Crashing Stormont at a time when there’s a genuine lack of political grown ups?

So right about now, those who presumed there was always going to be a safety net if the current arrangements failed might just cast a look around at some of the parties who helped birth the Belfast Agreement.

1, the UK administration. James Brokenshire is close to the PM. But the PM herself is currently focused on managing expectations around Brexit (and the febrile economic effects of even the mildest of speculation). Until this week, Slugger understands not one question was raised at the daily morning lobby questions about Northern Ireland in all of the last month.  (I imagine that’s changed this morning.) As Jeffrey Donaldson told Morning Ireland this morning, with the Brexit deal coming up DUP MLAs have a larger than normal influence with the Government there.

2, the Irish government. Now’s not a great time for the Irish government. It’s similarly pre-occupied with the matter of where to position itself between the UK’s position (which is politically and economically important) and the centrality of the EU to all its dealings. But it also has this queer situation in which not only is it a minority administration, but Fine Gael are a majority shareholder with independents to manage inside and a supply and confidence arrangement to support. Frustration are running high with its ability to get anything coherent done.

3, the US administration. Despite the centrality of the Clinton administration in supplying senior patronage for the setting up of the Belfast Agreement, when it came to it George W Bush was willing to continue lending time and resources to the peace process during the years of collapse in the early naughties. It’s unclear what capital the Trump administration will bring to any future negotiations. Noises off at the moment suggest that his people are keener on helping the UK extricate itself from the EU than any strong interest in Irish affairs per se.

In short, crashing the powersharing institutions right now is not only unhelpful with regard to the unfinished business of RHI, the lack of progress in budget setting (which, BTW, would have started causing ructions by next week), and now the apparent need to reform the basic tenets of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements.

  • johnny lately

    “and now the apparent need to reform the basic tenets of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements.”

    Is that a different way of saying “And now there is an apparent need to honour commitments made in the Belfast and St Andrews agreements”

  • Gingray

    Mick, for months you have been telling us how competent and superior the DUP are when compared to SF, and how SF have undeniably been the junior partner in the executive. Surely you could have seen that crashing the institutions was the only logical outcome?

  • Ciarán Doherty

    There will never be a “good time” to bring the assembly down ever again, there’s no end in sight to the economic and political fallout of Brexit and it’s just getting started. You have a choice between now, in an era of political uncertainty, or in a years time, in an era of constitutional and probably national, or even international, economic crisis.

  • Croiteir

    Built into this analysis is the assumption that there should be a home rule for this region. I don’t see that as a given, it also assumes that London and Dublin cannot afford to intervene, my analysis is that they cannot afford not to. As far as Stormont goes, rolling collapse is the way to go.

  • murdockp

    I hope the DUP hard core watched country file on BBC 1 on sunday. it was scarier than any horror movie as it discussed in detail subsidy free farming.

    if the other parties can get their act together they can turn this fear back onto the DUP hardcore as their support of Brexit will come back to haunt them as London is skint and more austerity is a certainty.

    watch this space I guess.

  • file

    Hi Mick: is this a typo? Did you mean ‘unhelpful’?
    “In short, crashing the powersharing institutions right now is not only helpful with regard to the unfinished business of RHI …”

  • ScottishClive22

    Its all a bloody waste of time for the ‘proper’ politicians across the water and down south who have issues that impact many millions more than in Norn Iron. Foster is a disgrace and not fit to be a lollipop lady let alone the FM. But as long as she keeps most of the DUP behind her she will be FM again with some SF unknown as DFM. So the cycle continues.

  • Jag

    December: (all political parties except DUP): Arlene, step aside while there’s an inquiry
    DUP: No way,Jose!
    Dec 30: (SF, Michelle O’Neill): Arlene, step aside without prejudice
    Jan 1: (SF, Martin McGuinness): Arlene, you need to step aside
    Jan 1: (SF, Matt Carthy): Arlene, you really need to step aside
    Jan 2: (SF, Declan Kearney): Arlene, you really, really need to step aside
    Jan 3: (SF, Michelle O’Neill): Arlene, listen, you absolutely need to step aside
    Jan 4: (SF, Conor Murphy): Arlene, this is it, you need to step aside
    Jan 5: (SF, Gerry Adams): Arlene, we’re at a defining point, you need to step aside
    Jan 6: (SF, Mairtin O’Muilleoir): Arlene, you’re proposing a sticky plaster, go now
    Jan 6: (SF, Caral Ni Chuilin): Arlene, we’re not agreeing anything till you go
    Jan 7: (SF, Gerry Adams): Arlene, we’re going to act now
    Jan 8: (SF, Gerry Adams): Arlene, you must step aside now, or else.
    Jan 1-9: (DUP): Misogynyists! Provies! RHI is all our collective fault. Something about chicken. And Arlene’s going nowhere.

    Regardless of timing, what was SF supposed to do?

  • ScottishClive22

    I do agree that she should of stepped aside, but if the inquiry had taken place she would likely of been finished on a permanent basis.


    Martin did a good deed yesterday by his resignation,It had to end, listening
    to the D.U.P across the airwaves today they want to talk about everything
    barr .the disgrace the loss of half a billion. In any sort of a banana
    republic the person who caused the debacle would not be allowed to.
    supervise the solution.Who does those people think they are, There must
    be transparency and accountability not the smell of a coverup.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not if SF refuse to go into a joint administration with her, which is the logic of what they are saying.”No return to the status-quo”…… but I’m not holding my breath……

  • Megatron

    (1) Neither SF nor DUP (nor anyone else) seems to have ability to govern effectively.
    (2) Even if did DUP do not appear ready to allow ANY compromise on ANY issue as they always presumed SF would not collapse
    (3) DUP non compromise on non-constitutional issues (gay marriage being key) is a bigger problem than people think.
    (4) most in nationalist / republican circles have come to Jim Allisters position – direct rule is better than this.
    (5) SF will do well if they can convince people now is the line in the sand and it might actually energise nationalist turn out. They will / should acknowledge mistake in wholesale compromise in the past with no reciprocation.
    Who knows where to from here. I for one am glad of a change in direction even if I would have preferred local governance.

  • Jag

    Yeah, direct rule from Westminster is vastly superior – just look at the surefooted brilliance of their handling of Brexit ! How many of them have been jailed for fiddling expenses or selling cash-for-access? Look at their public private partnerships – makes RHI look like small change. Look at their fiasco on the new generation of nuclear power stations. Are you seriously saying GB clowns are somehow superior to our local clowns?

  • Madra Uisce

    (4) most in nationalist / republican circles have come to Jim Allisters position – direct rule is better than this.

    Where is your evidence for this claim?

  • anon

    It’s also the logic of what all the other parties are saying.

  • anon

    The TUV and UUP should be absolutely hammering this point home. Of course, Mike Nesbitt isn’t helped by David Trimble having ignored the party policy on Brexit during the Referendum campaign.

  • murdockp

    slightly unfair to children to suggest that this is the way our politicians are behaving.

  • Nevin

    “just cast a look around at some of the parties who helped birth the Belfast Agreement.”

    Would these be some of the same parties that almost strangled the newborn child when they released paramilitary prisoners without a quid pro quo on munitions; they pandered to the perpetrators of death and destruction whilst insulting the victims; and they inflicted severe damage on the UUP and SDLP.

    “the apparent need to reform the basic tenets of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements.”

    There’s most certainly a need to reform the basic tenets of governance both at regional and local government level and to give some transparency to the actions of politicians and civil servants attached to the governments of the UK and Ireland.

    I’ve blogged on deficiencies in governance since 2007 and I’ve highlighted the absence of Ministers from Departmental Boards which Treasury best practice directs them to chair. How can Ministers be advised and held to account by Independent members when the former are not at the table. I’ve even noted from DETI/DfE information-lite minutes that only one of the two Independent members was present in 2013 and 2014 and these risk-assessing folk were only given background RHI papers in February 2016! RHI governance looks incredibly loose, not least via its administration by OFGEM.

    In regard to RHI and earlier though much smaller debacles I’ve been unable to find minutes of Permanent Secretary/Minister weekly(?) briefings as well as Executive Team(?) minutes. The MSM, with a few honourable exceptions, has been quite woeful when it comes to educating and informing its audience.

  • Karl

    Its better for the Irish government to negotiate directly with the British government with NI in mind as part of the island economy without muddying the waters with the mixed messages that would come from a DUP / SF administration working at the cross purposes of DUP Brexit idealism and SFs pragmatic framing of a borderless island.
    The big boys will be in charge and this is no bad thing. Indeed the Irish govt can play a constructive role in British negotiations in the EU without having to test the waters for every initiative. If anyone is losing out in this regard, its probably the NI farming & fishing community

  • Karl

    Under direct rule, expect to see people in a private capacity, but likely with SF instigation and backing, go to the UK legal system for equal marriage rights, language protection and women rights all provided for under Westminster law.
    SF will only go back into Stormont when these have been granted. In the meantime, expect nationalist dominated councils to push a more forceful ‘green’ agenda and contentious marches to become more contentious.
    Direct rule and the imposition of British law does not help the DUP. This will be made abundantly clear in the short term.

  • Mike the First

    Could you be more specific on which commitments you mean in these posts?

  • mac tire

    Also bear in mind the other parties wanted Arlene to resign – to go – to head on for good. SF gave a way out by asking her to step aside, a compromise. Even that was not enough.

    The DUP left SF with no choice.

  • johnny lately

    Why don’t you read Martin Mc Gunness’s resignation statement or the public demands from the likes of Gerry Adams it’s all over the papers and on the television. Perhaps giving grants to organisations that openly promote division whose hatred and objections to the promotion of the language of their forefathers who supposedly fought at the Boyne has in the end added to the crisis that has ended the power sharing institutions. Perhaps handing out taxpayers money to be burned on loyalist bonfires or the grants given to loyalist flute bands who go out of their way to insult and provoke their nationalist neighbours while stopping a bursary for disadvantaged children learning the native language of the country they were born in.

  • John Collins

    That is all a gross insult to real, as in professional clowns.

  • stewrogers

    Is Trimble not a Tory peer now?

  • anon

    He is, but he’s still perceived as UUP (unless it’s just by me!)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course it is, but it will be up to the two most sizable parties to decide each if they will go into government with the other. If either demurs, that’s it, stalemate. If the DUP do not withdraw their support for Arlene and require her to to step down then “no return ot the status quo” suggests SF will not do so, either as first or second largest party, depending on the results.

  • Brendan Heading

    The last time I saw a comment on that subject from Gerry Adams, he was saying that in a united Ireland there would have to be Orange marches just like there are now.

    Trying to squeeze out loyalist cultural celebrations in the way that you propose is going to make everything a lot harder. To their credit I think SF understand that to an extent.

  • Mike the First

    None of that at all tells me what you think these “commitments” were in the Belfast Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement.

    You’ve repeated this talk of “commitments” across multiple threads, can you not name any of them?