At a stress-free Stormont there is no imperative to actually do anything with the mandate…

This week RTESo, a relatively quiet flag protest this weekend. Maybe now some of the political hysteria posturing of last week will be begin to subside. The irony is that in general terms, sectarianism is on the slide, and mixed marriages are up and the wider population is beginning to adopt a more open view of how the world works than many of their most senior politicians.

You get a strong sense of a political class leading strongly, but only from the back. For those who heard my interview on RTE’s This Week programme, I noted how with everything tied in at Stormont, councils provide an easy opportunity to pander to the wants of their base. Evidence, as today’s Irish News confirms, is thin on the ground that they have been able to work on anything much together:

  • megatron

    As an aside as someone who lives near the border in overwhelming nationalist area this sectarianism on the slide thing is irrelevant.

    Anyway, as a long time reader of this site my general view is Mick thinks governments (especially one with limited powers and responsibilities) have a lot more influence than they actually do.

    In the big picture politicians here have probably led more than most.

  • Mick Fealty


    You could be right in both regards. At the end of the day, despite the rhetorical over use of the word historical, the resumption of the Assembly and it not falling over comes under the category of eaten bread soon forgotten.

    I’d say they have less power than generally received wisdom would have. They do accumulate more power over time, as momentum builds.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what motivates people to vote down your way?

    Sorry for the lack of a link all day.. Fixed now…

  • megatron

    Do not mind you asking….and it’s a good question

    For lots of people (Inc me to some extent) a SF vote is still part of the “struggle”. That includes some 20 yr old Celtic fans and pensioners who saw it all (more of the latter – youngsters probably not voting)

    Policy definitely not a reason as far as I can see – maybe if media can create a perception (rightly or wrongly) that incumbents have really messed up it might have a marginal effect.

  • megatron

    The only way SF are losing votes my way if someone can convincingly change the narrative (amongst ordinary nationalists / republicans) that SF are not your best chance for unity.

    I am certainly open to be persuaded but nobody else even wants to talk about how we might get there. Opposing a border poll is but one example.

  • Alias

    For lots of people (Inc me to some extent) a SF vote is still part of the “struggle”.

    There is a bit of a contradiction between saying that after saying that the regional ‘government’ is powerless.

    Either they can advance “the struggle” through Stormont or they can’t. They can’t, of course, because Stormont was established to administer British rule, not to overthrow it.

    So leaving aside the nonsense of a vote for the Shinners being a vote for “the struggle”, what exactly are they expected to achieve for their voters when nothing achievable is expected from them by their voters?

    I’d guess that the answer is not much other than some plausible pretence that 40 years of sectarian murder served some purpose other than a well-paid and semi-important career doing bugger all for the Butcher Boy and a generous British state pension when he retires – plus, of course, removal of the Union Jack at City Hall as pay-off for the voting plebs.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Mick. Are we moving towards a kind of gerontocracy, backed by Young Fogeys?

  • USA

    You have the political insight of a brick.
    Of course SF can advance their goals and objectives through participation in the political process. That is what politics is all about.
    Apologies to bricks everywhere.

  • “Are we moving towards a kind of gerontocracy, backed by Young Fogeys?”

    David, I think the Peter and Martin Show has more in common with House of Cards than Yes Prime Minister:

    Francis Urquahart: “I keep the troops in line. I put a bit of stick about. I make ’em jump.”

    So who jumps? Party members? Permanent Secretaries? And who doesn’t jump? Those outside the tent?

    Don’t be fooled by a smile 🙂

    The 2009 blog contains a delightful contribution from Eye on the Hill featuring the former SDLP for Antrim North, Declan O’Loan.

  • BarneyT

    Hi Mick
    Very succinct delivery and you quite clearly demonstrated why you believe the executive is ineffectual. I did however expect you to sound more like Roger Whittaker 

    I fully concur with the view that the “government” is more of an administration on many counts. As you say there is no imperative to deliver due to the absence of accountability. You also make the point that Martins effectiveness is diminished from the ‘get go’ for the simple reason that he does not lead his party and decisions have to be ratified, not only outside of the executive, but perhaps outside of the UK jurisdiction. If that is the case, the DUP should be making more of the fact that they appear to be dealing with the monkey and not the organ grinder. That’s perhaps and symptom of the administrations ill-health that they are not seizing this opportunity.

    It appears there is no competition and the main parties have all agreed to cross the line together. No losers and more aptly, no winners (perhaps not even us).

    Politically it’s a smart move for SF to install a senior party member as the administrations deputy (as opposed to their leader). This immediately elevates Gerry’s status to some degree, perhaps giving him perceived parity or more with the first minister through these “mind games”. It also allows SF to operate in an all-Ireland context, particularly if you suggest that SF contributions and decision making in the NI administration is ratified from SF headquarter and its council. The SF leadership can claim to have “one of our people” governing up north. Then again the DUP is a NI party and has no political aspirations un Dublin……yet 

    You state that execute has not achieved, particularly with regard to Anti-poverty and Anti-sectarianism. Sadly true.

    I don’t believe that the DUP are in any place to address the sectarian issues, as I regard them as sectarian to the core. I doubt if you would get many advocates of “mixed marriages” for a start, not even if Catholics were fit! I am not saying there are no sectarian elements in SF but I sense they are much less pronounced.

    I also see no willingness in the DUP political leadership to address poverty in the protestant let alone the catholic communities as no doubt it will stifle creativity and conflict with market economy dynamics. There is more chance of Cameron reaching out to the deprived in Middlesbrough. For me the DUP is redundant on both the sectarian and poverty challenges. Sadly the UUP are socially one step removed again.

    SF, as the party that represents Catholic working classes is now in government. They have the opportunity to reach out to all working classes and they have a mandate and duty to serve all, as does the DUP, so tackle poverty head on.

    It’s an opportunity missed as the SF dream will only be realised if they bring the East Belfast Protestants into society and into a wider all-Ireland. Why wait for East Belfast to politicise or gain representation when our deputy has it within his remit to reach out to them now. Any long term strategy to rely on a slow demographic shift is going to serve no-one and not even SF.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just got an apt quote from Jude Collins from the late Inez McCormick: “What you are doing is screwing the poor because of their religious background.”

    She was nothing if not direct. Now there’s two ways of looking at this.

    – One, you take the view that you wait until your opponent changes his mind and in the meantime leave the poor in their sectarian vice.

    – Two you look to build a politics that takes the sectarian steam out of the situation by looking for broader solutions.

    The second one is more chancy, the outcome less certain. But in the first the poor will continue to get screwed anyway.

  • BarneyT

    My idea was that you act now to address the broader issue of poverty within the opposing camp as well as your own and you may not have as long to wait until your opponent changes his mind.

    If you could triangulate the deprived of East and West Belfast with those of north Dublin (and generate dialogue and some degree of experience sharing) you might get a general consensus that you can be screwed in any part of the Island. We need cross community workers to faciliate and all I’ve seen so far are Republican community workers and Loyalist community workers.

  • streetlegal

    The Stormont assembly has shown itself to be something of a non-entity. Unable to enact law due to sectarian stalemate – able only to spend English money like water – until, that is, the English treasury turns off the tap.