A Year Without Government Series: Part I of III

This week will mark one year since the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and one year without government in Northern Ireland. Over the next few articles from myself on this site I hope to take a satirical and hopefully comical look back on the events of this year and how we managed to find ourselves in the situation. The following was written entirely tongue in cheek and none of it should be taken very seriously. How did we get … Read more

Continued Devolution or Direct Rule? Some Scenarios

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Since 1707, Northern Ireland has had roughly 160 years of devolution/home rule and 151 years of unitary government/direct rule. The long time perspective helps to put the current difficulties over forming an Executive into context. First the history in brief, followed by some scenarios for what might happen next for the governance of Northern Ireland. Since the 1998 Belfast Good Friday Agreement there has been one long period of ‘Direct Rule’, lasting for nearly five years, from 14 October 2002 to … Read more

“the impression that Gerry Adams is not serious about restoring the Executive is gaining traction”

Interesting speculation in the Irish Times on who is holding things up. Dublin and London sources are pointing fingers directly at Sinn Fein to accuse them of an old Modus Operandi of theirs: ie, telling their interlocutors they’re nearly ready and, then suddenly not being… We’ve seen the same pattern in countless negotiations in which even a senior figure like Martin McGuinness was compelled not to strike a deal directly on behalf of Sinn Fein but to track back and forth endlessly … Read more

The ‘people’ have voted

Plan A or plan B? Deal or no deal? The Parties (DUP / SF) are at a fork in the road. All clichés that have been bandied about since last week when there was a faint glimmer of hope that there would be some sort of resolution to the talks that apparently have been ongoing at Stormont. I say apparently, because unlike previously, there has been very little said publicly about what is going on. In the leaky sieve that … Read more

Petition of Concern status quo suits the DUP

Back in February – when we were in a different world politically – I looked at the possibility of reforming the petition of concern and whether retaining the mechanism was beneficial for nationalists. The unionist majority in the Assembly disappeared faster than many predicted. From 52% of the 108 outgoing MLAs to 44% of those elected in March. An 8% drop in less than a year and perhaps an indication that the electoral register is catching up with longer term demographic … Read more

“six months later nothing seems to have replaced that philosophy beyond aggressively taking on the DUP…”

Ahead of the likely suspension of open party political hostilities briefings to the media for the summer, the News Letter’s Sam McBride has an interesting piece in search of a Sinn Féin strategy.  [There’s a strategy?! – Ed]  Just tactics… From the News Letter Long forgotten are the days when Martin McGuinness warmly recalled how he and Ian Paisley had agreed that they could run their own affairs and didn’t need English ministers in Belfast. Sinn Fein is now warning … Read more

Update! Shock victory for free abortions in England for NI women as the government suddenly caves in to cross party pressure

The chancellor has just announced that the government intends to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland. I recommend scrolling down the Guardian Live for the sequence of events ending in reverse order with the splash in George Osborne’s Evening  Standard, “Abortion Vote Chaos Hits May.” The Guardian believes this was done so fast and unexpectedly  to avoid  a Commons defeat on the Queen’s Speech, with some Tories supporting a Labour amendment  to introduce it. It carries a … Read more

Dormant Stormont: Where is a good Reviving Spell when you need one?

On Monday afternoon John Lennon appeared, resplendent, at the doors of Stormont Castle. He paused, briefly, before swooping straight down the stone steps with none other than Marilyn Monroe herself. Then as the light in East Belfast shifted slightly, Gerry Adams came into focus; shaded 60s spectacles atop a wizened old nose. Michelle obediently came up to his ear, whispering something subtle, soft. And then, as the assembled throngs basked in his bearded wizardry, the Grand Master began to speak. … Read more

How can May encourage the other parties to the Stormont talks without disclosing the DUP deal? ( new version)

So after a confusing day against a background of tragedy in which it was first reported that the DUP deal would be postponed until next week, Theresa May  is meeting the other  Assembly parties without them. Make  of that what you will. All of Westminster will be agog . The elephant will be in the room in non-corporeal form. May can hardly  afford  to answer question one, can she? Mrs O’Neill has already made it clear she will raise the issue … Read more

“The peace process always has to be broken down, has to be in a state of crisis for it to be protected.”

Sinn Fein continue to throw every last stick of furniture at the wall in order to keep attention. Declan Kearney had this to say about the DUP and the British Government: …both want the political institutions back up again, of course; but they don’t want to have to tackle institutionalised bigotry, sectarianism or intolerance within the North. In recent weeks they and others have been maliciously saying publicly and privately, that in the absence of Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin does not … Read more

Northern Ireland still languishing at political ground zero and far from “self-actualisation”…

For all the protests from Colum Eastwood and Michelle O’Neill over the calling of this election, Theresa May is not ignoring Northern Ireland. She’s merely taking care of business according to her own political version of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. So where does Northern Ireland (our periodical losses of political power and will largely spring from the internal prohibitions of our covetous and beggarly political culture) fit in? Sadly for us, perhaps, in these post-conflict days, Northern Ireland is no longer an … Read more

How “Othering” contributed to the collapse of Stormont, just when NI needs it most…

Nice piece from Cathal McManus on the problems arising from ‘othering’ in Northern Ireland politics over at Eamonn’s place, which he describes as: …the inability of both groups to confront the processes of Othering that have helped to generate and sustain political division over long periods of time and which continue to prevent progress on outstanding issues contained within the various peace accords since 1998. Othering is a process of identification that enables “us” to define who we are and to differentiate “us” from the Other/s. As Anthony Marsella describes, conflict can … Read more

Is Sinn Fein planning to make a virtue of its inability to ride two horses north and south?

One of the most enduring political quotes of 20th British politics is attributed to the Independent Labour MP John Maxton for Glasgow Bridgton, which goes to the effect that “if you cannot ride two horses at once, you shouldn’t be in the circus”. When you consider from a distance what’s been occupying Northern Ireland’s columnists, ie Sinn Fein’s dilemma over how to build a coherent all island political project over two separate political entities with rapidly diverging and after Brexit, potentially … Read more

Revealing interview with Gerry Adams on Stormont talks (includes that ‘complete tube’ comment)…

This is well worth paying attention to. It’s Gerry Adams getting a grilling from an exceptionally well informed Cormac O’hEadhra of RTE on Northern Irish matters (here), the Stormont collapse and the lack of a senior voice for Irish nationalism in Stormont. misrepresents the RHI losses from, at the very worst, a projected £500m over 20 years to £5billion (!!!!) “down the drain”. Given RHI is cited as the reason for SF collapsing the Executive, shouldn’t the President know the … Read more

“worthy actions are more convincing that the spoken word in demonstrating change….”

Worth listening to Peter Robinson’s thoughts on working with Martin McGuinness: While the media obsessed over any difficulty or disagreement that from time to time would arise because of our distinct political mandates we would have been sitting down seeking to find a solution or working out how we would manage the differences. There never were any tantrums. Yelling and screaming were not part of Martin’s temperament. Even after my retirement and through his illness we met, spoke by phone … Read more

Theresa May challenged over her “tin ear” to the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Theresa May is in Swansea today at the start of a four nation tour to the devolved administrations , declaring; “I want every part of the United Kingdom to be able to make the most of the opportunities ahead.” As the Guardian reports she’ll face demands from the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones  to radically rethink her approach to the union. as she begins a four-nation tour before beginning Britain’s exit from the EU “Theresa May to visit Wales as … Read more

“It might not take much to expose this as a vulnerable sort of robustness.”

Missed this yesterday, which I’ll put down to a bad dose of man flu. It’s Newton Emerson in the Irish Times: In financial and administrative terms, RHI is hardly an unprecedented failure. Its loss is currently estimated at £490 million (€577m), spread over 20 years. Comparable sums have been squandered on other Stormont schemes and projects since devolution, with official reports revealing similar levels of incompetence. The annual loss from RHI, at just under £25 million (€29m), is mundane by … Read more

No minister at Stormont’s ‘Openness and Transparency from the Executive’ debate

The Assembly motion on Openness and Transparency from the Executive finished about a hour ago, and featured. Not one currently serving Minister was in attendance. That’s little short of contempt. Current debate at Stormont Openness and Transparency from the Executive has precisely ZERO @NIExecutive Ministers in attendance. pic.twitter.com/RyrNqqVCVw — Mick Fealty (@mickfealty) October 4, 2016 A point reiterated by all parties in the (actual) Opposition. The ‘government’ distinguished only by its absence… Now just three MLAs from SF sitting in on the … Read more

What will make for a good opposition at Stormont?

The two main government parties seem to have convinced a large chunk of the media that in order to be effective as an opposition, the UUP and the SDLP must form a government-in-waiting. It suits the DUP and Sinn Fein to paint it that way in order to cover their many splits on policy. Unfortunately, it is also complete nonsense. Opposition parties must show they’re fit for government, but they must also demonstrate why incumbents should be replaced. Under proportional representation, the electorate … Read more