It’s been a slow start to Stormont. As you might expect there’s been some things that could be actioned quickly (like pay parity for the nurses) on matters which were bound up in the negotiations.
On Monday the business of agreeing to unanimously to reject Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Bill was delayed by an hour after Jim Allister raised a point of order objecting to the fact that the motion being voted on could not be amended by Assembly and was therefore not democratic.
Four out of the five Assembly parties rejected a motion from Jim (three of them agreeing), with only the DUP expressing its annoyance with the delay to the main debate. It was the re-emergence of the so-called “naughty corner”.
It was a stark reminder that although the option of opposition remains on the statute book as an option, after three years in the wilderness none of three smaller parties are taking the chance of being locked out of ministerial office for the next two years.
Whether that enthusiasm still pertains after they found out the financial limits of the deal (even the A5 money from Dublin is a write-down of the original offer) remains to be seen. That’s something that should affect all ministers, but the duopoly won’t be handing out favours.
On Saturday afternoon, our Big [Stormont] House Party will try to look beyond the public game of party politics and try to unveil what challenges face minister in trying to prove that they can make a difference in the next two years.
Some of those challenges might include:
- Getting beyond a culture of consultation towards one of taking actual decisions for the long run whether they are popular or not;
- Tackling the issues in health that came up on the doorstep in December: waiting lists and mental health crisis which is becoming acute;
- Can they work together to build a new relationship with Europe and specifically with the Republic;
- At a time of virtually full employment, what’s the plan for building up our stock of well paid new jobs for the future.
- After what has been widely acknowledged to the best Open Golf Championship in the modern era, how to build a new tourism strategy;
- An honest conversation with the GAA to create new strategic vision for stuck projects like the renewal of Casement Park;
- And finally, in order to build good relations in Northern Ireland, they must also exist inside the Executive. Is it even possible?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but the questions are one we hope our panel of insiders will be able to throw some upon. If you haven’t booked already, you can get your tickets here…
Competition time! We are offering 2 sets of free tickets for the event, to enter just click here.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty