The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Assembly Needs an Opposition

David Adams • Irish Times, 16 March 2007

Contrary to the pre-election expectations of this writer at least, it now seems likely that the Rev Ian Paisley will agree to form a powersharing executive with Sinn Féin by the March 26th deadline.

His party's resounding success in last week's Assembly election, and the abysmal showing of anti-agreement opponents, has convinced even the most sceptical of Paisley's colleagues that the broad mass of the unionist electorate favours such a move.

It isn't as though there are still any unresolved substantive issues, such as the absence of republican support for policing, around which potential DUP dissidents could rally. With the enthusiasm of converts, Sinn Féin spokespeople are almost on a daily basis calling on republican communities to co-operate with the PSNI.

Neither should there be any difficulty in securing a much sought-after financial dividend to kick-start the new administration. A DUP guarantee on devolution will have the British government tripping over itself to provide the necessary funding.

The only minor problem that remains is of the DUP's own making. Having elevated non-compliance with the stipulated deadline almost to a point of principle, some of Paisley's colleagues may want to avoid embarrassment by stretching negotiations beyond March 26th.

For once, though, the British and Irish governments seem determined to stand firm on their threat to collapse the Assembly rather than extend the deadline. That should be enough to concentrate minds and ensure that no slippage occurs.

If indeed a new executive is formed at the end of this month, it will then be a question of whether or not it can endure for any length of time. There are good grounds for believing that it will not only endure but, in all likelihood, flourish. Upon agreeing to enter a powersharing administration, Paisley and his party will, by the terms of their own oft-stated requirement, be signalling that they now consider Sinn Féin to be a fully democratic party.

They would resile from that position and abandon office only with great reluctance. To do so would be tantamount to a DUP admission of having made the same error of judgment in respect of Sinn Féin bona fides that they had so gleefully accused David Trimble of making.

As regards the actual practicalities of devolution, frankly, with the sort of bankrolling that both the DUP and Sinn Féin are demanding, it would be difficult for them not to make a success of governing Northern Ireland.

With the necessary capital at its disposal, the executive will be free to tackle a myriad of pressing issues such as health, education, roads infrastructure, water and sewerage. At a stroke, and to the delight of the Northern Ireland electorate, the regional rate increases and the proposed introduction of water charges could be scrapped.

Whether or not future DUP and Sinn Féin ministers will be able to form friendly relationships is of no consequence.

Both parties will appreciate that, once partnership is entered into, it will be in their joint interest to ensure it doesn't fail. Full knowledge of the electoral price of collapse will be enough to ensure that pragmatic working relationships are soon established.

Indeed, it is a matter of concern for some that Sinn Féin and the DUP might find that they have far more in common than previously imagined.

It is the original champions of a devolved powersharing Assembly, the SDLP and the UUP, who have real cause to be concerned about what the future holds.

Both of those parties are entitled to take seats in an executive (one SDLP and two UUP), though it is hardly in either of their long-term interests to avail of the opportunity.

A new administration will be able, at least in its first term, to indulge the electorate. But it is only the two major parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, who will receive the plaudits. The SDLP and UUP will certainly have some minimal influence on collective decision-making but cannot hope to be credited with any notable achievements. Indeed, there is no escaping the fact that, to the public at least, it is Sinn Féin and the DUP who will constitute the executive.

Rather than clinging to the coat-tails of the two main parties in the faint hope of benefiting from reflected glory, it would be much better for the UUP and SDLP if they relinquished their claims to office and went into opposition.

From the opposition benches and in various Assembly committees, both parties could play a far more constructive role by seeking to hold the new administration to account. Instead of allowing themselves to be overshadowed to the point where they become mere pale imitations of the two larger parties, an oppositional role would help the SDLP and UUP reclaim their own identities with the electorate.

More importantly, by helping to put both a working government and a meaningful opposition in place, they would be creating an Assembly that bears more than just a passing resemblance to an elected legislature in a normal, liberal democracy.


Reprinted with permission from the author.

















Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

The Blanket's computer is now on its last legs and needs to be replaced.
Please help support The Blanket and make a donation today.

18 March 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

How I Almost Got My Ass Kicked at the St. Patrick's Day Parade and Lived to Tell About It
David Kruidenier

The Protestant 'Pat Finucane'
Father Sean Mc Manus, President, Irish National Caucus

Green Party Declines White House Invitation
Green Party Press Release

Assembly Needs an Opposition
David Adams

Belfast Hot Air
Anthony McIntyre

Citizen Tom
Dr John Coulter

A History of Nationalism in Ireland
Liam O Ruairc

Review of Challenging the New Orientalism
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Two Sides of a Coin
Dr John Coulter

Anthony McIntyre

Sinn Fein Batmen
Brian Mór

Launch of
Colm Mistéil

Reject the 'New' RUC
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

32 County Sovereignty Movement: Water Charges Are Illegal
Kevin Murphy

The National Irish Freedom Committee on Gerry McGeough
National Irish Freedom Committee

NIFC Free Form Video Discusses Elections, Abstentionism
Saerbhreathach Mac Toirdealbhaigh

America's 'Global War On Terrorism'
M. Shahid Alam

Iñaki de Juana Chaos
Anthony McIntyre

14 March 2007

Legal Aid Wrangle Continues
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Statements on the Arrest of Gerry McGeough

Campaign for Noel Maguire
TJ O Conchúir

Paisleyites & Peelers
Anthony McIntyre

Equating Spectacle at Stormont with United Irishmen is Perverse
Tommy Gorman

Seacht mbuicéad caca go dtite ar a gcinn
Michael Gillespie

Nothing But the Truth
John Kennedy

Snapshot, 1993: Voters' Rights, MI5 Wrongs
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Broad Church for Unionism
Dr John Coulter

The Man Without the Mask
Anthony McIntyre

The New Boyne Harriers
Brian Mór

UUP Possibilities
Dr John Coulter

Blinkered Vision
Anthony McIntyre

Damned by Debt Relief
Pauline Hadaway



The Blanket

http://lark. phoblacht. net



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to:

webmaster@phoblacht. net