A Path to Making Stormont Work – TUV Alternative

This afternoon TUV launched a policy initiative entitled A Path to Making Stormont Work which can be found in full here.

This is an intervention set against the backdrop of ongoing crisis – deadlock over Welfare Reform; ever increasing NHS waiting lists; rolling resignations of DUP ministers mockingly labelled as the hokey cokey; and most importantly for any democrat – murder on the streets.

TUV has set out our vision – Plan A is already well known to most:

“TUV has a clear vision of what will work and provide good and durable government. It is voluntary coalition with an Opposition. Such does not deny cross-community government. Indeed, the strategic use of weighted majority voting would guarantee same.

“With no party big enough to govern on its own, coalition is inevitable. As elsewhere, for it to work, it must be a coalition of the willing. Those, after an election, who can agree a programme for government on the key economic and social issues and who together can command the requisite majority in the Assembly, they govern – whoever they are. Those who can’t agree – whoever they are – they form the Opposition, challenging and presenting an alternative at the next election.

“To assure cross-community involvement TUV would accept a weighted majority of 60% in an Assembly vote to approve the new government and its programme. As politics further normalise it should be possible to reduce the threshold to 50 % over succeeding elections. The much abused Petition of Concern procedure should be banished, along with designations which entrench the sectarian basis of the present system.”

– Jim Allister MLA, TUV Party Leader


Plan B is of interest to those who foresee constant crisis, and wish to have an accountable alternative to what they are being told is the only show in town:

“Today we are also putting forward a second – or Plan B – proposal, as a stop gap till parties realise voluntary coalition is the way to go.

“The key to preventing the collapse of the present failed Stormont meaning the end of devolution is to salvage that which has worked and jettison that which has failed.

“By its nature devolution embraces two distinct aspects: legislative devolution (exercised by the Assembly) and executive devolution (exercised by ministers). Analysis of the failure of the present Stormont throws up the obvious conclusion that it is the dimension of executive devolution which has failed.

“Legislative devolution has been reasonably successful, both in processing such Bills as have been presented, including Private Member’s Bills, and in performing the scrutiny function through its committees.

“Thus, in moving forward, there may be merit in building on what has succeeded, by preserving legislative devolution, while giving time for executive devolution to evolve into something workable.

“The practical outworking of such an approach would be that the elected Assembly would be preserved as the legislature for transferred Northern Ireland matters, along with its important scrutiny function, but without a local executive. Executive functions would be exercised by British ministers, but with the vital distinction from the past that they would be accountable to the Assembly and their legislative programme would pass, not through Westminster, but through the Stormont Assembly.

“Such a form of power sharing is not untried. Though the EU has little to recommend it, for decades the European Parliament has exercised a shared legislative function with the Council of Ministers (now, formal codecision on many matters). Indeed, there a further complicating dimension is that it is the European Commission which initiates legislation, but it processes through the Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

“In practice how such would work is that the British ministers would introduce their legislation to the Assembly, it would pass through the normal processes of second stage, committee state, consideration stage and final stage, before being signed off by the Secretary of State and given Royal Assent by Her Majesty.

“To cope with policy conflicts between the Assembly and Westminster and incompatible expenditure demands there would have to be a procedure of conciliation between the Assembly and the British ministers. Again such has existed for years in the EU between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Here the Chair of the relevant committee could act as rapporteur for the Assembly in any negotiations with the minister, with both sides statutorily bound to make determined efforts to reach consensus.

“Individual MLAs would continue to have unfettered opportunity to introduce Private Member’s Bills.

“As for the British ministers exercise of executive functions, these would be subject to all the scrutiny powers of the Assembly and its statutory committees, with their powers to command witnesses and papers.”

– Jim Allister MLA, TUV Party Leader

This policy paper is to engender debate and discussion, to demonstrate that there are alternatives that must be duly considered and even tested. The Belfast Agreement with the St Andrews Agreement tweaks have led to this point. How much longer must Northern Ireland be lumbered with the most unworkable form of government?

Richard is vice chairman of TUV; and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA.

  • Dan

    Six weeks of talks going nowhere, after years of deadlock……..and the cobbled together bluff they’ll come up with and call a success will fall apart as usual.

    Time for Alister’s alternative.
    It makes more sense.

  • Mirrorballman

    There is only one acceptable alternative to the current system.

    Joint Authority.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The problem with the first one is that as soon as there’s a falling out, the government is going to collapse. So it doesn’t deal with the main problem.

    Getting a super-majority just to form a government and committed to a Program of Government (which involved a bit of cross community give and take from the get go). It’s reasonable idea, I’ll say that. Parties however will have to adapt and accept defeats they thought they could stop.

    For example we could for example have Gay Marriage approved one week by one majority, then a Military Covenant passed by an almost completely different majority the following week. Everyone would have to give up absolute power to veto things they do not like and live and let live.

    Pretty much every party even the Alliance Party that time David Ford threatened to walk away from the Justice Ministry will have to accept they can’t stop a legislative majority.

    Another problem with number 2, and Jim knows this is that the DUP has consistently undermined the legislative authority of the chamber and will not buy into it … they are not the only party in these islands to do so, basically pick a chamber be that the Dáil, Westminster, Holyrood or the Welsh Assembly and you can see a power grab being made.

    One thing that should be ensured is that judicial action can be taken against Stormont Executives or anyone else who try to rig electoral boundaries or elections, suffrage, deprive political opponents of their right to speak, or right to attend or right to the resources of Stormont. This is as much in Jim’s interest as it is for me as an SDLP supporter.

  • Zeno

    I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be acceptable to unionists.

  • Granni Trixie

    Or some Northetn Irish people!

  • Granni Trixie

    Plan B: wouldn’t work – it’s neither one thing nor the other – much will fall through the cracks.

    Plan A: can see some merit in it were it not that it implies an analysis that Sees reforming structures for government as the problem -pot be addressed – does not identify or include suggestions for improving relationships or changing values at Stormont.
    Without the will to find ways to overcome problems changing structures will not improve matters. With that in mind how about:

    Plan C :
    Put Reconciliation top of programme for government and get parties to commit.

    (Apparently a big ask….so just hold your nose and do it).

  • Zeno

    I don’t think it would suit a lot of people but from a nationalist viewpoint it would be the ideal outcome. Sinn Fein would claim it as another step towards a United Ireland and a victory.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Plan B seems a bit like “Hong Kong” type of colonial rule rather than European Union type of rule.

    In the EU the UK and the Republic of Ireland (like the other 26 countries) each has a Commissioner, each has a Minister in any Council of Ministers and each has a number of MEPs each, which can say yes or no to a law.

    In the Stormont-NIO-Westminster triage, the Northern Irish Office doesn’t need to have a Northern Irish person about the place.

    This is like the Communist Party’s control of Hong Kong with a few democratic elements.

  • Granni Trixie

    Would you say that NIO is an anomaly or novel? I have not comparative knowledge by which t judge.

    Also, I’m afraid I assumed that NIO had a minimal role nowadays – had not considered it as a ‘triage’ more a legacy from a shadowy influence during the troubles. My ignorance constantly trios me up!

  • Greenflag 2

    Actually decades of deadlock – 1974 to 1998 when Molyneaux was wandering around with his eyes closed – Not the first Unionist politician to have performed the Moses in the desert stunt . Paisley of the No No No etc was another .

    Voluntary coalition is of course the way to go -eventually . Unfortunately given the history of the Northern Ireland State and its gerrymandered establishment Allister’s proposal has as much chance of success as Albania has of landing two men on the moon next Monday .

    The failure is simply the State itself . It simply does’nt have the numerical constitutional foundation for normal democratic government . If that is’nt obvious to Allister by now it never will be .

    Direct rule until HMG eventually cuts the cord is about as good as it’ll get .

  • Kevin Breslin

    My bad, I used triage when I should have said trioka I.e Stormont-NIO-Westminster.

  • eireanne

    @Granni and Zeno – I invite you to consider the answers to FAQ about joint authority/sovreigntyhttps://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/joint-authoritysovreignty-in-ni-faq/

  • Croiteir

    No triage is good – partition has poisoned the patient and it will not get out of accident and emergency until the antidote of removing the border is applied.

  • barnshee

    But the patient declines the treatment

    Best solution?

    NI gets the tax it generates –and not a penny more

    If it don`t like it

    1 Raise more taxes internally
    2 Borrow -if anyone will lend
    3 Ask the ROI to give some money (LOL)

    If it still don`t like it— Foxtrot Oscar

  • Thomas Barber

    The much too frequent mentioning of British ministers just makes Plan B sound like a proposal to allow us nationalists to govern alongside unionists as long as we be good British subjects.

  • Zeno

    You don’t have many other choices. How many nationalists do you think there are in NI?

  • Thomas Barber

    Why dont we find out. Lets have a referendum on Joint Authority as an interim settlement where both sides in any future referendum have an equal playing field in which to convince the population that either their best interests lay in reuniting with the rest of Ireland or keeping the status quo.

  • raymonds back

    Here’s a wee thought for Jim: substitute Dáil for Assembly in this quote from his idea below and you have exactly the position unionists would be in in a real government in a reunited Ireland:

    “With no party big enough to govern on its own, coalition is inevitable. As elsewhere, for it to work, it must be a coalition of the willing. Those, after an election, who can agree a programme for government on the key economic and social issues and who together can command the requisite majority in the Assembly, they govern – whoever they are. Those who can’t agree – whoever they are – they form the Opposition, challenging and presenting an alternative at the next election.”

    In the meantime, because Northern Ireland has proved itself since its creation to be incapbale of being a normal, real democracy, Jim will just have to accept that extraordinary, forced coalitions are mandatory. The downside for him in the Dáil though would be, as a party of one, he would not get the undue attention he gets in the current abnormal, unreal democracy of the Assembly.

  • eireanne

    i don’t think a referendum is needed . As soon as the UK government is convinced power-sharing in NI between people who don’t want to share power, is not worth the committment it takes in money, time, prestige in failing to settle perennial disputes etc – watch interim joint authority/sovreignty gently appear on the political scene, ready to be “interim” for as long as needed

  • Paddy Reilly

    That is in effect what happens already. The supposed ‘subsidy’ is due to the fact that Northern Ireland, if you calculate how much income is raised in taxes and how much dispensed in government expenditure, ends up making no net contribution to the United Kingdom’s defence budget.

    There is a certain risk to countries which declare themselves independent of their Imperial masters: in the early days the United States was attacked by Barbary Pirates: but I think the Irish Republic’s assets are sufficient to ensure that jokers of this sort do not take over the 6 country area.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Excellent comments on the problems of our oversized playpen on the hill. Welcome back Greenflag…..I think…

  • Zeno

    We don’t need to find out. We already know the result of if a referendum was called.
    Why not just explain to Nationalists that all they have to do if they want a United Ireland is vote for Nationalist Parties?
    You don’t have to wait for the British Government to allow a referendum.
    If half a million people vote Nationalist, a referendum would have to be called and it would have a chance of being successful.
    Why hasn’t that happened? Because the numbers are simply not there.

  • barnshee

    ” if you calculate how much income is raised in taxes and how much dispensed in government expenditure, ends up making no net contribution to the United Kingdom’s defence budget.”

    And also fails to generate enough to pay all the other bills

  • Sharpie

    If only they could find a way to isolate the contentious stuff. 90% or more of NI’s budget is spent on stuff that has to happen – delivering schools, welfare, hospitals, roads etc. Fairly straightforward administration.

    The bit left over that is flexible is where the problems are visible and where the horse trading happens.

    It might be helpful to have a cool box where any decision that looks like it is going to be a cross community one goes into the cool box to have a more intensive consensus process applied – maybe with the help of external parties from London and Dublin, EU. The parties themselves would be able to indicate which decisions fall into this category.

    Contentious policy formation could happen in this format as well – so the decision to scrap or keep 11+, or closing hospitals, or major regeneration projects, or peace centres, police college, Shared Future etc. would all be taken through a more carefully managed process. It would be voluntary: if both sides agree it doesn’t need to go in the cool box then fine get on with sorting it, if it does go in the cool box then they are no longer sole owners of the decision but two stakeholders among a group of 7 or 8 (here’s where a civic forum could add more value).

    To get there a more clear programme of government with a list of clear proposals and required decisions should be proposed and then worked through in a transparent and agreed timetable. Over time it should become clear that the preferable way is to get early agreement rather than take it through a laborious but rigorous decision process.

    At the heart of this would be a recognition that more help is needed to arrive at compromised but acceptable decisions. All democracies have to do that. I’d say we confuse some plain difficult decisions with the belief its because its a them and us thing.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Cogito ergo sum’ some might say .

    I prefer ‘ Incognito ergo sum ‘ I’d hesitate to use the word cogitate in any reference to political unionism’s current pantomine at Stormont . They make the GOP Tea Party idiots look like Nobel Prize winners 🙁

    I guess if you can’t even elect a speaker when your party has a majority then your claim to having the political acumen to actually govern the USA must be suspect . Not that political acumen was ever a major trait in political unionism in NI with perhaps the sole exception of the late Ian Paisley.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘I’d say we confuse some plain difficult decisions with the belief its because its a them and us thing’.

    There is no confusion . It’s an us and them thing and it can’t be otherwise for that is the foundation on what the Northern Ireland State was built . It will always be so . The political escape route can only be through being part of a political entity where the NI ‘them and us ‘ will be irrelevant to political governance .

    Full integration within the UK or a UI are the only viable exits . The former has been rejected by the UK and the latter is not on any unionist horizon . Presumably the nearer they approach the horizon the further it moves away . Just as well the Earth is round eh otherwise our flat earthers would be for the long drop 😉

  • Nevin

    “The failure is simply the State itself.”

    What a sad and sorry state you’re in, Greenflag. It takes two to tango but, unsurprisingly, you’ve overlooked nationalist shenanigans. We currently have a form of shared administration by London and Dublin but they show greater desire to pamper the loyalist and republican paramilitaries than to show compassion for victims.

  • Sharpie

    For it to be otherwise only takes a shift in mindset. By everyone. At roughly the same time. Without violence. Now that’s sorted, onto important stuff – I wonder if we should have tea or coffee served at all the meetings?

  • Greenflag 2

    “For it to be otherwise only takes a shift in mindset”

    True- but not easy and never easy for an entire community.

    ” By everyone. At roughly the same time.”

    Also true but not easy and historically this only ever happens when the balloon finally goes up or the curtain comes down or as they say we have a new paradigm or political , social or religious order .

    Shifts in mindset among significant elements of any population have led to such disparate events as the American , French and Russian and Irish revolutions – the Reformation – the Enlightenment – the Post WW2 anti colonial movements in Africa and Asia .

    Sometimes the harbingers of the ‘new ‘ find out that whats new is just the “old ” repackaged with new leaders etc etc. But sometimes there is real advance and progress in politics , society and in democracy .

    ‘I wonder if we should have tea or coffee served at all the meetings?’

    EIther would be fine . Just don’t offer orange juice or green lemonade . The voluntary ‘meetings ‘ might become disruptive 😉

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But….is not “political acumen” rather a liability in most current politicians, especially up on the hill? Regarding Paisley, I’m reminded of Joseph Haydn’s comment that there is little wrong with a world where a poor boy such as himself could become the friend of the Emperor. Paisley seemed to me to suggest the reverse of this affirmation……..a lot wrong…..

  • Thomas Barber

    Because Irish people dont want to participate in British politics, but if there was a referendum tomorrow Im sure this present British government and unionism would get a slap in the face.

  • Zeno

    So rather than vote and have a United Ireland they refuse to vote in the full knowledge that they will remain governed by Britain? Eh?
    That doesn’t really stack.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I find this all hard to understand. Clearly Jimbo does not have the same view of ongoing demographic change that I do. It is 5 years since the last election and every 5 years there are 10,000 less Protestants and 40,000 more Catholics in the population. This has got to have some effect on the vote.

    Basically, one would expect that at the next Stormont election Unionists, of the proper sort, will fail to win the 54+ seats necessary to constitute a majority. Perhaps they will win 53 seats; perhaps as many as 54, but not more than that.

    So the balance of power will lie with non-Unionists. This means SF, SDLP, Green (1), PBP (dubious) and Alliance.

    This in itself is not the makings of a working coalition: Alliance will not want to be a junior partner with Sinn Féin, unless the DUP is there to balance them. But this is (nearly) the exact combination one finds on Belfast City Council, which seems to work, so I say bring it on.

    I can only suppose that the TUV think they have some fool-proof electoral trick to increase Unionist turnout in crucial areas, or that they anticipate being able to disqualify SF from participation or bully Alliance into doing their will.

  • Thomas Barber

    Its plainly obvious for the past almost thousand years that engaging in British politics will get Irish people nowhere however if there was a referendum tomorrow then we might just jump en masse.

  • Greenflag 2

    ” because Northern Ireland has proved itself since its creation to be incapable of being a normal, real democracy, Jim will just have to accept that extraordinary, forced coalitions are mandatory.”

    Exactly . Its not his ( Jim’s ) fault that political unionism has lost all credibility not that it ever had much anyway .

  • Zeno

    It’s too funny. All you have to do is vote and you have a United Ireland, but as Irish Republicans you refuse to take part in British Elections…………. lol.
    Honestly, say that out loud to yourself and see how silly it sounds.

  • raymonds back

    Thanks for that Greenflag.

  • aquifer

    Jimbo’s first idea of weighted majorities in a voluntary coalition sounds reasonable at first. A party with thirty percent of the Nationalist vote would not stay in government to be lorded over and humilitated by the DUP, so the DUP would have to shape up or out. But why would SF risk permanent exclusion?

    The franchise would have to be extended to get a more broadly based opposition to keep SF in government in the medium term. When the border is always the question, why would proportional representation not extend to all small minorities in Northern Ireland? e.g. AV with a top up. And fattening up local council votes to make councillors MLAs is an insult to the electorate. Bury Thatchers silly expenses fiddle and get a proper system of part funding so that all parties can afford to recruit able advocates like Jimbo.

    Direct rule by Ministers from the Tory right? We would all be voting Sinn Fein.

  • eamoncorbett

    When direct rule was in operation some time back an Irish secretariat was in situ at Hillsborough consisting of three or four civil servants , why not bring in a similar amount of British civil servants and let them take the controversial decisions that the Assembly cant . Let a slimmed down Stormont take the rest of the decisions.

  • Greenflag 2

    Politics is the art of creating the possible out of the improbable while continuing to remain politically extant .

    Majority Unionist rule in NI is extinct not extant .. Paisley can I think claim some credit for the latter achievement. You might call it an unintended consequence but there it is .

    As to whether political acumen is a liability . ? Those who don’t have it tend not to survive in politics .

    Haydn was a musician /composer -the Beatles of his day so to speak . His pronouncements on the perfection or otherwise of Hapsburg Imperial Rule may not have been shared by the Croats, Slovenes , Slovakians , Ruthenians and other minority groups in the polyglot empire . But I think the Hungarians were happy enough until 1918 anyway.

  • Green and white hard hat.

    Albania have just landed two cosmopolitan astronauts on the moon. Truth is its the only sensible alternative iv heard yet. Bound to be worth a try.

  • Zeno

    “I find this all hard to understand. Clearly Jimbo does not have the same view of ongoing demographic change that I do.”

    Very few people have to be fair. You keep confusing Catholics with Nationalists.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You keep confusing Catholics with Nationalists.

    I do not. Given a change of 50,000, made up of 10,000 less Protestants and 40,000 more Catholics, if that was pure Nationalist voter gain, then how many extra Nationalist seats would we expect? 10, 15, 20 I would say.

    But half of them will not be voting because they are too young to do so, and of those who have the vote half will not be doing do because they are in comas, have moved away, or are double registered, or don’t want to, so the net expected loss for Unionism would be about 3 seats.

    Note that in the above posting I predicted that less Protestants and more Catholics would lead to losses for Unionism: I in fact said Unionists of the proper sort, meaning to exclude Alliance.

    But no complaints: this should be enough to reduce the number of Unionist MLAs to less than 54, and so remove the need for special arrangements.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As for how Catholics vote, I would estimate that about 65% vote for SF and 25% for the SDLP. The remaining 10% is divided up among Alliance, Green and smaller parties like People Before Profit.

    But in a situation where people have more than one vote, the All/Green/PBP vote usually gives a subsequent preference to the SDLP, who are the ones who actually profit from it. (PBP and Green also transfer to SF). So if you think about it, this effectively brings the Catholic vote up to about 99% Nationalist, at least in European Parliament elections; in Stormont ones it would be less, because Alliance MLAs actually get elected in some constituencies.

    Sometimes SDLP voters will even transfer to SF: this happened in the last Stormont election for East Antrim, to my great surprise.

    The Catholic vote for DUP, UUP and TUV, while it must exist, is not large enough to show up in the polls or be assigned a percentage point.