In Northern Ireland Westminster Rules, OK or not

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, NI Secretary

While so much energy is being expended over identity issues in the Assembly’s absence (e.g.  “The Brits don’t love us anymore.” Please!)   remarkably little attention seems to be paid to actual politics which is proceeding largely without regard to the local politicians.

The UK government in the person of Chris Heaton-Harris is free the play games or play for real, whichever he chooses.

The UU leaning Malone House Group has just pointed out that the Legacy Bill providing for virtual amnesty is expected to pass into law later this month, in the teeth of opposition from the local parties, the Irish government and human rights groups. The group’s main concern was to remove what they regarded as the inbuilt bias against the security forces in a process that retained more evidence against them than the paramilitaries.

In another example

Heaton-Harris, the Northern Secretary, has updated the curriculum by Westminster regulation, in Stormont’s absence. Pupils aged 11-16 must now be taught about access to contraception and abortion, although whether schools deign to do so is another matter.

Not everyone is in the mood for a debate. Bishop Donal McKeown, chair of the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools, said anyone who needed information on abortion could Google it.

But the DUP has thrown itself into the spirit of the occasion, accusing Heaton-Harris of seeking to “promote abortion to children and young people based on his interpretation of ‘scientifically accurate’ education”.

This follows the precedent of Westminster enforcing the abortion regulations obstructed by the sitting Stormont.

Nobody has a clue whether CHH has in mind a sweetener of a billion quid for a return to Stormont, a situation everybody seems to regard as todays normal.

Behind that of course lies the games playing over the DUP ‘s terms. The rational approach is put forward by the former civil servant Andrew McCormick who has already written a searing account of the government’s handling of Brexit with special reference to Northern Ireland. “The government should come clean.” What, Andrew? You must be kidding!

  NI has been stuck in limbo with “the DUP asking for something the Government cannot deliver, and the Government appearing to promise to meet their concerns, despite knowing they cannot”.

The Northern Ireland Office has allowed this stalemate to continue, despite the real-world consequences: no Executive, deteriorating public services and worsening public finances, all shaking trust in the governing institutions.

Such a rational approach would only plunge into worse crisis and raise the spectre of direct rule by whatever name to which CHH has declared himself opposed, in agreement with Dublin.

So, the squeeze – or rather the limp hand wringing – goes on.

However, let it not be said that Westminster is washing its hands of us.

This is slow direct rule by stealth, letting the politicians feel the pain. The honourable thing would be to pass a better budget by Westminster Order. But that would be going too far.


Discover more from Slugger O'Toole

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

We are reader supported. Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger. While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.