a speech prepared for the AP Conference in which he draws applause for “we have two ministries” passage………..but that might change when he has to tell them that DUP and SF shafted them. Much harrumphing.
    When is the AP Conference by the way?

  • andnowwhat

    More chance of Stephen Hawking getting a gold this summer

  • CommentOnStats

    The Justice ministry, like education, could be a more daunting prospect than at first appearance for any party than does not enjoy significant cross-community support. David Ford is right & the consultation period is woeful. A possible compromise: slim down DEL, e.g. move FE & Training to the Dept of Education. Keep employment with a dedicated department in the face of rising unemployment.

  • Turgon,
    Alliance folks have often protested that they dont stitch up their own folks.
    A re-run of
    Alderdice (now in the Lib Dems) and Seamus Close for the Speakers role? Surely not? They are nice people.though not necessarily to each other.
    Id find it possible that Ford might actually step down as Justice Minister and let Farry keep the Exec seat. Ford is a social worker and Farry has a better grasp of nitty gritty politics.
    And generously stepping down at Justice might give him some brownie points (the advantage is that he is running out of lives in Justice)…….and there is the likelihood of Ms Long returning after the next Westminster Election.

    Its almost literally a game of musical chairs. Someone is going to lose out when the music stops.
    And surely the Alliance Party can be bought off with the Speakers role.

  • Nevin – I’d asked Steven earlier today (in case he’d have a good retort – which he did).

    FJH – Alliance conference is on Saturday 21 April.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I hoped there might be something to respond to here, but sadly it’s just the same, boring people posting the same, boring old cliches.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon, perhaps you, or someone, could explain to me why it is appropriate for you, in your usual narky ad-hominem fashion, to go into the supposed double standards of Alliance leaders here, whereas you ran crying to Mick and got me heavily censored and carded for going into the double standards of Jim Allister back here ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    CS, touched a nerve have they?

    Wasn’t taking this thread that seriously till I read your comments, but they have make me wonder, maybe all is not happy sailing on the good ship Alliance, mutiny in the offing?

  • Comrade Stalin

    DR, I wish there was a mutiny, I could do with a bit of excitement. The frenzied wanking around here being passed off as informed speculation is boring me to death.

  • USA

    Comrade Stalin,
    You have hit the nail on the head.

  • ayeYerMa

    Why is Jim Allister rejected so instantly? Nationalists may portray him as the Bogeyman, but if you were doing a normal job interview for a similar position and were to follow anti-discrimination and equality law, then Allister would probably be the most qualified person in the whole assembly to do the job properly and fairly.

    Anyway, personally don’t care as long as Stephen Agnew and the Green Party are kept away as far from any shade of power as possible. We have more than our fair share of incompetence in the Assembly, but none can match the failure to grasp practical realities than the hippies in the Greens. Yes, I like to care for the environment, but I also like to live pragmatically.

  • Alias

    “…boring people posting the same, boring old cliches.” – Comrade Stalin

    “Comrade Stalin,
    You have hit the nail on the head.” – USA


  • An interesting exercise ……
    Draft the Alliance Partys Press Statement.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    You’re a card – thanks for the Friday humour.

    Whoever gets the job (assuming it becomes vacant) has to have a degree of cross-community support.

    Across my Catholic family and friends, there are SF, SDLP, Alliance (and probably a couple of Conservative) voters.

    I can honestly say that even the most moderate of them (quite rightly) wouldn’t accept Allister.

    If he had his way, we’d go back to a pre 1968 situation (the “good old days” from an Orange perspective).

    His level of acceptance in the Catholic/Nationalist community is Zero. He is widely despised and completely distrusted.

    I sincerely hope that we are reaching the point where a moderate UUP or SDLP person could get the job (although I don’t think that we are quite there yet).

    IMO we are a long way off reaching a point where a DUP or SF would be acceptable cross community. Even then, there are certainly DUP people who will never be acceptable to Catholics/Nationalists (McCrea and Campbell spring to mind). Obviously and quite rightly Unionists would find certain members of SF unacceptable.

    As for Allister ever being accepted by the Nationalist community – there’s more chance of me replacing Lionel Messi in the Barcelona team!

  • Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that a second “junior” Minister is appointed to Fords Justice Dept……having responsibility for Conflict Resolutiony type stuff?

  • Michael Shilliday

    What makes you think Willie Hay will leave the DUP to look independent to be a Minister when he didn’t do it to be Speaker?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Michael, you’re making the mistake of trying to make sense out of people with their head firmly stuck in the clouds.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In terms of Allister, apart from the fact that he won’t serve in the executive alongside SF, I don’t think it is at all a good idea to appoint someone who is close to the legal system (even if in the recent past) to do this kind of job, especially when problems like legal aid have to be tackled.

    I agree though, he is probably the single most effective MLA in the assembly at the moment in terms of working the chamber itself.

  • Drumlins Rock

    To continue on the fantasy theme of this thread who would be the most suitable personalities in the 4 largest parties?

  • Michael Shilliday

    It’s inherently a good idea to have someone in there who knows at least as much as the civil servants about his job. But maybe not Jim Allister. It’s also inherently a good idea to have lawyers in decision making positions surrounding the law (almost everything Labour did to criminal procedure being the, rather large, exception that proves the rule there).

  • Michael – the crucial part of this post is the

    > Let’s play a game of What If? for a minute …

    It does seem unlikely that Alliance would fully pull out of the Executive, but it might speed up by four years the maturity of relationships and willingness to accept an SDLP or UUP justice minister if they did.

  • Barry the Blender

    Is this the first Stormont shake up where the UUP aren’t the bad guys?

  • FuturePhysicist

    What odds Owen Paterson is the new Justice Minister?

  • FuturePhysicist

    More chance of Stephen Hawking getting a gold this summer

    Ahhhh but I bet you haven’t seen his work on stellar nucleosynthesis!

  • AyeYerMa –

    Which particular political reality do you feel the Green Party are failing to grasp? A specific response would be appreciated.

  • Drumlins Rock
    I dont think we should see Justice as being particuarly unique.
    Ultimately every Party has a figure who……while not exactly “reaching out” to the other side, gets some support as a “he/she is not as bad as the rest of them”.

    SF probably has fewer people that make any kind of positive impact on themmuns…Martina Anderson clearly doent. And Caitriona Ruane didnt live up to the hype. But although some SF people have more baggage than others (some indeed have none at all) Id suggest that the SF person who could actually do the best job would be Martin McGuinness himself. Certainly it is a fantasy but I think you get exactly what it says on the tin.

    With two solicitors in the Party, the SDLP have Magennis and Attwood but both are capable rather than spectacular.

    Again theres no real choice in the DUP that Catholics instantly like except in a “he/she is not so bad” kinda way. A couple of younger ones have flattered to deceive……not quite as “modern” as they appeared to be……..Peter Weir has the gravitas that is needed but not exactly spectacular. Poots seems the “nicest” DUP person (although thats only what my wife says). But its hard to imagine the likes of McCausland in there.

    The temptation in the UUP is to think that McCrea and McCallister have cross party appeal. They do. But basically thats all they have. Danny Kennedy has more of that seriousness.

    But like I said, choosing a Justice Minister because he or she comes across as “nice” is no basis for choosing a Minister. Its no substitute for Ability.
    Thats the mistake that was made with David Ford and the Alliance Party in the first place.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Ok in Fantasy executive will go for the following as my suggestion for Justice if their party were to win it –

    SDLP – Conal McDevitt (Patsy to get DOE in resuffle)
    UUP – Danny Kinahan (safer than Basil )
    SF – Michelle Gildernew
    DUP – Peter Weir

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, had my list done before you posted. I think Justice is a wee bit different generally, even outside of NI, it has a seriousness that rules out the likes of Sammy and Wee Barry for examples, and I have to say probably Basil and John too. All of them could probly do other jobs ok, as Sammy is. I think Attwood could be spectacular in the wrong way, to be blunt the one SDLP loathed more than Shinners by most Unionists! Magennis maybe but think he has had his day. As for wee Marty, I think he would crack up with all the wheels inside wheels in the legal system, he is still a rebel at heart but the legal system dosn’t have the flexibility to let hhim breath. Michelle basically lets the officials get on with it with the odd glory hunt to keep her tribe happy, when it comes to tough decision, what tough decisions? We seem to have both landed on Weir, for the biggest party the choice seemed rather limited, would Arelene take it? she dosn’t like the risky jobs!

  • Actually Danny Kinahan is a very good shout. I met him in July and thought he was very sincere.
    Conall is heir apparant in SDLP and needs to actually say less and listen more for a few years. He visibly learned a lot during the Leadership Campaign but he badly needs to get out of his Twitter/Facebook/Nolan addiction.
    Gildernew…….you kinda surprise me. She seems to have gone from bete noire to “acceptable face of Sinn Féin” with a lot of unionists and as you are in that neck of the woods, it surprises me a little.

    But like I say all Parties have got people who are “the Acceptable Face of….” and that should not really be a consideration.

    Eight seats was always too low a threshold to entitlement to a seat. And obviously with the need to bring number of Ministries down, the threshold will be ten or eleven.
    Im not sure what the big deal is about having local hands on “Justice”.
    Nobody should have a problem with it being returned to London and a new Executive of maybe just eight people.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Fitzy who else is there in the shinners? Remember this is a double edged sword, the old “home secretary” post that destroy many careers, so perhaps I’m was thinking she might come a cropper lol
    She dosn’t have the direct baggage that rule most of their top guns out, and many of the others are too junior, anyone else you can think of?
    With Conal was thinking a bit of responsibility would either make or break him, get it over with sooner rather than later.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Michael, I think in order to do a big job (of any kind) you have to be able to think out of the box and having a career in a subject area can prevent you from doing that.

    The chief executive of British Telecom doesn’t know anything about telephone engineering, for example.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Drumlins Rock (profile) 13 January 2012 at 2:47 pm
    Ok in Fantasy executive will go for the following as my suggestion for Justice if their party were to win it –

    SDLP – Conal McDevitt (Patsy to get DOE in resuffle)
    UUP – Danny Kinahan (safer than Basil )
    SF – Michelle Gildernew
    DUP – Peter Weir

    I’d say that’s all wrong and opt for Alban Magginnis, Gerry Kelly, Basil McCrea (in spite of everything) and Jim Allister … you heard!

  • Munsterview

    Fitz : “….Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that a second “junior” Minister is appointed to Fords Justice Dept……having responsibility for Conflict Resolutiony type stuff?….”

    Ah…. now there is a job for Jim Allister if there was ever one ! Comet the hour, comet the man etc.

    And to make this fine gentleman a bit more acceptable to Taigs, how about Turgon as his PR officer?

  • andnowwhat

    Just watching the repeat of H&M.

    Noel Thompson, rightly, pulled Ford apart.

  • andnowwhat

    Oops, and Emerson just followed up on his editorial

  • Thompson did indeed tear Ford apart but just how important that is ….is debatable.
    We have often seen politicians torn apart but really their only audience is the party members, core vote and any potential increase around the edges.
    If the number of “Departments” is reduced then Alliance needs to increase its number of MLAs beyond eight to be in the zone to pick up a single Department as of right.
    And I think this is the game the Alliance Party are playing.

    In 2010, they got a boost with the East Belfast result.
    In 2011 they got an extra seat in East Belfast (narrowly) and with the likelihood of Long losing her seat, they need to strike while iron is hot to maintain momentum.
    Of course any poker player would know that Ford has a lousy hand……….and surely Ford has played poker enough to know that……which means he might be looking for how the cards are dealt in the next deal.

    If the setting for the next “deal” (Election) is a collapsed executive and Ford playing the martyrdom card, it is a risky strategy.