Yes to infrastructure, but foundations first before grand schemes…
In recent days the News Letter has picked up on a small piece of legislation being rushed through the Northern Ireland Assembly. The bit that has peaked interest is what seems a modest change that will have the effect of placing more power in the hands of Ministers to take action unilaterally, without reference to the Executive.
Not only does this appear to go against the greater collective responsibility that was to underpin the new Executive post New Decade New Approach, but the greatest critic of the change was one of the DUP’s more important internal advisers 2008-2017, explained in a Twitter thread:
The Northern Ireland Assembly is about to make the most far reaching change to the safeguards in NI’s decision making processes in over a decade narrowing the role of the Executive and it’s all based on a misreading of the case law … a short thread 1/5 pic.twitter.com/lDecyigPH8
— Richard Bullick (@RichardBullick1) July 15, 2020
On the latest episode of PoliticalOD we talk about this, and why this is being raised now while the new Executive is still trying to find its feet.
One of the thoughts explored is that it might make sense if the Ministers were to deal with the day to day and that might leave the Executive with the job to deal with the difficult strategic issues. On that point we talked in the previous thedissenter post on the failure to address fundamental strategic infrastructure that has placed a dampener on any prospect of significant future economic development – a electricity supply that is ‘insecure’ and a waste water treatment infrastructure that is at or near capacity.
The first issue on electricity supply doesn’t even get a mention in the New Decade New Approach document, and waste water gets at least a passing reference with:
The Executive will invest urgently in wastewater infrastructure which is at or nearing capacity in many places across Northern Ireland, including in Belfast, limiting growth.
That is at least one sentence more than appeared in the Programme for Government in 2016. However, fine words, though perhaps less fine if we recall that the New Decade New Approach document turns out not to have been costed or agreed with any commitment to funding from the British Government or any idea of how to finance the commitments as outlined.
For a change we finish the podcast talking about Russia, why the recent report doesn’t add much to the sum of human knowledge, and that for all the efforts in which the Russian State is said to have been engaged it seems to have delivered the sum total of diddly squat by way of improving Russian influence on UK public policy. Fact is Governments (China, Saudi Arabia, any Government including Germany and France) will have institutes, friendship organisations and business associations that could all be assigned with the notion that they are acting in State interests.
Some clearly are, but great care needs to be taken to distinguish the malign from the benign. That is what the UK Government needs to be doing. The Intelligence Committee report suggests it needs to be more pro-active in understanding what is happening close to home.