Is the Stormont House Agreement really providing for an Opposition?

Here’s Stephen Walker’s segment from last night’s The View on the prospect of Stormont of having an opposition. The fact that there seem to be very few takers (bar Jim Allister, who has prospered greatly from being the only recognisable ‘opposition’ MLA).

Allister in fact is a good example of how Opportunism can have positive effects. In as sense he’s translated the old anti agreement objection to government with Sinn Fein in an essentially liberal one of there being no means of ‘chucking out the bums’.

Indeed he is consistently the one who makes the most cogent arguments for proper oppositional arrangements. It is proof positive that what’s been proposed under the Stormont House Agreement is far from a value proposition to anyone in the cheap seats on the Executive.

As Stephen Farry is showing in his limited role as Higher Education Minster when OFMdFM provide you with the means to force your liberal agenda through a real policy issue (amalgamation of Stranmillis and St Mary’s training colleges) you can only be in a position to pursue that agenda if you have executive power.

So, Martin McGuinness can be pretty certain that none of the smaller parties will go for the new arrangements, as of now at least. They only have strategic value if you use them to keep someone else out of power. Or, perhaps to make the strictly tactical point that the current membership of OFMdFM needs to change.

In this latter regard, any such arrangements could prove a decent tactical base. Mr Allister’s TUV would need some kind serious parallel partner on the nationalist side if he is ever to realise his ambitions for a real opposition.

With nationalism stagnating north of the border, that looks unlikely for quite some considerable time to come…

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  • There are 4 opposition MLAs, so why pretend that only one of them is the whole opposition? Is this another case of media people like Stephen Walker deliberately not mentioning the fastest growing party in the UK?

  • If I heard correctly, John McCallister’s proposal is that a party would need to win 18 MLA seats in order to qualify to the Northern Ireland Executive? Well that rules out any voluntary coalitions with any <18-seater parties, perpetuating DUP-Sinn Fein axis.

  • chrisjones2

    All they have to do is actually put the work in challenge and oppose ….but it all seems beyond them. For exxample the BBC eviscerated many MLAs on expenses. Who ahas asked a quesion about the abuse and fraud?

  • Croiteir

    Unionism just cannot get it out of their system that the old Stormont is gone and is never coming back, they may say it, but it is only beal gra, they seem to forget that the consociational model was imposed due to unionism misuse of power. The recent events in Craigavon and Belfast over flags shows why it is necessary. Any nationalist who breaks ranks on this is either extremely foolish or naive.

  • chrisjones2

    …and the behavior of Nationalists in Derry and Newry – just like 1960s unionists – the same narrow sectarian bigots

  • Croiteir

    I will take on face value your refereneces of unfair play by nats in Newry and Derry in the 1960’s, but I will remind you that unionists were in power and they had the means to address these issues but for some reason they legislated and enthusiastically institutionalised bigotry and discrimination, so the themmuns defence falls flat as themmuns were permitted to by unionists rule.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    You come close to the core problem of anyone campaigning on the issue of Opposition. In the end, the point of a political party is to hold executive power in order to implement (some of) your policies. Why should people vote for you if they know that you want to be in opposition rather than in government? It’s not an impossible pitch to make to voters for the short term – the success of protest parties all over the world in by-elections and second-order elections show that – but it’s difficult to build a long-term strategy around being out of office.

  • chrisjones2

    Its not a question of wanting to be in opposition., In the current hegemony it is giving the non sheep assurance that someone will hold to account those elected by the sectarian flocks who will vote for whatever donkey is wrapped in the biggest fleg. Of holding the powerful incompetent and corrupt to account

  • chrisjones2

    I am not talking of the 60s – I am talking about now

  • chrisjones2

    2 x 0 still 0

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Sure, I agree that “Vote for me so that I can be chair of the Assembly’s Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and hold Jim Wells to account” is a coherent message; it’s just not what I am hearing from the supporters of Opposition.

  • Barneyt

    Does McAllister conveniently forget that the current measures in place (Power sharing) have resulted from the abused and privileged position that Unionism held for years. Its important to realise that power sharing (and a lack of opposition) has come about as a result of those having the power failing one side of the community. That’s the history. McAllister speaks of a lack of opposition in the context of a normalised political set up.

    I share his and many others frustrations with the executive, but opposition will need to be contrived as much as NI’s initial formation and institutions of power initially were. There is not much you can draw of a positive nature from any of this. The tribal nature of politics here will ensure a government cannot be trusted in the context of governmentopposition.

    A government made up of SDLP, SF and perhaps the Alliance would in my view offer the best opportunity for representative government…particularly if NI21 could appear on the radar. It offers unionism in the form of the Alliance, Irish nationalism in the form of SF and the SDLP form some degree of overlap. I dont think this camp would secure the numbers, however it would be the safest form of a coalition government can take.

    I suspect that the TUV, UKIP, UUP and DUP would miraculously find sufficient common ground to close ranks and at least try to turn the clocks back.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There were 6 the last time I checked … Sugden, McNarry, McCrea, Agnew, McAllister oh and I forget the other one, someone help me out here. The one who calls himself the lone opposition voice … is it Jamie Bryson?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I disagree with this >18 MLA thing. What if the DUP or Sinn Féin had a schism, any only the DUP or only Sinn Féin could form a minority government in that case, while every other party is below 18 MLAs.

    The mathematics here isn’t fool proof.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In this latter regard, any such arrangements could prove a decent tactical base. Mr Allister’s TUV would need some kind serious parallel partner on the nationalist side if he is ever to realise his ambitions for a real opposition.

    With nationalism stagnating north of the border, that looks unlikely for quite some considerable time to come…

    Jim Allister is not a credible opposition, he’s a demagogue, of the six opposition MLAs he is the only one who bangs on about how people cannot change the system. His parallel on the nationalist side is the likes of Gary Donnelly up in Derry.

    Jim Allister is killing off the opposition he wants every time he says the people cannot change the system. That cynicism drives people to not vote or vote TUV, and the TUV doesn’t really want to build an opposition with anyone.

    No one has more to lose from an official opposition than the TUV.

    He is doing nothing to the people’s will for alternative government but killing it. You cannot change governments through pessimism and he is nothing but pessimism and cynicism. Jim Allister is an essential cog in the Sinn Féin and DUP government, an unwitting ally of it.

    He represents 1 in 108 MLAs and his party at the last Assembly represents 2.5% of the electorate, and less than a third of those who voted for non-Executive parties before any NI21 force had been introduced.

    I don’t believe the dysfunctional opposition of Jim Allister has done anything to make people change the system. The man is running scared of a real opposition. It would not surprise me if he voted against McCallister’s bill.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh thanks for saying that the main government party supporters are sheep, 500,000 Sinn Féin and DUP voters to help build an alternative form of government ruled out of changing that.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Opposition supporters believe in a panacea for change. Real change comes from the grass roots.