MLAs – they work for you

I’m not sure where to start.

I remember an election in May 2016, which allowed hope to flourish. There was an attempt at grown up politics with an opposition and everything. And then it all imploded.

RHI scandal, the Irish Language act….I don’t know what the final trigger was. Perhaps it was just the general incompetence that seemed to manifest itself (note – I do know it wasn’t the media’s fault despite the DUP’s view. We have some outstanding reporters who have worked hard, as they should, to uncover what has gone on).

Fast forward to #AE17 and a rise in the turnout of voters. And yet, those that we have elected have not listened and have failed to find a way forward. This evening (Sunday), both the DUP and Sinn Féin have (apparently) failed to reach agreement to establish an Executive.

Quite frankly, they have failed us.

Playing politics is playing with real lives. It is more than about making sure our education system is the best it can be and that we can access the healthcare we need. Politics affects every aspect of our lives, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

So what’s next? Who knows.

Perhaps there will be a last minute reprieve, but what will that really change, except to put Parties that can’t abide each other into the room together? Perhaps our two largest parties want #AE17(2), but what will that really change, except to further divide and polarise our wee country? Direct rule, anyone? I think the PM will view the mess that is Brexit as more of a priority.

When an election rolls round every four years or so, some start to get ‘political’. The clictivist campaigns and round robin emails start, which is really too little too late. So what I suggest is to get political now.

Regardless of whether or not we will face an election in the short term, educate yourself on how our political system works. Learn how your votes transfer and how you can elect MLAs who will actually work for you. That’s right. MLAs work for you. Ask them where they stand on issues that are important to you and if you don’t like the answer then move on.

I doubt any particular party will meet all your ideals, but find your best fit.

We hold the key to the future. It’s called a vote. Don’t be afraid to use it.

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  • Conchúr Ó Conghaile

    All MLAs wages should be suspended until they come together, get an proper agreement and form an Executive.

    If they aren’t working then they shouldn’t get paid. Simple as.

  • Perhaps the MLAs can work, in their backbench committees, while the potential executive members don’t get paid until they reach an agreement. In most countries with proportional representation, a caretaker administration carries on while negotiations go on for months (or over 2 years in Belgium).

  • Brendan Heading

    There are a few problems with this, not least the issue that there are plenty of MLAs who want to form a government but aren’t permitted to because of the way the system is designed. It’s not fair on them.

    A much better approach is for the public to vote out the parties who don’t want to form a government.

  • Gopher

    Any predictions on the elections turnout? Up or down from March? Agnew is angry, Im sure the North Down voters are minded to care.

  • William Kinmont

    The 2 largest parties may both want an election. Sf thinking may be that they only have to do a little better. Unionists may think they cant do any worse esp if they form some sort of pact. dont think the pact will work as not only will it put off small u unionists it will have a major effect on nationalist transfers. Sf meanwhile will gain as the pact and recent success will drive more votes their way. If Sf get largest party and Unionists in minority then surely direct rule from london isnt an option . May seem like groundhog day but negotiations after next election could be under very different rules. Robin Swann actually seemed to be hard working MLA representing his constituency and holding civil servants to account better than most. just the sort of MLA the article is asking for. However his appointment as a strategist is probably going to make day to day politics irrelivant for quite some time.

  • Séamus

    The DUP didn’t bother to turn up today; apparently they don’t negotiate on Sundays.

  • andrewjohn

    There is no point forming a government if it’s likely to collapse after just five minutes. The failure of the DUP here is spectacular. You cannot be trusted to be in coalition if you make deals and then break them at a whim with no scruples. Governments cannot operate on that basis.

  • Gopher

    You have decided its the DUPs fault already?

  • ted hagan

    The plain fact is that before RHI and then Foster mouthing off, the electorate had become tired and weary of the ineffectiveness and banality of government under DUP/SF. The election may have spiced things up a bit with bit of a good old-fashioned Norn Ireland tribal bickering, but it can just as easily slip back into the same sad old torpor.

  • andrewjohn

    Leaks out of the talks all week are that the DUP simply will not give on previous agreements, also the Brits are continuing to block the Lord Chief Justice requests. But I guess that’s probably no surprise to anyone.

  • Gavin86

    The media only takes interest whenever they can may hay, issues regarding RHI were being reported on the BBC website back in February 2016; and RHI only became a headline story in late November, early December. As a result of this the parties got hot and bothered about RHI, and blame started to be apportioned; mainly to the DUP.

    The RHI story just plays into a corruption mindset belief, that the parties have there snouts in the through; which in turn feeds into voter apathy. You would wonder if there have been other issues which have gone unnoticed over the years, or issues which deserved more coverage than what they received.

  • Jag

    RTE’s Tommy Gorman predicts that Brokenshire will allow a further two weeks of negotiations and enact retrospective legislation to give effect to the slippage.

    That sounds dodgy in the extreme. Retrospective legislation?

  • mooncoin

    Your ‘wee country’ is already profoundly divided and polarised , things have changed dramatically . Adams has said , that there is no going back to the status quo . So it looks very much like direct rule or new election . Either option is a big risk for Unionism .

  • ted hagan

    Adams and SF have made a big play of RHI; Fair enough. But when the water charges issues erupted in the Republic, with an even bigger waste of public money, Sinn Fein flip-flopped all over the place.

  • Pacman

    Yip – you lost me at OWC. I’m 51 years old and have never bought into it. I’m beyond caring what pit it ends up in.

  • Jag

    Apples and oranges. Water is a policy issue, and SF flopped over paying because they faced accusations they were breaking the law and they’re particularly sensitive to that accusation given the activities of the IRA.

    RHI, on the other hand, isn’t a policy issue. It’s about incompetence at best, sleaze certainly and possibly worse.

  • Jag

    Is it really that case that from 8th April, 2017, departments don’t have budgets and budgets will be cut to 75% of their 2016/7 levels? So, does Whitehall save the other 25%? No wonder they keep appointing useless twits as secretaries of state for this place.

  • ted hagan

    If the waste of money over water charges isn’t gross incompetence, then what is? And I’d prefer to wait for the results of the public inquiry to determine sleaze.

  • Gavin86

    The key questions to be asked in RHI is, Who decided to change the tariff and who gave authority to do so?

  • ted hagan

    I would say the spike in demand would have even more relevance.

  • andrewjohn

    That’s not true. In fact it is a cynical lie pushed by the South’s political and media establishment ( I am not accusing you of lying). From the very outset when Fianna Fail first signed up to water charges Sinn Fein opposed them completely. What SF did not do initially was encourage people to not pay their water bills. The reason for this dates back to the waste charge protests when the trots led the public in a no pay campaign; it ended up with people facing massive fines and the waste charges were never defeated, but the trots moved on leaving their crowd with massive bills and fines.
    With water, when it became clear that the government were gonna threaten to doc peoples wages or social welfare due to the mass refusal to pay, Sinn Fein then came out and encouraged people to continue the boycott and elected Shinners joined in. That was the extent of the flip flop.

  • Gavin86

    The spike in demand flows from the increase in tariff.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    SF playing this as predicted and collapsing the thing, it seems. Of course there is no executive yet, it is not in their interests.

  • andrewjohn

    It is foolish to pretend there would be much of a difference if the SDLP and UUP were in charge. Or indeed, how long would Alliance or the Greens survive in government with Unionism simply ignoring them and steam rolling over agreements?

  • Charlie Farlie

    Ok so let me get this straight, SF are criticised for not dealing with legacy issues appropriately. They create agreement for openness on all sides regarding legacy, DUP and British Government renege, what is any party with integrity to do?

    Every time a crisis emerges, Steven Nolan manipulates IRA victims to castigate SF for not doing enough. They say they will be open but their electorate has suffered also and the British Govt needs to accept its role and honour previous agreements, they don’t, what is any party with integrity to do?

    There are certain things promised as part of an equality agenda, Gay marriage, minority and migrant concerns, cultural acceptance etc… but these don’t arise and in the midst of it all, alleged corruption and mal-practice.

    So for the sake of the liberal agenda, should that party just return as past, when not one iota of change happens? I don’t get it!

  • andrewjohn

    They are doing exactly what they have been mandated to do. If Unionism cannot keep to its agreements then they will not be allowed into government.

  • Davie Sproule

    Sinn Fein went into these talks with no intention of restoring devolution. Their United Ireland strategy revolves around the portrayal of Northern Ireland as a failed state.

  • andrewjohn

    That is demonstrably untrue.

  • AntrimGael

    We get the people we vote for and want so let’s not pretend aliens have come down and made us put an X or 1,2,3 for candidates against our will. We are a divided society and wallow in getting one over on THEMMUNS. I won’t lie, I know the reaction in most Republican/Nationalist areas after the last election was “Brilliant, get it right up ‘youse’ in respect of Foster, the DUP and wider Unionism.
    It’s no wonder these talks have failed. The DUP and current Tory administration are one and the same. They are two peas in the same extreme right wing, bigoted anti Irish Nationalist pod and that’s why the talks are going, and will go nowhere. Brokenshire’s intervention on British Soldiers and insinuations against the DPP and Courts, in cahoots with the DUP, has completely undermined any potential and goodwill.
    The British and Unionism still swan about with a colonial, bigoted, supremacist attitude, have not implemented previous agreements and once again are trying to huff, puff and bluff their way around this. They are attempting to rewrite tbe GFA and introduce a hierarchy of victims which NO Republican or Nationalist with any dignity or self respect will accept. Time for the Irish government to grow a pair and stand up to these bullies.

  • Gavin86

    I don’t think that’s a fair assertion. Sinn Fein could have pulled the plug before Christmas; but they didn’t. It was clear to see that Sinn Fein wanted to keep the institutions going and Martin McGuinness’s final speech (in his home city) would indicate how much it meant to him to keep the institutions up and running.

  • Jollyraj

    Yes, there is the feeling that they decided on this result perhaps a week ago and have since been deploying their twin weapons of bluffing and wasting everybody’s time.

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. Highlights the cynicism at the core of Republicanism.

  • Jollyraj

    Wasn’t Conor Murphy one of the drivers behind delaying shutting down the scheme during the cash grab of the final few weeks? Or am I misremembering?

  • Katyusha

    If that were the case, you’d think that the DUP, who presumably have some kind of interest in showing that Northern Ireland is a viable political entity, would stop being so intransigent and actually compromise with their partners. And, you know, follow up on the things they agreed to implement.

    I don’t believe for a second SF didn’t want to get the assembly up and running again. The DUP, on the other hand, have nothing to lose from another election and nothing to lose from direct rule. Cynical.

    On a further note, it’s ridiculous they didn’t even show up to the penultimate day of negotiations because “it was on a Sunday”. Preserving the institutions of government is less important to them than sacred idleness. Shows how much respect or concern they have for the people of NI who FM supposedly represents.

  • Gavin86

    I would have thought the Irish government now has more sway over matters in Northern Ireland, purely due to Brexit; the British government will need all the friends they can get in negotiations.

  • Jollyraj

    Excellent idea! If you want a government, vote for the parties who will actually provide one. Could play well for the IUP, SDLP & Alliance… sigh…. a government that could finally, finally move us away from the parasitical sectarian machine of SF/DUP.

  • Jollyraj

    “It is foolish to pretend there would be much of a difference if the SDLP and UUP were in charge”

    Find myself in profound disagreement, my friend…. but ok, bet. Let’s try it. Has to be better than SFDUP.

  • AntrimGael

    It’s gone beyond that now and the Irish government, foreign/diplomatic office and civil service are no fools. While pursuing a nice outwardly friendly image with Britain they know we are all heading for a hard Brexit and the Irish have finally realised that Britain is playing them like a fiddle and using them as a bargaining tool over Brexit SOLELY for Britain’s gain. We are now in dog eat dog territory and unfortunately we are the dinner. Goodness knows where this could all end up but once tbe first customs, immigration, security checkpoint goes back up it’s goodbye Peace Process.

  • AntrimGael

    Yes, every sensible person knows it.

  • AntrimGael

    So Robin Swann is the answer? Sigh…….

  • Gavin86

    Don’t be so gloomy, this is very negative. I mean Sammy Wilson said that we will all look back at this and say what was all the fuss about. So to reuse a campaign slogan not ‘Believe in Britain’ but ‘Believe in Sammy’.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I think you could go back further than that JR. I would suggest ‘bring the house down’ was devised after the Brexit Vote !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    ‘customs, immigration, security checkpoint goes back up’ Will never happen a deal will be done between both governments with other arrangements possibly made on mainland Britain ! The Irish Border will never come back again as that. It will remain only a political border which is never seen on the ground as it is today !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Also a big risk for Republicans too ? Managing Political Vacuums is a very difficult thing to do ? “Your ‘wee country’ is already profoundly divided and polarised” No disputing that, but a bit unfair on a Green Poster and her opinion who is enthusiastic about trying to make the place work with good government for all !

  • Brendan Heading

    It is foolish to pretend there would be much of a difference if the SDLP and UUP were in charge.

    It would be. But what I’m saying is, rather than swapping the parties around, we should come up with a way to ensure that governments can be formed through agreement, rather than granting an automatic veto to the largest two parties.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    A little bit unfair KiR to rubbish a left wing opinion because they refer to a wee place that we all live and share in !

  • Skibo

    I assume you meant that the DUP will not allow the agreements of previous talks to be actioned.

  • Skibo

    Just one thing in the fact that the SDLP and the UUP are polar apart on a number of policies that could just as easily bring the house of cards down.

  • Skibo

    Only problem you have is the electorate have continuously returned both the DUP and SF. Both have increased their mandate and are now neck and neck.

  • Skibo

    Are you suggesting we ignore the majority of the electorate? Can that realy be considered democracy then?

  • Skibo

    If that was the case then the DUP could have called their bluff and said that they will enact all previous agreements over the next 18 months with KPIs to be reached every three months.
    It is the DUP who do not want agreement. They believe the previous result was a blip and that they can return to Unionist majority by having another election. Possibly they could swipe a couple of UUP seats, maybe even take the second DUP seat back in FST but it could be a risky strategy. Nationalism is upbeat.

  • Skibo

    Would that be flat earth 4000 years old, no global warming Sammy?

  • Skibo

    If there is no assembly by 29th March and as such no budget, the permanent secretary for the Department of Finance will have access to 75% of the budget. If there is no agreement or budget by the end of July, that budget will be extended to 95% of the overall budget. That gives enough to run NI as is until mid February.
    Not sure if this will allow for the extra £30m that Michelle O’Neill had requested during the election to stem the effects of waiting lists. How the Permanent Secretary will approach under spends and reallocating funds may a question.

  • Skibo

    The RHI however did not result in voter apathy. All parties bar the TUV and the PBP increased their actual votes if not always their percentage.
    I think the Red Sky issue was a bigger example if corruption and would have shown links between certain businesses and the DUP.
    I hope NAMA has not gone away completely.

  • Skibo

    Yes you are miss remembering or worse still blatantly miss reporting.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They may both think it’s worth a punt.

  • Skibo

    Perhaps they do. SF actually need a second election to show the last was not a blip and the DUP to show it was. I am not sure Brokenshire is now prepared to give either that option and may be hoping that a return to direct rule may force the electorate into supporting the centre ground.
    I would be of the opposite thought in that there may not be a centre ground left if direct rule from London alone returns.