Time will tell whether Micheal Martin is a new approach to relationships with the UK generally and Unionism in particular. He’d struggle to be worse than the Leo & Simon show.
There is a long on detail short on substance Programme for Government that has been agreed between the three Coalition Partners in Dublin, but time will tell if that is the basis of stability or a huge fallout in due course. The Greens are the newbies, with it often forgotten that there has been a relationship between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for the past few years with Fianna Fail providing Confidence & Supply to Leo’s Government.
We explore what the new Government might mean for relationships North/South and East/West, but posturing on the EU/UK negotiations on Brexit is over. Ireland is just one of 27 and it has most to lose.
Of course the three Party coalition means that Sinn Fein become the Official Opposition in Dublin. Perhaps ‘opposition’ is what it does best as it is making a total mess of its role a principal (mandatory) coalition partner in Belfast, particularly with its performance in Belfast this past week around the funeral of dead terrorist Bobby Storey.
It is not as if there aren’t big issues to address within Government. Stories this past week on the Charity Commission and LandWeb have echoes of RHI, and raises issues of whether the public sector is capable of reform or just not fit for purpose. Given the state of the relationships within the Parties at Stormont at this point in time, is there any interest or imagination to bring in the scale of reform that is clearly required.
This week MLAs voted to take charge of their own expense regime. What could possibly go wrong?
Discussing all of this with @3000Versts
It has taken months. A new Government for the Republic of Ireland has been agreed among three principal coalition partners, with a detailed Programme for Government (PfG – 126 pages).
Each of the three Parties required their respective memberships to endorse the PfG Coalition. The approval could be fairly described as emphatic – 74% Fianna Fail (FF), 76% Greens, and 80% Fine Gael (FG). That is a conclusive enough endorsement to suggest that the PfG and Government might well hold for a good part of what remains of the five-year term.
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In conversation with @3000Versts the recently announced ‘Approach” to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which sits alongside the Withdrawal Agreement that assure the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, is considered long on ambition and short on detail.
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The first thing for a business to do in a crisis is to stay calm, review operational processes and mitigate and manage with steady and measured common sense action – let the public see a company doing its best in difficult circumstances. Sadly, this headline was avoidable: “Coronavirus: Robin Swann ‘shocked’ at images of packed flight.”
Why on earth did Aer Lingus think that simply taking fares was the priority? It wasn’t good enough to claim, as the company did, that it needed direction from Government; giving the appearance it could do nothing more. This was a communications #fail that could have been avoided.
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RHI has exposed weaknesses in the entire Stormont infrastructure, which were already known and ignored in favour of ‘Keeping the show on the road’. Despite knowing what needed to be reformed, for 20 years, the current Health Service ought to be so much better – and isn’t.
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Julian Smith has left the building.
Politics is often remembered by the moment, the big event. For Julian Smith that would be the return of the Stormont Executive. Focus on the moment and forget the consequences?
Fact is we are left with spending promises (or demands) but no idea of the basis of a future budget at Stormont, and there remains perverse plans to deal with the legacy of the past. Getting the show on the road might well be followed by keeping the show on the road, but whether that means much as changed or this iteration of the Stormont Executive is any more stable only time will tell.
A long look at the Southern Election and the impact of Sinn Fein significantly increasing its presence in the Irish Parliament is the subject of the post below. It is likely that PoliticalOD may be visiting that topic in the months ahead.
As Hilary Clinton learned, winning the popular vote does not necessarily provide the keys to power.
In polling terms Sinn Fein has often touched on joining Fine Gael and Fianna Fail as being one of the big political Parties in the Irish Republic. At around 24% of the vote in the recent election its claim of having a popular mandate being in Government is a stretch, but if it were any other Party it might be more palatable as a coalition partner.
There are three good reasons why that isn’t the case politically, and there is a range of economic issues that Sinn Fein in any way part of Government that make it wholly unsuited:
- it has a poor record in Government,
- it has not proven to be a reliable partner in Government,
- and then there is the IRA;
- and the economics of the Irish economy will find no solutions in a Chavez-inspired manifesto.
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No sooner had the new Executive returned than the competency of the public sector burst back onto front pages of the press. This time MOT centres, with lots of questions and not a lot of answers forthcoming on “how? why? and when might it be sorted?” The New Decade has started much the same way as the last one, with public services seeming unable to cope with breakdown that should have been anticipated and better managed in anyone’s book. A search of NI Water on Slugger O’Toole will give anyone an evening of reading, and the clear impression that that saga didn’t just happen out of nowhere.
In the private sector, “heads would roll”.
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What is new on the Hill? Press photo opportunities are back for the members of the Northern Ireland Executive, MLAs return to full pay, and things go back to normal on the Hill; whatever normal is?.
The document released to the media preceding statements by the five largest Parties that they were all intending to nominate someone for the Executive ‘team’ was greeted mostly with, “about time’.
That document, however, seemed to fade into the background as the whole process of setting up the Executive and MLAs getting allocated roles became the focus of attention.
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Despite many ‘Reports’ on Health reform (2011, 2014, 2016) Northern Ireland has seen little critical or cultural change in frontline delivery of services. While the easy option for politicians is to demand and even offer more money, the current situation has arisen because of budgetary decisions taken in 2014. If it was pay or XX in 2014 it will still be pay or XX in 2019. Though our politicians are reluctant to talk about XX.
While it might seen that a new Executive is a possibility in the New Year, there doesn’t appear to be any public confidence that an Executive would have the will (or ability) to undertake difficult decisions that will be required on Health, or any of the other issues piled up on Ministerial in-trays. Last time there were major and difficult decisions to be made, Sinn Fein insisted they be sent back to Westminster.
It is Welfare Reform and the consequential impact on welfare recipients that might mean Sinn Fein needs an Assembly far more than any other Party. Yet despite the pressures on Sinn Fein there is a worrying trend in Stormont “negotiations” that enough is agreed to keep the show on the road while setting the path for the next crisis. Everyone does everything to keep Sinn Fein on board, while it does everything it can to wreck the train.
Finally, Boris’s plans for trade arrangements between GB and NI are an enigma – somewhere between what people read in the Withdrawal Agreement pages and believe to be likely, and then Boris’s view that that is all tosh. No idea, and all to some extent subject to what is decided between now and probably July in respect of a trade agreement between the UK and EU. With NI inside the UK customs union (the major difference between backstop and frontstop) there has been a shift in the dynamic of negotiation that isn’t much discussed.
All this in a handy 20 minutes or so, on this latest PoliticalOD podcast.
Back in the New Year. Have a great break. Merry Christmas.