A New Deal for Northern Ireland

Politics needs to change in Northern Ireland. How we govern needs to change. Our political culture must transform or our future will be at best no different to our present – political stalemate with a sluggish, dependency economy; limited investment and failing public services. Optimistically our current zombie government will continue to tick over, at worst we descend into a sectarian spiral and we all know where that can lead if unchecked.  We need politics to work. But it can’t …

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Expert forum to advise on the misuse of Dáil privilege…

This was launched whilst I was away, but it’s long overdue. I’m pretty certain Dail privilege is cast iron guaranteed via Article 15.10 of the Irish Constitution, but that guarantee has been used to launch attacks on individuals outside parliament. So Ceann Comhairle Sean O’Fearghaíl (the Dail’s first freely elected ‘speaker’) has announced the establishment of an expert forum on Dáil privilege. According to the terms of reference, there are two key issues at play (PDF): …make recommendations on how …

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“One way to lessen the destabilising effect of more diverse Dails… “

FIXED TERM DAIL: Dan O’Brien argues that the seminal moment of the last five years is the demise of the big catch all single party (ie, Fianna Fail) in the Republic, giving rise to the prospect of gross instability in future Irish governments. But does anyone currently in politics (with a prospect of wielding power) really want it?

Let us move past the age of ‘Stormont Shambles’ and work for an Official Opposition…

From Andrew Wooster, Deputy Chair of QUB Conservative Future… I recall reading the Stormont House Agreement on the 23 December 2014, and albeit a scepticism on Stormont’s ability to deliver, there was a feeling of genuine hope after the inclusion of a proposal for an Official Opposition. Since I have become politically minded, I have supported the introduction of such a structure to enable Stormont to work as a truly democratic system. The proposal was found in Article 29 of the …

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Across Europe most policy issues are merely symptoms of “citizen disconnect”…

“Th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis” Captain Boyle, Juno and the Paycock We’ve been getting lessons from all over Europe in the old new wine in old bottles constitutional problem arising in almost every state. Voter volatility in Britain and Ireland mean that the customary parties of government will struggle in their respective upcoming general elections to hit 30% and 25% respectively. The causes are only partly party political, more greatly economic and hugely constitutional, both formally …

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Focus on the problem of corruption more useful than a political duel over housing models.

So, one of the stories during the week worth noting is the controversy that St Matthews’ Housing Association got itself embroiled in. At the centre of the controversy was the prioritisation of transfers over people on the wider waiting list. Former Belfast City Councillor, Joe O’Donnell in the thick of it (erm, again). The parallels drawn by Turgon earlier in the week were not lost on Sinn Fein’s FST MP Michelle Gildernew, who made a statement critical of her party [or …

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McCausland to downsize the Housing Executive to a small strategic body?

Okay, so thanks to Barry McCaffrey of The Detail for the detailed commentary on the announcement of the reform of the Housing Executive of Northern Ireland. According to the notes to editors that comes with the publication of the Minister’s written statement, this measure was agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive on 13 December 2012. We don’t have any detail of the discussion that followed, but you might say that it’s long reign as the only provider of public sector …

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I’ll help you downsize Stormont says Paterson. But answer came there none.

So my first reaction when I saw today’s top story on Nuzhound was straightforward enough… When the Secretary of State says something like “plans to slash the number of our MLAs and create an opposition — could be included in a Bill set to go before Parliament” I think, well you have as much chance of doing that as the FM and DFM have of getting into 10 Downing Street these days… Except it’s a wee bit cleverer than that… …

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Niall Ferguson on the devolution of Education to a bigger society…

This podcast of Niall Ferguson’s last Reith lecture (transcript, h/t Nev) is well worth listening to, not least because a really sharp Scottish audience which is not prepared to let him off with anything sloppy. There’s some very good stuff on de Tocqueville, and Democracy in America at the beginning plus a great line on technology. On education, I rather think his own rather too strident ideology gets in the way his making a good point on how devolving greater …

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Democracy and the Church of Ireland…

In the wake of last week’s controversial proceedings at Synod, Archbishop Harper explains how and why things are done in the Anglican Church of Ireland: I think it is important, therefore, to understand the extent to which the Church of Ireland recognises and embraces the status and role of the laity in the life of the church. That is why, in the House of Representatives, two-thirds of the membership is allocated to the lay people of the church. It is …

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On the advantages of a ‘social investment welfare state’…

Here’s a nicely topical post from Niamh Hardiman who is spending a semester in North Carolina at the moment… In it she talks about the the idea of the ‘social investment welfare state’, which may have implications for Ireland as it struggles not simply with a debt problem, but a widening gap in income levels and a potential deadening of social mobility levels we’ve seen in the UK: New books (1) by Nathalie Morel, Bruno Palier, and Joakim Palme and by Anton Hemerijck …

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Republic’s councils: Power without responsibilities?

Here’s one we missed from yesterday. It made the front page in Indo, and concerns the lowest tier of government in the Republic, which are now …relying on overdrafts and bank loans to meet day-to-day expenses, the Irish Independent has learned. This is despite the councils being ordered to reduce their costs and borrowings three years ago — a directive that has been widely ignored. And while the councils themselves are owed more than €500m in unpaid levies, rates and …

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Department of Employment and Learning goes, but Alliance keep Justice?

Stephen Farry, by all accounts one of the more competent ministers in the Executive, is likely to step down when legislation comes through the Assembly to axe his department. Ken Reid reports the deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein (they have all the power says Ken) will confirm Farry’s party leader David Ford in his current role as justice minister outside the d’Hondt mechanism. Interestingly, the axing of this department will necessitate a re-run of d’Hondt (which, outside Big …

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Penrose resignation underlines the need for political reform…

I would never suggest that Willie Penrose is not a true supporter [erm, ex supporter – Ed] of the Irish Labour party… but he does represents a constituency (Longford Westmeath) that’s right on the edge of the Labour’s natural Pale… Feverish talk of an unravelling may be extrapolating from a near exceptional example, at least in Labour’s case… Penrose resigned, because he failed to do what his constituents put him into Leinster House to do.. That is defend his parish …

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What do the GCSE Results tell us about employment propects?

The truth is, probably not a great deal. The trend in Northern Ireland is pretty established: best top end performances in the UK; and the worst record of students leaving with no qualifications at all. Education Minister John O’Dowd has been questioned several times about a .5% drop in the NI performance; which, to be fair to the Minister, is probably neither here nor there. The real problem is that after four years of Education being devolved to Stormont we …

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Dump d’Hondt: The UUP’s suggestion for improved Executive

There are still some folk in the SDLP who see their role (as Mark Durkan undoubtedly did) as the guardians of the institutions set up by the Belfast Agreement. But as we’ve seen with the shift in the rules for the election of First and deputy First Minister’s roles, that’s not a position held anywhere else. The UUP’s Mark Neale looks at the impasse over education and reprises Tom Eliott’s idea that the winning parties ought to be forced to …

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GE11 Profile: Fine Gael move from obscurity to power

Fine Gael has a strange place in Irish politics. Many pundits (amateur and professional) like to do their calculations as though the party did not actually exist, or at least was incapable of drawing the affections of a substantial group in Irish society. It is often portrayed as (and often is) the ‘Anyone But  Fianna Fail’ party. And yet, and yet, Enda Kenny is indisputably going to be the next leader of the country. Kevin Rafter’s book on the party …

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GAA back door route is not fair to Tyrone (and Kerry)…

Mickey Harte’s just been on Morning Ireland bemoaning the fact that Tyrone and Kerry are now out of the All Ireland championship, and suggesting it’s not fair that as Ulster Champions Tyrone barely got to enjoy their win, when they were dropped out from winning the bigger prize. Yet, Sean Moran writing in the Irish Times notes that the almost ten year old ‘back door route’, far from handicapping the stronger teams has exaggerated their dominance: …the purpose of the …

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Are the Irish people prepared to hold government to account?

I’m not sure citing cases of media proprietors backing the losers and then commending them as an exemplar was the most inspiring start to Elaine Byrne’s Op Ed today, but in the end, she asks for greater transparency from a political class which is (past as well as present) still reluctant to ante up its dues.  In the same paper, Fintan O’Toole notes that the Irish appetite for policing the probity of its politicians has been short lived in the …

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