Brokenshire threatens to take away the one thing that makes NI parties cooperate

At the launch of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland manifesto, James Brokenshire gave the parties 21 days after the election to agree a deal before “passing the baton” to the government in Westminster to run Northern Ireland. An extended period of rule from Westminster would remove all responsibility from the DUP and Sinn Fein to moderate and compromise.

The practicalities of running a power sharing government has always forced the DUP and Sinn Fein to behave in a much more moderated manner than they might otherwise do if they simply wished to appeal to their hard-line bases. This is because a solid record in government is something the DUP and Sinn Fein have always been able to hold over the SDLP and UUP.

If the Conservatives were to remove this incentive by taking away the opportunity to govern then the parties would have little motivation to tone down their rhetoric, which would further distance the prospect of a return to the Executive.

When, in 2012 Sinn Fein were willing to eventually give up the fight over welfare reform and hand the power back to Westminster, they did so at the expense of a number of attack ads from the SDLP. Sinn Fein’s reasoning was that in accepting the reality that a devolved government without tax raising powers has very little sway over welfare issues they protected the unbroken term in government. This record in government proved to be a valuable weapon later on when in 2016 and 2017 the DUP and Sinn Fein were able to see off threats of a potential resurgent UUP and SDLP presenting themselves as an alternative Executive-in-waiting.

The same is true of the DUP when they adopted their revolving door resignations strategy over the alleged PIRA activity and the murder of Kevin McGuigan. Instead of storming out of the Executive in righteous injustice as the UUP did, they kept the institutions running, once again protecting the record in government of two unbroken terms between 2007 and 2016. It is easy to imagine that without this record to protect, the actions of our two largest parties may have been quite different on both these occasions.

As it stands the blame for a lack of a government in Northern Ireland rests solely on the DUP and Sinn Fein. Evidence of this pressure is beginning to show by Arlene Foster’s softening of her stance on the Irish language. A return to Westminster rule would levitate some of this pressure at a time when it needs to be applied as much as possible.

It is of course not the fault of the Conservatives that the Executive did collapse in 2017 and that the DUP and Sinn Fein were unable to come to an agreement as to its reformation. However, the British government will only perpetuate the problem by removing the responsibility to govern and therefore the imperative to cooperate. To add to this, devolution is not only a moderating influence on our parties but also on voters. In our divided society, one issue that has almost unanimous support is support for devolution and voters are therefore willing to accept compromise in the name of devolution.

  • Nevin

    “a solid record in government is something the DUP and Sinn Fein have always been able to hold over the SDLP and UUP.”

    ‘Solid record’ is one way of describing the carve-up witnessed by ministers from the smaller parties. The other advantage the two big beasts have over the lightweights in our tug-of-war is that they offer a far stronger constituency service. When citizens need support in the face of a bullying and/or spineless bureaucracy they’re more likely to seek assistance from the big two reps.

    “A return to Westminster rule would levitate some of this pressure at a time when it needs to be applied as much as possible.”

    London and Dublin tend to stick quite closely together in order to confine paramilitary-style activities to Northern Ireland. Once the DUP and SF were ‘hitched’ London and Dublin very much took a back seat.

  • 1729torus

    ” A return to Westminster rule would levitate some of this pressure at a time when it needs to be applied as much as possible.”

    Should you not replace “leviate” with “elevate”?

  • Madamarcati

    Your last paragraph is chillingly accurate.
    A return to direct rule will most effectively allow Dublin and London to ignore the unchecked paramilitary criminal activities here even more. That, coupled with the coming swingeing cuts to what little PSNI there is, will result in a flourishing lawless and unpredictably violent social meltdown.
    Witness the recent UDA Sainsbury Sunday murder in Co. Down and the new IRA Semtex haul by the Gardai in Dublin today.
    It has already started. Expect no real help from any of the politically criminally insane toxic Sinn Fein/DUP conflict junkies.

  • james

    Perhaps alleviate?

  • Jag

    Slightly peripheral to the above, but is that really the logo for the Tories in northern Ireland? A map of Britain, a map of N Ireland which is obviously bigger than England and Wales combined, a translucent border with an invisible Republic and best of all, a small (private? a commercial jet would have four engines surely) jet which presumably ferries the Tory in on a Monday morning and evacuates them back to civilisation by cocktail hour on Friday evening.

    And a suspiciously Fenian looking green tree? Or is it just crayoning out something else?

    Standards have certainly slipped at Saatchi (assuming they’re responsible for this crud).

  • chrisjones2

    “Solid record” of failure on health, industrial policy, education, community reconciliation

    They have cooperated in not rocking the boat on graft and corruption by theremuns (on a reciprocal basis) and make sure amply quantities of pork flow to ‘former’; paramilitaries on both sides

    They have also fully co-operated in fending off the issues of the past ….soon to the point where mots of the relatives will be dead and all that unpleasantness can safely be buried

    Yes…its all a record to be proud of

  • chrisjones2

    “A return to Westminster rule would levitate some of this pressure at a time when it needs to be applied as much as possible.”

    And what makes you think that ANY of the two parties have a real interest in addressing this? Its been 20 + years and there is no sign of it

  • Nevin

    Chris, that’s a quote from Finn.

  • NewSouthernMan

    What is the Brexiteers true agenda here? Going back to direct rule fits right into the SF playbook – and of course, they know that.

    Maybe they have something bigger in mind?

  • chrisjones2

    Apologies!!!

  • chrisjones2

    ” a commercial jet would have four engines surely”

    You dont get out much do you.

  • Robin Keogh

    Rumours abound that the parties were tantalizingly close to an agreement and then May called the election. Lets see, it makes better sense for all the parties to get back to work up at Stormont. Given that the UK economy has started it’s post brexit meltdown, London will be far too busy to pay much attention in the wee six, its in everyone’s interest to get a deal done.

  • james

    The wee six? I know it isn’t your country, Robin, but perhaps you might try to have enough class as to refer to it by the correct name of Northern Ireland.

  • Brian O’Neill

    The Boeing 737 is just one of the many fine twin engine jets https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twinjet

  • What makes you think they have a plan?

  • Robin Keogh

    James, au contraire, it is very much my country.

  • james

    Aren’t you from Ireland? Assuming you are less than 100 years old, Northern Ireland has never, in your lifetime, been a part of your country. A good starting point, if you want to talk about the future, would be to have a realistic grasp of the present reality.

  • Robin Keogh

    Lets not do this James, it has nothing to do with the thread. Picking a fight with me is not compulsory mate.

  • james

    Sure, no problem as far as I’m concerned. Just please remember to use the correct name of Northern Ireland in future, that’s all I’m saying. It’s disrespectful to those of us who actually live here to call it otherwise.

    As to the thread, I would say the ‘one thing’ that makes Sinn Fein, DUP et al co-operate is mostly just their own prospects for financial gain. So, personally, Direct Rule from Westminster for a period while SF-DUP grow up suits me fine.

  • aquifer

    Your last sentence is also chillingly accurate. Thanks, clarity is good:

    “politically criminally insane toxic Sinn Fein/DUP conflict junkies”

  • aquifer

    “Rumours abound” Arlene made a statement. Anything else to back this?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Even our local people have trouble remembering the name james. I keep hearing people locally who think these six counties alone have copyright on the name of one of the four historical provinces of Ireland.

  • Madra Uisce

    Not surprised that a Unionist is happy to be governed by people who have no mandate here given Unionisms aversion to democracy

  • Gopher

    Stormont is finished except in the minds of MLAs. There is no will within the unionist electorate to continue with it. The DUP go back in after this election to the same farce, they are finished.

  • grumpy oul man

    Sure as soon as people stop calling it Ulster, then maybe!

  • grumpy oul man

    I live here, and I don’t think its disrespectful!

  • james

    Indeed. Further to my point, don’t you think it would be disrespectful if I were to constantly harp on about ‘the three lost counties of Ulster’ – and demand that a the UK try to take them back, by force if necessary, for a ‘United Ulster’, insisting that (irrespective of the wishes of the majority living there, though perhaps some might indeed welcome it) it was inevitable and the righr thing to do?

    Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

    Well, that is a rough approximation of how labels that supposedly bright people like Robin (who claims to be all about ‘respect’ but reveals himself in this) and less bright people like GOM throw around sound to unionists, and most non-Republicans, really.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interestingly enough, James, when I was a teenager in the 1960s the issue of the “surrender” of the three counties to Dublin was still a very sore issue with some Unionists in my families circle of friends. And this from sensible worldly wise middle-class people who were well aware of the seriousness of the demographics argument for the six county statelet.

    The issue of respect is an rather interesting one. Is it simply the name “Northern Ireland” which should be respected for purposes of convenient designation or what this name actually represents? To my mind the existence of NI has always been a terrible mistake, built on a foundation of hyperbolic mis-representation of realities where both the sectarian and economic arguments for Unionism against Home Rule were absurdly inaccurate. At least this was the case before Unionism drummed up a previously absent bitterness in the whole country by driving nationalist Ireland from a “Dominion” solution into the separatist camp and aborting through partition, both in the Free State and in NI, that rising tide of Irish economic prosperity before the Great War.

    The north has always been simply too small to function on its own, and even seemingly attracts a cycle of economic decline by its futile attempts to break out of this. Even Lord Craigavon himself said to the local Civil Service mandarin G.C. Duggan in 1937 “Duggan, you know that in this island we cannot live always separated from one another. We are too small to be apart, for the border to be there for all time.” To my mind only WWII delayed the natural disintegration of NI before the recent troubles. Is that “reality” enough from the man who created Northern Ireland?

  • grumpy oul man

    Gopher, there is a very big problem with that for unionism.
    Your betting on the English to run the place properly.
    Given history that is not something the Tories do, the Shinners would sit back and with some justification blame the lack of accountability on the DUP.
    They would quite happily let the place go to the dogs making project UI look like a better option than being a backwater of a Uk wrecked by Brexit.
    Unionism needs the assembly to work the Shinners not so much (of course they will make noises that they want to play but the unionists won’t play) but will not have any real issues with the tories running the place down.

  • grumpy oul man

    I haven’t heard anybody ( beyond a few dissedents) constantly “harp on ” about reuniting Ireland by force by necessary for quite a while!.
    I know im wasting my time asking you to prove that ( it must be my lack of brightness) that insists that you prove your mopish claims.
    And this majority you mention, well thats changing,
    And people have the right to work towards the type of future they want, this is called democracy, something unionists have always had a problem with.
    If you tell us your” grasp of reality” is so tenuous that referring to this place as the “wee six” or “the north” affects it them i will have to believe you.
    It would explain a lot.

  • 1729torus

    The Nationalist + Alliance majority means the DUP doesnt have nearly as much to offer SF as it used to before AE17.

  • murdockp

    Brokenshire threatens to take away the one thing that makes NI parties cooperate

    Salaries……

  • Neonlights

    devolution is not a moderating influence, it is a dehabilitating influence. It ensures that division is perpetuated and not dissippated.

  • Nevin

    “dehabilitating’

    This infrequently used word caught by attention. Habilitate means to ‘make fit for office’, to ‘dress’. ‘Dehabiliate’ would be to make unfit for office, to undress. Do our little emperors wear clothes?

  • Gopher

    I dont really know what SF want outside a 32 county Socialist Republic where they are in perpetual governance. I am however quite confident that the opinion now is that Stormont was just another one of Blairs cock ups and needs ended. Sharing power with people that cant even say Northern Ireland, dont believe the one true Republic in the South is the actual Republic and seem quite content to let the troubles serve as a cash cow for lawyers is a non starter now. Absolutely no interest in it among the electorate. The electorate that prefers the union is very different than the nationalist one, it just does not care about the assembly. Honestly the DUP’s hands are tied on this as electorate are laughing their heads off at SF’s threat to end the assembly if they dont get their way. Simply put you have a hostage no one cares about outside MLA’s

  • grumpy oul man

    So your soloution is to make a UI easier to obtain!
    Of course SF want eternal power, every party does the unionists set up NI to give them eternal power and would happily take it now.
    As for them wanting a UI so does the SDLP and many unaligned nationlists.
    However much you dislike that, its a fact of life.
    This electorate laughing their heads off about the assembly collapsing.
    Thats not what we hear everyday from people on the news in papers and sites like this.

  • Gopher

    People don’t see it that way. People understand there is no will around political Nationalism to compromise within a viable Northern Ireland, QED they don’t see the point in the delusion of the Assembly. There is a bubble that you should really get out from, honestly no one cares nor notices the Assembly is not there, infact the break from self important MLAs who have achieved zilch for good wages is not lost on them as a positive either.

  • grumpy oul man

    I’m sorry but i see no proof of what you say. i hear the farming community, the business community, the NHS, community groups just about everybody calling for the politicians to sort it out and get some work done.
    we also seen a assembly election just a few months ago that produced a very high turn out, none of this would indicate a lack of interest in getting the assembly up and running.

  • Gopher

    Sorry you mention politicains getting some work done which has not occurred in 20 years. SF have a useless hostage, direct rule is perfectably acceptable to the majority of people.

  • grumpy oul man

    Your not supplying any proof of the public having a hunger for direct rule.
    As for SF and the DUP. you get the people you vote for.
    Didnt somebody once say, Democracy is a terrible system of goverment but it’s better than the alternatives.
    Or something like that.

  • Gopher

    Where are the rallies in support of Stormont? It is hilarious now to watch the reverse ferret from SF as the penny drops they hold the wrong hostage.

  • grumpy oul man

    Rallys! Really gopher..
    Thats your proof.
    Alas SF have a great hostage, It suits them to be able to blame all that goes wrong on the English and the DUP cant refuse to restart it after making all that niose about it being needed.
    Direct rule will be a disaster for this place and that would suit the Shinners nicely.
    How do you think that direct rule will benifit unionism.

  • Gopher

    Let’s see if the ransom is paid

  • grumpy oul man

    but you still haven’t told me what good direct rule will do unionists.
    I don’t think the shinners are asking for a ransom, i think they would prefer not to buy at all and would love it if the unionists refused to deal so they can look like the reasonable party.

  • Gopher

    I think anything would be an improvement on the last 20 years, and I think they will get your wish.

  • grumpy oul man

    Its a observation gopher.
    I want a UI that works not one where unionist sleepwalk into because of poor leadership.

  • Gopher

    The Assembly did not work. It is not the unionist leadership leading now it is the electorate. Political Unionism would stand on one leg hop up and down and do a 360 to get back to Stormont. The rub is the electorate now dont want them to go back to a broken system. June 9th wont be a vote for any particulair unionist party but a vote for the union. Thick as the DUP are they understand that their electorate are happy with direct rule and if they deliver that in the face of SF “red lines” it is a victory not one they are happy with but one they can bank.

    I know this is an odd concept to you but the onus was never on unionism to make a post GFA Northern Ireland work, it was on Nationalism. Marty I honestly believe understood that concept and was a nationalist ahead of his time but the problem was he had the wrong leader, was in the wrong party, had the wrong base, backed by the wrong media. That was Martys biggest failing he never became his own man, which is tragic. Manditory coalition and the executive died with Marty. Blair’s folly wont be resurrected, it was a good deal for nationalism and they chose to collapse it, big mistake if you believe an agreed 32 county Ireland is possible.

  • grumpy oul man

    How was the onus on Nationlists to make the place work.
    Unionisn could have behaved itself over flags and marchs,
    And every year having big bonfires anp putting irish flags on them along with election posters and secterian banners on them.
    Well that is hardly working to make things work.
    How many times did unionisn collapse the assembly in the past.
    Oh by the way there is a thread running right here on slugger about the DUPS links with the UDA. I cant help wondering why there seem to be no unionists on being all ouraged about active links between polticians and terrorists.
    They got all excited about what Corbyn done 20 odd years ago is that the sort of mindset unionists think is ok.
    Because if it is (and it certainly seems to be) then unionists will have to put a lot more effort into making this place work.

  • Gopher

    I did warn you that the concept of the onus being on nationalism to make the assembly work being alien to you. Plenty of time to ponder it during this period of direct rule.

  • grumpy oul man

    It may be alien to me for the same reason you cant explain it.
    Because its a load of nonsense.
    What is it about unionists that they make these wild statements and refuse either to explain them or prove them.
    During this oncoming period of direct rule, i like other nationlists will be preparing the ground for a United Ireland.
    We shall not be dwelling on your unlikly musings.