Brid Rogers and the case of SDLP leading the opposition…

Two interesting points. One, Peter Robinson accuses the two minor parties of behaving as an opposition already (not wrong in that, but he elides the point that he and Sinn Fein are also behaving as ‘the government’). Two, I think Brid would have a stronger case if she made the argument that going into opposition was to prepare for being a serious government, rather than a serious opposition.

The old Nationalist party tried that for 50 years and got precious little thank for it…

  • I didn’t see The VIew but am I right in saying (as has been suggested to me) that the report was prompted by something John McCallister said?
    I am neutral on the issue of Opposition. Indeed in May 2011, I argued (Slugger passim) that SDLP should go into Opposition on the issue of Alliance getting two seats.
    I suppose that moment has passed but I am certainly open to Opposition on the basis that it would be a good electoral tactic to put clear water between SF on one side and Alliance on the other. That would be optimistic …..a pessimistic view that I increasingly hold is that the Good Friday Agreement was undermined by St Andrews and the inability to move on issues like Victims or Bill of Rights and other issues….has made it a failure.
    It’s on life support and the kindest thing would be to pull the plug
    Despiite Dolores Kelly’s speech to Conference in November 2012 and her mentor Brids intervention, I detect no groundswell of opinion on Opposition….
    As a general rule retired SDLP figures rarely intervene in politics. Brid is the exception. Endorsing both Margaret Ritchie and Conall McDevitt for the Leadership.
    But look at the evidence. The TV cameras peeking thru the windows at Castle Buildings detected a euphoric Brid Rodgers when the talks were in the final stages. Brid was a seniorExecutive member in the first post-GFA executive….when SDLP was the top nationalist party.
    What went wrong
    I don’t see how Brid can endorse Opposition without repudiating the Agreement she endorsed.
    I also endorsed it at the Referendum and I would not so do again.
    Alasdair is already on record as saying that the Ministerial post will be rotated and presumably that means that Alex Attwood will step down in the summer.
    I see no reason to think that Alex…from the same spectrum as Conall, Brid and Dolores….having to step aside for (say) Patsy McGlone..from perhaps another spectrum…is the reason that Brid is saying this.
    After all if Alex thought Opposition was the way forward, he would give up the Executive seat NOW…
    And I’m assuming that the report on the View was based on something McCallister said.

  • son of sam

    Not exactly on thread,but I note from his blog that the redoubtable Fitzjames Horse has left the S D L P.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d say he’s just going with a general trend away from actual membership…

    He’s not the only one I can think of who’s left actual membership of a political party who continues to support, vote and sympathise with them.


    “I don’t see how Brid can endorse Opposition without repudiating the Agreement she endorsed. I also endorsed it at the Referendum and I would not so do again.”

    Could you elucidate further on that? I’m not sure I follow why going to an informal opposition is against the Agreement.

    As IJP pointed out recently, the Agreement does not prohibit it in any way. It just doesn’t provide for it resource wise.

  • Professor Yattle

    Just had a look at FJH’s blog – his “serious blog”, no less.
    Still laughing at the pomposity. Priceless.

  • Not on topic of course but I’m sure Mick will indulge me a little at what looks like yet another “playing the man” event.
    A clue as to the seriousness of my Blog is the suggestion that I am not convinced of the value of Blogging. I think it’s long term effect is more akin to the hula hoop than the printing press.
    And perhaps a further clue as to the seriousness of the blog lies in the title Keeping An Eye on The Czar of Russia….calling to mind the 19th century editor of a newspaper in West Cork.
    In the same spirit I keep an eye on Barak Obama, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Willie Fraser, David Ford…and a cast of thousands. They quake at my observations.
    It has come as a major surprise to me….and seemingly others that my inane/insane rumblings are taken seriously. Indeed the more inane and insane my observation the more serious it is taken.
    Thats the nature of Blogging.

  • Mick Fealty


    So, when you’ve finished feeding the learned trolls, how does Opposition compromise a commitment to the Belfast Agreement?

  • Kevsterino

    If SDLP goes into opposition, what party is in position to take over their portfolio in the exec?

  • Mick….as I have said, I’m totally neutral on the issue. The whole thing is a complete farce.
    The sooner it collapses the better
    INFORMAL Opposition is a nonsense. It is neither one thing or another.
    More Creative Ambiguity. Haven’t we had enough of that already?

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s called answering a question that wasn’t asked. 😉 I didn’t ask for your position. Just why you think an opposition is discounted by the GFA?

  • Well that’s as good as it gets for you.

  • Bishops Finger

    ————but he but he elides the point that he and Sinn Fein are also behaving as ‘the government’)
    What does that mean, in layman’s speak? Other than you’ve been at the dictionary again..

  • Mick Fealty

    Probably got that wrong BF. ;-). I meant that whilst he’s speaking truthfully about the smaller parties, it is also true that OFMdFM are de facto day government. Think selective leaking of departmental legal advice for ‘narrow political advantage’.

  • Zig70

    I was a bit baffled by Brid. There is no opposition and why squander the chance to show you can govern. God, it shouldn’t be hard to shine in this place. Then she blamed the sacrifices the SDLP made for their electoral losses, rather than their inexperience in government. The SDLP’s big mistake post GFA was underestimating how toxic the UUP were to their voters when they acted like junior partners. I hope the SDLP sort themselves out, I hope they change their vision to something relevant to today’s politics. The GFA was a long time ago and civil rights even more so.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Strictly speaking, going into opposition could be said to be against the spirit of the Agreement. The whole idea is that everyone is sharing power together, and that by administering power jointly and working together barriers would be broken down.

    The Agreement may not prohibit opposition, but it actively and very deliberately discourages it. In order to understand this you have to cast your mind back to the time when the Agreement was being drafted. It was unanimous that the deal would have to be made to stick, and that there was no question over an attempt by the DUP to wreck it all. The structures therefore had to be set up in such a way to block the wrecking attempts. Freezing out opposition parties and ensuring they had no voice to speak of was part of the plan. It meant the DUP were faced with a choice, participate in the Executive or take the choice to be frozen out with no resources and no power. By the time the Executive was established, the DUP (by now firmly under Robinson’s influence) knew that the whole thing was tied up pretty well and they couldn’t hope to accomplish anything in opposition; so they decided to go into government, albeit with a few fig leaves to do with not participating in Executive meetings with SF and rotating their ministers around quite frequently.

    Brid was one of the SDLP’s negotiating team and she knows all this. I suspect that her intervention at this point is also a not-so-subtle attack on the SDLP mantra that the Agreement must stand unchanged for all time. I think that she recognizes, as do many of us, that we have gotten over the hump of making powersharing seem acceptable and normal, and we now need to deal with the problem of making the government more effective.

    But this being the SDLP, things are never simple. FJH is obviously being tight-lipped on his reasons for leaving the party (after what, only one year?) but I’ll speculate that he became disillusioned by the constant infighting and bickering that seems to go on, some of it in public. McDonnell is not a well-liked man and, more significantly, is very much not the sort of person who cares about this problem. Alex Attwood, the party’s sole executive minister, is also not a popular man and is arrogant and conceited. I imagine he has responded to suggestions that he should step down from the executive in his usual charismatic style. When you look at Brid’s intervention in this context, it looks an awful lot like a broadside being aimed at the party leadership by a respected elder stateswoman, especially when you consider that she knows just as well as anyone that opposition means wilderness.

    As for the reality, I doubt it is going to change in the short term. D’Hondt is here to stay as everyone knows that the alternative means excluding Sinn Féin from power. And neither the DUP or SF are about to hand free stuff to the SDLP and UUP to help them beat elections (even though it seems clear that any time or money spent on those two parties will serve no benefit at all).

  • IJP

    In practice, opposition would work thus:

    When the Alliance Party put that forward in 2004, the SDLP were first to oppose it – as, indeed, being “against the spirit of the Agreement”.

    People do not seem to understand that compulsory opposition is a mammoth leap from what we currently have.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The agenda to try to damage McDonnell has just stepped up a gear. Someone has leaked this detail about Colum Eastwood who, as an Attwood appointee.

    The SDLP’s internal dirty conflicts are now effecting their role in government.

  • son of sam

    A totally disinterested view from Comrade Stalin on the S D L P!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    On the contrary, it’s all very interesting. I think you are referring to my disinterest in SDLP policy and policymaking.

  • Comrade Stalin is of course right. The whole process was about getting Sinn Fein (frankly the IRA) into Government and the only way to do that was to have a multi-party power sharing executive. There is no provision for Opposition…
    What everybody…including Brid Rodgers….did not get was that five or six years down the line SFand DUP would be in the driving seat.
    There is indeed a SDLP mantra….that they did not get support from British and Irish Governments….but that understates the fact that SDLP hopelessly miscalculated intheyears after 1998 and that senior SDLP figures at the time were five years past their prime
    All of us were complacent.
    I’m not sure if what I just said is”tight lipped” as Comrade Stalin defines it.
    For the record…I votd SF until 2009. SDLP since then, rejoining in aaugust 2011.
    Now of course I might be being “tight lipped” about my rasons for leaving SDLP.
    Or it might simply be as Ihave aid elsewhere.
    Either is possible…but little to suggest that I am “obviously tight lipped” never mind the speculation about the reasons.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The SDLP miscalculation began in 1992 when the Hume Adams process started. That process was about turning Sinn Féin into a major political force and the SDLP gave them the keys to the nationalist electorate.

  • A reasonable point.
    Certainly as a Sinn Fein voter 1993-2009, I eagerly grabbed those keys and used them.
    Is nationalism in a better position than in 1992? Obviously
    Is Norn Iron better without mass violence? of course.

  • son of sam

    Now that he is “free” from the S D L P “shackles”, perhaps F J H could enlighten us with his reasons for voting Sinn Fein 1993-2009.It certainly seems to have been an interesting political journey.

  • I often have….far too much in some people’s views. As I recall one contribution was in the form of an original post here on Slugger. It’s probably archived somewhere.

  • Mick Fealty

    It should be easily got from one of FJH’s profiles…

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I ask whether people think the St Andrews Agreement, which upgraded the powers of OFdFM to that of uber Executive (with its very own, bespoke semi detached politbureau strap-on app) was in the spirit of the original Agreement?

    There’s only one legitimate reason for a political party to voluntarily go into opposition: because it wants to get into OFMdFM to do a better job than the incumbents. Everything else is a self indulgent waste of time, for any party which has real ambition.

    You go into opposition to do two things: 1, point out just how poor a service the incumbents are providing; 2, develop an alternative. You simple cannot do that when you are attached to the indecision of the current administration.

    Plus, you are going to be pretty useless as an opposition if you carry no threat to your opponents. If opposition is the limit of your ambitions you won’t be scaring anyone.

  • Indeed, Mick, “the St Andrews Agreement, which upgraded the powers of OFdFM to that of uber Executive (with its very own, bespoke semi detached politbureau strap-on app)” is very much an upgrading of the OFdFM’s origional role to a poor imitation of a Bannana Republic dictatorship “lite.” While I am no great fan of see-saw politics, even I can see that without any challenge at all the arrogance of our master among the Elect soon becomes unbounded. With a serious Stormont opposition actually willing to challenge the executive by pressing home issues of major public concern, Peter Robinson might just have had more trouble successfully stating, when serious questions were whispered about his private financial affairs, (rather than the red herring about his wife’s extra-marital affairs) that legal advice assured him that there was “no case to answer.” And that was that.
    My only real concern is that Alex Attwood, a man who could match even Peter in arrogance, might in the near future become the face of such an opposition.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is worth pointing out Mick that SF and the DUP took over OFMDFM without going into opposition.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, of course CS. But that’s the first mover advantage (or Man U syndrome as I pejoratively prefer to call it ;-).

    The problem only arises for those parties and individuals who are ambitious enough (and firm enough in their own convictions) to want to replace them.

    St Andrews, by design, makes that incumbency much much tougher to crack but it is actually the only one worth cracking, from a purely Machiavellian pov…

    All else is the decidedly thin politics of moral protest…

  • Mick Fealty


    The proper time to worry about such things, is if and when it actually happens. But suffice it to say that no party which is weak or unambitious would be well advised to go into to Opposition.

  • You’re right of course, Mick, I must learn to wait until it actually happens, but old habits die hard. When I was still in the film business running budgets, worrying in advance usually saved a big lot of money. But I can only hope that I’m not the only person locally who has been noting with growing horror all the truly bad calls Alex has made while “in office.”

    And yes, it’s effective opposition we are in need of here, not just a few cat calls from the darkest part of the stalls.

  • son of sam

    For information purposes,could you perhaps list all the”truly bad calls” that Alex has made while in office?

  • Son of sam, I’m reluctant to list every bad call Alex has made in the 22 months since he stepped into the shoes of Edwin Poots. If you go to the DOE website and enter Alex Attwood in “search” all the press releases charting his dreary career appear in order of date.

    The recurring theme is that the significance of every aspect of heritage and environment appears to be evaluated in terms of its ability to generate a buck. You scan every press release in vain to find even the faintest glimmer of any genuine appreciation of those aspects of our collective inheritance falling under Alex’s ministerial charge. Accordingly, almost every decision Attwood takes has something suggesting the mentality that would melt down a Rodin bronze for its scrap metal value.

    One characteristic case can stand as a model for a whole range of capricious decisions that suggest that Alex has failed to truly understand the part of his brief requiring the protection of environment and heritage. Alex’s stiff necked support for that bizarre white elephant the Runkerry luxury housing development with adjacent golf course, against Unesco, against the report prepared by his own planning department, and against any counter-argument no matter how strongly argued, could stand as an outstanding example of his arrogance. It should be remembered that Mr Justice Weatherup’s decision hindged on a technical point in the relationship of national with international law, rather than on the propriety or otherwise of Atwood’s over-riding the planning recommendations. Significantly the DOE were not awarded any costs. Not that that is a problem for them, as we are paying, as taxpayers, for the DOE’s costs.

    Atwood’s bizarre championing of this outrageous example of cultural vandalism in harness with the long discredited Ian Og entirely ignores the moral requirement to defend, for our posterity, one of the very few natural sites that actually gave our despoiled landscape a unique international profile. But of course Alex would probably say with Sir Boyle Roche “Why should we put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done for us?”

  • son of sam

    Why the reluctance to list ALL the “truly bad calls” that Alex has made.Your post above centres on Runkerry but surely if you are to make a compelling case of consistently bad decision making on his part,you’ll have to produce more evidence.On the other hand you might simply be prejudiced against anything he does.

  • Charles_Gould

    “It is worth pointing out Mick that SF and the DUP took over OFMDFM without going into opposition.”

    No they did it by collapsing the Assembly. I think an opposition would be preferable.

  • sonofstrongbow

    The SDLP is following the lead of politicos south of the border. Championing the developer and the fast buckeneers is the way they think political power is exercised.

    The only real difference is that the SDLP are not ‘cute’ enough to even think about extracting the traditional brown envelope.

    Being mesmerised by the trappings of the fat cat lifestyle and swooning at all that dosh flying about above their heads is the mark of the petite bourgeois. Exactly the antecedents of the SDLP.

  • Ah, Son of Sam, a trap question! If I answer, I hog the entire thread for pages, as there is no short answer, as you well know. The point you are making is that Alex has made no bad calls, and if I try to honestly answer, I bore for Norn Iron!!! And block Slugger’s thread for an evening or two. But as someone once said,” the political is personal,” so, do you know Alex? Just asking…..

    Again, if you look at the DOE search results for Alex, they go on for pages and pages, 570 hits, and where there is a noticable decision by Alex (on advice, as a let out, perhaps) it always, always mentions the cash value of a decision so he will look really good at getting shekels for the economy. Normal modern political empasis, but it’s his other ministerial responsibilities, and how he approaches them, that I’m really interested in. The Runkerry decision dramatically displays this issue.

    There was a lot of the ususal DOE talk about the need for the protection of the environment, etc, etc, over the first months of Alex’s tenure of office, which his actions since dramatically contridict.

    Anyone involved in any complaints to the minister about planning or environmental issues that crossed from Poots to Attwood’s tenure will have noticed the strong change in atmosphere. While Poots was very far from being a tree hugger, he at least responded to complaints about his departments activities, but with Alex, these environmental issues simply do not seem to be his concern. The Runkerry decision is simply the “King Lear” version of a lot of small personal tragedies that Alex is too busy to attend to properly.

    And about the disclosure issue I raised in the first paragraph, I do not know Alex myself, never met him although I have friends in the SDLP, but a number of people I do know could speak of personal experience of his bad calls, and I mean just ordinary people, not the the plutocrats and developers……

  • son of sam

    Firstly,I don’t know Alex and have never met the man.Secondly are you seriously saying that in comparison to Attwood,Poots was a model Minister?It appears to me that Attwood is a more industrious and decisive Minister.On the balance of probabilities,I would suspect that Alex has not made right calls on planning decisions from time to time but are you saying that there are other Executive Ministers that are paragons of excellence in running their Departments.To me, it seems that he is well in control of his brief.If there is contrary evidence,I’ll be glad to hear it.

  • Son of Sam, with admirable brevity you started by asking me “For information purposes,could you perhaps list all the”truly bad calls” that Alex has made while in office?”

    Perhaps you yourself could list just one or two of the good calls he has made specifically on the natural environment and on our heritage? Just to illustrate to me how well he is in control, as you claim, of his brief. I really cannot think of one clear instance.

    But, to get back to the thread’s brief, this slackness is what happens when ministers can act unchallenged by an effective opposition. Alex is as much a proponent of arrogant rule by decree as the quasi monarchical OFdFM we all discussed above.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The John Lewis Decision. The decision to stop builders developing land near the crannog in Enniskillen. The refusal to allow permission for an incinerator at lough neagh

    There were difficult planning decisions that were put on the back burner for years. He is getting through them. I don’t think many of them are wrong to be fair. He will probably pass the interconnector round my neck of the woods which the nimbyism in me would be disappointed by but it is probably right to go ahead too.

  • son of sam

    I think Lionel Hutz above answers your question.Would you agree with him that a lot of difficult planning decisions had been put on the back burner for years?Whatever you think of Alex,at least he grasped the nettle and actually made decisions.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m not a fan of Alex the politician, but Alex the Minister for Environment I can live with. I think the John Lewis decision was a fundamentally bad one, though.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I agree with Comrade on his first point. Alex is the type of SDLP politician that I have never liked. But I think he is a good Minister.

    I think the John Lewis project was an awful project made attractive simply because it was John Lewis. Had it been another House of Frazer even, it wouldn’t have had the same clamour. I don’t believe endless urban sprawl is a good thing. I would far rather see it in Belfast, even though that would make it more inconvenient to me. The idea of having a bulk goods outlet was sound.

    On the opposition point. I just do not get the eagerness amongst some people for it. I think that a much more effective way of getting at being an opposition is to treat OFMDFM as a government within the government, which it is.

    People criticize the SDLP for being in government and then criticizing other executive ministers as being somehow hypocritical. I would like to see them be a little bit more brazen about it. Confirm that they wont make life easy for the OFMDFM to push through their agenda and that they can influence matters more by being in the executive and holding a portfolio. I don’t think its that hard to grasp.

    Their problem was that the whole “carve up” criticism didn’t work for them. The public didn’t get it. But I think OFMDFM would be very easy to criticize. They set the agenda. Thats where alot of the deals are done and alot of the movement is choreographed. It lacks transparency, its bloated and it doesn’t get a whole lot done. And you can criticize it without looking like a hypocrite.

  • To get back to the original point of this thread: What form would opposition take under the GFA/SA?

    As the logic of the GFA is mandatory cross-community power sharing than the logic of an opposition should be the same. You would really need at least two parties in opposition, one unionist and one nationalist. Now presumably since the unionist and nationalist electorates are voting separately at the same election, one of the opposition parties could be voted into power without the other leaving. For example if nationalists ever got fed up with the Shinners they could vote to put the SDLP in power, while the unionists voted to keep the DUP in power. But it makes more sense if the two opposition parties work together as a joint alternative government. But for this to work properly the GFA would have to be written to get rid of d’Hondt so that portfolios were distributed only to one nationalist party and one unionist party. Alliance would either be left in a permanent opposition role or given the option of voting as either nationalist or unionist as a junior partner. It would be very complicated, but the GFA was clearly meant to only be a transitional arrangement to lead certain parties out of the role of the disloyal and violent opposition.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    How about the same kind of democracy practised in Belfast City Council?

    SF, SDLP & Alliance having been telling us for the past few months how workable and fair it is…

  • I agree, oh yes, I agree that the opposition issue is much more interesting than arguing about Atwood’s record as minister. But, alas, I feel that the “good man doing a great job” theme requires a few answers. Perhaps someone should write a “22 Glorious months” essay, and we can all get stuck in properly somewhere else?

    Yes, poor Alex has inherited the fruits of long years of evasion in planning, and he is untiring in courting a reputation for decisiveness. However, his decisions have usually come down on the side of the most influential lobby (usually the plutocrats) rather than on a balanced assessment of the facts. Not even the advantages of a flip of the coin there.

    The John Lewis decision reeks of support for the Zombie retailers in Belfast rather than the needs of the community, for whom a local John Lewis could be a real bonus. But yes, Lionel Hutz. I admit you have offered two good calls, one for environment, one for heritage, and the virtue of these decisions must outweigh in any reasonable persons thinking the thousands and thousands of bad calls where Alex has firmly upheld the planning hawks against the environmental doves, and the influential have been offered a free hand against the powerless.

    While there is a great deal of talk about the importance of our heritage and environment for tourism, the implementation of PPS21 since Alex arrived has proved this to be nothing other than a good DOE sound bite. In practice Planning has usually blank checked building throughout the country with scant regard for the published criteria “on orders from above.” The Runkerry fiasco really says everything about such “decisiveness,” and the spin in the media that Alex’s decision was “correct,” rather than that the DOE simply won on a technicality, is of a piece with everything else.

    I must be the first to admit that I have not canvassed the entire SDLP, but of those activists I have spoken with, none have even attempted to argue in support of Alex’s record in environment and heritage. Words such as “arrogant” “unwilling to listen” “capricious” and even “twat” have all come up. Subjective, yes, but then the effect of Alex’s “just get it over and done with” decisiveness on planning has been to help some people to make money while ruining the “subjective” quality of life of others.

    The utility of an opposition that could gain some political advantage from a forensic questioning of the activities of a planning minister and expose the kind of lazy high handedness that characterises all this, brings us, I hope, back to the real reason why we are discussing Alex here. The need for consensus in the wake of St Andrews means that there is no truly effective way to address the disasters generated by an unchallenged decisiveness. Back in the 1950s we all lived under a “one party UUP state,” as my Stalinist uncle (ironically!) put it. After sixty years we have now developed “one-party-rule-in-each-of-two-separate-fiefdoms” as David Crookes put it a week or two ago. This really needs addressing.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The John Lewis decision reeks of support for the Zombie retailers in Belfast rather than the needs of the community, for whom a local John Lewis could be a real bonus.


    It may reek of support for Belfast retailers or even “in-town” retailers overall but that doesn’t make it wrong. Economically and environmentally, it is better that retailers are clustered in town and city centres than having urban sprawl. That was a decision though that puts environmental concerns, given its location, over big business interest and the potential to have a sort “Bertie-Bowl” or “Alex-Arcade” project for the allegedly arrogant Mr Attwood to dine out on for the rest of his career. But he turned it away. A decision that in the short term atleast is politically damaging.

    Runkerry comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Here the developer wins, but its one single developer in an area that will not bring about many SDLP votes. Against one developer, you would think that the more powerful lobby would be the National Trust and environmentalists. So I think your point falls. If he was following the most influential lobby then those decision would likely have been reversed IMHO.

    The PPS21 is an issue that I not am really sure about. It was the one that placed economic interest as a relevant consideration? I remember a few murmurs about it but in my view of statutory interpretation, it did not seem to be that significant. It was more a case of making something explicit that was already implicit. I could be wrong though.

    But it seems to me that your best criticism is of personality rather than the quality of his decisions.

  • Comrade Stalin


    How about the same kind of democracy practised in Belfast City Council?

    SF, SDLP & Alliance having been telling us for the past few months how workable and fair it is…

    I’m curious. You obviously don’t like the setup in BCC. Why on earth do you want it extended to the assembly ?

    Perhaps you haven’t done the maths recently. As of right now, you’ve got :

    “traditional” unionists (DUP + TUV + UUP + UKIP)
    = 38 + 1 + 13 + 1= 53

    “lundy” unionists + alliance + green + nationalists (I + All + G + SF SDLP)
    = 3 + 8 + 1 +29 + 14 = 55

    Based on those numbers, if you had a vote like the one in city council for designated days, the “lundy” majority would win and you would lose. And these numbers assume that the “traditional” unionists are as strong as this. If Basil plays his cards right at least another 1-2 MLAs are likely to switch to his fold. The DUP are also in danger of losing seats to moderate candidates or to nationalists due to disilliusioned unionist voters staying home, which is exactly what is happening in Mid Ulster as we speak. That “traditional” unionist number is likely to drop below 50 within the next five years.

    So basically what you want to do is abolish the system where the unionists have a veto and guaranteed executive seats, and swap it for one where Alliance and a handful of soft unionists would have the balance of power, and give them a free hand to implement what you regard as a nationalist agenda ?

  • Oh Lionel, your response displays as one dimensional an appreciation of these decisions as your flat alter-ego on the box would have!!

    “That was a decision though that puts environmental concerns, given its location, over big business interest and the potential to have a sort “Bertie-Bowl” or “Alex-Arcade” project for the allegedly arrogant Mr Attwood to dine out on for the rest of his career.” But we will still end up with an “Alex Arcade,” but one now designated for the Zombies where planning has, in this instance, been carefully crafted to exclude John Lewis. Why, I wonder?

    “Against one developer, you would think that the more powerful lobby would be the National Trust and environmentalists.” Really? It becomes clear that you are viewing Alex’s decisions from a deep armchair that blocks your view of the proceedings. In my earlier life in the film world I’ve been at meetings where business is actually done, so I’d never make the mistake of ever thinking that anything but the man holding the money ever has any influence on anything. There’s a reason that Dr Hanna, who, as far as I can discover, has no great track record in international development projects, has been put forward at Runkerry as a front man for other, less clear, financial interests. The Alpha Course lobby can deploy an aweful lot of American money and American public opinion, and has an enormous following amongst evangelicals in Norn Iron. And as the rapture’s only a few short years off there’s no real need to preserve God’s creation for a posterity that will never be born.

    As I’ve said elsewere, it’s what you don’t know that hurts you.

  • And Lionel, one last thing! “The decision to stop builders developing land near the crannog in Enniskillen.” It’s going to be under a road next year, so it’s not exactly saved from development.

    Money first, heritage get stuffed, with Alex.