“The brinkmanship that seems inescapable on such occasions has become self-indulgent and self-important too”

The Guardian’s editorial on the Stormont House Agreement has some pertinent things to note about Northern Ireland’s latest deal.  Although, if, as they claim, “the glass is half-full” it is also, by definition, half-empty.  From the Guardian editorial

The talks came very close, after 11 weeks of discussion, to falling apart, as earlier efforts under the chairmanship of Richard Haass had in fact done. It is good that the same did not happen this time. Yet there is precious little else to celebrate in the way the deal was reached. After 20 years of talking, it should not require the UK and Irish prime ministers, let alone the US president, to be even marginally involved in these processes. The expectation that they will should be broken.

The brinkmanship that seems inescapable on such occasions has become self-indulgent and self-important too. It has less and less to do with events of global significance, and more and more to do with mere obduracy. The process appears to irritate public opinion, not to reassure it. Northern Ireland politicians should listen to that irritation and act to reduce it. They should not assume that the special conditions in Northern Ireland mean they are immune to the current anti-political mood across the rest of Europe.

Of course, elsewhere in Europe the public can readily vote parties out of office, and the politicians there know it.  As the people of Greece may be about to do on January 25th…

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  • Sergiogiorgio

    Problem is our politicians don’t give a stuff and we have no alternative.

  • Bryan Magee

    I have said before that I like many aspects of the deal.

    In particular:

    *provision for opposition rights and privileges as from 2021 for any party eligible for the executive. This should tempt the two smaller parties to take up an opposition role, which in turn should lead to greater scrutiny of policies and administration.

    *The requirement for a longer period developing a program for government for those parties who have decided to go into government as opposed to opposition.

    *provision for the number of MLAs to fall to 90 while petition of concern threshold remains at 30. This means a super majority 66.7% rule (as opposed to the previous 72.3% rule), in effect, for sensitive matters. (If a PoC were successful, i.e. 33.3% of the members are opposed to the legislation, the legislation is almost bound to fail via parallel consent, so the designation into nationalist and unionist is really quite superfluous after this is introduced, you might as well just have the PoC alone to block leglslation, for practical purposes)

  • Those provisions don’t address the problems inherent in a mandatory coalition.

    The first doesn’t allow the public to vote a party out of office. It leaves that decision with the parties themselves. The electorate have no choice. Self-exclusion from the Executive? Not a great manifesto promise.

    The second is meaningless.

    The third is cosmetic. Cross community consent remains for PoC, so designation remains an issue. Even if the reduction of MLAs actually occurs.

  • Bryan Magee

    Would you accept the first and/or third are improvements?

  • Not in isolation.

  • Zeno1

    It’s good old eye poke politics. You score points and delight your supporters by poking themuns with political sticks. It’s not politics as such, more art of the act. If you still vote, you have fallen for it and you are part of the problem.

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